Identity crisis

Johannus organ at St. Cecilia Catholic Church in Wisconsin Dells, WI

No pipes in the Johannus organ at St. Cecilia Catholic Church in Wisconsin Dells, WI

Organists these days are undergoing an identity crisis. If the slashing of church music budgets wasn’t enough to cause consternation among the ranks, the worldwide shortage of organists, the fact that fewer and fewer people study the organ, and the American Guild of Organists’ membership is dropping, it’s the old adage that whenever two or three organists are gathered together, they’ll have a disagreement. In other words, ask two organists for their opinion, and you’ll get three or more answers.

The latest row is over the cover of the May 2017 issue of The American Organist magazine, in which there is a photograph of a digital, not a pipe organ. It’s the first time in history that an electronic organ console has been put on the cover of the monthly magazine which is sent to the members of the American Guild of Organists, an international organization which used to number over 20,000 but has dropped to about 16,000 members.

Remember my recent post when I wrote this: I was telling the other people … that organists are truly a rare breed of musician. In the State of Hawaii, with 1.4 million people, there are only about 12 people who live here who have a degree in organ performance. Let that sink in for a moment. If you do the math, we 12 organists represent only .00000857142857 of the whole population!

Check out the article, “Pipe organ’s rich complexity, relative obscurity make organists a rare breed.”

Gregg Bailey asked the question, “Does an all-digital REALLY qualify for the cover feature of the official magazine of the AGO???  Regardless of people’s opinions of digital vs pipe, I thought we could always count on TAO to feature an artisan-level pipe instrument.  I just wondered if anyone else out there was surprised by this?”

Someone else said that organbuilders pay to advertise, and that cover spot is just a glorified ad; it was bought and paid for, and the editors accepted their money. Someone else wrote that while the front cover is nothing but an ad, our organization is called the American Guild of Organists, not the American Guild of Organs. Others complained that the magazine contains little more than just a lot of ads by organists advertising their concerts and organbuilders selling their instruments. There are few scholarly articles.

You see, for many serious organists, the pipe organ is the instrument we all aspire to play. I’ve been so fortunate to be able to play the Beckerath organ at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu, and the Aeolian-Skinner organs at St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Central Union and Kawaiaha’o Church. And rather than buy an electronic organ for my home, I really love the little pipe organ in my condo.

I’ve told organ committees that pipe organs are for the long haul, while electronics must be replaced more frequently. Think of a 20-year-old computer or a TV —it probably doesn’t exist or maybe it doesn’t work anymore. Electronic organs are derisively called “radios” or “toasters” — nothing more than “appliances.”

People complain that the AGO is an elitist organization, and that people who play digital instruments are considered inferior musicians. For the record, I have also played digital instruments at Iolani School and Punahou School, yet I don’t consider myself any less of a musician.

I liked what Leonard Ciampa wrote:

Without commenting on this specific question, I will point out that it is related to a much larger problem. The music industry is not doing well, and I can tell you the exact reason why. Compare it to the food industry. Today, you can walk into a supermarket – not even a specialty store, a supermarket – and buy organic olive oil, organic whole bean coffee, and a whole list of other items that no supermarket shopper in the 70s would’ve ever dreamed of. The taste of the general public has improved. And the reason is that no one would ever imagine that eating a paper menu is as good as eating food. Food never stopped being about taste. Music stopped being about sound, and that is where the problem lies. How many people on the street have ever heard an acoustic instrument, live, unamplified? A young person today could go his or her entire life hearing sounds only from a device. How, then, could we possibly hope to turn people onto music? As we have seen, it is hard enough to turn organists onto pipes!

To be sure, all of this is challenging for us organists and yet . . .

Clarence Dickinson, 1873-1969

Clarence Dickinson, 1873-1969

Just this week, I became a member of the Clarence Dickinson Society. This means that I have included not only the local chapter, but also the national organization of the American Guild of Organists in my estate planning. By including the AGO in my estate plans, I hereby display a public commitment to the mission of the Guild that will transcend my earthly life.

