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Let the music sound
By Marci VanDrese ’11

The chance to create music that reverberates through the abbey church has drawn renowned organists to St. Norbert Abbey from around the world. Performers have included Steven Cleobury, of London’s Westminster Cathedral; Christopher Herrick, of Westminster Abbey; and Olivier Latry, of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. “It’s not an extraordinary instrument – it’s the space that makes it. It’s a perfect marriage between the two,” says the Rev. Bartholomew Agar, O.Praem., ’55 (Music, Emeritus).

The abbey has hosted concerts since the organ’s installation in 1959. An annual concert series was officially dedicated in 1997 in memory of Canon John Bruce, a priest of the Episcopalian Diocese in Fond du Lac, Wis. Bruce, a friend of Abbot Sylvester Killeen, O.Praem., ’27, was an avid concert attendee.

The abbey now hosts three concerts a year, offered at no cost thanks to Bruce’s generosity. The reputation of the concert series draws concertgoers from as far as Madison and Minneapolis.

Agar says he enjoys selecting upcoming musicians for the concert series. He receives recommendations through a broad network of musicians. Paul Jacobs, chair of the organ department at The Julliard School and recent Grammy winner, is a frequent visitor to the abbey, both as performer and concertgoer.
Web extra
Agar performs on the Abbey organ. >>MORE

Agar says his vision for the future of the series is to give the many young artists emerging from top schools in America a chance to play. Opening the upcoming series is Juilliard student Michael Hey, a resident of Milwaukee who has attended a number of concerts already at St. Norbert Abbey.

Abbot Killeen first requested an organ for the new St. Norbert Abbey in 1957. He asked John Wright Harvey, Agar’s professor at UW-Madison, for advice. Just a short time later, Harvey’s designs were sent to Casavant Frères in Quebec. They delivered the instrument in spring 1959 by railroad car. A dedicatory recital was held in June 1959 along with the blessing and dedication of the new St. Norbert Abbey building.

Bruce’s endowment has allowed the abbey to renovate the organ and modernize it with digital controls.

2011-12 Canon John Bruce Memorial Concert Series

Oct. 15, 2011
Michael Hey, student of Paul Jacobs

March 10, 2012
Nathan Laube, recent graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia

April 14, 2012
Jonathan Dimmock, of the San Francisco Symphony

Summer 2011

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Audio ExtraLet the music sound
The Rev. Bartholomew Agar, O.Praem., ’55 (Music, Emeritus) performs at the abbey church.

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