Pastór de Lasala
I - Biographical details and Contribution to French Music
A summary of my work – past and present
Born in Sydney in 1958, I was educated by the Jesuit Fathers at St Aloysius’ College, then at the University of Sydney where I completed my tertiary studies, majoring in French, Latin and Music. I studies the piano from the age of 8, then the clavichord and harpsichord. From 1985 - 1987 I studied organ with Norman Johnston, himself a student of the great French organist André Marchal and also Jean-Jacques Grunenwald, and with a direct line going back to the great César Franck. I have served on the Committee of the Organ Society of Sydney, as Secretary and as Deputy President. Taking an active interest in the wealth of 19th Century English organs in Australia, I serve presently as a Director on the NSW Committee of Council of the Organ Historical Trust of Australia (OHTA). I am one of four organ consultants registered with the NSW Environment & Heritage. Historic organ on which I have been consulted are: Sacred Heart Mosman; St Matthias, Paddington; the chapel of Kincoppal-Rose Bay the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Carcoar and St Matthew’s Manly. I am organist concurrently at four churches: Sacred Heart Mosman (1978), Mosman Uniting (2008), St Joseph’s Neutral Bay (2011) and St John’s College , within the University of Sydney 2014). I am also in demand as a free-lance organist.
Career as teacher
I have taught French, Latin and Music from 1980 to 2011 and at three Sydney schools : Cranbrook, Redlands and Loreto Kirribilli. Although, officially retired, I am still active as a casual teacher. My involvement in music included introducing students to French music for school performances and to French culture. I travel to France annually to further my own knowledge of the language, culture and geography of France. Although a native English speaker, I am told that I speak French with little or no foreign accent. I impress on my students the correct grammar and pronunciation of French. I was invited to write HSC material on literature for the Charles Sturt University. In more recent years have been involved in taking HSC students for French speaking practice and acting in a team to write the HSC trial French paper under the aegis of the New South Wales Association of French Teachers (NAFT). My students performed well under my instruction and it was not unusual for them to attain Band 5 or 6 levels.
The impact of French music in my performances
French music has become my passion from early in my musical formation from the mid 1970s. Having encountered the organ music of François Couperin, de Grigny, Clérambault and Du Mage during my University years, I was immediately drawn to the quality of their compositions and the legacy bestowed upon the French music world. This consequently led to the discovery of French harpsichord music, in particular, the considerable output of François Couperin which, in turn, led to the important works of Rameau, Duphly, Dandrieu, Daquin, Michel Corrette, Balbaste, all of them also organists in their own right. In 1994 and 1999 I presented French organ and harpsichord programmes at the Melbourne Festival of Organ and Harpsichord (MIFOH). During the 1994 season, my programme was centred around the famous harpsichordists spanning the entire 18th century: from Rameau to Armand-Louis Couperin. This recital was part of an evening of Classical French Music which complemented a recital given by the Olivier Latry, the organist of Notre-Dame de Paris. The recital in 1999, in which I played on organ and harpsichord commemorated the 250th anniversary of the death of the composer Clérambault. The programme included works by Michel Corrette, Balbastre and Marin Marais, the latter being transcriptions which I had published. During that same festival, I presented a public lecture entitled “Clérambault’s Organ”. This dealt with the unique place of the Classical French Organ of the late 17th and early 18th centuries. I later repeated the lecture at the invitation of Phillip Swanton, Professor of Organ at the Sydney Conservatorium – the University of Sydney. In 1991, I initiated one of my most ambitious organ projects: the Australian première performance at the Great Hall of Sydney University of the “Messe Double” from the largely anonymous 17th century organ book, the “Livre d’orgue de Montréal”. My performance included the singing of the Latin plainchant antiphonally with the organ, as per 17th century French performance practice, and this was recorded for later broadcast. At the invitation of David Rumsey, then professor of organ at the Sydney Conservatorium, the concert concluded a symposium on organ and choral music. A number of distinguished overseas visitors spoke very favourably of this performance which was recorded for later broadcast on radio 2MBS-FM (now called Fine Music FM).
