Last year, it was announced at the gala opening of the National Symphony Orchestra that The Kennedy Center would replace the ailing Filene organ in the concert hall as a result of a generous gift of $2 million by center chair, David Rubenstein. Though the announcement of a new 85 rank Casavant Frères pipe organ brought forth much celebration among local conductors, presenters and the arts arena, an underlying conversation questioning the instrument’s appropriateness for the hall also simmered throughout the local and national organ community.
Read Anne Midgette’s article last year in The Washington Post here.
The conversation was brought to the D. C. Performing Arts Examiner’s attention by several renowned organists both in Washington and abroad. One of the main points for objection to the instrument is that supposedly the instrument though new, was not originally conceived for the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. In fact, it was long rumored that the instrument was originally planned for installation in the sanctuary of D. C.’s Metropolitan Baptist Church, who had planned to occupy a new building in Largo, Maryland.
Instead of dealing in rumor and speculation, the D. C. Performing Arts Examiner spoke directly to artistic advisor for Casavant Frères, Jacquelin Rochette, from his office this morning in Saint-Hyacinthe, QC. Rochette was forthcoming and proud of the installation at The Kennedy Center “Though the instrument was intended for another situation, at the end of the day, the organ is specific to The Kennedy Center. The instrument will be specifically voiced and finished on site.” Rochette stated. He was also sensitive to the economic climate in 2008 that perhaps contributed to the original organ contract not being fulfilled.
Throughout the conversation, Rochette expressed his confidence that the instrument will be an outstanding asset to the hall, capable of a variety of combinations for solo, orchestral and choral performances. As an organist himself, Rochette and the Casavant organ firm are committed to the success of the installation of The Kennedy Center instrument. He will be making several trips to Washington, D. C. personally to oversee the entire project. The company is also finishing a new instrument at Saint John’s Church in Georgetown, for which Rochette will arrive this week, then paying a visit to The Kennedy Center installation. The organ will be tested with the orchestra and a variety of other combinations to assess the voicing needs of the instrument in the hall.
The instrument is set to be complete in late fall.