The next generation of organists

This morning I went to the 8:00 am service at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu where two of my young students played the prelude and postlude. It was Faith and Arts Sunday, the day that members of the congregation showcase their writing, art work and musical talents.

9 year old Raphael played the prelude.

9 year old Raphael played the prelude.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear the congregation sing the Alleluia Mass, written by my sister, Doris Au MacDonald and Sharon Dennis aka The Braeded Chord. It was a work that my husband Carl and I commissioned them to write for the 8:00 congregation way back in 2007. Today it was performed only with piano and flute, but they originally also wrote parts for violin and guitar.

9 year old Raphael played “Toccata” by Emma Lou Diemer as the prelude and many people came up to me to say how much progress he has made since last year. He and his sister, Sophia, have only been playing the organ about a year-and-a-half, but as we all know, music is in their DNA!

11 year old Sophia brought the house down with her performance of “Galeries anciens” by Dennis Janzer as the postlude.

Meanwhile, on the other side of America, guess who attended the recital today by my former student, Joey Fala, at Washington National Cathedral? My sister Doris MacDonald and Sharon Dennis! (along with Doris’ husband, Alan, and son, James).

Now is that synchronicity or what?!

My sister, Doris, with Joey Fala and Sharon Dennis.

My sister, Doris, with Joey Fala and Sharon Dennis at Washington National Cathedral.

I asked Doris whether they got a chance to talk with him after the concert, and she said, “Yes, he told me he had met me before and when I introduced Sharon, he said ‘oh yes, the soccer moms!’  i.e. the text on our website… so he must have read up on us!   I told  him he was your star pupil and you were very proud of him, and he said you were his second mom!”

Sharon called it “incredible music by organist Joey Fala—a student of Doris’ sister, Katherine Crosier—small world!”

Photo of the National Cathedral taken by my brother-in-law, Alan MacDonald.

Photo of the National Cathedral taken by my brother-in-law, Alan MacDonald.

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Jubilate! Ke Akua Ho’omaika’i Oe, John!

Karl's Karolers sang two beautiful numbers—many of them had sung in St. Andrew's Cathedral choir under John Renke.

Karol’s Karolers sang “Psalm 23” (Bobby McFerrin) and “Keep watch, dear Lord” (Karol Nowicki) —many of the singers had sung in St. Andrew’s Cathedral choir under John Renke.

Last night was the Honolulu Chorale’s “Jubilate! A Celebration of Choral Music and Musicianship,” and I was reminded of the Hawaiian phrase, Ke Akua Ho’omaika’i Oe (God bless you). The dinner for John Renke was as much of a celebration of John’s ten years in Hawaii as well as a chance to say ‘goodbye.’ I was one of two speakers, along with Esther Yoo of the Oahu Choral Society—John said that we would be welcome to speak at his funeral as well!

A photo of John from Grace Cathedral days.

A photo of John from Grace Cathedral days.

I started off with a little anecdote about how John got started in music. Imagine this conversation between a piano teacher and a student’s mother:

“I’m not teaching John anymore. He absolutely HATES the piano and it’s a waste of my time!”

Yes, this conversation really took place between John’s first piano teacher and his mother. John did quit the piano but took it up again about a year later with a new teacher. And quite frankly, we wouldn’t be here tonight if he had quit for good!”

With John Renke

Saying goodbye to John Renke.

I spoke to John’s past, his years at Grace Cathedral (1973-1988), about his close friendship with my husband, Carl, and his unwavering and faithful support during Carl’s last days and hours.

