Sneak peek!

My new shoes for March 3rd.

Hey, want to have a sneak peek at what I’m going to be wearing on Saturday, March 3rd? Some of you may have seen my Facebook page about Ala Moana Shopping Center, where I’ve been going a lot lately. Business Insider has recently named Ala Moana the most valuable mall in America, with nearly $6 billion in total assets, with over 350 stores, all the way from Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdales to Ross’s and Target.

And — the reason I’m going to be wearing my Sunday best (even though it’s a Saturday!) is because I have been named the 2018 Dale Noble award recipient by the Oahu Choral Society (!) Here is a portion of the letter which was emailed to me:

Mele Aku, Vivace! will take place March 3, 2018 from 5-9:30 pm at the iconic Bishop Museum. Every year we take one night in the spring to celebrate the members and supporters of the Oahu Choral Society and the greater fine arts community. The Dale Noble Award has been an honor we have reserved for those outstanding musicians that exemplify OCS’s mission; to contribute to the rich tradition of choral singing, bringing the finest choral music to Hawaii. Over the years, Kathy, you have promoted choral singing in Hawaii not only by your contributions as a talented organist but
also with the passion you share for music on your blog. In today’s changing media climate you have created a true “buzz” for the musical community, not an easy task! You are a true champion for the arts!

When Malina Maneevone, the chair for the Vivace! event, called me on the telephone to give me the news a couple of weeks ago, I told her: You have got to be kidding! I’m someone who stays in the background—I do stuff like type programs and send out publicity releases. I’m just stunned that you chose me!

And … I’m not a choir director waving at people to try to get them to sing! I just sit at the organ (or piano) and give out pitches for other people to sing.

Furthermore, as you may recall, it was just six years ago (2012) that Carl Crosier was named to this prestigious honor. I was going to protest, “Isn’t there some sort of law about not giving the award to two members of the same family?!” I’ll save you the trouble of looking for the 2012 Vivace! photos because here are just a couple:

Carl and Kathy Crosier.

Carl and Kathy Crosier at the Vivace! fundraiser, 2012

Vivace! honoring Carl Crosier

Vivace! honoring Carl Crosier

Being that this year’s dinner will be at the Bishop Museum, the event will have a different look and feel. There will be music from the Oahu Choral Society Chamber Singers, the Honolulu Barefoot Boys, an exciting Silent Auction including an excursion on Maui including a 2-night stay at the Grand Wailea, tickets to premiere events, private art tours, concerts, restaurants, Maui Divers exclusive jewelry line and a night at Oahu’s The Modern Hotel.

Psst—There will also be a slideshow of yours truly, including some of my baby pictures!

Here’s the invitation:

This year’s Vivace invitation.

Tickets are available on the Oahu Choral Society website. I would be so honored if you would join us that night. It will be a great night of music and speeches—aw shucks!


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Yuri McCoy, concert organist

Yuri McCoy will give an organ recital on February 25 in Honolulu.

It’s time again for the Annual Organ Concert of the Hawaii Chapter American Guild of Organists and this year’s artist is Yuri McCoy, no stranger to Hawaii. Yuri’s concert will be Sunday, February 25, 2018 at 2:00 pm at Central Union Church, 1660 South Beretania Street.

Yuri originally came to Honolulu to earn a graduate degree in piano performance and served as organ scholar of St. Andrewʻs Cathedral under Canon Director of Music John Renke. This concert marks his return to Hawaiʻi now as a rising star in organ performance. Currently a doctoral student at the Shepherd School of Music, Rice University in Houston, he is studying with organist Ken Cowan, who himself gave a memorable concert here at St. Andrew’s Cathedral a few years ago.

Moving from piano to organ Yuri has a vast repertoire of music for both instruments and specializes in music of the 20th and 21st centuries, especially the rarely heard masterworks. Do you remember the time he played Schoenberg’s “Variations on a Recitative,” not once, but TWICE in a row, with a short lecture on Schoenberg in between by Paul Hesselink?

