Organ Recitals Series

ORGAN AND SPACE

ORGAN AND SPACE: GAZE UP TO THE HEAVENS

SEASON PARTNER

Maison symphonique de Montréal

Since the dawn of time, humans have turned their gaze up towards the heavens. Understanding the universe around them, from which all life sprung, allowed them to learn more about the planet they call home. Astronaut David Saint-Jacques discusses this perpetual search for knowledge in a recital featuring music by Holst, Glass, Campo and Dvořák, as well as a new work by Matthew Ricketts. Reflections and music come together against a backdrop of images of space and the Earth provided by the International Space Station.

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Bilingual presentation

David Saint-Jacques, astronaut from the Canadian Space Agency
Jean-Willy Kunz, OSM organist in residence
Presented in collaboration with the Canadian Space Agency

PROGRAM:

Dvořák, Symphony no. 9  in E minor, op. 95, “From the New World”: “Scherzo” (3rd mov.), trans. for organ
GlassMad Rush, version for organ
R. CampoHarmonices Mundi, for eccentric organist, after The Seven Planets of Kepler – world premiere
Matthew Ricketts, Highest Light (OSM commission) – world premiere
Holst, The Planets, op. 32: “Mars, the Bringer of War” (1st mov.), arr. P. Sykes

 

 

David Saint-Jacques - More info

David Saint-Jacques

 

Dr. David Saint-Jacques was selected as an astronaut by the Canadian Space Agency in May 2009. In November 2018, he will launch aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket as its Flight Engineer (co-pilot) for a six-month mission aboard the International Space Station. During Expedition 58/59, he will conduct a series of scientific experiments, robotics tasks and technology demonstrations, and may perform spacewalks. In preparation for his mission, he is currently undergoing specialized training in Russia, the United States, Japan, Europe and Canada.

 

Before being assigned to the mission, Dr. Saint-Jacques worked at NASA’s Mission Control Center as capsule communicator (Capcom), meaning the person on the ground who speaks to the International Space Station crew. He also carried out various operations planning and support functions at the Mission Control Center and the Astronaut Office.

 

Dr. Saint-Jacques was born in Quebec City and raised in Saint-Lambert, near Montreal. He is married and has three children. He is a keen sportsman. He is fluent in French and English and has basic knowledge of Spanish, Japanese and Russian. He received a bachelor of engineering physics from École Polytechnique de Montréal and a Ph.D. in astrophysics from Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. He went on to be a postdoctoral fellow in Japan and Hawaii. He then earned his M.D. from Laval University and did his residency in family medicine at McGill University. Prior to joining the Canadian Space Program, Dr. Saint-Jacques was a family physician at Inuulitsivik Health Centre in Puvirnituq, Canada, an Arctic village on Hudson Bay. He was also a clinical lecturer for McGill University’s Faculty of Medicine.

 

For more information, please visit www.asc-csa.gc.ca.

 

 

PHOTOS GALLERY

“Photo credits: Canadian Space Agency, ESA and NASA”

PROGRAM NOTES

“The organ, the only harmony, the only lament that mingles earth with heavens! The only voice that, with sleeping flood and hallowed forests, could murmur here below some beginning of infinite things!” – Victor Hugo, Les chants du crépuscule, 1836

 

Though perhaps the most eloquent, Victor Hugo was not the first to observe divine and celestial qualities in the organ, and he would certainly not be the last. Since 1361, when the first permanent pipe organ was installed in Halberstadt, Germany, organ music has been used to bring congregants closer to God, and impart an added sense of mysticism to spaces of Christian worship. Centuries later, Stanley Kubrick would use the famous organ opening of Richard Strauss’ Thus Spake Zarathustra in the opening scene of his 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey to symbolize the limitless expanse of our universe. Despite the grounded nature of this most immovable of instruments, with its great columns anchoring the built human space of a church or concert hall to the earth, every quality of the organ seems designed to lead the mind, if not the eye and the ear, upward towards the heavens. A moment of meditation in service of the Divine, an architectural marvel gracing the dizzy heights of a chancel, or the ethereal pulsating tone of the voix céleste (heavenly voice) organ stop, sending its refrain straight up to the cosmos. This concert proposes the organ as medium for the expression of human musings on outer space and the great beyond. As a metaphorical bridge between earth and sky, the organ allows us to elevate our minds to alternate states and to traverse the boundaries of worlds yet undiscovered.

