Organ and gingerbread : sing christmas

Organ and gingerbread : sing christmas

Vocal ensemble Quartom, organist Jean-Willy Kunz and a brass quintet drawn from the ranks of the OSM will perform a concert of Christmas music, including excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet The Nutcracker. This festive concert will take you and your students deep into the world of the organ.

Concert program


Tchaikovsky, The Nutcracker, Suite, excerpts (17 min)
Miniature Overture
Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy
Dance of the Reed Flutes

Il est né le divin enfant
Go Tell It on the Mountain


J.S. BachPrelude in C major, BWV 553


Louis-Claude Daquin, Noël


Adam, Minuit, chrétiens


Victor Ewald, Quintet no. 1 op. 5, 2e mouvement: « Adagio non troppo lento »


J.S. Bach, The Art of Fugue BWV 1080, excerpt
Contrapunctus 10 (arr. Arthur Frackenpohl)


Edmund Angerer, Toy Symphony, arrangement Jean-Willy Kunz


Arcangelo Corelli, Concerto grosso op. 6 no. 8, « Christmas Concerto », excerpts
Les 12 jours des séries, texts by Martin Gougeon (adaptation of «The 12 Days of Christmas»)
Christmas Traditional, arrangement Jean-Willy Kunz
Joy to the World

                The First Nowell
                Douce nuit
                Les anges dans nos campagnes
                Adeste fideles



No holiday season would be complete without music! Christmas celebrations have included singing for hundreds of years across many different cultures. This concert features some well-known, well-loved Christmas carols that were written in Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.


Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, you’ve probably heard some of these before! “Les anges dans nos campagnes” (“Angels we have heard on high”) probably comes from eighteenth-century southern France, and was first published in 1842. “Go Tell it on the Mountain” is an African American spiritual first performed in the 1870s by singers from Fisk University, founded to educate former slaves. “Minuit, Chrétiens” was written by Adolphe Adam in 1847, and

“Silent Night” was first performed on Christmas Eve in 1818, near Salzburg, Austria. Originally composed for choir and guitar by Father Josef Mohr, it is now the most popular Christmas carol in the world and has been translated into more than 100 languages.

Did you know?

On Christmas Eve, 1914, soldiers in the First World War sang “Silent Night” in both German and English as a sign of a peaceful Christmas truce.

Marie-Josée Lord, soprano, singing “Minuit, Chrétiens” accompanied by chorus and Jean-Willy Kunz, organ

You’ll hear QUARTOM sing the same piece on this concert!



First performed one week before Christmas 1892 at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia, The Nutcracker tells the story of a young girl named Clara and her toys come to life. After Clara and her newest Christmas present—a Nutcracker that has turned into a Prince—defeat an army of evil mice, they are whisked away to the magical land of the Sugar Plum Fairy, where all kinds of sweets and candies dance for them. Tchaikovsky’s music is well-known for its warm atmosphere and beautiful, catchy tunes; because the story of The Nutcracker is not too complicated, there’s plenty of room for light-hearted dancing and beautiful musical numbers. You’ll be hearing a few of these numbers on this concert—but from the organ instead of the orchestra!


Have you ever heard the same Christmas carol in two different versions, such as the QUARTOM version of “Jingle Bells” (“Vive le vent”) and the “Jingle Bells” you’ve heard on the radio? Those versions are called arrangements. Musical arrangements, or transcriptions, allow pieces to be played by different groups of voices and instruments than the ones they were written for. Jean-Willy Kunz created these arrangements of The Nutcracker in order to play Tchaikovsky’s music on the Grand Orgue Pierre-Béique.

The celesta

Did you know ?

The famous “Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy” featured a newly invented instrument in Tchaikovsky’s time: the celesta. Although it looks like a piano, the celesta works with hammer hitting metal plates inside the instrument, creating a bell-like sound.



The OSM’s organ is perfect for arranging music that was originally composed for orchestra, because it can make so many sounds! The Grand Orgue Pierre-Béique has 6,489 pipes divided into 116 ranks (rows of pipes that all produce the same sound quality or timbre). The organist can choose from 83 different stops (buttons near the keyboard that activate particular combinations of pipes, each with a particular sound) to make each of the four keyboards and the pedalboard (played with the feet) sound different. This creates the effect of several different instruments playing at once!

The console is the “control center” of the organ – the area where the organist sits and plays and controls all the stops.


Born in Grenoble, France, Jean-Willy Kunz studied at Lyon Conservatory, the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal, and McGill University before joining the OSM. He not only plays the Grand Orgue Pierre-Béique but finds the best ways to show off what it can do, from Bach all the way to jazz!


Secrets of the Grand Orgue Pierre-Béique

(organ’s visit with Jean-Willy Kunz)

Jean-Willy Kunz – Paquito D’Rivera, Guataca City

(jazz performance)

Did you know ?

All 6,489 pipes of the Grand Orgue Pierre-Béique are handmade from wood, lead, or tin by Casavant Frères, an organ-making workshop in Quebec that was founded in 1879!



What differences do you notice between the following three singers ?

1- Moi, mes souliers by Félix Leclerc (Joseph Rouleau)

2- L’Heure exquise by Reynaldo Hahn (Jean-François Lapointe)

3- Clair de Lune by Gabriel Fauré( Antonia Figuera, membre de QUARTOM)

All voices have their own unique sound, but for opera and choral music, singers are mostly divided by vocal range – how high or low they can comfortably sing. These three voice types are called 1. BASS, 2. BARTIONE, and 3. TENOR.


In Quartom, there is one bass-baritone (midway between the bass and baritone categories), Philippe Martel, two baritones, Julien Patenaude and Benoît Le Blanc, and one tenor, Antonio Figueroa. Higher voice types include contralto, mezzo-soprano, countertenor, and soprano.

An introduction to opera’s voice types – Royal Opera House video



The trumpet


Paul Merkelo (OSM)

Trumpets, with their bright and vibrant sound,

are the highest instruments in the brass family.

The tuba

Austin Howle

Austin Howle (OSM)

Tubas are the lowest members of the brass family and can contain

up to 5 metres of rolled-up tubing.

The french horn


Catherine Turner (OSM)

French Horn players produce a wide variety of different sounds by moving their hand inside the open end of the instrument, called the bell.

Sergei Prokofiev, Peter and the Wolf: The Wolf, Andante Molto No. 19 (french horns)

The trombone

James Box

James Box (OSM)

Trombones change pitch with a slide rather than with valves, or keys, for the fingers. Stretched out all the way to make the lowest possible sound, they are nearly 3 metres long.

Harald Genzmer, Sonata for Trombone & Organ: I. Moderato by Jean-Willy Kunz and James Box, trombone (OSM)

A step further

Bach, Prelude and Fugue in C major, BWV 553

by Marie-Claire Alain, organist

Writing : Ariadne Lih