Notre Dame organist to perform in Gainesville


Olivier Latry, titular organist at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, will perform in concert at 4 p.m. Sunday at First Presbyterian Church. (Courtesy of Olivier Latry)

Published: Saturday, February 23, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 22, 2013 at 1:25 p.m.

By Bill Dean

Facts

Olivier Latry

What: Titular organist of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris performs the second in a series of concerts celebrating the 10th anniversary of the C.B. Fisk organ Opus 119 at First Presbyterian Church
When: 4 p.m. Sunday
Where: First Presbyterian Church, 300 SW Second Ave.
Cost: Free, donations accepted.
Info: 378-1527

Entertainment editor

The famed Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris is 850 years old this year. And its organ dates as far back as 600 years. By these standards, the 51 years of organist Olivier Latry might seem diminutive. But of those, Latry has spent more than half his life — 28 years — as titular (chief or main) organist at Notre Dame.

And Latry, who performs at 4 p.m. Sunday at First Presbyterian Church in Gainesville, is listed by the Cathedral of Notre Dame as one of only 50 main organists who have played its Great Organ since 1401.

“It makes an incredible sound; it's a beautiful sound,” Latry said about Notre Dame's Great Organ. “It has almost 8,000 pipes, and for sure, is the biggest organ in France, and one of the biggest in Europe.”

On Sunday, Latry's concert at First Presbyterian will be the finale of its 2013 concert series and the last of two celebrating the 10th anniversary of installation of the Gainesville church's C.B. Fisk organ Opus 119.

“He is one of the world's most distinguished organists,” said Mark Coffey, director of music and organist at First Presbyterian who invited Latry to first play the Gainesville organ in 2004. “We are really privileged to be able to host this organist.”

A French native born in Boulogne-sur-Mer, France, in 1962, Latry began studying piano at age 7 and won a competition at age 23 to become one of three organists currently playing the organ at Notre Dame.

“I was young and I was not expecting to be an organist at Notre Dame,” said Latry, who had simply applied to be on a list of organists wanting to play somewhere in Paris.

“I was thinking because I was young that some people would move from their place to Notre Dame and then their place would be available, and I could be an organist at one of those places,” he said. “So I went to the competition relaxed because I did not think I would be chosen. And it worked.”

As one of three organists currently playing the Great Organ in one Mass on Saturday and five Masses on Sunday (as well as at special services, events and concerts that may occur during the week), Latry rotates on a weekly basis with two other organists at Notre Dame.

The organists choose their own music and often improvise what they play in Mass, said Latry — who will demonstrate that particular talent in Sunday's concert in Gainesville.

“What's unique is he will improvise the end of the program,” Coffey said. “For the last piece of the program, he will be given a theme from which he will then develop a composition on the spot on that theme. He's a brilliant improviser.”

Contact Entertainment Editor Bill Dean at 374-5039 or bill.dean@gvillesun.com, and follow him on Twitter @SceneBillDean.

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