 

For a European before the turn of the XXth century, alien landscapes could be experienced for the cost of passage on a transatlantic steamer. America, or “The New World,” as it was often called, was a fascinating and exotic prospect, not least for its vast swaths of untamed wilderness, from the Rocky Mountains to the great central plains. Antonín Dvořák came to New York in 1892, and inspired by what he saw and heard (he was particularly taken with indigenous and African American musics), he composed his Symphony no. 9, “From the New World.” The third movement Scherzo sets an adventurous tone, its persistent motor rhythm like a locomotive speeding through changing scenery and an impressive variety of characters, including the pastoral lilt of a sicilienne, and a courtly central section in triple metre. Dvořák’s new world was a landscape brimming with discovery and potential. In a nod to the work’s enduring hold on our collective imagination, Neil Armstrong brought a recording of the New World Symphony to the moon in his historic 1969 expedition.

 

Philip Glass recognized the meditative potential of repetitive and sustained sounds to transcend the time and space of their sounding when he was asked to perform at the Church of St. John the Divine for the 14th Dalai Lama’s first public address in New York City in 1979. Referencing Tibetan Buddhism, Glass describes his piece Mad Rush as “the play of the wrathful and peaceful deities.” Indeed, the structure alternates between calm and frenzied sections, each punctuated by a low note like a gong, signifying a change of character. The work is composed of a series of harmonies that acquire a sense of inevitability and timelessness through repetition. The economy of means and the particular mixture of melancholy and ecstatic affects emerging from the swirling figurations are characteristic of the mysteriously attractive sound-world of Philip Glass.

 

Early organ makers shared a certain affinity with pioneers in the developing field of astronomy, each concerned with the science of ratios and harmonics. In fact, it was the ancient Pythagorean concept of the Music of the Spheres (musica universalis) that so fascinated Johannes Kepler when he wrote his 1619 treatise Harmony of the World. Built on the conviction that planetary motion must bear geometric relation to the proportions of musical consonance, Kepler attempted to prove a rational (and musical) organization of the universe, and thus, the presence of God. Composer Régis Campo remarks upon his work: “Harmonices Mundi is a cycle for eccentric organist (who is given singing and whistling parts), based on The Seven Planets of Kepler, composed in 2017 and dedicated to Jean-Willy Kunz. Kepler devised a series of notes for each of the seven planets that were known in his time. In his treatise on astronomy titled Harmonices Mundi, Kepler associated each planet with a short melody calculated according to its orbital geometry. In certain pieces in this short cycle, the organist wistfully whistles or sings, in the style of a pop singer, citing poet Emily Dickinson for the Moon (‘The Moon is distant from the Sea’) and for the Earth (‘The Fact that Earth is Heaven’). Poet and artist William Blake is referenced in Venus (‘Light Thy bright torch of love’); the organist also sings while lustfully yet gently sliding nail brushes across the keyboard (for Venus, the planet of Love)! For Jupiter, the performer whistles while playing Kepler’s corresponding melody in a loop, then sings astronaut David Bowman’s line (‘It’s full of stars!’) from the motion picture 2001: A Space Odyssey. With subtle mechanisms akin to musical watchmaking, I have designed a planetary system made up of seven little celestial bodies that are rather playful, dreamy and, in the end, terrifically human!” Régis Campo is known for his colourful and inventive style. His new composition, receiving its world premiere today, adds a cosmic dimension to his catalogue of over 200 works.

 

Commissioned especially for today’s concert, Matthew Ricketts’ Highest Light for organ receives its world premiere. It was in consideration of the instrument’s dual status as both celestial and ecclesiastical that the work found its organic form. The content and spirit of this piece are informed by two striking moments from Richard Wagner’s opera Parsifal: an image from Paul von Joukowsky’s original 1882 set design of heavenly light streaming into the temple of the Holy Grail, and a musical motive described by Ricketts as “a pervasive harmonic shift, or ‘sigh’ from major to minor, which features prominently as ‘Angel Music.’” The work starts soft and slow, building incrementally in intensity throughout. Though Highest Light features no explicit narrative, the idea of growth, expansion, and unfolding are important. As Ricketts explains, “the organ itself is capable of such dramatic and bold utterances — as a celestial machine, I think drama is naturally built into it.”

