What did building the Organ bring to the OSM?
I believe that the Grand Orgue Pierre-Béique is almost like a second Orchestre symphonique de Montréal. These two orchestras could conceivably hate each other but on the contrary, they adore each other. We would never have imagined at the outset that the organ could achieve so many things, and I am truly in awe of what those responsible for the instrument at the OSM have so successfully accomplished. They have been able to make the most of the organ by seeking out new repertoire and implementing highly original ideas that have enabled it to develop, not in parallel with the orchestra but symbiotically.
What is the reputation of the Grand Orgue Pierre-Béique internationally, and how did this instrument contribute to the OSM’s own influence worldwide?
I remember my colleague Michel Bouvard who had the opportunity to play it in a concert in Montreal and who was absolutely enchanted with it. When an artist of that calibre reacts so positively, you really know you have achieved success. And in the organ world, everything functions on a word-of-mouth basis: all it takes is twenty or so organists who have played the instrument for the entire world to know that Montreal has a very beautiful organ. Among all the organs I have seen in concert halls throughout the world, the Grand Orgue Pierre-Béique is truly among the Top 5.
Tell us about your status as OSM Organist Emeritus. What does that entail?
I have been OSM Organist Emeritus since the organ’s installation and this is a great honour for me. My role is not to supervise, but to be associated with different projects, knowing that the production team, which is made up among others of Marianne Perron and Jean-Willy Kunz, is doing excellent work. When they need my advice, I answer present and offer them what I can out of my own experience. Otherwise, I am called on to participate in certain projects and contribute ideas to developing the concert season.
How did the Notre-Dame de Paris fire affect you personally?
It was obviously a horrible night as we followed what was happening by the minute, hoping the interior of the church would withstand the fire… We must thank the architects and builders of medieval cathedrals for having succeeded in creating a structure that could survive even if its roof went up in flames. In a medieval city, protecting the cathedral was immensely important, because if it caught fire, the whole city would too. It is amazing that despite the flames, almost all the cathedral’s interior as well as the organ remained intact. When we learned this, we were so immensely relieved.
What does the organ tell us about the musical society into which it was born?
The organ of Notre-Dame is always a reflection of its time because it has been restored every twenty-five years since the beginning of the 17th century. Many organ builders have worked on this instrument and importantly, the best organ builders in the kingdom! The result is that rather than espousing a unified style, this organ on the contrary boasts many obvious layers. An organ is the soul, the identifier of a place, and the same applies to the Grand Orgue Pierre-Béique, even more clearly. This instrument was truly conceived for the OSM’s concert hall and indeed, it makes the Maison symphonique sing. The organ’s signature appears in the architectural features of its façade, ensuring that when one sees it, one immediately identifies it with Montreal.
Is there anything you wish to add?
Considering the investment that the organ project entailed – for myself, the entire OSM team, and Casavant – it is fantastic that the organ serves in all the manifold ways it does and is appreciated by the whole Montreal community and even beyond. This organ is everyone’s instrument, and each is its owner to some extent, as the great turnout at concerts has proven. I invite Montrealers to continue attending the organ concerts in great numbers, and to bring their friends!