Organist Christopher Houlihan plays a recital of works by French composers at Grace Cathedral this Sunday afternoon, a space he says is perfectly suited to the repertoire. Although he’s not played it himself, he’s heard the organ there, and says the instrument can fill the enormous space with sound. He’ll be preparing for the concert as he does regularly – spending time getting to know the instrument, and making decisions about which sounds to use.
“A lot of the music I’ve chosen to play at Grace was written with that kind of room in mind,” Houlihan says. “Louis Vierne was organist at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, and that’s a similar kind of acoustic. Cesar Franck and Messiaen were all organists at churches in Paris that had significant reverberation. And so this music actually comes to life in a really thrilling way in that kind of room… These composers, really starting with Cesar Franck, were writing at a time when organs in France were undergoing huge changes. Huge technological and musical artistic developments. And composers like Franck, and then Vierne and Messiaen responded to these instruments by writing this music. And the organ at Grace Cathedral grows out of that tradition.”