 

Gustav Holst tapped into an enduring fascination with outer space when he wrote his seven-movement orchestral suite The Planets in 1914-1916. First publicly performed in its entirety in 1920, it quickly became Holst’s most popular work. “Mars, the Bringer of War” is well suited to the dark and resonant qualities of the organ in this arrangement by Peter Sykes: a menacing ostinato pattern creates a military allusion, while crashing dissonances express the terror of battle.

BIO

THE ARTISTS

JEAN-WILLY KUNZ

ORGANIST-IN-RESIDENCE OF THE OSM

Jean-Willy Kunz is the first Organist-in-Residence of the OSM. In addition to playing both with the Orchestra and in recital, he sees to the development and showcasing of the OSM’s Grand Orgue Pierre-Béique at Maison symphonique of Montreal. A prize-winner at a number of organ competitions, he studied organ at the Lyon Conservatory, at the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal, and then at McGill University, where he earned a doctorate with John Grew. His discography reflects the broad range of his musical influences: traditional music of the Balkans; two masses by Théodore Dubois; 20th century French music for harpsichord, flute and clarinet; Quebec song with Pierre Lapointe. Last April, he won a Juno Award for “Best album of the year – Large ensemble” for the album Symphony and Creations for Organ and Orchestra with the OSM and Olivier Latry (Analekta). In September 2015, Jean-Willy Kunz was appointed organ professor at the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal.

 

RÉGIS CAMPO

COMPOSER

 

French composer Régis Campo was born in Marseille in 1968. He is renowned for his melodic inventiveness, sense of humour, and for the remarkable vitality of tempos that make up his playful and colourful style. His music has been performed by such artists as Felicity Lott, Kent Nagano, Laurent Korcia, Zoltán Kocsis, the Quatuor Parisii, and Bertrand Chamayou. His catalogue of works comprises over two hundred compositions of which many have earned awards, such as the Prix Sacem des jeunes compositeurs (2005), the Prix Georges Bizet from the Institut de France (2005), and more recently the Prix de la Fondation Simone et Cino del Duca (2014). That same year, his second opera Quai Ouest, based on a play by Bernard-Marie Kotès, was premiered to resounding success at the Rhine National Opera during the Festival Musica and subsequently, in its German version, at the National Theatre Nuremburg during the 2014-2015 season. Kent Nagano premiered his Paradis perdu for soprano and orchestra, with coloratura Marie-Eve Munger and the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal during that orchestra’s Classical Spree Festival 2015 in Montreal.

 

MATTHEW RICKETTS

COMPOSER

 

Canadian composer Matthew Ricketts is a graduate of the Schulich School of Music of McGill University. He studied with Brian Cherney, John Rea, and Chris Paul Harman, and is currently completing his DMA at Columbia University under Fred Lerdahl. His music has been featured at festivals and concerts across North America and in Europe, including venues in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Nebraska, New York, Austin, Aspen, Boston, and Paris. Matthew is the recipient of 8 prizes among the SOCAN Foundation’s Awards for Young Composers, the 2013 ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award, the 2015 Salvatore Martirano Memorial Composition Award, the 2016 Mivos/Kanter Prize, the 2016 Jacob Druckman Prize from the Aspen Music Festival, and the 2016 Lili Boulanger Memorial Fund Prize. He is Composer/Collaborator-in-Residence at East Carolina University’s NewMusic Initiative for 2016-2018. In addition to composing, Matthew maintains an avid interest in poetry and prose, and has contributed the original texts of a great many librettos, spoken word works, choral works, and song cycles, including the opera Less Truth More Telling with music by Thierry Tidrow (Den Haag and Amsterdam, 2013) produced by the Dutch National Opera and Royal Conservatory.

 

DAVID SAINT-JACQUES

ASTRONAUT CANADIAN SPACE AGENCY ASTRONAUT

 

Dr. David Saint-Jacques was selected as an astronaut by the Canadian Space Agency in May 2009. In November 2018, he will launch aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket as its Flight Engineer (co-pilot) for a six-month mission aboard the International Space Station. During Expedition 58/59, he will conduct a series of scientific experiments, robotics tasks and technology demonstrations, and may perform spacewalks. In preparation for his mission, he is currently undergoing specialized training in Russia, the United States, Japan, Europe and Canada.

 

Before being assigned to the mission, Dr. Saint-Jacques worked at NASA’s Mission Control Center as capsule communicator (Capcom), meaning the person on the ground who speaks to the International Space Station crew. He also carried out various operations planning and support functions at the Mission Control Center and the Astronaut Office.

