Ray Cornils became Portland’s tenth municipal organist in 1990—following Gerald McGee and Earl Miller—after an extensive search and audition process. He had moved to Woolwich, Maine in 1987, and had experience playing the Kotzschmar in FOKO’s summer series.

When he assumed the role of municipal organist, there was a dizzying array of performance possibilities. And when Russ Burleigh was appointed FOKO’s first Executive Director in 1990, the two quickly became a solid team, developing programs that would increase attendance, awareness, and the income that the Kotzschmar Organ needed dearly. One of the many popular programs developed under their watch was Christmas with Cornils, which included brass, choral, and bell ensembles. “Christmas is in a dark and cold time of year, but I think that allows light and hope and joy to shine that much more,” Cornils says, noting, “These are powerful concepts and commodities to share with each other, especially through the evocative nature of the pipe organ.”

Christmas with Cornils will make its own triumphant return to Merrill Auditorium on December 23, and for the first time, audiences will be able to experience the expressive power of the performance through the fully renovated organ. Accompanying Cornils will be the Parish Ringers, the Kotzschmar Festival Brass, and the Musica de Filia Chamber Choir, Jaye Churchill, director. Tickets for Christmas with Cornils are $39, $34, $23, with reserved seating, and can be found on the PortTIX website, at the box office, 20 Myrtle St. Mon-Sat, noon-6 pm or call 207-842-0800.