From the AGO’s website: A founder of the AGO and the School of Sacred Music at Union Theological Seminary, Clarence Dickinson (1873-1969) was known as the Dean of American Church Musicians. Dr. Dickinson—organist and choirmaster, composer, virtuoso, performer, author, lecturer, and teacher—worked in all his capacities to broaden appreciation of organ music and reach new audiences.

I humbly ask my fellow organists to consider becoming a member of the Clarence Dickinson Society. Our bequests will forever be a living testimony to our belief in the work of the American Guild of Organists. Here’s a printable application form.

Won’t you join us?


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Instant connection

Chatham Baroque in Hawaii

Chatham Baroque in Hawaii

Have you ever met someone for the first time and within a few minutes felt as though you had known them forever? And that you could talk for hours on end, and never run out of things to say? Or that you felt so comfortable with each other that you could talk about anything and everything? Such was the case with my houseguest for this weekend, viola da gambist Patricia (Patty) Halverson, who performed with the group Chatham Baroque last night at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu. The concert was the season finale for Early Music Hawaii.

William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham

William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham

Oh, Patty and I talked about the origin of the group, based in Pittsburgh, and why the name Chatham Baroque was the name they settled upon after calling themselves somewhat non-descript, like Pittsburgh Early Music, or something like that. You see, the city of Pittsburg was named after William Pitt (1708-1778), who was a British statesman during the Seven Years’ War (called the French and Indian War in the United States). He was named the 1st Earl of Chatham in 1766 at his elevation to the House of Lords.

Patty was one of the original founding members of Chatham Baroque in 1990—its other two members are Andrew Fouts, baroque violin, and Scott Pauley, archlute and baroque guitar. I already gave you Patty’s bio in an earlier post; here’s info on Andrew and Scott:

Andrew Fouts, baroque violin, joined Chatham Baroque in 2008. In performance with the ensemble he has been noted for his “mellifluous sound and sensitive style” (Washington Post) and “an extraordinary violinist” who exhibits “phenomenal control” (Indiana Herald-Times). In 2008, Andrew won first prize at the American Bach Soloists’ International Baroque Violin Competition. In addition to Chatham Baroque, Andrew has performed recently with the Four Nations Ensemble, Apollo’s Fire, Musica Pacifica, Philharmonia Baroque, and as soloist with American Bach Soloists.

Scott Pauley

Scott Pauley

Scott Pauley, archlute and baroque guitar, holds a doctoral degree in Early Music Performance Practice from Stanford University. Before settling in Pittsburgh in 1996 to join Chatham Baroque, he lived in London for five years, where he studied with Nigel North at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. There he performed with various early music ensembles, including the Brandenburg Consort, The Sixteen and Florilegium. He won prizes at the 1996 Early Music Festival Van Vlaanderen in Brugge and at the 1994 Van Wassenaer Competition in Amsterdam. In North America, Scott has performed with Tempesta di Mare, Musica Angelica, Opera Lafayette, The Folger Consort, The Four Nations Ensemble, the Toronto Consort and Hesperus, and has soloed with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. He has performed in numerous Baroque opera productions as a continuo player, both in the USA and abroad. He performed in Carnegie Hall and at The Library of Congress in Washington, DC, with the acclaimed British ensemble, the English Concert.

Patty Halverson shows off her gamba.

Patty Halverson shows off her gamba.

What can I say about last night’s program?

Absolutely delightful! Well-deserved standing ovation! I was just blown away by the virtuosity of each player, and Andrew’s violin playing was just phenomenal! His intonation was absolutely perfect —not one note was out of tune.

And Patty proved to be an exceptional gamba player. I asked her if she had played the cello first, and she said no, in fact, she was a recorder player!

Scott’s archlute and baroque guitar playing was also rock solid. I appreciated the fact that each of them took the time to talk about their instruments. You can see by the picture that Patty’s gamba has a woman’s head on the end. You can enlarge the picture to the left by clicking on it, and you’ll see the woman’s head more clearly.

In case you want to see the program, you can click here.

By the way, as Patty and I talked into the late hours of the night, we found out that she frequently plays with Arthur Haas, harpsichordist and organist. Turns out that he taught harpsichord to my former student, Joey Fala, at Yale!

Standing ovation for Chatham Baroque.

Standing ovation for Chatham Baroque.

