Star-Bulletin Features

Thursday, April 15, 1999

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
St. Andrew's Cathedral's new music director, Arlan Sunnarborg,
sits at the keyboard of the church's massive organ. The cathedral's
organist emeritus, Canon John McCreary, will
perform tomorrow night.

Music is part of
St. Andrew’s mission

By Ruth O. Bingham
Special to the Star-Bulletin


St. Andrew's Cathedral, with its stained-glass windows and Gothic arches, rests quietly amid downtown's skyscrapers, an apparent anachronism. Although listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, St. Andrew's is a living cathedral, proud of its past while changing to meet the millennium.

In order to reach more people, the cathedral has replaced Fridays' "Bach's Lunch" organ recitals with a free "Third Friday Music Series" that runs six months a year, January through June.

"Music is a very important part of the cathedral," said the Very Rev. Peter Courtney. "It is one of the most powerful tools we've got, so why not use it? ... As St. Augustus said, the person who sings, prays twice."

In the new series, recently hired Cathedral Musician Arlan Sunnarborg is attempting to strike a balance between mainland and local talent. Organ recitals this year have featured Dorothy Papadakos from New York, John Walker of Pittsburgh, and Sunnarborg, who is also hoping to incorporate other instruments and some ensembles.

Tomorrow's concert will feature Canon John McCreary, Organist Emeritus of St. Andrew's Cathedral, who retired last August. McCreary served the cathedral for 35 years; for much of that time, he also taught music at Iolani School.

"I try to pick out music that will either stir up or calm down the listeners," he said. "And I've always been a maverick. When nobody was playing organ transcriptions, I was, sometimes, to the horror of my colleagues. If something written for orchestra sounds wonderful on the organ, I'm going to play it."

He describes the cathedral's Aeolian-Skinner as "an organist's dream." Dedicated to McCreary because of his efforts toward completing the instrument, the organ includes about 150 ranks of pipes over 4,500 actual pipes, as well as electronically sampled pipes.

"We ran out of space. Money can always be raised, but space is finite. Nowadays, it's almost impossible to tell the difference between sampled pipes and the real thing. That wasn't true five to 10 years ago."

The cathedral's organ is the largest in the state, and has more than 100 stops, including the "Kitchen Zink." (A "zink" is a 16th-century wooden trumpet.)

As the millennium approaches, "the cathedral is developing into a pu'uhonua, a place of refuge, of sanctuary, where people can come to be refreshed, and the music programs reflect that," said Malcolm Chun, Hawaiian representative to the Episcopal Church and member of St. Andrew's Hawaiian Chorus. "The music is not just a classical music program, but a part of our ministry. I think people come to a cathedral to be changed, to be transformed; otherwise, you could just go to a concert."

Chun is enthusiastic about Sunnarborg, whom he describes as "a very different kind of cathedral musician: He indulges in theology. I actually envy his theology. He is able to build musical bridges and offer cultural context."

Sunnarborg's duties at St. Andrew's are many and varied, from supervising the choral library to composing.

"One of the things I've begun to dream about is coming up with a piece for Pentecost. Of course, the Biblical account is where people are speaking in many languages.... I'm beginning to hear a piece that would use, for example, a superimposition of some very old Latin chant, some Hawaiian chant and some English, and there could be a way to weave them all together. I think it would be a really beautiful synthesis in which you could hear, you could witness, what Pentecost was all about."

Having lived with biculturalism in Montreal, Sunnarborg finds Hawaii's cultural mix, "new and different, but not a complete shock."

He sees his role as connecting different cultures, old to new, and those in the ministry to lay people. "I'm a bridge builder: I think it's what a cathedral ought to be."

Looking to the future, he muses, "We have an Anglican tradition, of which we are bearers into the next century. We also have a Hawaiian tradition, again of which we are bearers. And at the same time that those traditions must be preserved, we don't want to become a museum or a tourist attraction, so there are the questions, 'What does it mean to be a house of worship? What does it mean to be a place of faith?' I suspect this work will remain interesting for a very long time."


Bullet Guest: Canon John McCreary
Bullet The date: 7:30 p.m. tomorrow
Bullet The place: St. Andrew's Cathedral, Queen Emma Square
Bullet Admission: Free
Bullet Call: 524-2822

Do It Electric
Click for online
calendars and events.

E-mail to Features Editor

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
[Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 1999 Honolulu Star-Bulletin