During the spring of 1982, while studying on a Fulbright scholarship in Vienna, I decided to exchange one gloomy, northern European city for another. So I took the Orient Express westbound to spend Easter in Paris. In those days, the most prominent names in the history of twentieth century French music occupied organ benches across the city. Due to the staggered times of masses on Easter Sunday, it was possible to dash from church to church. My morning began at La Trinité where Yvonne Loriod pulled a white Renault to the side door, and Oliver Messiaen stepped out wearing a hand-knitted scarf inspired by les colours de la cité céleste. His improvisations at high mass were based on the plainsong propers from the Liber Usualis, and the Communion featured the Easter Alleluia verse interspersed with exotic bird calls.

Olivier Messiaen

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