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Sunday’s Worship Music

Sunday, May 27

Organ Voluntary
Impromptu – Louis Vierne

Berceuse – Louis Vierne

THIS MORNING’S ORGAN MUSIC: In June, 1937, the Parisian Organ Society Les Amis de l’Orgue (The Friends of the Organ) planned a gala concert to celebrate the organization’s tenth anniversary. It was to be held at the Cathedral of Notre Dame and would feature Louis Vierne, the cathedral’s celebrated organiste titulaire and Maurice Duruflé, two of Paris’ most glittering stars. The glamorous evening would further mark Vierne’s 1,750th organ recital. Sadly, the Chapter of Notre Dame (the cathedral’s equivalent of the Presbyterian Session) had recently informed Vierne that this was to be the last public recital on the cathedral organ; they decreed from then on it was to be played only for Mass. As the cathedral’s magnificent Cavaillé-Coll organ had been Vierne’s musical platform for 37 years, the 3,000 people gathered in Notre Dame that evening knew this concert might also mark the end of Vierne’s concert career. The first half of the program was to conclude with an Improvisation on a Gregorian theme; before he began, Vierne remarked that he didn’t feel well and inhaled some smelling salts. His foot then fell upon a note of the pedalboard and low E sounded; although the audience thought this was the beginning of the Improvisation, it was, in fact, the signal of Vierne’s death as he collapsed from a heart attack. Several moments later, the stunned audience was informed and asked to stay for a few minutes and pray for the repose of his soul. An astonishing evening, at the very least! Louis Vierne died 81 years ago this coming week on June 2 in 1937. It was my privilege to visit Vierne’s grave several times in Paris last summer during my sabbatical.