Seminar since 1986

The Experience of a Lifetime! International Organ Music Seminars presents  The French Organ Music Seminar 2017 in Switzerland Italy France  with  François Espinasse, Gabriel Marghieri, Yannick Merlin, Thomas Ospital, Béatrice Piertot, Nicolo Sari, and Tobias Willi

The Organ Seminars

Since 1986 the French Organ Music Seminar has featured study seminars in Paris and other locations where participants hear and play some of the world's most magnificent instruments and receive instruction in the form of master classes, lectures, and performances from renowned organ teachers.

These seminars are planned for organists and organ lovers of all proficiency levels, and include performance practice, history, registration, and improvisation pertinent to the music being studied.

Although we return to many of the most popular locations, each seminar is different - with new instructors, organs, and topics.  During the playing time we ask that suitable music for that instrument be played.  Larger works are welcome,  but there  may not be time for them to be played in their entirety.  Short, colorful pieces are very good for showing the various timbres of the solo stops, celestes, and small stop combinations, and provide a welcome contrast to loud  works.  Participants will be divided into groups as needed, with group leaders,  to ensure playing time for everyone at each instrument.  Additional small group lessons are available for those who want more time.

Walking is extensive, so bring your walking shoes. In Paris, we use the subway system, which contains long flights of stairs.  In addition, there are stairways to all of the organ lofts, many of which are narrow.

If you have trouble walking or standing, please indicate when registering.  For an extra fee a car service can be arranged.

The Organ Seminars


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Detailed Itinerary


Switzerland (5 days) July 9-13 Welcome to the Organs of Switzerland!  

July 9,10: Two full days in the magnificent city of Zurich - a wondrous mix of snowcapped Alps on the outskirts and riverside walks and cruises in the heart of the city.

We can book your hotel July 8 so you can relax and get over jet lag. Visits to organs are punctuated with visits to the Old Town and the famous Bahnhofstrasse with boutiques and Swiss watches. Highlights of Zurich include the Kunsthaus, the Rietberg Museum, the Zoo, and breathtaking river cruises. Go on your own or with one of our assistants.

Organ visits with instruction and playing time include the magnificent late romantic organ of St. Anton Church and the fabulous Metzler organ in Grossmünster Cathedral.  Organs in this church had a rocky beginning due to its infamous 16th century pastor, Ulrich Zwingli, known for destroying church organs.  The austere Grossmünster still shudders with his influence, broken only by the chancel windows of Giacometti and the copper pipes of the organ.  The acoustics are splendid, and the organ, according to Andreas Jost, organist of the cathedral, emits a "noble and transparent sound."    We will also visit  Fraumünster Church with the famous Chagall and Giacometti  windows and the former Tonhalle organ in the Neumünsterkirche.

July 11: Travel by coach to Muri (population 7,591). The Abbey of Muri dominates the landscape. Frescoes, carvings, rich treasures, and paintings abound. The 3 main ornate organs are laid out in a voluptuous display of Baroque magnificence, meticulously restored between 1960 – 1970.

July 12: Bern, Switzerland's capital. Its Old Town has 6 kilometers of arcades, called the "longest weather-sheltered shopping promenades in Europe." The whole city, with its narrow streets and historic fountains and towers, has a "medieval air."

Highlights include the Zentrum (Klee collection), the Einstein House, the Swiss Alps Museum, the Art Museum, the River Walk (with swimming), Bear Park, and the Houses of Parliament. We will play the exceptional Bossard/Goll organ in the Französische Kirche, the oldest church in Bern (1269). Built in 1991 (buffet 1828), this organ has 4 manuals and 89 ranks. We will also travel to the monastery of Bellelay in the village of Bellelay, with 2 Kuhn organs built with Bossard specifications.

July 13: Rommainmotier, home of Father Alain's organ. This exquisite little village (450 people), dating from 1216, has for many years offered a Summer Organ Academy.

Although surrounded by mountains, it contains several organs. Founded by Guy Bovet, the academy has hosted many notables, including Marie Claire Alain, Lionel Rogg, and Harald Vogel. Its new director is Tobias Willi.

Italy (10 days) July 13 - 22


July 13: A new adventure begins as we board our luxury coach in Rommainmotier at noon and drive 2 hours to the beautiful town of Chamonix, France in the heart of the region of Mont Blanc.

Here we will play the 1992 organ of St. Michael's Church, built by Grenoble organ builder Michel Giroud, with its 2 buffets surrounding the stained glass window overlooking the church square. Back on the bus around 3 pm we continue our enchanting ride through the Aosta Valley, with its huge Alpine glaciers from the Gran Paradise to the Matterhorn and from Mont Blanc to Monte Rosa. In 3 hours we are in Bergamo, Italy, with buildings dating back to the Roman era.