Yuri was one of ten young competitors at the prestigious Longwood Gardens International Competition, June 18-22, 2013. There was a very nice “human interest” video of Yuri made at the time which I bet you’d enjoy watching—there is a short clip of his wedding at St. Andrew’s Cathedral in which Yuri himself played the processional! He says it went smoothly—and all he had to do was change out of his organ shoes! (Yes, I was there!)

Now Yuri is a father of a daughter. You can see by the photo below that she’s starting young!

Yuri McCoy’s daughter.

He was featured recently on public radio’s With Heart and Voice on the January 7, 2018 program of sacred choral and organ music for Epiphany. Yuri is heard about 29 minutes into the program.

Yuri’s concert here will include some standard works of Bach, Buxtehude, Liszt and Vierne as well as lesser-known composers such as Karg-Elert, Elmore, Bonnet, Whitlock, and Dan Miller.

The concert is free, and donations are welcomed. More information can be obtained by calling 808-721-3468.

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I survived an amazing weekend!

With Joan Ishibashi

I’ve had a houseguest for a week—my good friend Joan Ishibashi, a United Church of Christ pastor, massage therapist, former Hawaii resident for 15 years, and all-around BFF (best friends forever!) Nearly five years ago my husband Carl, son Stephen and I were in Los Angeles, attending Joan’s wedding to Kantila Vaghela, where I wrote this:

Those of you who know Joan, however, will understand why it is that 44 people from all over the globe (London, Japan, Brazil, Ohio, Colorado, California and Hawaii) were here to celebrate with her—she becomes a good friend to almost everyone she meets on her life’s adventures. 

You can read about Joan’s Hawaii connections by clicking here. Last summer I was in London where Joan moved nearly five years ago and we spent four fun days together, exploring churches, organs and museums.

My Friday night dinner guests

The table is set.

On Friday night, I hosted a dinner for Joan and five other dear friends: Fritz Fritschel and Carol Langner, Chuck Pearson and his wife Josie Bidgood and Mary Reese. It’s been awhile since I’ve had a dinner party, but I’m learning from my mistakes!

Pupus included oven-baked zucchini chips, tomato and mozzarella appetizers, French bread with brie, and miniature garlic shrimp. The salad course was baby spinach with raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, gorgonzola and honey pecans. The dinner was honey lime glazed salmon, rice pilaf, broccolini and baked parmesan herb tomato. A key lime pie for dessert was brought by Mary Reese— YUM!


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What a difference it made having Joan to not only help with the food preparation but in the cleanup, too!

Saturday morning I taught an organ lesson, and then we attended a delightful recital by the students of Darel and Georgine Stark, and Sachi Hirakouji. The Stark kids (Sophia and Raphael) played both piano and organ (yes, they are my organ students!) but what absolutely melted our hearts was their gorgeous duet rendition of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Pie Jesu,” sung with perfect intonation and phrasing. Raphael will be singing the solo in Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms” with the Hawaii Symphony and the Oahu Choral Society on Thursday, April 5 at 7:30 pm at the Blaisdell Center—you can be sure I will be there!


Then it was back to the condo for a quick dinner before going to the concert hall to hear an amazing violinist, Robert McDuffie, play Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade after Plato’s Symposium, under the baton of Keith Lockhart. McDuffie had studied the work with Bernstein himself thirty years ago and what I was so amazed at was his tremendous physical energy and the fact that he never looked at his violin, neither the fingerboard nor the bridge. I was at first disappointed that the symphony did not program more well-known repertoire such as Bernstein’s Candide or West Side Story, but McDuffie’s virtuosic performance more than made up for the unfamiliarity. Come to think of it, the entire orchestra met the challenge of this difficult work, especially the strings.

Joan’s photo of the Hawaii Symphony concert. I sat in the third row with Nyle and Kathy Hallman!

I was surprised to read in the program that the concert hall will be undergoing renovations and an upgrade and that the HSO will be displaced from its home since 1964 for at least a year or more until construction is finished.

