By Sarah Mac Donald - 13 February, 2014
Renowned Irish organist, Professor Gerard Gillen, is to open the inaugural Limerick Pipe Organ Festival next month.
The festival is the first of its kind to take place in the city and celebrates the 150th anniversary of the iconic Hill organ in St John’s Cathedral.
On 14 March, Professor Gillen will perform works by Bach, Pachebel, Guilmant, Franck and Hakim the cathedral.
The concert is part of Limerick’s City of Culture celebrations and also marks the 150th anniversary of the Hill organ in St John’s.
Eight other concerts will take place during the festival on pipe organs across the city.
The other venues are St Mary’s Cathedral, St Mary’s Church, Christ Church, St Michael’s (Pery Square), the Sacred Heart Church, Mount St Alphonsus and Mary Immaculate College Chapel.
Gerard Gillen has been Titular Organist of Dublin’s Pro-Cathedral since 1976 and is Professor Emeritus of Music at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, where he was head of Department from 1985 to 2007.
He is widely regarded as one of Ireland’s leading church and concert organists and has given over 900 recitals throughout Europe, Israel, and America.
He has also been a member of international competition juries in Oxford, Ann Arbor, London and Dublin.
Professor Gillen was founder-chairman of the Dublin International Organ & Choral Festival of which he was artistic director from 1990-2000.
His main area of expertise is in the realm of Catholic church music, organ building and performance practice and since 1993 he has been chair of the Irish Episcopal Commission’s Advisory Committee on Church Music.
In 2007, he was conferred with the degree of Doctor of Philosophy honoris causa by the Pontifical University of Maynooth for his services to Church Music.
Other honours include the John Betts Visiting Fellowship at Oxford (1992), and in December 1996 he was nominated the classical winner in Ireland’s TV National Entertainment Awards, the first organist to be so honoured.
In 2006, he was conferred with the title Chevalier des Ars et des Lettres by the French Government for his contribution to French Music, and in 2007, he was conferred with the degree of Doctor of Philosophy honoris causa by the Pontifical University of Maynooth for his services to Church Music.
He was also elected to a Fellowship of the Royal Irish Academy of Music (FRIAM).
His latest CD of the organ music of César Franck and Flor Peeters on the English LCS HiRes label was one of Norman Lebrecht’s special Christmas recommendations.
Limerick Pipe Organ Festival was established under the auspices of the Diocese of Limerick to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the installation of the organ in St John’s Cathedral.