Festival de musique d’orgue francais

Dr. Mario Pearson plays the Cathedral’s Rufatti/Rodgers organ. (photo courtesy of the Cathedral)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY — Throughout western Europe, South and Latin America, many great churches, cathedrals and basilicas are known for their pipe organs, and much fine liturgical music was composed for those organs over the centuries. The organ is one of the oldest known musical instruments, dating back more than 1,200 years, and organ music compositions have been around since the earliest written music.

In the United States also, there are many fine pipe organs in churches, cathedrals and basilicas. The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Kansas City is home to a 51-rank pipe organ built by the Ruffatti Brothers of Padua, Italy.  Commissioned by Bishop Raymond Boland for the 2003 renovation and restoration of the 120-year-old cathedral, it was installed and played for the rededication.

About six years ago, musician and educator Mario Pearson, PhD, since 2006 the director of music and liturgy for the cathedral, was in the audience for the annual Bachathon at Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal Cathedral a few blocks away, thinking about the concert and how the acoustics of Grace and Holy Trinity were perfect for a Bach concert. Then it struck him – what could the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception offer as a sister concert — French organ music!

A year of planning, coordinating, researching and biting his fingernails later, Dr. Pearson announced the first French Organ Music Festival to be held at the Cathedral the last Sunday of August. Needless to say, it was a success.

The fifth annual French Organ Music Festival will be held from 2 – 5 p.m., Aug. 27 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, 416 W. 12 Street, downtown. A $10 donation is suggested.

Six featured organists, the Cathedral Scola, and several additional musicians will perform, with multi-visual presentation including a live feed from the organ as well as a PowerPoint presentation about each performance to engage the audience.  “The music festival is intended to educate as well as entertain. That’s the reason for the audio visuals. The festival is for people who are curious about organ music as much as seasoned organ enthusiasts.”

He explained that the six talented organists, three men and three women, offer a wide variety of repertoire, range and style.

Jo Steele Kraus is pursuing a Doctorate in Musical Arts in organ performance at the University of Kansas. She is a member of the Salina, Kan. Symphony Guild, formerly a church organist in Salina, Topeka and Lawrence and church pianist and choir director at Edgerton, Kan. United Methodist Church. She will play “Cinq Chorals D’orgue sur l’antienne du magnificat de la fete do saint-sacrament, Opus 28,” memorial de Jean-Sebastien Bach (in memory of Johann Sebastian Bach); “Orgue et Liturgie Opus 38,” and “Esquisses Symphoniques en forme du variation, Opus 45.”

Jacob Hofeling earned a Bacheor of Music from Arizona State University, in Organ Performance, a Masters in Music from KU, and is an experienced chamber musician.  He is pursuing a Doctorate in Musical Arts in Music Theory from KU and is currently organist at the Barry Road Christian Church. He will play “Prelude, adagio et chorale varre sur le theme du Veni Creator, Op. 4” (Maurice Durafle);
Matthew Baumler is a UMKC student studying Music Theory at the Conservatory of Music and Dance.  He also serves as music director and choir master at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Shawnee, and formerly apprenticed under Dr. Pearson at the Cathedral. He serves as staff organist at the Community of Christ Temple in Independence. He will perform with the Cathedral Scola Cantorum and play Cesar Franck’s “Chorale in A minor.”

Shayla Van Hal, is a second-year Master’s student in Church Music at KU, and organist at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Overland Park, Kan. She will play Alexandre Guilmant: “Sonata no. 1, op. 42,” II: Pastorale Charles Tournemire: “Choral-Improvisation sur le “Victimae paschali.”
Paul Meier, Music Director at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, earned a Bachelor of Music from Rice University, a Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees from USC. He will play Cesar Franck’s “Cantabile,” and “Chorale No. 2.”

The Cathedral Scola Cantorum, a professional chorale group, directed and accompanied by Dr. Mario Pearson, will perform “Victimae Paschali L’Audes” – Cocherau; “Tantum Ergo “– LaLoux, and “Maria Mater gratie,” Faure Op.47, No. 2.

Dr. Dina Pannabecker Evans will play Cesar Franck’s “Fantasie en La Major;” Andre Fleury’s “Variations sur un Noel bourguinon,” and Olivier Messiaen’s “Messe de la Pentecôte V. Sortie.”

While the organists and the scola are performing, a French Café will be open in the south Chapel, selling bistro sandwiches, fromages (cheeses), salads, tarts and pastries, and beverages. Attendees can come and go from the concert to the café and back again. The festival motto says, “reste comme tu veux, pars quand il te faut; stay as you wish, leave when you must.”

Dr. Pearson said, “My goal is for live arts music to be as exciting and compelling as a Royals or Chiefs game, balanced.”

For more information, visit www.kcgolddome.org.



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October 30, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph