Marcel Dupré and his house organ

Marcel Dupré's house organ in Meudon, France.

Marcel Dupré's house organ in Meudon, France.

Over the weekend, Joey Fala and I have been working on the repertoire which will be performed at the July 9th PipeWorks, the educational outreach program of the American Guild of Organists, which introduces the pipe organ to young people. Joey asked me to play something “flashy,” so I have decided to play Marcel Dupré’s “Fugue in G minor,” op. 7, no. 3.

It just so happens that we have been involved in “The Big Purge,” to clean up Carl’s church office and I have continued work on the music library. I came across an article from “The American Organist” magazine I had obviously saved, with the page turned to a story called, “Pipe Organs of the Rich and Famous: Marcel Dupré’s Residence Organ,” by Rollin Smith. I learned that Dupré played 94 recitals on his first American tour (1922-23) and his fee was $350 per recital (equal to $5,380 in 2011 according to the CPI Inflation Calculator). You multiply that times 94 concerts and he earned $505,720. The next year he played 111 recitals and he took $597,180). The third year he “only” played 42 recitals but raised his fee to $400 per recital (equal to $5,285 in 2011 dollars) and the gross was $16,800, equivalent to $221,999 in today’s dollars. In three tours, he grossed a huge sum of money, which did not take into account his European recitals or annual tours of England. I also cannot imagine playing that many concerts in such a short time!

A bust of Marcel Dupré is found in his studio.

A bust of Marcel Dupré is found in his studio.

Smith writes, “Small wonder that by 1925 he was in a position to purchase a villa in Meudon, a southwestern suburb of Paris, and to begin construction of a concert hall adjacent to the house . . . Not long after taking up residence, Dupré purchased the residence organ of his old teacher, Alexander Guilmant, whose own villa was just around the corner.” When Guilmant died, his 28-stop Mutin-Cavaillé-Coll organ was offered for sale to Dupré.  It was inaugurated on Saturday, March 26, 1927, and the concert was attended by 300 persons, according to Smith. (I don’t know how they fit 300 people into that studio!)

Kathy at Dupré's organ, 42 years later.

Kathy at Dupré's organ, 42 years later.

Last summer, Carl and I traveled to France, he for the first time, and for me, 42 years since I was there as a student of Marcel Dupré. I sat down and played Dupré’s “Cortège et litanie” which I had studied with him. Believe me, it was a little eerie to think that so many years had passed since then and here I was, playing the same instrument that Dupré himself had played and on which I had taken lessons.

As I recall, he charged me $15 per lesson in those days, and I had three lessons a week (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) that summer. I think I remember Dupré telling me he gave me a break on the cost of lessons since I had traveled so far.

In any case, if you know a young person who would like to attend our PipeWorks program, please contact me as soon as possible. We already have 25 people registered!

About Katherine Crosier

In addition to playing the organ I am interested in documenting life's special moments through journaling, scrapbooking, photography and slideshow production. My family just groans.
This entry was posted in Carl Crosier, Katherine Crosier and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Marcel Dupré and his house organ

  1. Dan Dirksen says:

    Kathy, I just am amazed at you! Thank you for the wonderful things you do. My life is limited to weddings, driving to work, and sleeping. That’s my limit right now. God’s blessing to you and Karl as I know things are changing! Dan

  2. Keith Thompson says:

    Dear Kathy:

    First of all I can’t believe I’m here on your web site when I had been pecking around on the web for Dupre playing Dupre Crucifixion! I made the skip when I first got to your page without looking for any ID and started reading about the rich and famous (I was actually looking for stories about Dupre). As I am nearing the end, and reading your postings, I shrieked in delight and left Gordon wondering what now — until I explained. Of all of the people that we met and felt that we had garnered as lifelong friends from our year in Honolulu, you and Carl were the only ones that kept us abreast of your comings and goings. Please forgive us for not returning your faithful posts which we very much appreciated. But better late than never.

