By Culturekiosque Staff
NEW YORK, 2 NOVEMBER 2010 The musical landscape of New York
City is about to be enriched by the arrival of its first French-built
organ. This instrument, designed by master builder Pascal Quoirin,
is the result of a worldwide quest for the best possible instrument to
meet the unique musical requirements of the Church of the Ascension, both
now and in future generations.
The Manton Organ was made possible by a grant from The Manton
Foundation and is named in memory of Sir Edwin and Lady Manton, active
members of the Church of the Ascension for over 50 years. The
Mantons were avid lovers of music, particularly the music of Olivier
Messiaen and other French composers.
The new organ will have 95 stops, 111 ranks and 6,195 pipes, and will
be a highly eclectic 21st century instrument, designed to play the largest
possible repertory. There will be a core instrument (Grand
Orgue, Positif, Echo/Récit, and Pédale) played by a three-manual
mechanical (tracker) action console, with a complement of all the timbres
necessary for the French Classical literature, as well as various stops
especially intended for German Baroque music. A second console, with
four manuals and electric action, will control the classical core and
include many other stops intended for symphonic repertory, including a
large French Romantic Grand Récit Expressif. In particular,
the organ was designed to play the works of Olivier Messiaen; every
registration that Messiaen calls for in his music will be found in this
The Rev. Andrew W. Foster III, Rector since 1999, states: "The Manton
Organ can be regarded not only as a major turning point for the Church,
but also as a gift to the City of New York, whose entire musical community
from exponents of early music to todays and tomorrows composers can
weave this instrument into the musical fabric of the city. Just as
there are organs in Europe that date back hundreds of years, we hope this
instrument will be a resource far into the future."
Why a French organ?
When Ascensions Music Director, Dennis Keene, began the search process
on behalf of the Church, he was not looking for a specific kind of
instrument: "We wanted the best organ by the best maker. The organ
had to be able to play the largest possible repertoire, and inspire the
creation of new works. We needed an organ for our services and to
work with both the Churchs choir and the concert ensemble, Voices of
Ascension. After hearing countless instruments all across the U. S.
and Europe, it was clear that Pascal Quoirin was the choice for us."
The Quoirin commission will result in the first French-built organ ever
to be installed in New York. For years, American organists would
return from France in awe of the instruments they heard, but when
selecting a French-style instrument for their churches, they hired
American companies to build them. There are several "French-style"
organs in New York, but not an authentic one from France.
Dr. Keene notes a profound difference between Quoirins organs and
those of other makers. "The sounds Quoirins instruments make are unlike
anything we currently have in the United States. They are
unabashedly French, full of color and character, while at the same time
completely balanced and nuanced just like all great French
The luxuriant French romantic and contemporary organ repertoire will
now be heard in New York the way its composers heard it
themselves. The versatility of the Manton Organ, however, will extend
backwards as well, becoming a new resource for the early music
community. Dr. Keene observes, "There are few organs in New York
City that play Baroque music well, and there is not one organ in the U.S.
that has real French
Baroque sounds. With over 60 stops in the Baroque core, this
will be the premier early music instrument in New York City, capable of
performing both French and German repertoire to the highest standards."
The organ will be situated in the front of the church on two sides of
the chancel, flanking the famous mural by John La Farge, The Ascension
of Our Lord. Four organ facades two on each side will
include elaborate wood carvings of peacocks, inspired by the peacocks in
the marble reredos, which will also refer to Messiaens lifelong devotion
to birds and birdsong. Two trompettes en chamade
(horizontally-mounted sets of trumpet pipes), one on each side of the
chancel, will face each other in the manner of the historic Spanish
organs. The mechanical (tracker) console will be stationary, nestled
in to one of the facades, perpendicular to the altar; the electric console
will be on wheels, at the top of the altar steps, where it can be
positioned as needed.
This dual console arrangement is a unique design feature of the Manton
Organ, one of Mr. Quoirins ingenious accommodations to the churchs
architecture. He considers each new organ a contemporary work of
art, and has a special enthusiasm for new music. Mr. Quoirins
workshop of twelve artisans includes his wife, Babou, who executed the
wood carvings that will embellish the organ facades.
The Manton Organ at Church of the Ascension A
Sunday, 3 October 2010 Cargo ship Meta arrives with organ in crates.
Tuesday, 5 October 2010 Load-in of the organ at Church of the
Ascension. Organ is unpacked and assembly begins.
Wednesday, 1 December 2010 Voicing of the organ by Pascal Quoirin,
pipe by pipe, begins (can take from six weeks to several months).
Sunday, 1 May 2011, 4:00 p.m. Service of dedication, a Festal
Eucharist and blessing of the new organ, with the choir of Church of the
Ascension. Dennis Keene will conduct as well as play works of Duruflé,
J.S. Bach, and French Baroque composers.
Thursday, 5 May 2011, 8:00 p.m. Gala dedicatory recital by
internationally acclaimed organist Jon Gillock, with French 19th and 20th
century music (Dupré, Franck, Cochereau, Vierne, Tournemire, Duruflé,
Wednesday, 11 May 2011, 8:00 p.m. First inaugural organ-choral event,
by Voices of Ascension Chorus and Orchestra conducted by Dennis Keene,
featuring the organ in French works (Duruflé Requiem and music by Fauré,
Poulenc, Boulanger, others).
Thursday, 26 May 2011, 8:00 p.m. Second inaugural recital by Francis
Chapelet, featuring Baroque works from France, Spain and Germany (works by
Raison, DuMage, J.S. Bach, and Spanish Baroque composers).
Wednesday, 8 June 2011, 8:00 p.m. Second inaugural organ-choral
event, by Voices of Ascension Chorus conducted by Dennis Keene, in a
concert entitled "Pipes and Voices" (Kodály Missa Brevis, Parry
I Was Glad, and winners of the 2011 Sorel Composition
Thursday, 16 June 2011, 8:00 p.m. Third inaugural recital by
Christoph Bossert, featuring German repertory (J.S. Bach, Mendelssohn,
Reger, and others).
Monday, 20 June Friday, 25 June 2011 First annual Organ
Academy. For the inaugural year, the faculty and the focus of
repertory will be all-French, from early Baroque through Messiaen.
Dennis Keene will coach students in French Baroque repertory and the music
of Maurice Duruflé. Jon Gillock will teach French repertory from the
19th and 20th centuries. Sessions may be audited by members of the
All events take place at:
Church of the Ascension
Fifth Avenue at 10th Street
Tickets can be ordered by telephone (1) 212 358-70 60, or
Voices of Ascension website: www.voicesofascension.org
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