What a pleasure and honor it has been to serve as Portland’s Municipal Organist since 1990. We have come a long way together.

In the 1990’s we focused on getting more of the instrument to function – replacing worn stop and key actions – so that increasingly more of the instrument would be playable. The board was actively involved in the major remodeling of the auditorium and worked diligently to keep the organ and its needs in that decision-making processes. We increased the number of silent films being offered, celebrated Bach’s Birthday with a bash in March and began the Kotzschmar Christmas with Cornils concerts.

In the 2000’s, we provided a new console to the instrument. This greatly increased the resources available to the performer so that the broad palate of sounds and colors of the instrument could be more fully used. FOKO created an Education Committee which worked diligently to introduce the organ and its music to young listeners with newly created in-school curricula. Our Meet the King of Instruments concert continues to bring busloads of students to hear and explore the Kotzschmar organ. Music from the Great Cathedrals introduced a “celebrity artist” concert to the yearly offerings.

In the 2010’s FOKO celebrated the Kotzschmar’s 100th anniversary, launched a successful capital campaign and executed a splendid total renovation of the instrument. It sounds and plays better than ever and stands as a shining example of a great American symphonic organ.  The instrument now fully deserves its prominence on the national and international stage.

I first played in the Kotzschmar Summer Series in 1987, so this August will mark my 31st year playing this beloved instrument. Decades ago, one of the questions posed to me by the interview committee was, “Why would you want this post? It doesn’t pay very much and the instrument is not in very good playing condition.” I replied that “the Kotzschmar organ would be a great teacher. An instrument such as this is a prime player in a concert in which there is a complex interaction between composer, performer, instrument, and audience. All are integral to the concert experience. Having such a broad palate of sound with which to work indeed will challenge and excite my creativity and will foster more complex and engaging interpretations.” And indeed, it has.

One of the most important relationships is the one between performer and audience. Over these past decades, I have had the invaluable experience of hearing your feedback and reactions, both to literature and interpretations. Thank you for your active participation in all of this. Together, we have all grown.

I look forward to seeing you this year.

Sincerely,

Ray Cornils

Read the entire newsletter here.