Music for Healing | St. Lawrence University Chaplain's Office

Music for Healing

Works of César Franck (1822 – 1890) 

Trois Chorals 

Choral No. 1 in E Major 

Moderato 

Trois Pièces 

Cantabile in B Major 

Non troppo lento 

Pièce Héroïque 

Allegro maestoso 

Welcome to Gunnison Memorial Chapel on the campus of St. Lawrence University. I am Sondra Goldsmith Proctor, musician in residence. 

During the summer as I was considering music for the Organ Concert Series, thoughts of the great turmoil that has wrapped our nation in tension and conflict over the past months kept intruding into my musical thoughts. Since then, our nation faces additional tensions and conflicts that must be addressed. Support for all the Covid-19 patients and their families, medical workers, essential workers, first responders, and government leaders who are searching for a way forward during a transfer of power; the killing of innocent people which must be stopped and addressed; recognition for the Black Lives Matter movement; equality for all; and support for each of us as we work to make a difference in the world; drew me to thinking about the music of César Franck. Living in a time when it was very difficult to be recognized and accepted due not only to family constraints but also the politics of the time before and after the Franco-Prussian War, Franck became more and more passionate about teaching his students, performing on the grand Cavaille-Coll organ at St. Clothilde in Paris where he was the titular organist, and increasing the world’s recognition of French music, especially as it related to the large repertoire from the German composer, Johann Sebastian Bach. César Franck’s music evokes great tensions, strength and passions. 

In the spring of 1890 Franck was in a cab that was struck by a horse drawn trolley resulting in a severe head injury. During his recuperation, he completed three of the great pieces of his repertoire for organ. From Trois Chorals, I will share with you the Choral No. 1 in E Major. In his fragile state he developed a majestic theme that reoccurs throughout the work. His use of extreme dynamic changes prompts us to reflect on the many emotions that we are feeling in these difficult times. The moving parts of the inner voices allow the harmonic structure to be constantly changing. The closing original majestic hymn brings life and hope for all beings. 

Trois Pièces written for the inauguration of the large organ at the Trocadéro at the exhibition in 1878 showcased the grande orgue very well. The Cantabile is a quiet piece that draws me to a stillness of spirit. The use of the more quiet ranks of the organ explores different tone qualities as the simple, beautiful melody is transformed in different sections of the piece. A two measure theme alternates with a lyric theme in the opening section creating balance. During the piece listen carefully for the canon which joins the two melodies. 

Pièce Héroïque is one of the most familiar works by Franck. Opening with a martial thematic melody in the left hand imitating orchestral brass instruments and incorporating a timpani effect in the pedal that supports the canon as the themes alternate between major and minor keys leading to a rousing harmonization of the second theme at the finale, the work encourages us to seek hope, clarity and love in the world structure and in the chaos of these times. 

Thank you for listening to this program. I hope that it will support you in your introspection of today’s world as it truly is and how each of us can make the world a little bit better every day. 

On February 19 the Organ Concert Series will post Music for Black History Month celebrating composers and telling stories. Sharon J. Willis’ composition We Shall Overcome will be featured. 

Sondra Goldsmith Proctor