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Great Insights: Great Music at Saint James

Prepared by Canon James Buonemani, Organist & Director of Music

January 2021

The year 2020 marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of our series Great Music at St. James as well as the twenty-fifth anniversary of the rebuilding of our magnificent 1911 Murray Harris organ in St. James’ Church from the former St. Paul’s Cathedral. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, our many forms of celebration will be extended well into 2021 and we hope you will join us online and, we hope soon, in person.


• In recognition of the success of the David John Falconer Memorial Organ and in appreciation for how it has brought together music lovers from throughout our community and beyond, the Ahmanson Foundation continues to generously provide funds for the International Laureates Organ Series. The series features recent winners of the world’s most prestigious international organ competitions alongside seasoned performers and laureates from years past. Due to the pandemic, March 8, 2020 was our final recital in 2020 featuring American organist Malcolm Matthews. The International Laureate Organ Series will begin anew in October of 2021 and will present American organists Todd Wilson (October 2021) to perform a 25th anniversary concert; Alcee Chriss (January 2022), Christopher Houlihan (February 2022); Canadian organist Ken Cowan (November 2021); British organists Clive Driskill-Smith (March 2022), and Jeremy Filsell (May 2022).


  • As part of the re-dedicatory celebration on October 10, 2021, the first commercially available CD of our organ will be made on the Gothic label featuring world-renown American organist Todd Wilson. His program will include a newly composed work by James Buonemani for the occasion: Fantasy on Ave Regina Caelorum.

  • Continuing the 25th anniversary of the organ, an online series of monthly videos was launched in November 2020. It features organist James Buonemani performing organ masterworks as well as discussing the history and design of the David John Falconer Memorial Organ.


  • On September 29, 2019, we began a partnership with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s chamber music series, LACMA Sundays Live. Although the pandemic has prevented live performances from mid- March 2020, online audio broadcasts of past concerts is presented every Sunday evening at 6 PM. Plans are underway to video record new concerts in the church to be broadcast live beginning April 2021 (without an audience). We are grateful to Bill Vestal, Artistic Director for LACMA Sundays Live, for contracting the world-class chamber musicians that perform in our beautiful Gothic setting with our incomparable acoustics.

  • The Choir of Saint James, under the direction of James Buonemani, was featured in a special LACMA Sundays Live program on March 1, 2020. Broadcast live through LACMA and available on-demand at KUSC, the concert featured our choir singing the music of the British Isles, the Baltics and the music of Los Angeles’ own Morten Lauridsen. This concert also featured choir member and cantor Jae Park in his new role as Assistant Conductor of the choir, and we are grateful to Jae’s ten-plus years of ministry with us.




  • The Choir of St. James’ is the principal choir of the parish and offers both amateur and professional musicians an opportunity to explore a rich repertoire of church music. Many thanks to the members of the choir who generously give their time and talent to enrich our worship with music. A particular congratulations to George Marks and Mary Abbott who this season are celebrating their 39th and 37th years respectively of devoted service to the choir. We also congratulate Anna Cave, Scott Belluz and Joseph Twist for celebrating 5 years of service; Thomas Croyle, Brett McDermid and John Peterson for celebrating 10 years of service; and Christina Koh for celebrating 25 years of devoted service! Although the pandemic ceased all rehearsals and performances from March 9, 2020 onwards, we are grateful to the many members who have graced our online services with their superb solo singing and for a special “virtual performance” made in June of 2020. The pandemic has also influenced several members’ decisions to move out of town and we are sad to say goodbye to Sarah Beaty, Milena Gligić, Megan Malone-Franklin and Joe Twist. Each of them has contributed greatly to the life of our choir and parish in countless ways and will be deeply missed. We wish them all Godspeed.


• The Schola Cantorum of Saint James is a subgroup of the tenors and basses in the Choir of Saint James which specialize in the singing of Gregorian Chant, renaissance polyphony and the music of modern mystics. Although the singing of Compline on Sunday evenings has been replaced with our chamber music series LACMA Sundays Live, the Schola continues to sing for Solemn Eucharist on Christmas Day and for special occasions. In the midst of the pandemic, the Schola was honored to be asked to serve as the US West Coast representative for a virtual Solemn Eucharist on the Feast of the Ascension, May 21, 2020. This service was organized by the Rev. Graeme Napier, Rector of St. John’s in-the-Village Church in New York City, and included participants from around the world including the Deans of Dublin Cathedral, Magdalen College Oxford, St. George’s Cathedral Jerusalem, Hong Kong Cathedral and clergy from St. Paul’s Cathedral Melbourne, Christ Church St. Laurence Sydney, and others.

  • An important educational and cultural ministry is offered by our St. James’ Children’s Choir. James Casey continues to teach and train the children from grades 3 through 6, most but not all from our St. James School. They regularly sing for School Chapel Services, Sunday morning services on the 2nd Sundays of the month (Oct through June), and special services. Although the pandemic has limited most of these singing opportunities, the Children’s Choir remains active with on an online presence guided by Mr. Casey through virtual performances and instruction.


  • We are also blessed by the talents of conductor Dongyul Lee who directs the Choir of the Korean Congregation, along with pianist Laura Lee. During the pandemic these superb musicians continue to offer video presentations of music to both involve and inspire our parishioners.



  • The final Evensong before the pandemic was held on March 8, 2020. Since then, online video broadcasts of past Evensongs have occurred at the appointed Evensong times. It is our hope to resume in-person Evensongs on the 2nd Sundays of the month and all other musical events in October of 2021.

  • The ever-popular Advent Procession of Lessons and Carols took place on December 13, 2020, as an online event broadcasting an archived video from December 2014.



