From the Municipal Organist — Winter 2017

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The time has come for me to wish you farewell. On December 31 I will retire as Portland’s 10th Municipal Organist. So, I hope to see you in December.

These past 27 years have been an incredible and fruitful journey.

During my first decade we expanded concert offerings, got many silent pipes and recalcitrant actions working again, and joined with the City and the other resident organizations (PSO and Ovations) as City Hall Auditorium was renovated. The FOKO board and I presented the needs of the organ throughout this process, and dramatically influenced the final results as Merrill Auditorium was renovated.

In the first decade of the 21st century, FOKO put into action its dream of having a significant outreach into local schools. Kotzschmar Junior was built, and Kotzschmar 4 Kids was developed and implemented. Over the years the curriculum was expanded into include both the sciences and arts. We have been instrumental in introducing a new generation to the majesty and wonder of the pipe organ.

During this decade Austin Organs replaced the instrument’s aging second console, built in 1927, with a new, state-of-the-art, five-manual console. This greatly expanded the performer’s ability to creatively use the vast resources of the Kotzschmar Organ. Towards the end of this decade we hosted a symposium which took a serious look at the future health of the instrument. This formed the basis for the major work of the third decade of my tenure – the complete renovation of the Kotzschmar.

The 100th anniversary in 2012 of Cyrus Curtis’s gift of the organ to the people of Portland was a momentous event. Not only did it celebrate the past 100 years, but became the springboard which launched the comprehensive renovation of this national treasure. At the completion of this project, over two years later, we marveled at the renewed vitality and brilliance of this kaleidoscopic instrument. What a treat it is to hear and play! Meanwhile, the education committee was hard at work developing and expanding its offerings to both adults and children. Videos were made, and curricula were published, so that the work of this organization could be spread far and wide.

It would be foolish to think all of this was one person’s doing. The incredible staff and dedicated board members did much of the “heavy lifting” in each of these projects. What has been done stands as a testament to what we can do together during a time of vision and stability.

Over the years there have been so many great memories of making music on this incredible instrument. I cherish them greatly. However, what will probably live in my memory even longer are the many wonderful people (young and old) whom I have encountered as Municipal Organist: loyal audience members, inquisitive classroom students, musical colleagues, dedicated staff, hard-working board members and all the people, like you, who have supported and donated time and talent to the work of this great organization. It is to you that I offer my heartfelt thanks.

After nearly 28 years it is time for the responsibility of this instrument to move to another person’s shoulders. In the coming months and years my husband David and I look forward to traveling and a slower pace of life. While we will maintain a home here in Maine, we will be in the Andes for good deal of time. I want to make room for James Kennerley, my successor, to spread his wings and soar. He will be a wonderfuI Municipal Organist. He has my full support.

So, thank you. New chapters await all of us.


Ray Cornils

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