Sunday morning I played the organ and piano at the United Church of Christ Church on Judd Street, where I will be substituting as organist/pianist all through the month of February, Palm Sunday and Easter Day (unless they find someone else!) I am glad to say that I survived playing praise music—actually it was just reading a bunch of chord symbols not unlike playing figured bass. Even though he said he wasn’t a guitarist (and I told him I wasn’t a pianist!) Matthew Leong, the guitar player, was easy to follow and play along with. They kept saying over and over that I was Sachi’s teacher! (Sachi Hirakouji had been subbing for UCC Judd Street for the last few weeks.) After the service, many people commented that it was nice to hear the organ and that I brought out the best in that instrument.

With Professor Byong-Suk Moon, organist

And then Sunday night at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu! What an amazing, exciting, stunning organ recital by Byong-Suk Moon! His program opened with Bach’s “Organ Concerto in D minor,” followed by his own transcription of Mozart’s “Variations on ‘Ah, vous dirai-je maman,” K. 265. I looked at his score after the concert and he played from the piano version at breakneck tempos, with not a note out of place! Then another of my favorites, Rheinberger’s “Introduction and Passacaglia, op. 132,” then Karg-Elert’s Organ Improvisation on ‘Nearer my God, to thee,’ and finally ending with Guilmant’s “Final from the Organ Sonata No. 1 in D minor.”

Prof. Moon with Jieun Kim Newland

It was an absolutely brilliant program, brilliantly and stylistically played, one of the most satisfying recitals I’ve gone to. Even my friend Samuel Lam said that it was the best organ recital he had ever heard, in either Hawaii or the mainland! Quite a compliment, coming from Sam!

I was greatly heartened to see a healthy size audience, which is always a challenge in Hawaii—getting people to come hear a performer they’ve never heard of before.

Prof. Moon cleaning up the kitchen!

And then, the most amazing part of the evening—after the concert we went to the home of the Rev. Brian Grieves and Young-Jin Kim, (Moon’s hosts who had requested my assistance in promoting the concert) where Professor Moon not only cooked a complete meal for about a dozen of us, but also cleaned up the kitchen! Here he was supposed to be the guest of honor, and he was the cook and dishwasher, besides! I knew a few of the party guests, including Father David Kennedy (who hired me at the Priory 40 years ago!) and Karen Leatherman (organist of Epiphany Episcopal Church and my organ student). but I had the great pleasure of meeting for the first time, The Rev. Irene Tanabe, rector of Epiphany Episcopal and one-time Curate of St. Mark’s Cathedral, Seattle! She and I knew so many people in common, including Jason Anderson, the second Compline Choir Director, and Mel Butler, who was Peter Hallock’s successor.

What a small world!

With The Rev. Irene Tanabe




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Living in a bubble

I definitely live in a bubble!

I definitely live in a bubble!

Back in August 2015, I wrote a post called “Musical Olympian” in which I wrote about living in a bubble: Some time ago, I took a PBS Newshour quiz called, “Do you live in a bubble?” Charles Murray, a political scientist theorizes in his book, Coming Apart, that certain Americans have little exposure to American culture at large. They therefore live in a social and culture bubble. If you’d like to take the test, you can click here.

Some of the questions that were asked were,  “In high school, did you letter in anything? and “During the last five years, have you or your spouse gone fishing?” Most of my answers were ‘no.’ I would have to say that in our household, sports were a big zero — we did not watch football, basketball or baseball on television, even big events like the Super Bowl or the World Series. If you ask me, from year to year, as to what teams are playing in the Super Bowl, I couldn’t tell you.

Well, now I have further proof of living in a bubble: I have never experienced or listened to “praise music”: defined as contemporary Christian worship music. According to Wikipedia, Contemporary worship music (CWM), also known as praise and worship music, is a defined genre of Christian music used in contemporary worship. It has developed over the past sixty years and is stylistically similar to pop music. The songs are frequently referred to as “praise songs” or “worship songs” and are typically led by a “worship band” or “praise team”, with either a guitarist or pianist leading.

