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Gerald Carpenter: French Organ Music on Menu at Trinity Episcopal Church

The Advent Organ Series at Trinity Episcopal Church continues at 3:30 p.m. Sunday with a free concert of “Parisian Masters of the 20th Century” by the church’s new minister of keyboard music, Thomas Joyce.

The gourmet program for this concert includes the Fantaisie-Improvisation sur “​l’Ave Maris Stella” from Cinq Improvisations (reconstituée par Maurice Duruflé) by Charles Tournemire (1870-1931); the Symphonie Gothique, Opus 70 by Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937); La Nativité du Seigneur by Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992); Trois Poèmes Évangéliques, Opus 2 by Jean Langlais (1907-1991); and Variations sur un Noël, Opus 20 by Marcel Dupré (1886-1971).

“Advent,” as we all know, is the Christmas season, the time of anticipation of Christ’s coming. Although she was decisively and permanently disconnected from the French state by the Revolution (1789-1793), the Roman Catholic Church has continued down to the present as a powerful force in French culture.

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, French and Belgian composers have derived a considerable portion of their incomes from church commissions and church offices. Even freethinkers like Camille Saint-Saëns and Gabriel Fauré wrote masses; as did ultra-modernists like Francis Poulenc and Olivier Messiaen.

Many, like César Franck, served most of their lives as organists in the great cathedrals. It is thus not surprising that there is a huge body of French organ music — much of it fabulous stuff — and that French organists still dominate the market.

Most of the time, alas, what plays in France stays in France — until some enterprising Anglo-Saxon Yankee like Thomas Joyce makes a raid on the pantry to serve some of it to his guests.

Admission is free for the concert at Trinity Episcopal Church, 1500 State St. in Santa Barbara, although donations are welcome.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are his own.

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