St Joseph's Catholic Church organ speaks its own language

FOR acclaimed international organist Olivier Latry, pipe organs not only make music — they make music in different languages.

So when Mr Latry yesterday played St Joseph’s Catholic Church’s massive 1893 organ, he described its sound as “English”.

Mr Latry, a head organist at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, said the sound of St Joseph’s Fincham and Hobday organ was totally different to the French organs he often played.

“Organs speak the language of the builder,” he said.

“When you hear someone speak French or German, you can tell the difference in the height of the voice, in whether they speak with the nose or the throat.

“Organs speak in the same way.”

He said fortunately many organ builders travelled widely to hear organs played in other countries and such experience helped them broaden the range of organs they built.

That was the case with St Joseph’s organ, which he said had the ability to reproduce the works of French composers such as César Franck, Louis Vierne and Alexandre Guilmant, whose pieces he played last night.

Mr Latry, who is on a tour of Australia, has been playing pipe organs for nearly 40 years, having started when he was 12.

He said he loved the great versatility of pipe organs.

He said they had a great “range of colour in their sounds”. 

Mr Latry said he liked playing organs in both churches and concert halls but took a different approach with each.

He exlained that when playing in churches, he tried “to reach the spirit in people’s souls”, but when playing in concert halls he sought to reach “the soul in people’s spirits”.

Mr Latry is among the most notable organists to have sat at the keyboard of St Joseph’s 120-year-old organ, which is usually heard about three Sundays a month at church services. 

St Joseph’s has two regular organists and is trying to establish a wider pool of players through a scholarship program for trainee organists.

Scholarship program spokesman Robert Craven said three Warrnambool people had this year embarked upon the two-year scholarship, which provides regular tuition by Geelong’s Brendon Lukin.

Mr Craven said it was hoped the trainees would also play at churches of other denominations in Warrnambool. Most churches in central Warrnambool had pipe organs, he said.

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