All that is now going to change, as I substitute for the next five weeks for the United Church of Christ Judd Street. In addition to traditional Christian hymnody, I will be playing three “praise hymns.” It will be a new experience for sure—and as I listened to the first of the songs on YouTube, I am definitely feeling out of my comfort zone! Yes, I can face down any Bach you could throw at me, but give me a praise hymn, and I’m completely flummoxed!

After Sunday, I’ll let you know how it goes!

In the meantime, tomorrow I’ll be meeting Byong-Suk Moon, the visiting Korean organist who will be playing a concert on Sunday afternoon, January 28 at 5:00 pm at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu. The word is out that he speaks fluent German but little English, so we will see how that goes. I will show him where to find the organ key, how to turn on the lights and air conditioning, etc.

This week I’ve had a houseguest, Joan Ishibashi, who is a United Church of Christ pastor and former Executive Assistant of the Lutheran Church of Honolulu. You may remember I visited her in London last summer where she moved four years ago.

This weekend in addition to attending the organ recital by Prof. Moon, we will also attend a recital by students of Darel and Georgine Stark, including my two organ students, Sophia and Raphael who will be playing the organ.

We will also go to the 100th birthday concert of Leonard Bernstein by the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra on Saturday night.

Honey lime glazed salmon

Oh, and tomorrow night I’m giving a dinner party for 7 people—friends of Joan’s (and mine!) from her LCH days. I just now compiled the menu: tomato and mozzarella appetizers, oven baked zucchini chips, cocktail shrimp, spinach salad with blueberries and pecans, honey lime glazed salmon, rice pilaf, baked stuffed Parmesan tomatoes and broccolini.

Just another crazy weekend!


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A Tongan funeral

The organ at St. Clement’s Episcopal Church where I played for the Tongan funeral.

The call from the church administrator came about 6 pm on Thursday night. As soon as the caller ID showed up, I knew I was going to be asked to play the organ: Kathy, I know it’s late, but can you play for a Tongan funeral tomorrow at 1 pm? 

In case you don’t know, Tonga is an archipelago of 170 islands located in the South Pacific. Even though Polynesians had inhabited the islands for 3000 years, Tonga was “discovered” by European explorers in the 18th century—just as the English explorer Captain James Cook became the first European to “discover” the Hawaiian Islands in 1778. Capt. Cook first stopped by Tonga in 1773.

Austin Organ console

Methodist missionaries started coming in 1822, and introduced hymn-singing to the Tongans. These 19th-century hymns continue to be sung today, with Tongan lyrics. I was not surprised when the family chose Blessed Assurance, What a Friend We Have in Jesus, and Amazing Grace for the three congregational hymns. So I decided to play gospel hymns for the prelude and communion: How great thou art and Savior like a shepherd lead us by American composer Dale Wood.

Time was short, though, because even though I’ve played services at this church before, I had no assurances that I could remember on what memory level I had saved my registration combinations. The only time I would be able to practice and set up the organ was between 8:30 and 9:30 am—I already had a scheduled rehearsal somewhere else at 9:30 am, and from 10:00 to 1:00 the church would be holding a wake. 

The Tongan wake consists of hymn singing interspersed with people getting up and talking about the deceased. This funeral was no exception, and when I finally arrived back at the church about 12:30 pm, the hymn singing was very much as heard in the following video. All of it was unaccompanied and sung in parts, with some sections sung by all, and others sung only by men or women.

Everyone, and I mean even the young children, wore black clothing. (It was a good thing that I also wore black, so I fit right in!) That is an influence, apparently, by Christian missionaries who came to Tonga. According to Wikipedia: The period of mourning, and thus the obligation to wear black, differs depending on how closely related a mourner is to the deceased. For an acquaintance it may be a few days; for a distant relation it may be a few weeks whilst for close relatives the mourning period may last for up to a year. 

Everyone, men, women and children, were also wearing waist mats, called taʻovala. Obviously I didn’t take photos of the people at Friday’s funeral, but you can see the taʻovala from King George Tupou V’s funeral procession (2012).

The King of Tonga’s funeral procession. (Photo credit: Torsten Blackwood)

A tradition at Tongan funerals is also the phenomenon of wailing, loud crying. Here’s what I found about wailing at a Tongan funeral: According to Lee (1996), she states that wailing at a Tongan funeral is normal emotional expression that many Tongan women will do, and that after a funeral, many people will joke about death or the deceased in a friendly manner. Wailing at a Tongan funeral is customary if you are Tongan. When someone wails at a funeral, they are usually crying and talking out loud about the deceased. The mourner can wail about a variety of things from how much the deceased will be missed, or wail about the deceased dying because the person ate too much. (From “Traditional Tongan Funerals“)

At first I was surprised to hear this, but finally when it was time to start the funeral (on the dot of 1:00 pm), there was a little break in the wailing, and I jumped right in and started my prelude. The priest came over and thanked me! The service itself was the traditional one from the Book of Common Prayer including a Eucharist, so there were no surprises there.

For my postlude, I played David Johnson’s O Love How Deep on the tune DEO GRACIAS, and was I ever surprised to hear that former student Joey Fala also played it for today’s Evensong at Duke University Chapel!

I cued the video to start right at the postlude. [N.B. If you receive notice of my blog postings by email, you will have to go to the actual blog to hear the video. Sorry, I don’t know why my email subscribers are unable to see the video links I post in my blog!]

I guess great minds think alike!

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Visiting Korean organist

Prof. Byong-Suk Moon, concert organist

Visiting Korean organist… that was the title of an email message I received in early November last year. It was from the Rev. Brian Grieves, an Episcopal priest I had worked with at the Church of the Holy Nativity some forty years ago!

An organist friend from Korea, Byong-Suk Moon, will be visiting Hawaii in the latter part of January and asked for assistance in setting up an organ recital which will take place on Sunday, January 28, 2018 at 5:00 pm at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu.

In looking over Prof. Moon’s resumé, we decided that his diploma and his experience at the Musikhochschule in Detmold, Germany would mesh well with the Beckerath organ at LCH. In addition to being Professor and Chairman of the organ department at Catholic University in Seoul, Korea, Moon is the concertmaster at Myeondong Cathedral of the Catholic Diocese of Korea. He won the Diploma prize at Magdeburg International Organ Competition; second prize at the Wiesbaden Bach Preis International Organ Competition; and second prize at the Dom Zu Speyer International Organ Competition—all in Germany. In addition he won first prize at the Wolgan Music Journal competition in Seoul, Korea.

The program will include:

Offertory from the Mass for the Parishes, François Couperin (1668-1733)
Organ Concerto in D minor, BWV 596, J. S. Bach (1685-1750)
From Eleven Chorale Preludes, op. 122, Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
No. 4 Herzlich tut mich erfreuen
No. 5 Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele
Organ improvisation, Nearer my God to thee, op. 75, Sigfrid Karg-Elert (1877-1933)
Final from Organ Sonata No. 1 in D minor, Alexandre Guilmant (1837-1911)

Professor Moon is thought by some to be Korea’s foremost organist today. We are indeed fortunate that he will be in Hawaii and will be giving a free organ recital! Here is a video clip I found of him on YouTube:

Pipe organs in Korea began to be built after the Korean War as students began coming to the United States and Germany, countries that “offered organ curricula and good instruments to play,” according to Jay Zoller, who wrote an article in the  Diapason magazine about pipe organs in South Korea, 2011. “As time went on, students who returned to South Korea wanted similar instruments to play at home and often were able to have their church buy an organ from a builder that they had become acquainted with during their studies. Since there were no Korean organbuilders, they imported organs from the United States and Germany. Seoul, South Korea’s largest city, has the greatest number of pipe organs in the country,” where Wicks, Brombaugh, Flentrop, Schuke, Rieger-Kloss, Ruffati, Beckerath, Karl Wilhelm, Jäger & Brommer, Bosch, Pels and Van Leeuwen, Klais have built instruments.

Here is some pictures of the Rudolf von Beckerath organ at Hanshin Presbyterian Church in Seoul, completed in 2016.

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And here is the Beckerath organ for the Heavenly Dream Methodist Church at Incheon, South Korea.

Beckerath organ at Heavenly Dream Methodist, Incheon, South Korea (2008)

Hope you can come to Byong-Suk Moon’s free organ recital on Sunday, January 28th—a Korean organist on a Beckerath organ!


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Blissfully unaware

You may have heard that last Saturday, the state of Hawaii was thrown into a panic when a missile alert threat was sent to mobile phones, with this ominous message:

Weeks ago, residents were warned that if a missile came from North Korea, people in Hawaii would have approximately 12-13 minutes notice before nuclear destruction.

In the 38 minutes which followed the alert, people made frantic calls to their loved ones, assuring them of their love, while hunkering down in bathtubs and other supposedly “safer” places to wait out an attack. It all turned out to be a false alarm, with the explanation that “someone hit the wrong button.”

Me? I was blissfully unaware of all of this. Shortly before 8:00 am, I went out on my daily walk through the streets of downtown Honolulu. I did carry my phone with me, but never heard any alarms—my phone never sounded. The streets were virtually empty of cars and pedestrians, and I did not hear any civil defense sirens. I thought nothing was out of the ordinary. I even stopped at Walmart to buy some blueberries, which was on my route home, and nothing was unusual.

It was not until I got home and turned on the television, and saw that Hawaii was in the news. The fingerpointing already began an hour after the false alarm, and some Hawaii Emergency Management personnel have received death threats! My question was why my phone never received the alert—I checked my settings to make sure that “Amber Alerts” and “Emergency Alerts” were turned on, and everything seemed fine. So, I don’t know what happened and why my phone did not sound the alarm.

Back at Punahou School

In the week that I returned from Mexico, my sister and her husband came for a visit and I was able to spend a whole day sightseeing with them. Surprisingly, I also received a call from the chapel office at Punahou School and played chapel there Wednesday and Thursday, and was engaged to play there two more times this month. Thursday and Friday I also taught eight organ lessons. So you could say that things are getting back to my normal “retired” life.

Jace Saplan, director

Last night I attended the Nā Wai Chamber Choir winter concert at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu. Established in 2009, Nā Wai “is a women’s vocal ensemble that celebrates the works of women, preserves and propagates Native Hawaiian music, and champions repertoire for treble voices … an incredible group of women who gather together to empower, inspire, and thrive through the highest level of artistry.” Their director is Jace Saplan, who is Assistant Professor of Music at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, and a doctoral candidate in choral conducting studying with Dr. Karen Kennedy at the University of Miami Frost School of Music.

Nā Wai Chamber Choir

My student, Steven Severin, played the organ.

I was already looking forward to the Missa Brevis, by Lithuanian composer Vytautas Miškinis, which my organ student, Steven Severin, had brought the music to his last lesson. The Missa Brevis was interspersed with music by Hawaiian composers and readings from Hawaiian activist Dana Naone Hall. The whole concert was very peaceful and more like a worship service, as there was no applause until the very end.

They ended the concert with Franz Biebl’s Ave Maria, which to my ears was choral perfection, beautiful intonation, blend and sensitivity. See if you don’t agree!






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Music for The Crown

I have been home from Mexico for four days now, and sorry to say, I’ve been sick. I don’t know if it was the change in weather, or the fact that several of my family members were sick, but I got it too. Shortly after arriving in Mexico, I started sneezing—many times a day, a lot! People asked me whether it was allergies, or whether I was sick. Then my nose started dripping, like a leaky faucet. Now that it has been a couple weeks, I’m afraid it’s the common cold. Luckily I have had no fever or sore throat, just a lot of congestion and conjunctivitis.

Unfortunately I was unable to attend the German Vespers at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu on Saturday night, and gave up my ticket to the Hawaii Symphony concert yesterday. I just didn’t want to cough and spread my germs during the service or the concert. Yuck!

Hans Zimmer

Outside from taking down all the Christmas decorations, I’ve been mostly just laying around, hunkered in front of the TV and binge-watching my favorite series at the moment, “The Crown” on Netflix. What is so mesmerizing about the program, I believe, in addition to the storyline and superb acting, is the music for the soundtrack by Hans Zimmer.