My experience as a French interpreter and my association with Olivier Latry
As well as being a performer, I have acted as interpreter for Olivier Latry during a number of his visits to Sydney and Melbourne. I have known Olivier Latry since 1989 and was the first Australian to meet him when he arrived on these shores. This included an impromptu radio interview for ABC radio where I acted in the capacity of translator for the half hour programme. Other instances involved interpreting during a number of masterclasses for the Melbourne International Festival of Organ and Harpsichord (MIFOH) at St Patrick’s Cathedral in which the music of César Franck and Olivier Messiaen were performed. Although the Alliance Française in Melbourne was prepared to supply an interpreter, I was chosen by the Festival manager because of my double knowledge of the French language and French music. I duly relayed in English Olivier Latry’s instructions to the performers and the audience. Other similar masterclasses were held later in Sydney at All Saints’ Woollahra and St Mary’s Cathedral.
For the past 25 years, I have maintained a constant contact with Olivier Latry ever since our first meeting in 1989. During a visit to Sydney in 2002, he invited me to give a recital at Notre-Dame Paris which took place on 4 July 2004. The programme was exclusively French and purposely featured the works of many Parisian organists, notably Louis Vierne, the famous blind organist of Notre-Dame. Few Australian organists have performed at Notre-Dame de Paris. On the occasion of my recital, William Fisher, then Australian Ambassador in Paris, was in attendance with a number of his staff. He later wrote a letter of congratulations for what he called a ‘terrific performance’. This recital at Notre-Dame came about as a result of previous one I had given a few years earlier in 1997; Olivier Latry purposely came to hear me perform on the famous 1690 organ at Rozay-en-Brie, east of Paris. This was a most flattering gesture and one which I will never forget. Latry saw me after the recital and said ‘well done’, and he is known to be a very severe critic. I had played an Offertoire by Michel Corrette which M. Latry claimed he did not know. In a letter he subsequently wrote to me, he claimed that I had a better understanding of French music than a number of French musicians. Olivier Latry has been a prime influence on my love of French music. I am privileged to have been given an impromptu lesson by him on the music of Pierre Du Mage when he visited my home.
In June 2013, Olivier Latry contacted me to offer me a second recital at Notre-Dame. This took place on 30 May, 2015. Olivier Latry explained to me that there were very few openings to give recitals at Notre-Dame. There was only one remaining recital in 2015 to be filled, and having the right to choose one performer, the slot was offered to me. I devised a programme featuring French music chronologically from the 18th - 21st centuries.
Recital work in Australia and, in particular, France
I give frequent organ recitals around Sydney and have broadcast with the ABC and Fine Music FM on a number of occasions. These have included recordings of choral items with the Saint Gregory Chorale and the Taverner Consort. I am one of the very few Australians to have recorded live on clavichord for 2MBS-FM. The next scheduled broadcast will be in May, 2014. In my programmes, I always feature works of French composers. In December 2005, I presented a recital at St Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney where I jointly presented a triple movement composition for organ and trombone based on traditional French Noëls which I commissioned. Apart from performing at Notre-Dame in 2004, other performances have followed virtually annually:
1. 1 May, 2005 - St.Maximim-en-Provence on the famous 1772 Jean-Esprit Isnard organ.
2. July 2006 - Basilica of St Nazaire-St-Celse in the Carcassonne on the 17th century organ
3. 2 July 2007 Notre-Dame de la Victoire, St Raphaël.
4. October 2008 - St Denis, Croix Rousse in Lyon.
5. July 2010 - St Florentin, Chaource & Courtenay - the latter on organ and harpsichord - and St Pons de Thomières.
6. July 2011 – Cathédrale Ste-Cécile, Albi
7. July 2013 – Cathédrale St Alain, Lavaur and St Salvy, Albi
8. July 2014 - La Madeleine, Albi
9. October 2014 – St Joseph’s Cathedral, Nouméa
10. May 2015 – Notre-Dame de Paris
In addition to these recitals, I have played a wide range of celebrated French instruments from the 17th – 20th centuries in the châteaux of Versailles and Fontainebleau, the cathedrals and churches of Orléans, St Omer, Poitiers, Houdan, Toulouse and Strasbourg. I initiated all these visits by personally contacting the various titulaires of these venues. Other venues where I given successful recitals are St Vincent, Le Havre; the church of Guimiliau and Bourges Cathedral. I have also extensively photographed French organs and have written articles for various organ magazines. A number of these photos have been reproduced on the front cover of the Sydney Organ Journal.