Esther Yoo expressed what many of us had experienced: I remember that first day I met John, it was the fall of 2007. It was only for a few seconds because he was rushing off to something that day, probably a rehearsal, but what I remember is his sparkling energy, an effervescent spirit, warm and friendly. Of course, you can’t forget that boyishly handsome grin that comes with all his mannerisms. . . John is a dear friend to me. He is kind, gentle, humorous, always with many words of encouragement and excellent advice when you ask. After many lunches and meetings with John, I have come to realize that he lives and breathes because of music, he LOVES MUSIC, and wants everyone to hear and experience it as he does. John’s heart is like the music he plays, its emotions are high and low, deep and wide, embraces the good and the not-so-good, and its soul is sweet and gentle. . . The past ten years, we all have witnessed that John is a seasoned collaborator, and one who is deeply rooted in the community that he serves. . . He has collaborated and served tirelessly with every organization on the islands. He has been a leading advocate for musicians in our community, generously offering his time and talent. Honolulu has been very fortunate to have John in our ohana (family). His motive has always been to bring people together to hear and celebrate the beauty of the choral art. He desires us all musicians and/or organizations to thrive so that we can offer the best to Honolulu.

The Honolulu Chorale was conducted by Jeremy Wong.

The Honolulu Chorale was conducted by Jeremy Wong.

John Renke at the podium.

John Renke at the podium.

John was presented with the Joe McAlister award for his fine musicianship and dedicated contribution to Hawaii’s community. He said that when he was approached about this award many months ago, he had no idea that he would be three days away from moving back to the mainland.

At the end everyone stood and sang “Ho’o maika’i ika Makua,” which closed every Evensong at St. Andrew’s Cathedral and “Hawai’i Aloha.”

Here’s a performance by the Rose Ensemble (of Minnesota) of this beloved hymn of Hawai’i. It was recorded at the European Grand Prix Association For Choral Singing, 44th Tolosa Choral Contest 2012, Basque Country, Spain. But as Esther closed her speech, she spoke for all of us: I think that because John has rooted himself so deeply in our community the past ten years, it is now incredibly difficult to see him go. But (we) wish your next chapter to include those epic musical experiences and you will continue to flourish and bring excellence to your art. We thank you, John, for your support and generosity that you have shown to all of us. We will miss you.



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Jubilate! honors John Renke

John Renke

John Renke

Founded in 1966, the Honolulu Chorale, one of the longest-performing community choruses in the state of Hawaii, will hold its Annual Musical Event and Joe McAlister Award Dinner at the Honolulu Country Club tomorrow night. This year’s honoree is our colleague, John Renke, and you’ll never guess who was asked to be the speaker! Egad, little ‘ol me!

John Renke played the harpsichord for many concerts at LCH.

John Renke played the harpsichord for many concerts at LCH.

John has spent ten years in Hawaii as Organist and Director of Music of St. Andrew’s Cathedral, and over the years, we had many opportunities to collaborate—in fact I think I have more pictures of him at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu than at St. Andrew’s Cathedral!

John with Mark Wong after organist Robert Anderson's funeral.

John with Mark Wong after organist Robert Anderson’s funeral.

But it was through our Joint Evensongs that our friendship with John really developed. And when my husband Carl announced his retirement from LCH with a marathon year of concerts, beginning with the Monteverdi Vespers of 1610 and ending with the Bach Mass in B Minor, John was right there in the thick of it with us, playing harpsichord at many of the concerts.

The Crosiers and John Renke after Joint Evensong.

The Crosiers and John Renke after Joint Evensong.

Hawaii Chapter AGO officers with guest artist Aaron David Miller at St. Andrew's Catheddral

Hawaii Chapter AGO officers with guest artist Aaron David Miller at St. Andrew’s Cathedral

Hawaii AGO Chapter Officers with guest artists Hyunju Hwang and Tsugumi Shikano at Central Union Church.

Hawaii AGO Chapter Officers with guest artists Hyunju Hwang and Tsugumi Shikano at Central Union Church. John is second from the right.

John plays harpsichord at the B Minor Mass.

John plays harpsichord at the B Minor Mass.

I won’t tell you everything I learned about John which I will tell you in my speech tomorrow night, but I wanted to take this opportunity to share some of my pictures. By the way, the Faces feature in Photos is a great way to find people in my collection of 27,000 digital photos!

John served as Dean of our Hawaii Chapter American Guild of Organists for three years during which time we met monthly in his office on the Cathedral grounds. We also recognized our chapter officers in an annual Installation Service at St. Andrew’s.

John was a great mentor and we all enjoyed the work he did with organ scholar, Yuri McCoy, who is now at Rice University working on his doctorate.

Karl Bachman presents the Robert Anderson award to Yuri McCoy, with John Renke looking on.

Karl Bachman presents the Robert Anderson award to Yuri McCoy, with John Renke looking on.

John and Carl were close friends.

We also spent a lot of time socializing—John and my husband Carl had a special friendship, true colleagues in every sense of the word. They were both martini aficionados and enjoyed many, many martinis together! After Carl retired from LCH, he took a countertenor position in St. Andrew’s Cathedral choir and enjoyed making music on the other side of the baton.

John served as a sponsor when Carl was received into the Roman Catholic church, at a service which took place in Straub Hospital around Carl’s bedside.

In the hospital room at Straub.

John in the hospital room at Straub with Mary Reese (left) and Sue Ann Wargo (right).

And John was with Carl’s sister and me for many, many hours, when we gathered around Carl’s deathbed and played the music of Bach from John’s iPhone. Since he had experienced both his parents’ deaths, he told us what to look for and comforted us in that way.

He assisted Fr. William Kunisch in planning Carl’s Requiem mass, and helped me organize a post-funeral dinner at the Pacific Club for out of town guests.

At St. Theresa with Father William at the Requiem.

John at St. Theresa Co-Cathedral with Father William at the Requiem. Guy Merola and Padraic Costello are to the right.

So you can imagine it is a huge loss to the Honolulu community that we bid our farewell to John, as he assumes a new position as Pastoral Associate for Divine Worship for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland, California. He will be working directly with the Bishop and Cathedral Rector in the areas of worship, music, and community outreach, and will be based at the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland, the mother church for over a half million Roman Catholics in the area.

John, we’ll miss you!

Another group photo (John Renke had to leave early)

Hawaii AGO Chapter with guest organist, Greg Zelek. John is in the back, second right.

At a retirement party for Carl.

At a retirement party for Carl Crosier.








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If you’re in D.C. this weekend …

Joey Fala will be at Washington National Cathedral this Sunday!

Joey Fala’s concert at Washington National Cathedral!

My former student, Joey Fala, will be playing an organ recital at the Washington National Cathedral this Sunday, February 26 at 5:15 pm. I took a screen shot of the web page, but if you would like to see it for yourself, click here.

This week we also received the postcards promoting Joey’s concerts in Hawaii, which will be on Sunday, March 12th at 3:00pm at Higashi Hongwanji Mission in Hilo and Sunday, March 19th at 7:00 pm at Central Union Church in Honolulu.

Joey's concerts in Hawaii

Joey’s concerts in Hawaii

Here is the text of the back of the postcard:

Joey Fala is this year’s concert artist for the 12th Annual Organ Concert sponsored by the American Guild of Organists. This concert may be the most special concert of the entire series, because it is a celebration of one of our own Hawaii organ students, a 2010 graduate of Iolani School and student of Katherine Crosier, who went to the mainland for college, received Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in architecture, won national acclaim as an organist, was awarded a full scholarship to the Yale Institute of Sacred Music in the Master of Music Organ Performance program and will “come home” to share his musical talent with us.

In works by Elgar, Shearing, Bach, Franck, Rheinberger, Howells, Escaich, and Dupré, the Hawaii audience will experience firsthand the talent of this amazing young musician whom The Diapason magazine named one of its “20 under 30” outstanding young organists to watch as they set the trend for organ performance for the future.

Thanks to Church Organs Hawaii which will provide the artist’s transportation to Hilo. Both concerts are free, but a calabash will be available. More information, 808-721-3468.

