The last few days we have had a delightful houseguest, Isabelle Demers, concert organist, who is billed as a “diminutive dynamo” because of her small stature but virtuosic organ playing. She will give an organ recital tomorrow night, June 10th, 7 pm at St. Andrew’s Cathedral.
What’s really interesting is to learn her story of how she came to the organ, at the relatively “old” age of 17, and she really did not play the organ seriously until she entered the master’s program at Juilliard. (She has just completed her doctoral studies under Paul Jacobs). Of course she played the piano for many years, and only took up the organ at the urging of her mother.
My story is that I played the piano from the age of four but never practiced–I sightread all my lessons and faked my teacher out! (Of course when my own students don’t practice, I know immediately. There’s no faking me out!) When I and my two sisters went to our parents and we all asked to quit piano, they instead offered an alternative—to switch to other instruments. That’s when, at age thirteen, I switched to organ (which is still a complete mystery, since I had never heard a pipe organ in my life.) My sisters both switched to the violin. My parents called the local school board for an organ teacher and I started studying with Norman Söreng Wright, himself a pupil of the famed French virtuoso, Marcel Dupré. I guess it was the loudness and the POWER of the organ which drew me in.
I’m not as small as Isabelle, but I have a feeling she herself also felt drawn to the power and magnificence of the King of Instruments. Hope to see many of you at St. Andrew’s tomorrow night!