My work in French Musicology
Other articles for organ magazines include a translation of the life of Jehan Alain to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his untimely death during the Second World War. This was published in the Sydney Organ Journal with the approval of Mme Marie-Claire Alain with whom I have corresponded on many occasions. Another important article concerns my translation of Olivier Latry’s corrections of Vierne’s four organ books of Pièces de Fantasie. Latry had alerted me to the corrections during a visit to Sydney. The handwriting of the sight-impaired composer led to misinterpretations and subsequent errors. William van Pelt, of the Organist Historical Society, Richmond Virginia (USA) sought my permission to reprint these corrections in the Society’s magazine, The Tracker. A further request was made by Dr Rollin Smith, eminent writer on the19th century French organ and its composers, to include this article on his definitive book on Louis Vierne. The article appears as Appendix F. I assisted French author Etienne Delahaye in the writing on his monograph on the life of Renée Nizan. Mlle Nizan was a pupil of Louis Vierne, and she visited Australia in the late 1930s. I sought original sources of programmes from local papers, in addition to identifying copies of clippings. I obtained much information from interviewing my own organ teacher, Norman Johnston - the only then living organist in Australia who had met Renée Nizan – and who acted as her interpreter and console during her Sydney tour.
My work as transcriber and editor of French music
I have published a number of transcriptions for organ and harpsichord, most notably Vivaldi, Mozart, Gluck and Marais. My most adventurous publication is the first modern edition of Michel Corrette’s six organ concertos in time for their 250th anniversary. I have also translated into English and had published Yves Jaffrès book “Michel Corrette and the Organ: 1707 – 1795”. This is the most extensive work in English on Corrette. My collaboration with Dr Jaffrès, retired music teacher from the prestigious Lycée du Parc in Lyon, started when I wrote to the late Marie-Claire Alain to ask her about the 1787 organ book of Michel Corrette. Mme Alain put me in contact with Dr Jaffrès whose former wife was a student of hers. The 1787 work is the last organ book written and published before the Revolution. It was edited by Dr Jaffrès for Wayne Leupold Editions in the USA, a project which I initiated and for which I translated the preface into English. This has also led to a project of Corrette’s music in which my role as collaborator with Dr Jaffrès is to type set the works from the original sources from the Bibliothèque Nationale, and translate prefaces into English. Dr Jaffrès and I have had published a new edition of Corrette’s organ book of 1737. Other volumes will appear as part of an on-going series. Independently of this, an important edition which has appeared was with the publisher Symétrie in Lyon, under the direction of Jean-Christophe Michel whom I visited in July 2007. The work involves a world première edition of Corrette’s long lost work the ‘Douze Offertoires’ of 1766. I was instrumental in informing Dr Jaffrès of its discovery and which led to it subsequent acquisition by the Bibliothèque Nationale.
I have recorded seven CDs:
1. “Goulburn’s Grand Hill Organ” - the famous 1890 Hill & Son organ at SS Peter and Paul, Goulburn (1996);
2. “Majesty in Miniature” - the 1882 Forster & Andrew’s organ at Sacred Heart Mosman (1997). These two CDs feature a number of notable French works from the 18th and 19th centuries.
3. The Organ Concertos of Michel Corrette (2006). This CD contains 6 organ concertos, based on my newly published edition with Saraband music, and selected pieces from the 3rd Book of 1756. The aim of this CD is to raise money for a music scholarship I helped found at St Aloysius’ College. There is a triple significance for the making of this CD: Corrette was organist to the Jesuits in Paris until 1762, the CD was recorded in a Jesuit Chapel, and by Jesuit alumni; 2006 was the 250th anniversary of the publication of these concertos.
4. “Vintage Sounds Live Vol 1” - was part of a project for the Organ Historical Trust of Australia where I played on the newly-restored historic organ at the Seventh Day Adventist Church, Stanmore.
5. “Splendour and Serenity” (2009) - in collaboration with trombonist Gregory van der Struik (Principal Trombone of the Sydney Opera and Ballet Orchestra) and performed on the rare 1929 Möller organ at Mosman Uniting Church. Both this and no. 4 included French works resurrected from oblivion.
6. “The Voice of Puget Vol 1” featured the restored 1890 Théodore Puget in the Chapel of Kincoppal-Rose Bay. Volume two is currently being planned.
7. “Missa Sancti Augustini” was released in February 2014 and comprises sacred music for organ and tenor by Australian composer, Michael Forsyth.
