Kulturkompasset | critics of culture events

The Organist as Entertainer

Soloist Jean-Paul Imbert and presenter Henri Pourtau of Notre-Dame de Bon Voyage, foto Torkil Baden

The Organist as Entertainer

Text and photos: Torkil Baden

An organ concert in Cannes is not only of artistic value. The flavor of show business also affect the church culture and gives good entertainment.

CANNES. On Sunday afternoons the traffic in Cannes takes an unexpected direction. The pedestrians at the famous Croisette turn away from the beach and into a small alley opposite the Festival Palace. There rises the giant Notre-Dame de Bon Voyage, erected in the 1870s, but with architecture like a gothic cathedral. The church is filled up, and at sharp 4.30 pm the lights are dimmed and projectors focus on the organ bench in front of the altar. Then the house organist, Henri Pourtau, with a grey scarf elegantly cast around his neck, enters the podium with a microphone. His introduction to the program is carried out as professionally as was it for the movie festival around the corner. And as the thundering echo from one piece and the applause dies out he enters the podium quickly with a theatrical sense of timing, presenting the next composer.

In Cannes the presentation lifts the organ concert., Foto; Torkil Baden

The performer an afternoon in January comes from Paris, the concert organist Jean-Paul Imbert. Sitting right in front  his virtuoso hands and feet are revealed in Bach, d’Aquin, Bouvard, Dupré and Cocherau. And in the middle Imbert presents a stunning Polish version, Jan Janca, of en English carol with a jazzy harmonization worthy of Duke Ellington.

The mighty Mühlhausen (Strasbourg) organ fills every corner of the cathedral. The host of pipes (65 registers) blasts as normally from the gallery above the western entrance. But for concerts the organ bench, stashed with computerized organization, is rolled into the limelight in the front of the church. And the presenter-organist-duo gives the enthusiastic audience an unforgettable afternoon with this “queen of instruments”, as Mozart put it.

There truly is “no business like organ business”!


The house organist Henri Pourtau lets the journalist of Kulturkompasset Torkil Baden try the organ of Notre-Dame de Bon Voyage in Cannes

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