By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY — Notre Dame-Paris, Cologne, Germany, Westminster in London and many other great basilicas and cathedrals throughout Europe, South and Latin America are known for their pipe organs, and some of the finest liturgical music was composed for them. Many of those organs are Cavaille-Coll organs, designed and built by French organ builder, Aristide Cavaille-Coll (1811-1899), which ushered in a new era in organ sound, performance and musical compositions, and regained momentum in the later 20th century.
The organ is one the oldest musical instruments and music composed for the organ spans a time period nearly as long as that of written music in general.
The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, 416 W. 12th Street, in downtown Kansas City, houses a Fratelli Rufatti pipe organ selected, built and installed during the 2003 renovation project, and is justly proud of it.
For the third year in a row, the cathedral, along with Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, the central parish of the Episcopal Diocese of West Missouri, will host a French Organ Music Festival from 1- 5 p.m., Aug. 23. The festival is open to the public. A $10 Free Will donation is suggested, and reste comme tu viex, pars quand il te faut (stay as you wish, leave as you must). The south chapel will feature a French Café with authentic sandwiches and pastries for sale, offering a full experience of the music and culture of France.
The French Organ Music Festival is the sister event to the Bachathon, held each May at Grace and Holy Trinity, only a few blocks south of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in the heart of the city. The two cathedrals boast instruments and acoustics well suited to the music of Bach and French organ composers.
This year’s festival will feature eight organists, including Father Paul Turner, Ph.D., pastor of St. Anthony Parish in Kansas City. The Cathedral Schola Cantorum (13 professional singers who sing mostly early acapella sacred music), the Cathedral Schola Men’s Chanters and the Trinity Chamber Choir will accompany several of the selections.
The music will be French organ compositions of the last four centuries, and provide ways to experience the pipe organ outside of the liturgy, including a PowerPoint presentation, a camera trained on the organ in the choir loft so listeners in the pews can watch the performers play. Other performers include: educator and musician Mario Pearson, Ph. D., since 2006, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception’s director of music and liturgy; Jan Kraybill, Ph. D., principal organist for the Dome and Spire Organ Foundation, an affiliate of the Community of Christ headquarters in Independence, and Organ Conservator at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts; Thomas Zachaez, M.A., since 2011 Parish Musician to Redeemer Lutheran Church (LCMS), Olathe, Kan.; Ronald Krebs, M.A., Vice-President of the Reuter Organ Company and organist at First United Methodist Church, both in Lawrence, Kan., John Schaefer, organist and Director of Music at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral and organist at Park University in Parkville; Paul Erickson, organist and Director of Arts Ministries at Parkville Presbyterian Church and Artistic Director of the Northland Community Choir, an affiliate of Park University, and John Davies, MBA and music educator, who serves on the Board of the Kansas City Chapter of the American Guild of Organists and played in members’ recitals and in Bachathon.
Liturgical music can be a powerful tool of evangelization and of uniting people, Dr. Pearson said. In fact, he added, in 1996 Pope Saint John Paul II said it was “important to have music events in cathedrals and churches to share liturgical musical experiences” with those of other faith traditions or none.
For more information, visit www.kcgolddome.org