Montréal commission: a pilgrimage to the organ

Last week, organist Christian Lane and I made a pilgrimage to Montréal’s Maison Symphonique to explore the color possibilities of the Grand Orgue Pierre-Béique.  Chris has performed on the instrument several times before, so he was an excellent guide to the organ as he played through some very rough initial sketches for the Montréal Organ Festival commission.

The instrument is extraordinary and does many things that most organs can’t do: sostenuto options that free up the hands, keyboards couplings that permit staccato articulations on one set of pipes while playing legato on another, etc. The Chamades division is quite impressive—it can create a crescendo by slowly floating the pipes (while sounding) out of the organ case by means of a dedicated motorized mechanism.  Aside from these more unusual features, the main instrument itself is warm and full of beautiful sound color options.  And then there is that hall—modern and bright, and acoustically pleasing and reverberant without a hint of muddiness.

Maison SymphoniqueThe trip was, for me at least, a huge success. Chris is a trouper—very helpful (and patient).  He was willing to experiment with the same passage multiple times with varied registrations in the service of teaching me what that organ can do.  

As an added bonus, I had the opportunity to meet several key people who are instrumental in organizing the Festival, including Thomas Leslie, Adrian Foster, and Frederick Frances. Everyone was so gracious and welcoming with that I felt right at home and well cared for—quite a treat.  A special thank you goes to Jean-Willy Kunz, organist for the Maison Symphonique, for his willingness to grant us access to the hall and the amazing instrument.

The Grand Orgue Pierre-Béique was generously offered to the OSM by Mrs. Jacqueline Desmarais.