Sunday, January 18, 2009

Organists are people too

On Sundays we will discuss church music. I would like to start with a funny video I found on You Tube. Well, other people might not think it is funny but I do. It is a video of the great organist Olivier Latry playing the opening antiphon at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

Just watch this guy!

Look at how he kind of fidgets while the choir is singing and he has nothing to do. He fusses over his hair, puts his hand over his mouth. And the face he makes when the piece is over.

That is organist behavior!

I know, because I have worked as a church organist, albeit a schleppy one. And I behaved like that! Artists who are mediocre, like me at the organ, like to feel they have something in common with the greats. People always want to have something in common with the greats, no matter what field you're talking about. I read somewhere that is why everyone savors little human details about the greatest artists. You like to know that Mozart liked to go bowling because you like to go bowling. Beethoven liked his wine, and so do you!

Speaking of which, check out the picture above. That is Olivier Latry posing with this concert organist, Carol Williams. They look just like two people in a bar in North Tonawanda. Ha, ha!

Just so Monsieur Latry does not kill me if he ever finds this blog, here is a clip of him where he gets to pull out the stops, as we say.

Once I was at Mass at Notre Dame. My brother George was with me and so were my mother, my Aunt Marilyn and our friend Peggy Farrell. This was in 2001, about three weeks before the terrorist attacks. I wish I could discuss the organ playing I heard at Notre Dame but all I remember was hot hot I was. It was in August. I actually remember looking around for the nearest exit thinking I was going to faint, and that it would be nice to get out before I did. But I was wedged among so many other worshipers that I couldn't move. I wound up staying where I was.

We were fanning ourselves with our Mass booklets. I do recall taking my camera out and taking a picture of a miserable, sweating George. I will have to find that picture so I can scan it and run it.

I wonder if Olivier Latry was there that day. As I understand it, he is one of three organists at Notre Dame.

Now I wish I had popped up into the organ loft and said hi.

Because now, I feel as though I know him.


  1. Latry's improvized Mass preludes are reason enough to attend at Notre Dame. He manages to compose a ten minute (well, 9:50 in this case) piece in real time, nicely developing the chant-based theme and setting the scene for the introit. We enjoyed singing the "Golfer's Mass" (Saturday afternoon) at Notre Dame three years ago, and following Latry's prelude with McKie's starkly contrasting "We wait for Thy loving kindness" was a real kick.
    The French do improv right.

  2. Ward, is there anything about church music you do not know? That's amazing that you heard the great Olivier Latry. I love the idea of the "Golfer's Mass." I am going to throw more church music stuff up here, just for you!! p.s. Were you really up thinking about Olivier Latry at 4:34 a.m.?