There is a great history of Italian organ building here from the 15th century to the 20th involving the familes of Bossi, the Serassi, and Locatelli.

We will visit the 3-manual Serassi organ (1781)in the Basilica of Sant' Alessandro. Fabio Nava, the organist, gives a great demonstration of this organ on YouTube (youtube/ZwsYeBxF13s).

July 17: A 1½ hour ride to Bologna and the church of San Petrino ,with the oldest operating Italian organ (1475), featuring a 32' façade, and a large organ built by Faccheti (1531). In another 1½ hours we are in the incomparable city of Florence, capital of Tuscany and Home of the Renaissance.

July 14-16: A 40 minute coach ride to Brescia takes us to the famous Antegnati organ of 1581 in San Giuseppe Church. Then on to Padua where we visit the Ruffatti factory and a 1970 Venetian style Ruffatti in Noale. In the evening we board a water bus to our Venice hotel, home for the next 2 days while we explore the magic of Venice via gondola rides and such and visit 4 of Venice's most famous organs: Basilica Santa Maria della Salute Organ (Dacci, 18th c., restored by Ruffatti) across the Grand Canal from St. Mark's. Basilica of San Giorgio Maggiore Organ (1750): reached by boat, this organ is a masterpiece by Pietro Nacchini (1694-1769), restored in 1991 by Gustavo Zanin. San Trovaso Organ (Callido, 1775), YouTube: youtube/6dPDjV5kFeA, San Cassiano Organ (Nacchini, 1734) YouTube: youtube/0w0vXSrZU2k

Surrounded by the best art in Europe, walking these streets draws one into that magical time when Michelangelo, Leonardo, Botticelli and other larger than life geniuses walked here. What other idyllic atmosphere has such masterpieces as Michelangelo's David, Botticelli's Birth of Venus, Brunelleschi's Dome, and Leonardo's Annuniciation? The first of 2 days includes a visit to the organs of the Duomo (Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore). Here is an organ recessional in the Duomo from YouTube: youtube/diJL4JXmBVs.

The Duomo was begun in 1296, replacing an older cathedral dating from the 6th century. From a Florence historian: "One enters the Duomo via enormous bronze doors and finds oneself immerged in a cavernous Gothic space. The great altar is enclosed by Ionic marble columns Colorful art abounds, including portraits of Dante, Giotto and Brunelleschi; there are frescoes of The Last Judgment and The Divine Comedy. The 44 stained glass windows are beautiful beyond description.”

July 18: Playing the two organs of San Lorenzo (home of Medici's tomb) which are the best in Florence. The second and most grandiose organ (3 manuals and 64 registers) was built in 1864-1865 by the Brothers Serassi. The console is a masterpiece of ornate carvings. Such playing can only be followed by a visit to a Tuscan winery! A magical day indeed!

July 19-22: A 3 hour coach ride promises more magic to come, beginning in Rome at noon. For the next 3 days we can explore this city of superlatives while playing its best organs. Especially overwhelming is our invitation to play the organs of St. Peter's in Vatican City!

St. Peter's is the largest church in the world, and its architects are the most famous (Michelangelo, Raphael, etc.). The Grand Organ of St. Peter's (4 manuals and 74 stops) was built by Tamburini in 1954. The pipes occupy 2 identical cases on each side. We have Gabriel Marghieri, our well-connected host, to thank for this honor! We will also play the organs of the Basilica San Giovanni in Laterano (Morettini, 1886 and Biagi, 1597); San Luigi dei Francesci (a historical Merklin and 3 Caravaggio paintings); the Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore [A Papal major basilica and the largest Marian church in Rome]; the Academia del Pontificio Istituto di Music Sacra (5 manuals, built by Mascioni); and the Santa Maria degli Angeli (a major Roman attraction).

France: Paris, Rouen, and Royaumont (5 days) July 22 - 27


July 22: Feeling like we've just scratched the surface, we nevertheless board an Air France shuttle to Paris to begin our 18th Paris adventure.

After taxiing to our hotel for a quick group meeting over lunch we take the metro to Vincennes and the Church of Saint-Louis for an Improvisation Class with M. Marghieri. The organ is new, 29 stops... with Tournemire's 1932 keyboards of Sainte-Clotilde! Later we will visit the Duruflé Apartment and Notre Dame-d'Autueil and at 10pm we are invited to the Sacré Coeur organ loft.