My videos of French music on You Tube
I have uploaded over 600 performances onto You Tube. Many of these include French works on French instruments: The link to these performances is http://uk.youtube.com/user/tormus1 My current project in this medium is to present works of many obscure 19th century French composers: Charles Collin, Edmond Lemaigre, Alfred Périlhou, Alexis Chauvin, just to name four. I am also working at transcribing for organ a set of piano works by Guillaume Lekeu, a student of César Franck and a virtually forgotten composer who died at the age of 24.
II - The 1890 Puget organ restoration project
The Puget organ has the distinction of being the only authentic French symphonic organ in Australia. I am the Assistant Consultant to the restoration project and have been involved in extensive researching of extant Puget organs in France (most notably in Toulouse and Rodez), in addition to acting as interpreter between the restorer and the client. The research has involved contacting a descendent of the Puget family who graciously offered information from the family archives.
In 1993, I made first contact with Yves Cabourdin (Carcès, Var), the well-known organ builder who undertook the first phase of the restoration of the 1890 Puget organ of the chapel of Kincoppal-Rose Bay School of the Sacred Heart, Sydney. It was my connection which brought about this restoration. Furthermore it was during this time I first met Professor Michel Colin, organist at Notre-Dame de la Victoire (St Raphaël, Côte d’Azur), and highly respected organ consultant. This meeting was pivotal in later securing the latter as consultant to the Puget organ restoration project. Cabourdin has restored many instruments in France, most notably St Maximin-en-Provence and Rozay-en-Brie, whose instruments the great Michel Chapuis considers to be among the best six in France. Les Amis des Grandes Orgues de Rozay-en-Brie invited me to be included in their Comité d’Honneur. See the link:
My chief role in the Puget project was to facilitate written and spoken communication between the project manager and the French organ builders and Michel Colin, one of the few accredited professional organ consultants in France. This involved translation of numerous documents which included the contracts and various communications. Since Michel Colin could not be present for the most part of the project owing to his other commitments in France and the complication of travelling long distances to the organ in Australia, I constantly relayed the various stages of the organ restoration by way of description of the work undertaken and annotated photos. This was a most fruitful collaboration.
In 2004, I contacted Vincent Dubois, a distinguished student of Olivier Latry, then planning a visit to Sydney and invited him to play at Kincoppal-Rose Bay Chapel. I subsequently met him in Paris where he offered to donate what was to be his only Sydney recital to help raise money for the Puget organ. The works of Vierne and Franck were presented, in addition to an extended improvisation for which I helped had supply three themes, two of these being French hymns.
The Puget organ is a most valuable item of French heritage in Australia. I extensively photographed the dismantling and on-going restoration of this rare instrument. In July 2007, I visited the Puget organ at Entrechaux where the second phase was being undertaken by another gifted organ restorer, Charles Henry. My work involved examining the completed work to date and visiting instruments of the same period as the Puget organ in the company of the consultant, Michel Colin. Following the work of Charles Henry, I continued my assistance with the restoration in its third and final phase with the Pesce firm from Pau. Now that the Puget organ is once playable, I have embarked on a project to record on it French music from the 19th century, making a particular effort to bring to light many obscure and largely forgotten works. It is noteworthy to add that the Kincoppal-Rose Bay Chapel possesses many other rare items of French heritage, be it the antique stalls or the fine silverware, all of which I have photographed with the intention of including these items in a book on the French Heritage to be found at the convent chapel. The Project Director, Mrs Ann Henderson, and I intend to write a book detailing the complete restoration of the organ to include my photographs.
The completion of this important project allows French music from the 19th century to be played in an authentic manner.
My on-going mission
It is my aim to propagate French music wherever I perform. It is a lifelong passion and one where I see myself as instrumental in allowing it to flourish and influence others who hear it. I seriously consider it a duty to initiate and collaborate in the publishing of obscure and forgotten French music with the understanding that somebody has to take the matter in hand. I also initiate performances of recently published French works. In 2005 together with a fellow Sydney organist, Kurt Ison, I gave the Australian première performance in 2005 of Dr Jean-Luc Perrot’s Organ Suite for 4 hands at St Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney.
In view of my above commitment to French culture and its unique music, it was my greatest pleasure to take on the large project of the restoration of the Puget Organ. This restoration is highly complex and time-consuming in its various details. Now that the completed organ has finally returned after four years of restoration in France, I consider my role as essential to playing this instrument for my continuing purpose of the promoting of French music.
Pastór de Lasala