Our Lady of Sorrows lunchtime series highlights organ’s beauty

By 
  • November 26, 2011

TORONTO - Mozart called the organ the “king of instruments” for good reason, said Gordon Mansell, music director at Our Lady of Sorrows parish in Toronto. Beginning Dec. 7, Mansell intends on showcasing the instrument’s beauty through a free lunchtime concert series running every Wednesday at the west-end parish.

“What happens in most parishes is that the organ is not used to its fullest potential so the people do not really have a good perspective on the instrument,” said Mansell. “So when they hear organ music played professionally… their every sense is engaged. It is quite an experience unlike any other.”

The idea took shape when Fr. Nino Cavoto, pastor at Our Lady of Sorrows, wanted to create a way to open the doors of the church to the community.

Cavoto turned to Mansell to create a concert series.

While organists are booked until April, he said the concert series will continue for years.

“This kind of musical activity is common at the large Protestant churches downtown, but it is very rare in Catholic churches,” he said.

Mansell’s dedication to the organ spans his entire career. Aside from being a church organist and music director for 43 years, he’s also an organ dealer and is on the executive of the Royal Canadian College of Organists. And in 2006, he co-founded ORGANIX, an annual organ music festival.

The upcoming series will feature different accomplished organists from Ontario and beyond, including Mansell, who will perform organ music from a variety of time periods — Baroque, classical and modern — for 45 minutes. And while the concerts are free, donations are welcome to help with the upkeep of the parish’s pipe organ.

“The organ at Our Lady of Sorrows is quite special and an instrument more people should know about,” he said. “By knowing this organ, they may go back to their own churches with a better understanding of the instrument. For those who play in churches, this will inspire them to experiment and consider some new repertoire for their own use.” Apart from the fact that it was built in the 20th century, it is authentic in the building principles that were used to craft the organ.

“I’m hoping to build the awareness and educate people on the value of the organ as a liturgical instrument, but also as a concert performance instrument,” he said.

While the series doesn’t specifically tie into Christmas, Mansell is certain the organists playing during Advent will play something seasonal.

Mansell said it’s important to keep in mind the organ is the primary instrument of the Church.

“This has been documented and re-stated in our catechism and by our Pope,” he said. “However, as a society, we are not doing enough to protect it from decline. There is no reason why it cannot be used in contemporary or traditional liturgy.”

In fact, he said if the musicians are sensitive, guitar, percussion and organ can sound quite inspiring together.

His hope for the series is that priests, ministers, youth and all other people will be inspired by the beauty of organ music — sacred or otherwise. He’d also like to see more young people consider the organ, which he calls “the most dynamic instrument made and created by man.”

For more information on the series, e-mail Mansell at gdmansell@sympatico.ca.

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