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Interview with OILIVIER LATRY

1. Mr. Latry, how did you get the position as one of Three Titular Organists of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris? 

 After the death of Pierre Cochereau in 1984, there was a competition organised by the diocese of Paris to provide organists to the churches of Paris. I applied for this competition, thinking that some organists would move from their churches to Notre-Dame, letting their position available... But finally, another competition was organised specifically for Notre-Dame, and I was chosen to play for it. I was totally relaxed, because I never thought I could be selected : I was only 23! And it worked... The competition had two rounds : the first round with written music, and the second round with improvisation only. We had a chronometer on the console, and we wer asked to improvise 15 minutes precisely! That is of course in relation to our service during the masses, where we need to start and stop at any time. 

2. You give recitals all over the world. In what countries have you played? 
 Too long to say! I have performed in more than 50 countries. But of course, I play more often in Europe, USA/Canada, Asia. 

3. What was your most interesting recent place to play?
 Being an organist means to play in several kinds of places : I remember that once, in one week, I played a concert at the Symphony Hall in Birmingham (UK), which is a large hall with almost 2500 seats, than a concert in Spain in a very small village, on the middle of nowhere, in the moutains, on an historical instrument from the XVII° Century, than a concert in France in a castle like Versailles, than the masses at Notre-Dame, in this beautiful gothic cathedral from the medieval period! That makes life very interesting... as much for the organs which are so different, as for the places where there is always something to discover! 

4. Why is it that France is highly respected for its organ music and seems to produce so many fine organists? 

 Because of the long tradition of organists since the XVII° Century. In some countries like England, the choirs were more important, but in France, the organs were used a lot during the masses, with a permanent dialogue between the organ and the gregorian chant. For this reason, the organists developped a very specific style of composition and improvisation, and that was the beginning of the French school. Then, the creation of the organ class at the Paris conservatoire at the beginning of the XIX° Century was also very important. among the teachers there, we can find César Franck, Charles-Marie Widor, Alexandre Guilmant, Marcel Dupré... Another important point is the art of organ building : some French organ builders like Clicquot (XVIII° Century) or Cavaillé-Coll (XIX° Century) built instruments which still inspire the organ builders today. 

 5. What do you like about the music that you will play with the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra on Friday night at Galloway Church?

 I think it is very refreshing! Especially the Poulenc concerto, with its double aspect : people who didn't like that composer said that he went to the night-clud on saturday evening, and of the mass on sunday morning... We can feel that in his whole music, but also in this piece! The Jongen Symphonie concertante has a very nice orchestration, and can bring many new friends to the organ. The Boléro by Cochereau (who was my predecessor at Notre-Dame) was first improvised, and his son transcribed it, which allow us to play it now as any other written music. I like the general idea of the programme : starting with Cochereau (three players) than Poulenc (strings, organ and percussion), and the full orchestra to conclude with Jongen! I am looking forward to this experience.

 Olivier Latry, Organist with the Mississippi Symphony OrchestraFriday night, February 5, 7:30 p.m. at Galloway Church, Yazoo and Congress Streets.Tickest available on line or at the Symphony Office.