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Bonne fête!

France is a Catholic nation, so just about everybody was on vacation today for le quinze août, the feast of the Assumption. You have to love a country where an organist gets written up (Vincent Warnier, les délices de l'orgue, by Renaud Machart, August 14) in a major newspaper like Le Monde because people might want to go hear him play on Assumption. He played the 5:15 pm Mass today at the grand orgue of the church of Saint-Etienne-du-Mont, at the Place Sainte-Geneviève in the 5th arrondissement of Paris. (If anyone has heard him play before, please send me a message.) His program today was to include works of J. S. Bach, Marcel Dupré, Louis Vierne, and Camille Saint-Saëns, as well as an improvisation. This last talent is an art still highly cultivated by organists in France. I sent a link to this article to the director of music at the National Shrine, in the hope that he might try to invite him sometime for the Octave of Easter, when the Shrine annually hosts a guest organist. (The last organists to visit from France were Philippe Lefebvre, from the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris, whose improvisation blew my mind, and Sophie-Veronique Cauchefer-Choplin, one of the associate organists at Saint-Sulpice.) If Vincent Warnier ever plays at the Shrine, I'll let you know.

A graduate of the Strasbourg conservatory, Warnier acknowledges Daniel Roth as his teacher of improvisation. Roth is now the main organist at Saint-Sulpice (in the 6th arrondissement), where I heard him improvise brilliantly last summer. If you want to have a great musical experience in Paris, you can attend the auditions d'orgue (usually Sundays at 11:30 am) at Saint-Sulpice and after the noon Mass climb up to the organ loft to talk with the organist and see the instrument and the best view of the church. (There is a chapel at Saint-Sulpice featuring a wall painting by Eugène Delacroix, Jacob and the Angel.) When I spoke to M. Roth last summer, I learned that he had lived in Washington from 1974 to 1976, when he was guest organist at the National Shrine and organ professor at Catholic University.

Don't miss Charles Baudelaire's critical review of Delacroix's paintings in Saint-Sulpice, which I have just discovered on the remarkable Gallica Classique Web site.

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