Go, Joey!


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Out of my comfort zone

Early Music Hawaii Kona

Early Music Hawaii Kona (No one told me about the dress beforehand!) L-R: myself, Mary Garris, Rachel Edwards, Susan Leonard, Kelsey Mordecai, Ian McMillan, Daniel Mahraun, Steve Kaplan, Garrett Webb, Geoffrey Naylor, Harry Zola.

I spent the weekend in Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii, playing harpsichord in the Early Music Hawaii concert. After a mad dash to the airport after teaching organ lessons on Saturday morning, I arrived in Kona and was taken immediately to the concert venue, the Lutheran Church of the Holy Trinity, where the rehearsal was already in progress.

This was the same program we had presented a week ago, “Kings and Queens,” except that the choir and the director were completely different, and of course, the harpsichord was entirely new to me. It was a single manual instrument, with two registers (two sets of 8′ strings), manipulated by two small levers on the inside of the case. I found the action to be quite stiff as compared to the Cammack harpsichord at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu last weekend. It belongs to Garrett Webb, one of the founding members of Early Music Hawaii. A recorder player, Garrett does not play keyboard, but purchased it solely for visiting artists!

Naturally, with no organ available, some of the pieces I played last weekend on the organ had to be played on the harpsichord, an entirely different experience. Whereas I had played the bass line on the organ pedals, here I had to play it with my left hand, making me quite uncomfortable, along with the stiff action.

Daniel Mahraun

Daniel Mahraun

Also, with a different director and soloists, tempos and interpretation were bound to be different, which they were. We in Early Music Hawaii, are extremely lucky to have director Daniel Mahraun‘s expertise, as he has a doctorate in choral music and has a gorgeous baritone voice. Check out his bio on his website. Other performers included Rachel Edwards and Mary Garris (soprano); Susan Leonard and Kelsey Mordecai (alto); Ian McMillan (tenor); Daniel Mahraun (baritone); Steve Kaplan (bass); Geoffrey Naylor, Garret Webb and Harry Zola (recorders) and myself on harpsichord.

After the rehearsal, Ian Capps, his wife, Jeannette, and I drove an hour away to Kohala to the spectacular home of Marilyn and Carl Bernhardt, where we held the annual meeting of the Early Music Hawaii board of directors in their gorgeous dining room. Guess what—I was formally elected as vice-president of this organization!

Here is where we had our board of directors meeting.

Here is the dining room where we had our board of directors meeting.

Early Music Hawaii board

Early Music Hawaii board

After the meeting, Marilyn treated us to a wonderful dinner of homemade soup, salad, and two kinds of homemade bread which had just been baked this afternoon. Garrett drove me back to Kona, where I indulged the generous hospitality of Lois and Tom Griffiths, with whom I stayed last December when I played for the Kona Choral Society. She is a parishioner of Holy Trinity, sings in the choir under Daniel Mahraun, and is on the church council.

In the morning I attended the service at Holy Trinity where Daniel Mahraun’s wife, Leslie Ann, is the pastor. The first thing that surprised me was that the church was absolutely full—something you don’t see on ordinary Sunday mornings in most parishes. There were many mainland visitors who were introduced after the service, harking from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Canada, Washington, and Colorado.

Now there's a combination of instruments you don't see everyday: a harpsichord with a drum set in the background!

Now there’s a combination of instruments you don’t see everyday: a harpsichord with a drum set in the background!

The second surprising thing was that all the music was played on piano, with electric bass and drums. Hearing traditional hymns such as Holy, holy, holy (NICAEA); O holy spirit, enter in (WIE SCHÖN LEUCHTET); and Go my children with my blessing (AR HYD Y NOS) with drum set was an entirely new experience! There was a ton of music in the service, including seven hymns, a hymn anthem by the choir, the psalm, and the liturgy (Kyrie, This is the Feast, Alleluia, Doxology, Sanctus, and Lamb of God).

