CARL CROSIER / 1945-2014Authenticity fueled beloved church musician’s work
By Steven Mark / email@example.com
Carl Crosier, who developed the music program at Lutheran Church of Honolulu into one of the pre-eminent music organizations in the state, died Aug. 28 of the effects of pancreatic cancer. He was 68.
Crosier led the church’s music program for 36 years. His title was cantor, which nominally is supposed to designate the chief singer and music instructor of the church, and while his fine voice is what first got him noticed as a musician — as a child, he would correct his mother’s singing — it was as a choral and later an orchestral leader that he excelled.
He was known in particular for leading “authentic” performances, a style that uses historic instruments and techniques specific to the era of composition. For the Baroque-era music that he specialized in, that meant using a harpsichord instead of a piano and relatively little use of vibrato by string players and vocalists.
He even imported a band of traditional brass players for one performance to give audiences the experience of hearing instruments like the sackbut, an early trombone.
One of his most recent performances was on his fortepiano, the precursor to the modern grand piano.
Crosier established a small chamber group, the Bach Chamber Orchestra, in 1981 and in 1992 began a series of small recitals, the Abendmusik (Evening Music), at the church. He then began giving large-scale productions of major orchestral and choral works, beginning with Bach’s St. Matthew Passion in 2000.
Crosier had gone on sabbatical the year earlier and participated in a production of the famous choral work, which requires a double orchestra and a double choir.
“He wanted to have the ultimate performance,” said Crosier’s wife, Katherine, who played organ at Lutheran Church of Honolulu. “He brought in six singers from the mainland, and an oboe player even came from Scotland. … The church had to be remodeled, and they had to have new lighting installed.
“The cost was $64,000, and he single-handedly raised it. Whenever he did productions, he always wanted them to be the very best.”
Among the many top-notch musicians he brought for his performances was Dutch baritone Max van Egmond for Bach’s St. John Passion at 2004, performing as Jesus.
“When Carl heard his voice in person, he broke down during rehearsal, and he said, ‘This is the only Jesus voice I know,’” Katherine Crosier said.
The work of Bach was his inspiration. Other major works Crosier conducted were 70 cantatas, the Brandenburg Concertos, a harpsichord extravaganza that brought four of the rare instruments to the stage, and Bach’s B Minor Mass, which he led for his retirement concert.
Although Crosier was cantor of Lutheran Church, many of his performances were at other churches in Honolulu, drawing packed houses at the Co-Cathedral of St. Theresa and the Cathedral of Saint Andrew.
“It was wherever the performance would work the best,” Katherine Crosier said.
He also developed the choral program at Lutheran Church of Honolulu, establishing choirs that would perform at all the major services.
When Crosier first started working at the church, “there were seven people in the choir and none of them read music,” Katherine Crosier said. “By the time he left in 2011, there were 70 people involved in the music program and there were four choirs.”
Carl Crosier was a native of Washington and trained as a concert pianist at the University of Washington. He came to Hawaii in 1972 and was hired as organist at Lutheran Church. He eventually became the technician for the organ and also founded a publishing house, Ionian Music, of rare sacred music.
He was a self-taught conductor, admitting in an interview that he was “terrible” and “really afraid”?when he first started conducting.
“I didn’t have the technique in terms of how to show people what you?wanted,”?he said “Over the years, it was just something I?learned on the job.”
Crosier also had a business degree and was employed as financial adviser for St. Andrew’s Priory.
In addition to his wife of 37 years, Crosier is survived by his son, Stephen, and sister Carol Rodi of Atlanta.
Viewing will be at Nuuanu Memorial Park and Mortuary, 2233 Nuuanu Ave., from 1 to 3 p.m. Friday, and a musical service will be held at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at the Co-Cathedral of St. Theresa, 712 N. School St.
Gifts in memory of Carl Crosier may be made to St. Theresa’s, Lutheran Church of Honolulu and Early Music Hawaii, P.O. Box 632, Kailua-Kona, HI 96745.
Our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the deceased