Municipal Organist

Ray Cornils is the Municipal Organist for the City of Portland, a post he has held since 1990. He also serves First Parish Church, UCC, Brunswick, Maine as Minister of Music where for the past 25 years he has led an extensive music program of five vocal and two handbell choirs.

Known for his highly diverse programming, Ray has concertized throughout the United States and Germany, France, Spain, Russia, New Zealand and Ecuador. He has performed at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., the Wanamaker Organ at Macy’s in Philadelphia, the Spreckels Organ in San Diego as well as at the International Festival of Sacred Music in Quito and Portoviejo Ecuador. He has been a featured recitalist for conventions of the American Guild of Organists and the Organ Historical Society. The annual Christmas with Cornils concerts have become a Portland highlight, attracting standing room only audiences.

In addition to his solo work, he performs regularly with the Portland Symphony Orchestra as both harpsichordist and organist. He has been soloist in Barber’s Toccata Festiva, all six of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerti, Poulenc’s Concerto Champetre,Poulenc’s Concerto for Organ, String and Tympani, Saint Saens’ Organ Symphony and  Jongen’s Symphonie Concertante.

His church choir has performed concert tours in England, Wales, Ireland, Ecuador and Portugal. Each spring Mr. Cornils mounts a massive production involving church choir members, singers from the community, members of the Portland Symphony Orchestra as well as instrumentalists and soloists from the Boston area. In 2011, Bach’s St. Matthew Passion was performed in its entirety on Good Friday to a full house.

Known for his teaching skills for all ages, Ray is in integral part of the Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ’s education program, working with elementary and middle school students in a classroom setting. For many years he has taught high school organ students through the Young Organist Collaborative based in Portsmouth, NH. He is also a member of the music faculties of Bowdoin College, the University of Southern Maine and the Portland Conservatory of Music, where he teaches organ, harpsichord and related classes.

An active member of the American Guild of Organists, Ray has held many leadership roles, including Convention Coordinator for the 2014 National AGO convention in Boston.

Born in Sterling, Illinois , Mr. Cornils received the B. Mus. degree from Oberlin College Conservatory of Music and the M. Mus. degree from the New England Conservatory of Music. He has studied organ with Robert Reeves, Fenner Douglas, William Porter, Yuko Hayashi and Dame Gillian Weir, and harpsichord with William Porter, Lenora McCroskey, Rhona Freeman and Lisa Goode Crawford.

Ray Cornils is retiring as Minister of Music of First Parish Church on August 31 and as Municipal Organist on December 31 of this year.

Read Ray Cornils retirement announcement here.