The concert, which was held at 3:30 pm, was well-attended and went well. I have to confess, however, that just before I was to play my first solo, The Queen’s Alman, my brain did a disconnect. I couldn’t figure out where to put my hands! Normally middle C is in the middle of the keyboard. However, on this harpsichord, it is definitely way off to the right, and I couldn’t figure out which octave I needed to place my hands! Luckily I chose the right one after a few moments of indecision. You would not believe the number of people who came up to me and were so enamored with the sound of the harpsichord! I had to admit I was out of my comfort zone, because I am an organist, and the two instruments are as different as night and day.

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

Before I left for Kona, Facebook reminded me of a photo I posted four years ago:

Carl Crosier at Kakaako Waterfront Park, Feb. 9, 2013

Carl Crosier at Kaka’ako Waterfront Park, Feb. 9, 2013

For six years, my late husband Carl and I used to get up at 5:00 am and walk 2-1/2 miles every morning Monday through Friday. On Saturdays, though, we took a different route and walked 5-1/2 miles to Kaka’ako Waterfront Park. On this particular Saturday, when we got to our destination with its spectacular view of Diamond Head and the harbor, I snapped a picture of Carl walking on ahead of me. You can see that it was very voggy—our Hawaiian version of air pollution—a combination of volcanic ash and fog.

On Friday, when I reposted the photo on Facebook, it dawned on me that this photo was a perfect metaphor of Carl’s walking into the light ahead of us, as it has turned out in real life. It was an image that stayed with me the entire weekend, also reminding me that if Carl were here, he would be playing the harpsichord, not me.

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My left foot

On Saturday night, I fell off the organ platform after the Early Music Concert and sprained my ankle (see my post “Swan dive!“). Witness this text conversation between Georgine Stark and me today.

In case you don’t know, classically trained organists use BOTH feet to play the pedals and turn their noses up at amateurs who only use their left foot to play the bass line. Then again, there is theatre organ playing in which the organist’s right foot is used to operate the swell pedal while the left foot plays the bass notes. The effect is non-legato (not connected) which is okay for theatre organ music, but not for other kinds of music, like hymn playing!

Can you imagine what it’s going to be like playing the Aeolian-Skinner organ for Priory chapel tomorrow—and only using one foot!!!

Last week, I delivered some organ music for manuals only (no pedal) for one of my students who was riding a bicycle and got hit by a car, injuring his right foot. For some strange reason unknown to me, I held back two volumes and now I’m glad I had something to play for chapel this week.

While at Punahou School this morning, I learned a valuable lesson from Chandra Peters, the chapel coordinator. UP on good, DOWN on bad! What this is all about is a lesson on how to negotiate stairs with a crutch. When going up stairs, use your good foot first, followed by the injured foot. It’s just the opposite when going down stairs: use your crutch (or cane) with your bad foot first, then follow with your good foot. Seems complicated, but it works!

Then again, how about this blog posting:

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Joey Fala at Woolsey Hall

Drum roll, please … Here is the video for fantastic Joey Fala at the Woolsey Hall organ at Yale University for his graduate organ recital!

Here’s the program, with notes found on the internet:

Edward Elgar, Pomp and Circumstance, March No. 4 in G Major, op. 39
This is a transcription of one of Elgar’s military marches written for orchestra. In the wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer, Pomp and Circumstance No. 4 served as the recessional. As Diana’s veil was lifted and the couple bowed and curtsied to Queen Elizabeth II, the opening notes sounded and continued as they walked down the aisle of St Paul’s Cathedral out to the portico and the waiting crowds. (Wikipedia)

Maurice Duruflé, Prelude et fugue sur le nom d’Alain, op. 7
The Prélude et Fugue sur le nom d’Alain, Op 7, is a tribute to Duruflé’s friend and colleague and the brother of the distinguished organist Marie-Claire Alain, Jehan Alain, who would undoubtedly have become a leading French composer, and whose life was tragically snuffed at the outset of the Second World War in 1940. Duruflé’s theme, based on letters of the alphabet, translates A-L-A-I-N as ADAAF. In the final section of the Prélude, Duruflé quotes the theme of Alain’s most popular work, Litanies. (Hyperion Records) [I played this piece on my senior recital from college!]