  • Into his 6th year of service with us, we are honored to have Dr. Tom Mueller as our Associate Organist. Tom is an award-winning graduate from the Eastman School of Music who is Associate Professor of Church Music and University Organist at Concordia University in Irvine, CA. We are extremely grateful for Tom’s impeccable musicianship and delighted to have his wife Kristina and daughters Isabella and Billye Simone participate within our parish family.

  • Many of our choir members are highly sought-after singers and with such ensembles as the Los Angeles Master Chorale, the Bach Collegium San Diego and many others. Please visit STJLA.org/meet-the-choir for pictures and bios of each of them. We also acknowledge Dermot Kiernan, Kara Morgan and Jae Park who regularly adorn our worship as cantors for our Gregorian Chant Introits and other chant propers each Sunday:

  • We are grateful for the talents of other musical parishioners who occasionally enrich our worship with their talents. Among our many musical parishioners and parish friends we particularly wish to thank flutists Luisa Cartagena and Martin Glicklich, harpist Kristi Flake (our newly appointed Parish Ministry Apprentice), violinist Chan Ho and his son, cellist Elliot Chan, and various talented students from St. James School.

  • We are grateful to the talented Justin Baker, choir member and member of our Communications Committee. As Director of Social Media, Justin’s photography, videography, web-mastering and public relations services help “spread the word” of every aspect of our parish, not least of which is our music ministry. With the launch of LACMA Sundays Live, Justin additionally fills the role of Concert and Publicity Manager for this ambitious series of Sunday evening concerts.

  • Much of the success of our series Great Music at St. James is due to the volunteer ushering and production support from members of our Great Music Guild. A special thanks to Margaret Ecker who serves as head of the Guild. (If you would like to offer your services, please email GreatMusic@SaintJamesLA.org.)

  • Installation of a new camera system for live-streaming and video recording began in November of 2020 and is scheduled for completion in early 2021. Justin Baker, in consultation with James Buonemani, has overseen this installation with the intent to offer all services live-streamed and on-demand beginning mid-2021.

  • As indicated before, we are truly indebted to Justin Baker for promoting Great Music at Saint James across many social media platforms, including weekly email blasts to our parishioners, friends and supporters. In addition, many recordings of our musical performances can be heard online at GreatMusicLA.org, curated by Justin. We also wish to thank François Vaillancourt for archiving audio recordings of concerts and services at St. James for the past 25 years. They have proven to be a tremendous resource during the pandemic. We invite you to visit our Youtube channel – Great Music at Saint James’ – for a wide selection of video content.


  • Friends of Great Music at St. James was founded in 1995 to give individuals an opportunity to contribute directly toward our music ministry. As we rely more and more on voluntary contributions, we are truly grateful to our generous parishioners and friends of the parish who make our musical outreach possible. Several of those friends, wishing to remain anonymous, have been major underwriters of our music ministry for many years and we are indebted to them. This year we also wish to acknowledge and honor the memory of Marti Haymaker, long-time Friend of Great Music who, upon her recent passing, has generously given a bequest to procure a small organ for our Resurrection Chapel which is currently being investigated. (Donations to Great Music can be made at https://stjla.org/musicfriends/).

  • Due to the ever-expanding offerings of our Great Music program, a separate Great Music Account was set up by the vestry several years ago to manage its budgetary requirements. Rather than paying directly from the church’s Operating Budget for specific music budget line-items, all charges for music and music-related items are paid from this separate account. Donations from Friends of Great Music as well as other revenue (such as bequests, grants and choir fund-raising activities) are deposited directly into the Great Music Account. The Church Operating Account also deposits a fixed amount into that account each year ($30,000 in 2020) to cover all costs associated with the music ministry of the parish (with the exception of the Music Director’s salary which is paid directly from the Church Operating Budget). Great Music expenditures include the following: choir salaries, associate and substitute organists’ salaries, instrumentalists and guest recitalists fees, music library and PR, instrument maintenance (2 organs and 7 pianos), choir robe purchases and maintenance, continuing education and office expenses, and in 2020 (extending into 2021) video equipment for online streaming, recording and editing. In addition to the Great Music Account, the parish maintains a restricted account for music known as the Helen Parker Fund, a bequest in the 1990’s to sustain and enhance the parish music program.  No withdrawals were made in 2020.


It is said that imitation is the greatest flattery. Great Music at St. James has served the wider Diocese by inspiring others beyond our walls to initiate the kind of music and special services that we regularly offer. Today, a growing number of parishes have launched their own services of Compline, Evensong and Lessons and Carols, in large part due to the models set forth by St. James. Of course, St. James cannot claim credit, for we also have drawn upon the great treasure-house of the wider church, especially within the Anglican Communion. It is with great joy that we see Los Angeles and Southern California bursting with the sound of church music on a scale never before encountered.

I would like to close this report by inviting our parishioners and friends to experience a virtual-choir performance of Howard Goodall’s stirring anthem “Love divine, all loves excelling” by our Choir of Saint James. Recorded in June of 2020 and posted on our Youtube channel “Great Music at Saint James’,” it is a touching tribute to the resilience of our members in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. It expresses in words and music the central message of our music ministry: fix in us thy humble dwelling . . . lost in wonder, love, and praise.

You can access this video by clicking here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kraxRgJQesQ

We invite you to subscribe to our Youtube channel where that video and many others are available: Go to Youtube.com and search for Great Music at Saint James’, then select “videos” from the menu. Or click here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCl5JwSQg180eOrZIJvrZ4jA

Thank you!

Respectfully submitted, Canon James Buonemani

Soli Deo Gloria