Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Remembering Peter Hallock

Peter Hallock, Josh Haberman and Markdavin Obenza at Peter's house in Fall City. Summer 2013.

Hard not to reflect on Peter Hallock while preparing for our upcoming concert, IN MEMORIAM: Hallock & Tavener (this Saturday, January 31, 2015 at 7:30pm at St. Mark's Cathedral).

While we ended up great friends, I can't say it was all smooth sailing. I joined the Compline Choir 2000 (or 1999?) only to be kicked out 4-5 years later while on a tour with The Tudor Choir. A few of my close singing buddies, Orrin Doyle and Thomas Thompson, went down with me. Turns out we signed out of Compline too often to sing other gigs. Peter wanted us to be more committed.

It was a little disappointing. My time in the Compline Choir turned out to be formative - it was my gateway into Renaissance polyphony and professional ensemble singing. Though at the time I was mostly amused that we were booted via letter! By letter! How Peter - he hated confrontation.

Thankfully, that wasn't the end of our relationship. I took up the Choir Director position at St. Clement's Episcopal Church in 2009 where Peter was organist. (It surprised so many people that Peter was still playing organ that it must have been top secret). I was really excited about the position but before I accepted the job, I remember meeting with him at Starbucks in Issaquah. He asked me several times, "Are you sure you want this job?" I thought to myself, the great Peter Hallock is here, "hell yes."

Peter's question was really meant to mitigate my expectations. Despite how non-confrontational and introverted he was, he was very aware of others. He didn't want me to be disappointed if I suddenly was met with, say, a 6-voice choir of no tenors or altos who sang only spirituals and not the snobby Renaissance music I was into - as was the case : )

Several of the members of the Byrd Ensemble followed me there and joined the St. Clement Choir. This nurtured a musical relationship between the Byrds and Peter that culminated in several musical projects - a recording of Advent Calendar (written for the retirement of Archbishop Rowan Williams) and a CD, Draw on sweet night, which Scribe Records was thankfully able to produce).  I cannot express to you how grateful Josh Haberman and I were to share the CD with him just before his health worsened. He thought the CD was miraculous.

This Saturday, January 31, we are featuring some of Hallock's choral works. Funny thought: I'm not sure he would endorse a performance of his music - especially his psalms - he might consider it a little too narcissistic. I choose to ignore that though, because everyone should hear his music at St. Mark's Cathedral, a space that has informed his compositions just as much as the notes have.

Hallock was an emotional person. This is clear in his music, and even clearer if you've had to sing in front of him during Biebl's Ave Maria. Every time, I swear, he's sobbing like a baby. Or simply during an improvisatory prelude (he's playing!) at St. Clement's - waterworks.

"Mystic" or "mysticism" feel like pejorative labels to describe his music - it's more meaningful than that. His music is bleak, introverted and deeply personal. Listening to it feels as though you've embarked on a musical journey. Come and hear his music, if not this weekend, then sometime before you leave this earth. If you have a beating heart, you'll be sobbing too.

IN MEMORIAM: Hallock & Tavener
Sat Jan 31 at 7:30pm at St. Mark's Cathedral

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