I was in the audience!

I was in the audience!

César Franck, Fantaisie en La majeure
This piece was one in a set of three that Franck composed for the inauguration of the organ of the Trocadero in Paris. This Fantasy often baffled his listeners. His original title of Fantaisie-Idylle nevertheless gives the key to his listening : one must be carried away by the touching and inspired dialogue of the three main ideas that it contains, developed with great freedom. (Bru Zane Mediabase) [I learned this piece in high school and have not heard it since!]

Thierry Escaich, Cinq verses sur le “Victimae paschali”
These Five Verses , which can be addressed as well to a classical instrument as symphonic, were composed in 1991 at the request of the Ministry of Culture for the Forum of the organs of Île-de-France. They consist of a succession of five short variations on the Easter sequence Victimæ paschali laudes, each characterized by a very particular universe.

• Verse I. It is a rhythmic variation of the theme characterized by unstable writing (based on syncopes or added values). Like most variations of this cycle, the verse evolves like a veritable little symphonic poem with a progression in several stages, a climax and a rapid fall-off where we witness the progressive elimination of the rhythmic theme.

• Verse II. Adagio with a particularly tense expressivity, it evolves in the form of a slow chromatic rise in a contrapuntal writing towards a summit in the form of a cry abruptly debouching on a coda completely stripped. The Gregorian motive finds the force to reappear only in fragments interspersed with silences.

• Verse III. Court intermezzo where the humor of the beginning is quickly thwarted by more breathless reminiscences of the previous variation.

• Verse IV. As in many of my plays (the central movement of the First Concerto for organ and orchestra, for example), it is a long processional march combining a slow stubborn walking element on the Victimæ paschali motif with one hand, and Presentation completely chopped, unstructured from the same theme to the other. The progression is then made towards an atmosphere more and more heavy and even crushing, sometimes interspersed with “flashes” in the form of bursts of chords.

• Verse V. A brief toccata with an irregular metric that sometimes tries to reconnect with a more breathless expression and phrasing seeming to reemerge previous verses. (Thierry Escaich website)

Herbert Howells, Psalm Prelude, Op. 32, no. 3
This is subtitled “Psalm 23 Verse 4 ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death’.” Howells composed Set 1 of his Psalm Preludes in 1915-16, clearly moved by the deep sense of loss that he had already begun to feel about the human waste of the world war as it continued its dismal progress. His musical response to such underlying feelings, which surfaced on subsequent occasions throughout his life, was often elegiac, but was also inflected strongly with a sense of complexity that derived from the formative influence of modal counterpoint on his work, especially in his instrumental compositions. The Psalm Preludes show also the ways in which Howells’ work is permeated at times with a sense of acoustic resonance that draws on his strong proxemic sense of church architecture and the texture it can lend to choral music in performance. (North London Chorus program)

Marcel Dupré,  Prelude and Fugue in B major. Op. 7, no. 1
Marcel Dupré’s Trois préludes et fugues, composed in 1912, are among his most popular compositions for the organ. The first, in B major, is the most exuberant of the three, opening with a brilliant, toccata-like prelude. The busy fugue theme emerges naturally from the prelude and dances its way to a thrilling finish. This piece has been used as the closing voluntary for a number of major services at the cathedral in recent years, including the Inaugural Prayer Service for President Barack Obama in 2009. (Gothic Catalog)

Joey will be home on spring break to play two recitals in Hawaii! I just sent the postcard off to the printer, and will give you more information as the concerts draw closer.

Joey's concerts in Hawaii

Joey’s concerts in Hawaii are March 12 (Hilo) and March 19, 2017 (Honolulu)

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Swan dive!

Group selfie before the Kings and Queens concert

How many times have I stepped off the organ platform at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu? A zillion times, to be sure. 

I am in the wheelchair!

But tonight after the Early Music Hawaii concert (which went very well, by the way), I misjudged the distance to the floor. The next thing I knew, my eyes were face to face with the terrazzo floor. Funny thing, I did not use my hands to break my fall, but once down on the floor, I couldn’t move. People rushed to my assistance right away, and asked how I was. Thankfully I had not lost consciousness, only my pride! Karyn Castro brought my car down from the Poki lot and a few people helped me into the church’s wheelchair. Olivia Castro wrapped my ankle in ice with a towel. The next stop was Queen’s Hospital Emergency for x-rays. Diagnosis: a moderate sprain, no broken bones, but I am being discharged with my ankle wrapped in an ace bandage and issued crutches. Hallelujah!

The good news was that despite flood warnings and massive rainfall earlier in the day, we had a large, appreciative crowd for the concert. There were no musical disasters and I felt especially relieved after my two harpsichord solos: William Byrd’s The Queen’s Alman and Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre’s Prelude from the Suite II. Every single singer got a solo bit, and there were several combinations of duets, trios and quartets to provide variety. The beginning of the concert particularly gave me musical chills: it started with Naomi Castro singing a medieval chant, joined with a drone played by the gamba. Then the choir slowly walked in procession to the front of the church, singing ancient organum. It surely took me back several centuries.

These folks are relieved it’s all over: L-R: Georgine Stark, myself, Naomi Castro, Karyn Castro, Bowe Souza, Guy Merola, Keane Ishii, Scott Fikse (director), Anna Callner, and Phillip Gottling.

However, I’ve got to do it all over again next weekend in Kona with a different bunch of folks. Luckily there’s no organ platform to fall off in Kona—I am only playing harpsichord.

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Kings and Queens

My next two gigs

Early Music Hawaii concerts for the next two weekends.

Friday night rehearsal

Ever since I returned from my mainland trip, I have had to hit the ground running. For the last three nights I have rehearsed with the Early Music Hawaii Chamber Singers for our concert tomorrow night, 7:30 pm at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu. It has made for some very long days, each beginning with 8:15 am chapel at Punahou School and ending with rehearsal as late as 10:00 pm—jet lag notwithstanding! For the last three nights I have woken up promptly at 3:15 am!

The Kings and Queens concert is sub-titled “Intimate Music for and by Themselves.” Ian Capps, in the program notes, writes: From medieval times through the Baroque, the principal patrons of music were the royal families of Europe. Their public profile was very high but, like most of us, they valued what private time they had to appreciate, and often participated in more intimate music.

Anna Callner, viola da gamba

Anna Callner, viola da gamba

What is unusual is that the program is being presented twice, once in Honolulu and again in Kona on the Big Island, with two sets of singers. Only I as the keyboardist will be common to both groups.

In Honolulu, there are seven singers,  Naomi Castro, Georgine Stark, Karyn Castro, Guy Merola, Bowe Souza and Scott Fikse, in addition to Anna Callner (viola da gamba) and Philip Gottling (recorder) plus myself on harpsichord and organ. We will be presenting vocal and instrumental medieval and Renaissance music by Guillaume Dufay, Gilles Binchois, Ludwig Senfl, Josquin des Prez, Henry V, Henry VIII, William Byrd, John Bennet, Cristofor Malvezzi, Giulio Caccini, Antoine Boesset, Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Michael Lambert, Henri Dumont, and Tomas de Torrejon y Velasco.

Phil Gottling, recorder

Phil Gottling, recorder

Next weekend I will fly to Kona to join the Early Music Hawaii Chamber Singers of Hawai’i Island where the singers will consist of Rachel Edwards, Mary Garris, Susan Leonard, Kelsey Mordecai, Ian McMillan, Daniel Mahraun and Steve Kaplan; Geoffrey Naylor, Garret Webb and Harry Zola on recorder and myself on harpsichord—same program!