Zimmer is a prolific composer who has composed music for over 150 films. According to Wikipedia, “His works include The Lion King, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Original Score in 1995, the Pirates of the Caribbean series, The Thin Red LineGladiatorThe Last Samurai, and The Dark Knight Trilogy.”

Surprisingly, Zimmer says that the full extent of his musical training was two weeks of piano lessons, which he hated because of the discipline. Other than that, he is completely self-taught.

“My formal training was 2 week(s) of piano lessons. I was thrown out of 8 schools. But I joined a band. I am self-taught. But I’ve always heard music in my head. And I’m a child of the 20th century; computers came in very handy…My mother was very musical, basically a musician and my father was an engineer and an inventor. So, I grew up modifying the piano, shall we say, which made my mother gasp in horror, and my father would think it was fantastic when I would attach chainsaws and stuff like that to the piano because he thought it was an evolution in technology.” In an interview with the German television station ZDF in 2006, he commented: “My father died when I was just a child, and I escaped somehow into the music and music has been my best friend.”

Director and producer Ridley Scott says, “I listen to [Zimmer’s] music and I don’t even have to shut my eyes. I can see the pictures. And that’s why, in many respects, I know I can talk pictures with Hans. He responds to pictures.”

I think what is so riveting about the opening theme music is that it is just a series of simple chord progressions: Dminor – Gminor – C – F – D – G – A – Dminor. According to Andrea Towers, “Netflix’s new historical drama series The Crown has a theme song worthy of a show about royals. In the opening credits of the series, which debuted Nov. 4, a haunting orchestral tune plays over a montage of artistic shots that eventually come together to create a brass crown and a chandelier.”

Here are some comments which have been posted on YouTube:

Regal yes, but his genius gives us the undercurrent touch of sadness portrayed in the series. Masterful. (Simon Bedden)

The Power of this arrangement is amazing…puts me into such a deep thought. (Randall Gates)

Apparently the theme was inspired by an aria by Henry Purcell, “What power art thou.” Here’s a video of Andreas Scholl singing this:

If you haven’t yet watched the “The Crown,” I highly recommend it! You, too, will love the music!

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The Three Kings

In an earlier post, I took a photo of a family posing with the Three Kings instead of Santa Claus (because the Three Kings bring gifts), just another example of the Catholic Church’s influence upon life in Mexico. Well, here is my family taking its turn for this holiday tradition. We were at one of the major shopping malls when we found the photo booth with the Three Kings.

The Crosier family with the Three Kings, Querétaro, Mexico.

Another delightful tradition is the eating of Three Kings cake, Rosca de reyes, which is eaten on January 6 to celebrate Epiphany.

I saw Three Kings cake in bakery shop windows.

It is traditionally eaten on January 6, during the celebration of the Día de Reyes (literally “Kings’ Day”), which commemorates the arrival of the three Magi or Wise Men. In most of Spain, Spanish America, and sometimes, Hispanic communities in the United States, this is the day when children traditionally get presents, which are attributed to the Three Wise Men (and not Santa Claus or Father Christmas). In Spain before children go to bed, they leave a dish filled with biscuits and a few glasses of water for the three wise men and the camels they ride on.” (Wikipedia)

A plastic figure of Baby Jesus is baked inside the cake. Here’s what I found in Wikipedia: “The baby Jesus hidden in the bread represents the flight of the Holy Family, fleeing from King Herod’s Massacre of the Innocents. Whoever finds the baby Jesus figurine is blessed and must take the figurine to the nearest church on February 2 (Candlemas Day, Día de la Candelaria). In the Mexican culture, this person has the responsibility of hosting a dinner and providing tamales and atole to the guests.”

As it turned out, the family met at a restaurant on New Year’s Day to eat brunch and they had slices of Three Kings cake on the tables. My daughter-in-law Jessica was cutting the cake, and asked if I wanted a piece. “Sure!”

