It’s perfectly appropriate that Ray Cornils will be at the bench when Portland celebrates the return of the mighty Kotzschmar Organ.

Cornils is one of only two municipal organists in the country and has served in that capacity in Portland since 1990, as long as any of the nine men who have held the position before him.

The century-old organ returns to service with a sold-out concert Saturday at Merrill Auditorium following a two-year, $2.6 million reconstruction.

Cornils, who turned 59 on Friday, has become an ambassador for the instrument, which came to the city in 1912 as a gift from Cyrus Curtis. The Portland businessman donated the organ in memory of his former music teacher, Hermann Kotzschmar, who died in 1908.

During the dedication ceremonies 102 years ago, Curtis talked about Kotzschmar’s “kindly spirit” and “high ideals.”

Cornils is a modern-day Kotzschmar.

Bob Keyes for the Portland Press Herald (click for full article)