Today I am beginning a new feature of the Compline Underground: each week I will tell the story of one of the fifty-plus groups across North America that is praying the Office of Compline (Night Prayer). But I will continue to write as well about all things pertaining to the office, especially what’s happening with our group at St. Mark’s, Seattle.
The group that immediately came to mind for my first story is the Compline Choir of the Lutheran Church of Honolulu. To my knowledge, it is the first group whose founding was inspired by the Compline service in Seattle.
While a student at the University of Washington in Seattle in the early 1960s, Carl Crosier attended not only the Compline at St. Mark’s Cathedral, but also the wonderful organ concerts, the Good Friday and Advent Processionals, and the “historically informed” performances of Handel’s Messiah — all creations of Peter Hallock, organist/choirmaster at St. Marks from 1951-1991, and founder/director of the Compline Choir from 1956-2009. After moving to Hawaii, Carl became involved in the music program at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu in 1972, where plans were already underway to renovate the building and install a tracker-action organ, which was dedicated in 1975. The Compline Choir was started on August 1, 1976, with eight men from various churches – so it was built on the model of the Seattle Compline Choir, which in turn had its origin in the English ATB (alto – tenor – bass) choir. Most people know about the English “men and boys” choir tradition, but do not know that there is a substantial repertoire for the group when boys are not needed or on holiday. Peter Hallock, who sang in the choir at Canterbury Cathedral (a privilege rarely given to an American) while a student there in 1949-51 also influenced Carl Crosier to take up the countertenor (male alto) voice. Peter helped Carl with many things liturgical and musical in the formation of this first Compline Choir offshoot, and came to Honolulu to give workshops. Carl began making fair copies of Peter’s music and helped get a number of pieces published. From the early days of music publishing software to the present, Carl has continued to publish music with Peter, forming a company, Ionian Arts, in 1985.
I first remember Carl from the summer of 1979, when the Seattle Compline Choir made a trip to Honolulu to sing at a regional convention of the American Guild of Organists. Peter wrote his anthem “Come, Holy Spirit” for the occasion, and we sang it at a candlelit Compline service at the Episcopal Cathedral. We also sang Compline with Carl’s choir at the Kawaiahao Church. Over the years, Carl has sung with the Seattle choir, including our travels to Russia and Scandinavia (1997) and England (2000). Carl retired both as Cantor (Director of Music) as well as director of the Compline Choir in August, 2011 – exactly 35 years after it began. The choir is now led by Keane Ishii; they still are singing every Sunday evening at 9 p.m.
Carl’s wife Katherine remains as organist at LCH, and she is a prolific blogger – I’ve put a link to all of her blogs with the “Compline” tag here. Take a look at the church’s website page for Compline; there is a brochure (PDF) about the service that can be downloaded. I’ve put a permanent link to Katherine’s blog, “Another Year of Insanity”, on my links on the upper right of this page.
* * * * * * *
Last week in Seattle we sang Peter Hallock’s lovely setting of the Christmas carol “Lullay, my liking“, and one of our newest singers in the choir, Tyler Morse, sang the solo in verse 2. This 21-year-old countertenor, a senior at Pacific Lutheran University, continues the great male alto tradition begun by Peter Hallock and continued by Carl Crosier and many others! I’ll post a podcast of the service from January 1 when it becomes available.
At the beginning of Compline we sang a lovely New Year’s carol (to the tune “Greensleeves”) based on a poem from 1642, and here is the first verse — may you have a wonderful new year!
The old year now away is fled; the New Year it is entered,
Then let us now our sins down tread, and joyfully all appear.
Let’s merry be this day and let us both now sport and play.
Hang grief, cast care away, God send us a Happy New Year.