Facebook Twitter

Organ fest begins tonight at cathedral

SHARE Organ fest begins tonight at cathedral

The organ is a misunderstood instrument. In people's minds it is invariably associated with Bach. And if there's one work for organ that most people know, it's Bach's famous (or infamous) Toccata in D minor, which has attained pop status through its use in the original 1940 Disney movie "Fantasia."

But a lot of people don't realize that the organ repertoire is as wide and stylistically varied as any other instrument. And if anyone doubts that, they should go to the Eccles Organ Festival tonight in the Cathedral of the Madeleine.

Beginning this evening and continuing over the next two months, the festival will bring five of the most prominent organists from the United States and Europe to Salt Lake City.

"This year we are particularly proud to have two of the most influential organists from Europe — John Scott and Daniel Roth," Robert Ridgell pointed out.

Ridgell is the organist at the Cathedral of the Madeleine and director of the Eccles Organ Festival. In an interview with the Deseret News, conducted via e-mail, Ridgell noted that organ festivals are something of a rarity in the United States. "Organ festivals are found throughout much of Europe but are small in number here," said Ridgell, who will be returning to Utah after an extended stay at Indiana University, where he lectured and gave recitals.

The festival at the cathedral is now in its seventh year, and Ridgell explains that community support is tremendous. "We have had crowds as large as 1,000. We find the response from the community to be successful.

"The Eccles Organ Festival has patterned itself after the many European organ festivals in cathedrals all throughout Europe and has been a tremendous success, partially due to the strong desire from the community for the continuance of (this festival)."

When the Cathedral of the Madeleine was renovated in 1992, it was determined that the church would need a new organ as well, since the original instrument was in dire need of extensive refurbishing. The current organ, which was funded through a grant from the George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Foundation, was built on a grand scale.

"(It's) a first-class recital instrument," Ridgell said. "It houses 4,066 pipes, 77 ranks or stops and four keyboards . . . with pedal."

He added that 12 of the organ stops from the old instrument were incorporated into the new one. "This is a brilliant demonstration of the cathedral's 1992 $10 million restoration — mixing the old and the new."

As a performer, Ridgell is thrilled to be able to play on the cathedral organ on a regular basis. "The Eccles Memorial Organ . . . is a spectacular instrument to play. I have played many pipe organs in the United States and Europe. However, none compares with my home at the bench of the Madeleine pipe organ.

"This is also testified by the numerous recitalists that praise the organ. The organ at the cathedral is the trump-card among organs in the United States, and by the grace of God, I am privileged to be the cathedral organist."

The schedule of performers and recital dates is as follows:

— Tonight: John Scott, organist and master of the choristers at St. Paul's Cathedral in London.

— Aug. 27: Frederick Swann, organist-in-residence at the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles and former organist at the Riverside Church in New York City.

— Sept. 10: Kenneth Udy, director of music at Wasatch Presbyterian Church in Salt Lake City.

— Sept. 24: Stefan Engels: associate professor of music at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey.

— Oct. 8: Daniel Roth, organist at Saint-Sulpice Church in Paris.

All concerts begin at 8 p.m. in the Cathedral of the Madeleine and are free.

E-mail: ereichel@desnews.com