    And now my stale musings about Dupre. My first truly artist teacher was Harold Mueller at Trinity Episcopal in San Francisco. He studied with Dupre one summer at the University of Chicago – multiple lessons. Harold recounted his initial introduction to Dupre (there were some language issues at hand). After a brief and very business-like introduction, Harold sat down at the console and Dupre said, “Clean the organ.” Harold had absolutely no idea what he meant and was about to reach for a kerchief in his coat pocket (remember the days when men actually used to wear suits on such occasions. Once again Dupre (impatiently now): “Clean the organ.” When Harold obviously wasn’t getting it, Dupre reached for the Cancel button — and now the organ was cleaned! I doubt very seriously that you will find this story as it was just a personal recounting during my years of studying with Harold. I was also (as I’m sure you were) given the teacher by teacher recounting of the line from JSB through Lemmens and on to Dupre and the notion that the French – and only the French – had the true unbroken tradition of clear interpretation of JSB. In more esoteric circles this might be a subject of some minor research and find out where things actually went so wrong – and I didn’t write that!

    Now, about Dupre and his ability to do the daunting concert circuit on strange American organs (another Harold story). Dupre came to play at Trinity in San Francisco in 1950 at Harold’s invitation. One of Harold’s students very much wanted to be present during Dupre’s practice on the 4-M Skinner. Student seated at a sufficient distance from Dupre as to not bother or draw temperamental fire, but could watch. Dupre spent one hour — yes, ONE HOUR — in prep for a full evening’s concert (and which had an attendance of 1500 – with audience sitting on the kneelers and anywhere some floor space was available). Dupre sat down and simply went to all of the places in the music where there was to be a registration change, he played maybe two measures before and two measures after, went to the next registration change, and so went the practice session. Harold’s student was totally baffled about this one. How many other itinerant organists these days would exhibit that kind of bullet-like resolve. Again, I have never seen either of these stories in print as they were completely verbal. I have no reason to believe that they are not true and could easily explain his ability to keep the concert schedule he did.

    Now, please feel free to keep us on your mailing list. There is literally never a time that when we listen to compline from Seattle that we are taken back to our many Sunday nights at your compline. And may you have the strength to continue battling the ever rising tide of mediocrity in church music which seems to be the order of the day. One of these days I’ll tell you in a personal post of our other goings on since Honolulu days.

    With our warmest greetings and very fond memories of our times together,

    Keith Thompson and Gordon Sulzle

    And a P.S. about our experiences with Dupre (and as this began to take on the length of following, G says “That is the longest PS I’ve ever known!): Your experience of studying with him far and above eclipses my experience – so I’ll make it short. Summer 1967 – 14 years old – studied with Harold for one year – in Paris – got Dupre’s telephone number (it was easy in those days) – called – Jeannette answered – spoke English very well – asked her if I could visit the StSulpice organ loft on Sunday – “Oui, oui – come to little door on the left just as you come in the front of the church and I will meet you. Sunday 10:40 – standing downstairs looking up at loft when I see a rather diminutive figure sporting a blue straw hat and one rather forlorn daisy springing from directly above the forehead peering over the railing – disappears – didn’t think much more – 90 seconds later lady with funny hat shows up to welcome me to the Master’s Loft – Jeannette! I was ushered to what for me was an incredible seat of honor on the left side of Dupre sharing the same bench – I was transfixed for 30 minutes – I was forever changed in so many ways. He finally shooed me off the bench when what appeared to be an old friend who spoke French and gabbed endlessly even during the improvisations – and Dupre would be playing and carrying on a conversation all at the same time. In seeing this I found it all the easier to believe the legends I had heard over the years about his teaching improv and how students would play then he would play it back with running commentary as to what could be better. One more story!

  3. Dear Keith, How wonderful to hear from you! I just love hearing your stories of Monsieur Dupré — none of which I’ve heard before, especially that story of only taking one hour to prepare a concert. You might be interested in reading more of my posts about Dupré — you can find them at http://insanity.blogs.lchwelcome.org/2010/07/03/return-to-meudon/ and http://insanity.blogs.lchwelcome.org/2010/09/15/marcel-dupre-organist-extraordinaire/ .
    When I was in Paris that summer of 1968, it was only three years before Dupré died, and his playing and improvisations were incredible in spite of the fact that his hands were severely gnarled with arthritis. I simply don’t know how he did it — he couldn’t even stretch an octave in those days. I spent every Sunday that summer up in the St Sulpice organ loft and listened to him play three services every week, along with his other organ students.
    You might also be interested in my post about our visit to St Sulpice, where we met the current organist, Daniel Roth:
    http://insanity.blogs.lchwelcome.org/2010/07/04/the-sacraments-in-st-sulpice-and-notre-dame/

  4. Pingback: Dupré in the morning | Another Year of Insanity

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *