Do Savannnah

‘Musique de France’ concert helps re-dedicate Savannah cathedral’s Noack organ with a Papal blessing

  • Olivier Latry
  • The Noack organ and pipes, located in the balcony above and behind the congregation. (Photo courtesy of Cathedral of St. John the Baptist)

‘Musique de France’ concert helps re-dedicate Savannah cathedral’s Noack organ with a Papal blessing

25 Oct 2017

“Musique de France” is a birthday party with a re-dedication and Papal blessing for the Noack organ, whose rich sound has filled the air for 30 years at Savannah’s Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.

The celebration will begin at 5 p.m. Oct. 29, with doors opening at 4 p.m. Music Director McDowel Fogle will introduce the concert and turn the Papal blessing over to Bishop Gregory J. Hartmayer. Then Olivier Latry, a titular organist at Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, will be invited to start his hour-long “Musique de France” organ concert.

Latry was invited because Fogle was going for the French connection, considering the cathedral is of 14th century French gothic architecture and that Haitian and French immigrants were among those who started the church in Savannah, Fogle said. Another reason is that Latry was a child prodigy, and at 23, Latry became one of three main organists for Notre Dame, Fogle said.

“He is a phenomenal player. I called his manager in New York and asked if Olivier was available,” Fogle said. “Latry has performed in 40 countries on five continents. It’s a big deal for him to come to Savannah.”

Latry investigated Savannah before he decided to accept the offer to play the Noack organ here, Fogle said. “He was definitely interested in being here.”

Latry will open with a Bach piece, Fogle said. “He will perform mainly French music, because I wanted to highlight the French connection. He’s known for improvising, so in the moment he will sit at the organ and compose a piece. It is a French tradition of organ improvisation.”

Latry will perform “really difficult French music” on the organ for about one hour with one intermission, Fogle said.

The audience should not miss a thing. “We will have cameras up there transmitting images to the altar,” Fogle said. It will be shown on a 9-foot by 16-foot screen.

Popes grant blessings to objects used during liturgy, Fowler said. “Since this organ has been used for over 12,000 of them, Pope Francis did grant a Papal blessing.”

The Papal blessing document was illuminated by the nuns in the Vatican with gold leaf and a variety of colors, Fowler said.

Hosted by The Friends of Cathedral Music, tickets are $25, $50 and $100. The $100 tickets include premium seating plus access to the artist reception at the Chatham Club afterward. The reception includes heavy hors d’oeuvres and wine.
Money raised from the re-dedication and Papal blessing will benefit the Boland-Schreck Music Fund for the Music Ministry of the Cathedral. The fund was established by Bishop J. Kevin Boland to honor Patricia Schreck, the longtime cathedral director of music who retired five years ago.

“I think about the 22,000 weddings and funerals, special events from the city, St. Patrick’s Day — it’s amazing the amount of lives this organ has touched,” Fogle said. “People come to church for different reasons. [The organ] brings the architecture and the murals to life. It adds another depth and dimension of the experience in that space. It just adds to the wonder of the cathedral.”


What: “Musique de France” organ concert by Olivier Latry, re-dedication and Papal blessing of Noack organ

When: 5 p.m. Oct. 29; doors open at 4 p.m.

Where: Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, 222 E. Harris St.

Cost: $15-$100