I guess that something I have taken for granted all these years is that being an organist, either I am hidden, or my back is to the audience. However, I am mostly playing harpsichord in this concert and I am definitely out of my comfort zone for a number of reasons. For one thing, my face will be visible to the many people in the audience. Unfortunately I have a tendency to make a face when I make a mistake!

Tonight at rehearsal, Scott Fikse who is directing the Honolulu group, reminded us that the last three nights we have had our “working faces” on, but that he expected us to show some animation for the concert.

That reminds me that years ago, I did a special with the local public television station about various organs in town. The producer had me do several takes because I was not smiling when I was playing the organ! Jeepers, as an organist I’m NOT used to smiling when I play the organ, especially with my back to everyone.

Let’s hope I don’t make too many faces tomorrow while playing the harpsichord!

Tickets are available at the door, or by going to the Early Music Hawaii website.

Georgine, Naomi and Karyn sing like the angels!

Keane, Bowe, Guy and Scott are busy rehearsing for the concert.


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In the news

Diapason magazine, February 2017

The Diapason magazine, February 2017

This morning I’m watching the news about the big snowstorm in the Northeast—I guess I left just in the nick of time! It was the first time I took a nonstop flight directly to Honolulu from Newark—11-1/2 hours, in which I watched five movies! In case you’re wondering, no, I never sleep on flights, even when they span halfway across the world.

Anyway, last night before I went out to a rehearsal for the upcoming Early Music Hawaii concert, I sat down to read the latest Diapason magazine, an international journal for organists and harpsichordists. I started reading a story about the latest Albert Schweitzer organ competition (Albert Schweitzer Organ Festival Hartford–ASOFH), and came across a familiar name: Joey Fala!

In the article by Phillip Truckenbrod, Joey was quoted extensively:

“What was so wonderful about ASOFH was that it truly was a ‘festival’ rather than ‘get in, play, get out,’ like some other competitions I’ve participated in,”  said Joseph (Joey) Fala, a Young Professional finalist in 2016, a member of The Diapason’s 20 under 30 class of 2016, and now a graduate student at Yale University by way of Honolulu.

“While centered around the contest, the weekend was about more,” he continued, “like celebrating music, the pipe organ, and the legacy of a great humanitarian. I so very much appreciated this emphasis and the effect it had on filling the weekend with an atmosphere of inspiration rather than creating an environment of competition. That was one of my biggest takeaways.”

Later in the article, there was another quote: “It was a full-blown extravaganza,” he said. “I really felt a part of something that was a ‘big deal.’ “

Joey received the Hymn Playing award!

Judges included several superstar organists who have played in Honolulu, namely Isabelle Demers and Christopher Houlihan. And the first winner of this competition was none other than Paul Jacobs, head of the Juilliard School organ department, who played two concerts in Hawaii to standing-room audiences.

Joey was quoted again at the end of the article: “I can’t say enough good about the weekend,” said Joey Fala. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see event attendance grow in the coming years because of the various changes made.”

Photo of judges and competitors, The Diapason magazine

Photo of judges and competitors, The Diapason magazine, February 2017

It really seems that with every issue of either The Diapason or The American Organist, both national magazines, I keep running across Joey Fala’s name!

Oh, and by the way, a few weeks ago, Joey texted ME to say that I was in the January issue of The American Organist!

“Wow! You got a big article in the TAO!”

“I did? For what?”

“The historic organ tour.”

In case you would like to read the entire article about last summer’s trip to Lorraine, France, you can view it here. A number of people wrote me to tell me how much they enjoyed the article and hoped that I would review the next Historic Organ Study Tour to Venice and northern Italy in August. Bill Van Pelt wrote me to say that there was one space left, and you guessed it… I’m going to Italy!


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