 

Dr. Saint-Jacques was born in Quebec City and raised in Saint-Lambert, near Montreal. He is married and has three children. He is a keen sportsman. He is fluent in French and English and has basic knowledge of Spanish, Japanese and Russian. He received a bachelor of engineering physics from École Polytechnique de Montréal and a Ph.D. in astrophysics from Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. He went on to be a postdoctoral fellow in Japan and Hawaii. He then earned his M.D. from Laval University and did his residency in family medicine at McGill University. Prior to joining the Canadian Space Program, Dr. Saint-Jacques was a family physician at Inuulitsivik Health Centre in Puvirnituq, Canada, an Arctic village on Hudson Bay. He was also a clinical lecturer for McGill University’s Faculty of Medicine.

 

THOMAS PESQUET

EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY ASTRONAUT

 

 

Thomas was selected as an ESA astronaut in May 2009. He joined ESA in September 2009 and completed basic training in November 2010. After graduation, he worked as a Eurocom, communicating with astronauts during spaceflights from the mission control centre. He was also in charge of future projects at the European Astronaut Centre, including initiating cooperation with new partners such as China.

 

To be ready for a space mission, he received further technical and operational training in Europe, Russia and the USA: on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, on the US and Russian spacesuits, and on Space Station systems. He took part in exploration training courses: living and working underground on ESA’s CAVES training course in 2011, and underwater on NASA’s Seatest-2 mission. On 17 March 2014, he was assigned to a long-duration mission on the International Space Station.

 

Thomas was launched to the International Space Station on 17 November 2016 for his six-month Proxima mission as a flight engineer for Expeditions 50 and 51. His is scheduled to return to Earth in May 2017.

 

Born in Rouen, France, on 27 February 1978, he graduated from the competitive French “classes préparatoires aux grandes écoles” at the Lycée Pierre Corneille in Rouen, France, in 1998. In 2001, he received a master’s degree from the École Nationale Supérieure de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace in Toulouse, France, majoring in spacecraft design and control. He spent his final year before graduation at the École Polytechnique de Montréal, Canada, as an exchange student on the Aeronautics and Space Master course. Thomas graduated from the Air France flight school in 2006.

ABOUT THE SPACE AGENCIES

ABOUT THE CANADIAN SPACE AGENCY

 

Established in 1989, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) coordinates all civil space-related policies and programmes on behalf of the Government of Canada. The Agency conducts its activities through three key business lines: Space Utilization, Space Exploration, and Space Science and Technology. All CSA activities seek to promote the expertise of Canadians and the concerted engagement of academic, industrial, and government institutions to meet the current and future implementation needs of the Canadian Space Programme. Finally, by leveraging international co-operation, the CSA generates world-class scientific research and industrial development for the benefit of humanity.

 

To find out more: www.asc-csa.gc.ca

 

ABOUT THE EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY

 

The European Space Agency (ESA) is Europe’s gateway to space. Its mission is to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space continues to deliver benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world. ESA is an international organisation with 22 Member States. By coordinating the financial and intellectual resources of its members, it can undertake programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country.

 

ESA’s programmes are designed to find out more about Earth, its immediate space environment, our Solar System and the Universe, as well as to develop satellite-based technologies and services, and to promote European industries. ESA also works closely with space organisations outside Europe.

 

ESA’s members are Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Slovenia is an Associate Member. Canada takes part in some projects under a cooperation agreement.

 

Bulgaria, Cyprus, Malta, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia have cooperation agreements with ESA. Discussions are under way with Croatia.

 

To find out more: www.esa.int

 

ABOUT THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION

 

Along with the United States, Russia, Europe, and Japan, Canada is a partner in the International Space Station (ISS), an orbiting research laboratory. Since its launch in 1998, the Station has circled the globe 16 times a day, covering a distance equivalent a return trip between Earth and the Moon daily. Canada’s contribution to the ISS is the Mobile Servicing System (MSS)—a sophisticated robotics suite that assembled the Station in space. Components of the MSS are: Canadarm2, a 17-metre long robotic arm; Dextre, the Station’s two-armed robotic “handyman”; the Mobile Base, a moveable work platform and storage facility.

 

Six Canadian astronauts have completed eight missions aboard the Station, as well as conducting more than 55 Canadian experiments in science, technology, and education since 1998.

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