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Good Shepherd Sunday

Painting by Jean Baptiste de Champaigne, 1631-1681

Painting by Jean Baptiste de Champaigne, 1631-1681

[Apologies! My original post stated May 4th! That is because I heard so many ‘May the Fourth be with you’ jokes today!] This Sunday, May 7th, is Good Shepherd Sunday and is so named because of the Gospel reading of the day—the story of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, willing to lay down his life for his sheep. In my previous job as a parish administrator of an Episcopal church, every week I’d be constantly on the lookout for images which could be used as bulletin cover art. So many images of Jesus the Shepherd showed him with the lamb around his neck, as displayed in the painting by Jean Baptiste de Champaigne, to the left.

Hey, do you realize how heavy a lamb might be? I think it may be way heavier than a dog.

This is what I found out from 4-H clubs who raised lambs for showing at fairs:

Our four lambs were then 3 months old and weighed between 78 and 87 lbs.

Answer from "Ask the expert"

Answer from “Ask the expert”

Wow! Imagine carrying that much weight around your neck! Or, see this answer for a full-grown lamb:

Getting back to Good Shepherd Sunday, I immediately think of the hymns: “Savior, like a shepherd lead us”; “The king of love my shepherd is”; and “My shepherd will supply my need.” There are nice organ settings of these hymns by American composer Dale Wood which I’ll be playing on Sunday at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church.

I’ll also be playing Wood’s setting of “Wondrous love” for the prelude, and throw in his setting of “I know my Redeemer liveth” for the postlude.

On Sunday afternoon at 5:00 pm, the Lutheran Church of Honolulu Choir, Men’s Schola, Bach Chamber Orchestra, and guest soloists will present “Cantate” featuring captivating works by Grieg, Schubert, Bach, Mendelssohn, and others.

Under the direction of Scott Fikse, the LCH Choir will perform Bach’s pastoral Cantata 104, Du Hirte Israel, höre with the Bach Chamber Orchestra (Darel Stark, concertmaster) and soloists Renson Madarang and Jeremy Wong. The program continues with the lesser known Fire Salmer by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg.

Darel Stark and Sachi Hirakouji

Darel Stark, violin and Sachi Hirakouji, piano

Adding diversity to a rich program of mostly choral music, Darel Stark and Sachi Hirakouji (who happens to be my organ student!) will perform the last movement of Grieg’s 2nd violin sonata III. Allegro animato. Organist Mark Wong will also play the finale (and Hawaii premier) of Grieg’s Sonata in E minor, Op. 7.

The Men’s Schola will offer three settings of Psalm 23 and then combine with the LCH Choir and soloists for the final selection, Grieg’s Guds Sön har gjort mig fri.

You can listen to a preview of Bach Cantata 104 here in a performance by the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, directed by Ton Koopman.

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Musical benches

Interior of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, Honolulu.

Interior of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, Honolulu.

By this time Sunday, May 7th, I will have sat on six different organ benches (and maybe even seven!) in the course of my week. Oh, not all of them are large pipe organs, but it just goes to show you that within the course of a week, I play musical benches!

  1. Last Sunday, I was at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, subbing for Karl Bachman. I stopped by there again this morning to practice the music coming up for this Sunday, which happens to be Good Shepherd Sunday.

From the view of the console at Punahou School.

From the view of the console at Punahou School.

2. Starting Monday, and in fact every day this week, I have played for a service at Thurston Memorial Chapel at Punahou School, and today I happened to play two services, at 8:15 am and 10:45 am.

3. Monday afternoon I spent practicing on the baby pipe organ in my condo. (Sorry, I’ve never come up with a name for him/her!)


The baby pipe organ in my condo.

The baby pipe organ in my condo.

The Aeolian-Skinner organ at St. Andrew's Cathedral.

The Aeolian-Skinner organ at St. Andrew’s Cathedral.

4. On Tuesday, I was at St. Andrew’s Cathedral, playing for the chapel service for the St. Andrew’s Schools on the four-manual Aeolian-Skinner organ.

5. Today, and for the next three days, I will spend my afternoons teaching students at the Beckerath organ at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu. For some reason, I always start out in a chair next to the organ bench, but inevitably, and with every student, I sit on the bench next to them at some point in the lesson, most likely to demonstrate a musical passage, turn the page, or pull stops.

The Beckerath Organ at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu.

The Beckerath Organ at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu.

6. On Sunday afternoon, after a morning at Our Redeemer Lutheran, I will be in the Chorus Room of Iolani School, playing on the two manual organ there in rehearsal for their spring concert on May 12th at St. Andrew’s Cathedral.

7. Today I forwarded a notice from Dan Werning at St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in Kailua, announcing the Re-Dedication Concert of the J. W. Walker organ on May 21st at 4:00 pm. I REALLY should go practice there this weekend since I will be playing half of the program! The organ has been masterfully restored, refurbished, and revoiced by Hans-Ulrich Erbsloeh of Hamburg, Germany. I’ll be playing works by Bach, Dan Locklair and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, along with a hymn concerto by John Rutter on “All creatures of our God and king” (LASST UNS ERFREUEN).

The J. W. Walker & Sons pipe organ, St. Christopher's Episcopal, Kailua

The J. W. Walker & Sons pipe organ, St. Christopher’s Episcopal, Kailua. A new zimbelstern has been added!

Mark Wong will be playing the other half of the concert. He, along with Wanda Gereben, was responsible for the original purchase and installation of the organ in 1983 and was organist at St. Christopher’s for many years before succeeding me at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu.

Dan Werning sent along a note today announcing Joey Fala’s concert at St. Christopher’s on July 23, 2017 at 4:00 pm. Mark your calendars!

As you can tell, I’m running all over this town like crazy and along with playing for daily chapel services at Punahou and Tuesdays at St. Andrew’s Priory, plus Ascension Day, Baccalaureate and Graduation at the Priory, plus a concert at St. Christopher’s, plus the Iolani chorus concert, plus all my organ students, my work is cut out for me before I leave for California on June 6th to meet a new grandson!

(Yes, the first grandchild on both sides of the family!)

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One of Pittsburgh’s greatest treasures

Chatham Baroque

Chatham Baroque

I just put clean sheets on the bed for a houseguest this week, Patricia Halverson, viola da gamba player, who is coming to Honolulu as part of the trio called Chatham Baroque. The players also include Andrew Fouts, baroque violin;  and Scott Pauley, archlute and baroque guitar.

Chatham Baroque in the forest!

Chatham Baroque in the forest!

Sponsored by Early Music Hawaii, the concert will be Saturday, May 6th at 7:30 pm at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu. The concert will be repeated Sunday, May 7th at 3:30 pm at the Lutheran Church of the Holy Trinity in Kona. Their program is subtitled “A Mediterranean Odyssey,” and features dance music by Gaspar Sanz (1640 – 1710); Santiago de Murcia (1673 – 1739), Dario Castello (c. 1590 – c. 1658); Diego Ortiz (1525-1570); Bartolomé de Selma y Salaverde (c. 1595 – c. 1638); Arcangelo Corelli (1653 – 1713); Antonio Vivaldi (1678 – 1741); Giovanni Girolamo Kapsperger (c. 1580 – 1681); Jean Baptiste Senaillé (1687 – 1730); Andrea Falconieri (c. 1586-1656); and Santiago de Murcia.

Here’s some information about the group:

“One of Pittsburgh’s greatest treasures” says the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Chatham Baroque continues to excite local, national and international audiences with dazzling technique and lively interpretations of 17th and 18th century music played on instruments of the period. Founded in 1990, Chatham Baroque continues to thrive with a full calendar of concerts, tours, musical collaborations, and the CD releases.

The trio of baroque violin, viola da gamba, theorbo/archlute and baroque guitar tours nationally and internationally and has recorded ten critically acclaimed CDs. The ensemble offers audiences the opportunity to hear baroque music that is accessible and thrillingly vivid, with a freshness akin to improvisational jazz. It has toured across the United States as well as in South America and Mexico, the Virgin Islands and Canada. The Washington Post calls them “musically impeccable”, the Chicago Tribune “a splendid period-instruments ensemble,” and the New York Times praises their “colorful virtuosity.”

Here’s an energetic performance of Diverse bizzarie Sopra la Vecchia Sarabanda ò pur Ciaccona by Nicola Matteis.

I’m looking forward to meeting my houseguest, whose bio is below:

Patricia Halverson, viola da gamba, holds a doctoral degree in Early Music Performance from Stanford University. After completing her graduate work, she studied in the Netherlands at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague. A native of Duluth, Minnesota, Patty is a founding member of Chatham Baroque and has been instrumental in raising the level of baroque chamber music in the Pittsburgh area. In addition to Chatham Baroque, Patty has performed recently with Ensemble VIII of Austin, Texas, the Washington Bach Consort, The Rose Ensemble of St. Paul, Minnesota, and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, performing the Brandenburg Concertos. She teaches viola da gamba privately in the Pittsburgh area and in recent years has served on the faculty of the Viola da Gamba Society of America’s summer conclave.

You can hear sound clips of the group right on their website.

Here’s a video of one of the group’s concert selections. This “Piva” comes from Giovanni Girolamo Kapsperger’s collection, Libro quarto d’intavolatura di chitarrone (1640), a book of solo music for theorbo. Though originally written for the chitarrone or theorbo, the Italian long-neck lute, the musicians of Chatham Baroque have arranged this tune for trio. The word “piva” means “bagpipe” in Italian, and you can hear the characteristic drone of the pipes throughout this charming piece.

You can purchase tickets for the concert by clicking here.

P.S. It will be a full weekend for me, with the Chatham Baroque concert on Saturday night, and the Cantate LCH choir concert on Sunday afternoon, May 7th at 5:00 pm. More about that concert in another post.

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Lutheran déjà vu

Our Redeemer Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod)

Our Redeemer Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod)

For the next two Sundays, I am playing the organ for Karl Bachman at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) while he is visiting family on the mainland. As I began practicing the music for the liturgy, I got a real sense of déjà vu. That is because the music that is being sung for the Ordinary is by Ronald A. Nelson—it was Setting Two for the Lutheran Book of Worship in 1978! The same setting appears in the Lutheran Service Book, which is the successor to Lutheran Worship, copyrighted in 2006. It is the newest official hymnal for the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.

The "Green" book: Lutheran Book of Worship

The “Green” book: Lutheran Book of Worship

I first learned Ronald Nelson’s setting when the Lutheran Book of Worship was published in 1978. We used it for years and years at LCH at the early service, but now I can’t tell you the last time I played this setting—perhaps it was in the year 2000 when Pastor Don Johnson retired from the Lutheran Church of Honolulu. That was seventeen years ago!

We used to call Setting Two the “Sousa March” setting because of its walking pedal line which jumps all over the place. It came right back to me, though, even if it has been at least 17 years since I have played this setting.

Ever since I retired from LCH, which has been four years ago already, I have mostly substituted in Episcopal churches. The last time I subbed at Our Redeemer Lutheran was in August 2013. So it’s been about 3-1/2 years since I’ve even played a service in a Lutheran church.

The liturgy is by Ronald Nelson in the Lutheran Service Book.

The liturgy is by Ronald Nelson in the Lutheran Service Book.

Starting with my organ prelude, I will play four hymns, plus Kyrie, This is the Feast, a Peter Hallock psalm from the Ionian Psalter (it’s been 2-1/2 years since I’ve played a Hallock psalm!), offertory hymn plus an offertory organ voluntary, the Preface, Holy holy holy, Lamb of God, and Post-Communion Canticle, and ending with an organ postlude. With four of the hymns, I’m playing a short chorale prelude, plus alternate harmonizations for the last verses. I’m playing Baroque music for the organ voluntaries: two settings of “Christ lag in Todesbanden” by Georg Böhm and J.S. Bach, and my postlude is “In dir ist Freude” by Bach.

Wow, that’s a lot of music to play in one service!

I guess I’m only saying this because for the last four months, I’ve played only for school chapel services at St. Andrew’s Priory and Punahou School, both of which have a lot fewer demands on the organist and the services are a lot shorter (30 minutes).

But just think, I used to play all this music every week for 35 years—plus I held a full-time job doing something else!

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The Duke connection

Doris Duke Theater, Honolulu Museum of Art

Doris Duke Theater, Honolulu Museum of Art

If you live in Hawaii, maybe you’ve attended concerts at the  Doris Duke Theater at the Honolulu Museum of Art. Or perhaps you’ve visited Shangri-La, Doris Duke’s home in Hawaii which is now a museum of Islamic art. Check out Wikipedia to read:

“Doris Duke (November 22, 1912 – October 28, 1993) was an American heiress, socialite, horticulturalist, art collector, and philanthropist. The daughter of a wealthy tobacco tycoon, Duke was able to fund a life of global travel and wide-ranging interests. These extended across journalism, competition surfing, jazz piano, wildlife conservation, Oriental art and Hare Krishna.

“Duke was born in New York City, the only child of tobacco and hydroelectric power tycoon James Buchanan Duke and his second wife, Nanaline Holt Inman.”

Duke University Chapel

Duke University Chapel. Photo by Joey Fala.

4,766 miles away from Honolulu is Durham, NC, where there is a private university which in 1924, tobacco and electric power industrialist James Buchanan Duke established The Duke Endowment, at which time the institution changed its name to honor his deceased father, Washington Duke… yes, that’s Duke University.

Now there will be another Duke-Hawaii connection. Guess who has been appointed Organ Scholar at Duke University—(drum roll, please): Joey Fala, my former organ student who already has a national reputation!

The Organ Scholar program at Duke was begun in 2015: “Duke Chapel has begun a new Organ Scholars program that will train organ students in sacred music. The two-year program includes instruction for two students on playing during church services and choral accompaniment. The chapel is launching the program along with a new weekly worship service, Choral Evensong, which will take place at 4 p.m. Sundays in the Divinity School’s Goodson Chapel. The two organ scholars will play at the Evensong service and be joined by the Evensong Singers, a new auditioned choir at Duke Chapel. Chapel organist Christopher Jacobson will oversee the instruction of the scholars and conduct the choir during the Evensong services.

“In adopting this proven model of training organists, the chapel is not only contributing to the future of sacred music in America,” Jacobson said, “but it is also joining in the great tradition of cathedrals and chapels around the world offering daily prayer and praise to God.”

Check out the website for information about Duke University Chapel’s organs:

Duke University Chapel is unique in having three outstanding pipe organs, each in a different style, which are used for worship services, recitals, and the study of organ performance. They are the Flentrop (Benjamin N. Duke Memorial Organ) located in the nave, the Aeolian (Kathleen McClendon Organ) located in the chancel, and the Brombaugh organ found in the Memorial Chapel. In addition, the Chapel owns a portative organ, used for accompanying small groups.

You’re right, I’m already planning a visit to North Carolina next year to visit Joey!

Flentrop organ at Duke University Chapel

Flentrop organ at Duke University Chapel

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What a coincidence!

At Hawaii Public Radio with Ian Capps, host of The Early Muse

At Hawaii Public Radio with Ian Capps, host of The Early Muse

This afternoon was my turn at Hawaii Public Radio’s semi-annual fund drive, and I deliberately chose a time at which I would normally be listening: Fred Child’s Performance TodaySeems that in my busy schedule, I always seem to be driving around at that hour, and am able to enjoy the live performances which are featured.

According to the Performance Today website:

American Public Media’s Performance Today is America’s most popular classical music radio program and a winner of the 2014 Gabriel Award for artistic achievement. The show is broadcast on nearly 300 public radio stations across the country, and reaches approximately 1.4 million listeners each week.

Performance Today features live concert recordings that can’t be heard anywhere else, as well as in-studio performances and interviews. Also, each week composer Bruce Adolphe joins host Fred Child for a classical music game, the Piano Puzzler. Performance Today is based at the APM studios in Saint Paul, Minn., but is frequently on the road, with special programs broadcast from festivals and public radio stations around the country.

When I told my friends that it was Tuesday, April 25th, that I would be “pitching,” and trying to encourage people to donate to Hawaii Public Radio, I’m afraid I made a face. That is because I would much rather be playing rather than talking on the radio! You see, it’s something which takes me out of my comfort zone—playing and writing for me are easy, but talking—well, that’s another ball of wax.

I did sign up for a time I knew Ian Capps of The Early Muse and Early Music Hawaii would be hosting, so at least there would be a friendly face to talk to.

The church of Saint-Merri, Paris, where Saint-Saens was organist, 1853-57

The church of Saint-Merri, Paris, where Saint-Saëns was organist, 1853-57

And you’ll never guess what Fred Child of Performance Today played during my time slot? Saint-Saëns “Symphony No. 3,” the ‘Organ Symphony,’ performed by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, with Thierry Escaich on the organ! Is that a coincidence or what?

[You can hear the broadcast by going to the Performance Today website]

I was telling the other people at the table that organists are truly a rare breed of musician. In the State of Hawaii, with 1.4 million people, there are only about 12 people who live here who have a degree in organ performance. Let that sink in for a moment. If you do the math, we 12 organists represent only .00000857142857 of the whole population!

Lonesome George was the last of his species!

Lonesome George was the last of his species!

That’s almost as rare as Lonesome George (1910-2012), the last surviving Pinta Island tortoise—last of his species!

No, the local folks did not arrange in advance for Fred Child to play organ music, so the fact that he played the Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony during my volunteer slot is pretty remarkable, wouldn’t you say?

When I arrived, I was somewhat taken aback at a large confirmation card which was presented to me, listing my name in large letters: Katherine Crosier, Organist and Artistic Director of Early Music Hawaii. The “Organist” part I knew about—but the rest of it is news to me! (I knew I was the Vice-President, but now the Artistic Director, too?)

Hawaii Public Radio is a real community asset in this town, and 30% of its programming is locally-produced, which is a larger percentage than most other public radio stations. Please call in locally at 808-941-3689, or from the mainland or neighbor islands at 1-877-941-3689 or donate online at

If you look at the iPad version of the Hawaii Public Radio app, look who appears at the bottom!

See a familiar face at the organ on the bottom of the screen?

See a familiar face at the organ on the bottom of the screen? Yes, it’s Joey Fala!

The good news is that in the time I was at the station, we made TWO fundraising goals!

Thank you, Hawaii Public Radio, for what you do for all of us, but especially for us organists in the community!

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A weekend of incredible singing

The first concert by the Oahu Choral Society Chamber Choir.

The first concert by the Oahu Choral Society Chamber Choir.

I’ve just come home after the “Motets and Cantatas” concert by the Oahu Choral Society Chamber Choir, and I must say that I heard some fantastic singing tonight. Tonight was the Chamber Choir’s debut, consisting of only 22 singers out of the larger OCS ensemble. The tone of the choir was light and agile, the perfect group for singing Bach.

The program began with Johannes Brahms’ “Schaffe in mir, Gott, ein rein Herz, Op. 29, No. 2” and right off the bat, the choir set the bar high on this a cappella work, their tone focused and clear, successfully navigating the tricky chromaticisms.

Conductor Esther Yoo

Conductor Esther Yoo

Next was Bach Motet 3, “Jesu, meine Freude, BWV 227.” I have performed this piece twice before tonight—the first time was March 23, 1983 and the second time was March 21, 1993. (Aren’t we glad that Carl Crosier kept meticulous records about our performances?) Tonight’s performance was excellent in every way, and conductor Esther Yoo kept the tempos brisk where appropriate.

I used the organ copy of “Jesu meine Freude” kept in the LCH choir library, and right on the top of the fugal section of “Ihr aber seid nicht fleischlich,” I had written in large letters, “JEROME!” I assumed this referred to Jerome Vasconcellos, but I cannot for the life of me figure out why I wrote his name at the top. It’s possible that he was the closest person in the choir who could turn the page for me at that point in the performance! Just think, the last time I opened this music was TWENTY-FOUR (24!) years ago!

I had no page turner tonight, but since I played my own baby pipe organ, I was able to turn the pages myself by playing the left hand part in the pedals for only as long as necessary to get the page turned.

Jeremy Wong turned in a fantastic performance of the baritone solo Cantata 56, “Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen,” which opened the second half of the concert. I’m afraid, though, that I was too worried about my own part to pay too much attention to what he was doing. That was because I was reading from the vocal edition and “ad-libbing” an organ continuo part, basically looking at the bass line, and “making up the right hand part” as we went along. Yikes!

The Chamber Choir then performed two works by Felix Mendelssohn, chorale cantatas on “Jesu, meine Freude” and “Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten.” Naomi Castro‘s soprano solo in the last work was spun out like cotton candy, pure sweetness and sugar!

Last night, I attended the Hawaii Opera Theater’s production of “Tales of Hoffman,” and we heard some absolutely incredible singing. I was blown away by the Doll Song sung by soprano Rachele Gilmore, who went up into the stratosphere when she sang a high A-flat! Luckily I found a YouTube performance of her debut at the Met with this piece so you can hear it too! Amazingly, she sang the Met debut performance on only four hours notice when Kathleen Kim fell ill, and proceeded to bring the house down. You’ve got to hear this—I’m certain you’ll be blown away, too!

As my friend Vreni Griffith said tonight, we can hear such fantastic singing and performances right here in Honolulu—we don’t have to go to Europe!

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Operation Babylift

Archival photo of babies strapped into airline seats, 1975

Archival photo of babies leaving South Vietnam, strapped into airline seats, 1975

Operation Babylift. If you are as old as I am (ahem!), you probably have heard the term “Operation Babylift.” But if you’re still a spring chicken, and aren’t old enough to know what it was,  I can tell you that it was the name of a mass evacuation of children at the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. Supposedly 3,000 orphans were airlifted to the United States, Australia, France and Canada (there was some question as to whether some were really orphans). The first flight loaded with babies tragically crashed, claiming the lives of 78 children, although there were survivors. [If you are interested, you can read the story in the Atlas Obscura written only last September 2016 about children who were flown to the United States. Some have returned to Vietnam. Click here to read a story about Operation Babylift survivors who returned to the scene 40 years later.]

Well, my Operation Babylift was not nearly so dramatic or traumatic, but imagine what I felt when the guys from S & S Delivery showed up and told me, “This organ is NOT going to fit through the front door!” You see, I had promised Esther Yoo of the Oahu Choral Society that they could borrow my baby pipe organ for their “Motets and Cantatas” concert this Saturday, which I’m playing, by the way.

I even took out the tape measure and measured the width of my doorway: 35-1/2 inches. Then I went over the organ and measured its width: 35-3/4″. Even if we took the door off the hinges, it was NOT going to fit. Close, but no cigars. I knew already that the pedalboard could easily come off, but it looked like the keyboard was installed in there firmly and was not designed to disconnect. Oh dear, what were we going to do?

The guys asked me, “How did you get it in here?”

“It came in a big box. Some assembly required!” (Check out my post “Baby’s coming out party” for pictures!)

What to do? I called Hans-Ulrich Erbsloeh in Hamburg, Germany. “Help, Hans! Is there any way to disconnect the keyboard so we can move the organ? It won’t fit through the door!”

“I’ll call you back.”

Hans told me that he would put in a call to Klaus Grüble, the organbuilder. Within five minutes, he had told us where the releases were, and voilà! The keyboard was detached. Whew!

The baby pipe organ at St. Andrew's Cathedral

The baby pipe organ at St. Andrew’s Cathedral

Then two guys started to lift the organ, no small task, since it weighs about 500 pounds. But as they lifted it up, the bottom seemed to come apart from the base and everyone panicked. Another call to Germany with yet another call back assured us that nothing was holding the chest to the blower, and that the organ fit together like a giant wooden puzzle. We found out the adjustable bench also came apart unless you held it from the bottom.

About fifteen minutes later, the organ in 5 pieces arrived at St. Andrew’s Cathedral, but since I had neglected to pick up the power cord in all the confusion, I couldn’t test it out to make sure everything was put back together again.

At last night’s dress rehearsal, I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I connected the power cord to an extension cord, then I turned the organ on. It worked!

Here’s the whole story in pictures.

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I must say, as I was listening to Jeremy Wong‘s beautiful solos as we rehearsed Bach Cantata 56, “Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen,” it made me realize how much I’ve missed playing Bach cantatas. (I played over 70 of them while I was organist at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu.) The Oahu Choral Society Chamber Choir also performs Motet No. 3, “Jesu meine Freude,” and they sound amazing.

Don’t miss this Saturday’s concert at 7:30 pm! Tickets are available at the door or at the Oahu Choral Society website. 


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