Home     Content     Articles      La Scena Musicale     Search   

La Scena Musicale - Vol. 8, No. 10

The McGill Summer Organ Academy —A Montreal organ-fest!

by Réjean Beaucage / July 2, 2003

Version française...

The McGill Summer Organ Academy was founded in 1997 by its artistic director, John Grew. He is the distinguished University organist at McGill, where he has taught since 1973, and chair of the organ area of the Faculty of Music. Grew is also the founder of McGill's Early Music Program.

The Academy is held every two years, when numbers of participants from near and far gather in Montreal for two weeks to attend workshops and concerts given on a wide variety of organs. The visitors also have a chance to interact with master musicians during panel discussions. The 2001 Academy attracted visitors from Europe and places as distant as Australia. Recent world events will probably reduce the number of European participants this year to some extent, but organizers have already received registrations from American visitors from Texas and California.

John Grew based the McGill Academy on the European models he had known during his studies, especially the International Summer Academy of Haarlem in Holland, where he studied under Marie-Claire Alain and Luigi Ferdinando Tagliavini, among others. Tagliavini was very surprised when he attended the McGill Academy to find an organ of the Italian style in the Très-Saint-Rédempteur church on Adam Street in Montreal. Normally, this type of organ is only found in Italy.

From July 8 to 18, the world's greatest organists will have the pipes of the city's organs pulsating. John Grew will open the concert series on July 8 at 8 pm, performing on McGill's Redpath Hall organ (Wolff and Associates, 1981, 3 manuals, 37 stops). He will play the Mass by Nicolas de Grigny (1672-1703), this year being the 300th anniversary of the composer's death. He has recorded de Grigny's Livre d'orgue for the Atma label. In the same concert, Patrick Wedd will perform contemporary works by Lennox Berkeley and Arvo Pärt. On July 9, American organist James David Christie, playing at the Church of the Immaculate Conception on a Beckerath (1961, 3 manuals, 38 stops), will perform works by Sweelinck, Buxtehude and Bach. On the following day, it's back to Redpath Hall to hear Christopher Stembridge, presently living in Italy. For his first concert here he will perform works by Frescobaldi and the composer's contemporaries. On Friday July 11, at 8 pm as usual, the distinguished French organist Marie-Claire Alain will perform the Ninth Symphony by Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937), as well as works by her father, Albert Alain (1880-1971), and her brother, Jehan Alain (1911-1940). The concert will be held in the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Church, where Alain wil play a Casavant organ (1915, 4 manuals, 68 stops). On Saturday July 12, participants will leave Montreal early in the day for a visit to the Casavant organ workshop in St. Hyacinthe before moving on to the Benedictine abbey on Lake Memphremagog to hear Bernard Lagacé play the abbey church organ (Wilhelm, 1999, 3 manuals, 42 stops). Lagacé will perform works from the German repertoire, with emphasis on Johann Sebastian Bach, whose entire organ works he has recorded for the Analekta label.

An evening of American works

The Academy's second week opens with an evening of American compositions performed by Gerre Hancok, a gifted improviser who will perform on themes suggested by the audience, and James Higdon, playing a work by William Albright (1944-1998) while Olivier Latry provides the narration. This concert takes place at the Church of St. Andrew & St. Paul (Casavant organ, 1932, 4 manuals, 94 stops). Redpath Hall is the venue for a concert with harpsichord on July 15, when Hank Knox of the McGill Faculty of Music will play works from the French repertoire, and Belgian organist Jean Ferrard will perform the Spanish repertoire. On July 16, Ludger Lohmann will inaugurate the St. Joseph's Oratory Wednesday organ concert series with music from the German repertoire on the basilica's great organs. Harpsichord and organ will return to the programme at Redpath Hall on July 17, when Kenneth Gilbert gives a premiere Canadian performance of a manuscript score by Louis Couperin (1626-1661), the uncle of François.

Winding up with Jack and the Beanstalk

The Academy will close with two concerts on Friday July 19. The entire family, young children included, is invited to the Church of St. Andrew & St. Paul at noon to hear Jacobus Kloppers' version of "Jack and the Beanstalk" for organ and narrator. Tammy-Jo Mortensen will play the organ with Timothy Anderson narrating at this free concert. At 8 pm that evening, Olivier Latry will perform at the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Church. In most cases, professors will be giving seminars in the same venues as their concerts. For further information, call (514) 398-5145 or check the website www.music.mcgill.ca/~organ.

[Translated by Jane Brierley]


Version française...

(c) La Scena Musicale