And then as I bit into the cake, I felt something hard in my mouth. You guessed it! I got the “baby Jesus!” (Except it sure didn’t look like a baby!) I was afraid everyone was going to make me pay for everybody for the brunch, but luckily, it was Dutch treat (about 15 people).

I got the Baby Jesus in the Three Kings cake!

I’ve already written about the many examples of the Nativity used as Christmas decorations in Mexico, usually displayed from December 12 through February 2nd (Presentation of Jesus in the Temple). Here is the nativity scene at the Holiday Inn Express, next door to my hotel.

Nativity scene at the next door Holiday Inn Express.

In researching Mexican Christmas traditions I also found out that the poinsettia originated in Mexico! They are called “noche buena,” the same words for Christmas Eve, and modern tradition says that the colorful flowers were presented to the Baby Jesus.

We fly back to Los Angeles tomorrow, and then it’s back to reality in Hawaii.

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Eating grapes etc.

Welcome, 2018!

It was about six minutes to midnight, and fifteen of us stood around the dinner table. Every single person picked up his or her phone (because there was no clock in the dining room!) and waited for the countdown. Outside was quiet in this Mexican neighborhood, with only an occasional pop from fireworks far away.

As the time drew closer, everyone picked up a cup filled with 12 grapes…tres, dos, uno! Feliz año nuevo! Happy New Year! 

Apparently the eating of 12 grapes at midnight is a Spanish custom which only originated in 1909 when there was a glut of grapes and growers were anxious to unload them.

“The tradition consists of eating a grape with each bell strike at midnight of December 31. According to the tradition, that leads to a year of prosperity. In some areas, it is believed that the tradition wards away witches and general evil, although this “magic” is treated like an old heritage, and in modern days it’s viewed as a cultural tradition to welcome the new year.” (Wikipedia)

I had read up on this custom ahead of time and was a little fearful of choking if I had to eat one grape per second! Thankfully, my daughter-in-law’s family didn’t follow this timeline, and we took our time to finish the 12 grapes, representing prosperity for 12 months of the new year.

Right after eating the grapes, everyone got a hug and a kiss, first from the person standing next to you, and then one by one, everyone got a hug, in a kind of do-si-do dance procession.

By the way, I also read that you are supposed to wear colorful underwear! On Fodor’s 12 Weird New Year’s Eve Traditions Around the World, I read that in Latin American countries such as Mexico, Bolivia and Brazil, the color of your panties determines what kind of year you’ll have. Red will bring love and romance while yellow will lead to wealth and success. White represents peace and harmony and green signifies well-being and nature.

Tonight we met with my daughter-in-law’s paternal relatives who had driven from Mexico City in three cars for baby Andrés’ baptism on December 30. I had already been warned that we would not be eating until midnight, just as we did for Christmas Eve. We met at a cousin’s house whose family was away for the holidays, so all the dishes were served on plastic so as not to mess up the kitchen.

La pierna (roasted pork)

The first course was two types of pasta, one with a red sauce, and the other with a mildly spicy green sauce—I guessed that it represented long life.

The main dish was “La Pierna,” a rolled roasted pork, a typical New Year’s entrée. It had a ground almond filling.

Another typical dish was “bacalao,” a dried cod dish in a tomato sauce. I have eaten this in previous holidays, as prepared by my son’s mother-in-law who has come to California for the last two Christmases. The dried cod becomes tender when hydrated, and is stewed with chiles and green olives. Everyone was amazed at my son Stephen, who ate the whole chile used to season the dish (Yes, it was very spicy!)

Bacalao, served over rice. We ate it as a side dish, without the rice.


Another dish which was served was Romeritos, which reminded me so much of the Hawaiian lau lau, except that it contained shrimp instead of butterfish. Here’s a quick definition: Romeritos is a Mexican dish, consisting of sprigs of a plant known as Romerito that looks like rosemary, therefore its name. Usually served with nopal, dried shrimp and potatoes in a mole sauce.

I left the party about 2:15 am, and I don’t know how long the rest of the family stayed up. It seems like the Mexicans are night owls, for sure!

Goodbye, 2017!




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