Recent appearances

Quite often, when talking about church music, I hear — and not just from the audience, but from some organists, too! — that "the organ ought to provide more fun entertainment if we don't want it to die completely". Well, if there now exists no third thing in life but sweating and entertainment of those "pessiame notae mancipia" ("properties (i.e., slaves) of the worst note") about whom Seneca says,
Accedunt pessimae notae mancipia in magisterium recepta, homines inter oleum et vinum occupati, quibus ad votum dies actus est si bene desudaverunt, si in locum eius quod effluxit multum potionis altius in ieiuno iturae regesserunt. Bibere et sudare vita cardiaci est.

— if there is nothing left for something like spirit between the oleum and vinum, — then I would actually prefer the "die" alternative.

Maybe it is just in the choice of words; it is possible that we just have different dictionaries and I am taking "fun entertainment" to have too narrow meaning; but I just completely fail to apply this definition to things like BWV569 or BWV727, or to any page in Couperin's two masses.

"What is it, then?", they ask me. I will let old masters speak and describe it in better words than I will ever be able to: that Musick speaks so transcendently, and communicates its notions so intelligibly to the internal, intellectual, and incomprehensible faculties of the soul; so far beyond all language of words, that I confess, and most solemnly affirm, I have been more sensibly, fervently, and zealously captivated, and drawn into divine raptures, and contemplations, by those unexpressible, rhetorical, uncontrolable persuasions, and instructions of Musick's divine language, than ever yet I have been, by the best verbal rhetorick, that came from any man's mouth, either in pulpit or elsewhere.

These influences, which come along with it, may aptly be compared, to emanations, communications, or distillations, of some sweet, and heavenly genius, or spirit; mystically, and unapprehensibly (yet effectually) disposessing the soul, and mind, of all irregular, disturbing, and unquiet motions; and stills, and fills it, with quietness, joy, and peace; absolute tranquility, and unexpressible satisfaction.

Thomas Mace
"Musick's Monument"
Trinity College, University of Cambridge, 1676.

And now from Louis Vierne, the Organiste titulaire at the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris from 1900 until 1937:

I clearly remember that Mass. We arrived early and I waited impatiently. The organ played a mysterious prelude, quite unlike any I had heard at Lille; I was bowled over and became almost ecstatic. There was more to come at the Offertoire, where the master had more time; the theme so unfamiliar, yet so attractive, such rich harmonies, such subtle figurations, and a pervasive intensity that astounded me. I reveled in such delights and wished they would never end. We listened to the Sortie right up to the last note; it was a long paraphrase on the "Ite missa est", full of lyrical flights of fancy that conjured up for me heavenly visions of processions of angels chanting "Hosanna". At the same time, certain melodic progressions and harmonies made me feel uneasy and sensual at the same time. I could not hold back my tears. I knew nothing; I undrstood nothing; but my natural instinct was violently shaken by this expressive music echoing through my every pore. Faint premonitions of the true meaning of music arose in me. I could not express it in precise terms, but when my uncle asked me what I had felt and what it had done to me, I replied, "It's beautiful because it is beautiful; I don't know why, but it is so beautiful that I would like to play such music and die immediately afterwards".

My aunt was alarmed at my reaction and took me home in a carriage, my legs refusing to carr me. She discussed the matter with her husband and expressed concern. Wisely he reassured her, convincing her that, almost inevitably, this reaction proved my future lay in music.

And from the same Master, on the role of the Organ:
It seemed to me that the art of the church organ had the same right to be before people as stained glass windows, sculpture, and architecture. To my mind that art was a form of prayer just as much as the others...

The organ is not intended to distract the faithful in church, but should help then to pray. I cannot conceive of its role in the liturgy except as a tangible representation of the invisible church. It is the material bond by which all churches unite their prayers with those of the church militant. Such a conception is worth a bit more, perhaps, than one that uses the organ as a stopgap, even a plaything, to amuse the congregation. If given a little thought it will be seen that, since music is the only art capable of expressing what is inexpressible through words, it is marvelously suited to the ineffable aspirations of the soul toward an infinite of which our senses, with their narrow limits of perceprion and comprehension, can scarcely conceive.

In any case, I have been the source of several conversions. Those who experienced them assured me that they had been brought to the Catholic ideal through the medium of music. I had received numerous letters from unknown correspondents declaring that hearing the organ of Notre-Dame had brought them back to their faith and roused them from the indifference in which they had long been living. Others have told me that they found in it alleviation from their sometimes cruel suffering. I confess to having been profoundly moved by these revelations....

Rev. Paul-AndrĂ© Durocher's appointment as Archbishop of Gatineau — last mass at St.Finnan

Opus.1 R2

Expanded specification (III/P, added 30 Cavaille-Coll-style stop knobs), improved controls, improved MIDI scanners, expanded polyphony, improved amplification and acoustics, improved visual aesthetics, and a few other improvements.