July 23: We do what FOMS participants traditionally do: sit in the organ lofts of choice for morning services. Services are at Notre Dame, Sacré Coeur, St. Eustache, and others. In the afternoon, groups will alternate between St-Louis-en-Ille and St. Severin for instruction on Bach and French Classical, then join Sophie Choplin at St. Sulpice for another of her always - inspiring master classes, with free playing time included.

July 24: Playing time at the church of La Madeleine, is followed by the Royaumont Abbey, built by St. Louis between 1228 and 1235 for his mother, Blanche de Castille.

Associated with the monarchy until the French Revolution, Royaumont was host to intellectuals and artists from its inception. Louis XIII held one of his ballets, La Merlaison, there in 1635. In 1791, the abbey was saved from destruction by its water system, becoming one of the largest industrial sites in the Seine-et-Oise region. Meanwhile it became a magnet for society and the arts, with the Théâtre de Royaumont attracting the Parisian upper crust between 1834 and 1840. Restored in 1869, it was used during the First World War as a hospital which cared for more than 10,000 wounded soldiers. Today the Abbey is listed as a historic landmark and houses a large Cavaillé-Coll organ built in 1864 for a Swiss family. In 1936 the abbey bought the organ and it was installed by Gonzalez.

July 25: Playing time at La Trinité, organ of Messiaen and Guilmant. Any French music is possible here, however sitting at Messiaen's organ playing Messiaen can be a special, mystical experience. Improvisation and Master Classes will be held at St. Eustache in the afternoon and evening by the new, young co-titulaire, Thomas Ospital. Here he is at St. Eustache on YouTube:

July 26: In Rouen, playing the magnificent Cavaillé-Coll organ of Dupré's father, with Yannick Merlin and Béatrice Piertot hosting.

The abbey of St. Ouen is actually the 5th building on this site, dating from 1318. Today it only exists for concerts and exhibitions. In 1890 Cavaillé-Coll completed this masterpiece with 4 manuals and 64 stops. When first tried out by Widor, he exclaimed that it was "worthy of Michelangelo," and went on to premiere Symphonie Gothique here and dedicate it to Bishop Saint Ouen. Today it exists exactly as Cavaillé-Coll built it. We plan to spend the day here in order to have ample playing time.

July 27: Back to the real world now, unfortunately. We leave each other with heavy hearts for US flights and other places. FOMSers make life-long friends and our partings are always painful. We leave each other grateful for skype, email, and Facebook that will keep us in touch with our new friends forever. Even years afterwards there are special bonds between FOMS participants which are never broken.

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Seminar Leaders

Tobias Willi, organist at the Johanneskirche in Zurich and Professor of Organ and Improvisation at the Zurich University of Arts.

Gabriel Marghieri, co-titulaire of Sacré-Coeur and Professor of Analyses and Improvisation at the Conservatoire National Supérieur in Lyon.

Elisabeth Marghieri, Italian translator and teacher of French and English.

Nicolò Antonio Sari, organist of the churches of Carmini and San Trovaso in Venice and artistic director of the "Gaetano Callido" International Organ Festival.

Daniel Matrone, organist at the church of Saint-Louis-des-Francais in Rome.

Yannick Merlin, organist of Notre-Dame-des-Champs and director of collections for Delatour France editions.

Beatrice Piertot, co-titular at St. Lawrence in paris and Professor of Organ and Harpsichord at the Conservatoire of Abbeville.

Francois Espinasse, co-titular at the church of Saint-Séverin in Paris, assistant organist at Versailles, and Professor of Organ at the Conservatoire National Supérieur in Lyon.

Benjamin Alard, co-titular organist at St-Louis-en-I'Ile and an expert in the field of Bach and early music.

Thomas Ospital, co-titular of the organ of St-Eustache and organist of the new House of Radio Grenzing organ in Paris.

Vincent Dubois, co-titular organist of Notre Dame de Paris.

Accommodations, Seminars, Tour Booklet, Travel: all 3-4 star air-conditioned hotels, double occupancy, with breakfasts are included. All coach transportation and transportation between seminars is included. All seminars are included. A tour booklet will be given to each participant. All organs will be played and studied on site by participants. We will compile repertoire sheets from all participants in order to have as varied repertoire as possible. Choose only repertoire suitable for the instrument. Recordings and cameras are welcome. Personal assistance for all sight-seeing events and seminar events is included. Participants are divided into small groups and each group will have a leader who will provide individual assistance. Metro passes are provided if there are 20 or more full paying participants.

Not included: transatlantic air fare, airport transfers and sight-seeing costs.