Many people know Leo Marchildon as a music director/teacher as well as a composer for film, theatre and television.
He’s also known as the co-creator of the Nine Lives of L.M. Montgomery, a musical that enjoyed two summer seasons on Prince Edward Island.
But recently, Marchildon has returned to his musical roots as a performer.
“As a student at St. Michael’s Choir School in Toronto, I was trained on the pipe organ,” says the music director/organist at St. Dunstan’s Basilica in Charlottetown.
“Ironically, I’ve always been fated to work for parishes which didn’t have the resources for a real pipe organ, just an electronic wannabe,” he says.
That is, until now.
Marchildon is now proud to be at the helm of the newly reconstructed Casavant pipe organ at St. Dunstan’s Basilica. And he can’t wait to share the instrument’s majestic sound with Islanders during a recital to be held at the beautiful Charlottetown church on Jan. 18 at 7:30 p.m.
“It’s a wonderful thrill for me to be back on the real thing on which I was trained.
“It’s also motivating for me to dust off the old fingers and get back into the repertoire that I did when I was in my 20s,” says Marchildon, who studied at the University of Toronto and the University of Southern California.
Even the notion of placing his fingers on the keys and his feet on the pedals is thrilling to this music man.
“The idea of calling up all the wonderful sonorities that this organ has to offer is like having a symphony at your fingertips,” he says.
At St. Dunstan’s Basilica in Charlottetown, Father Floyd Gallant echoes Marchildon’s enthusiasm.
“We don’t often hear the full organ (played) in church. But we got a taste of it on Christmas Eve when he used it for O Come All Ye Faithful. You could hear it rumbling under the pews, causing the congregation to gasp. It was pretty exciting. So we’re looking forward to the full blown organ concert,” says Gallant.
The parish priest recognizes Marchildon as a
“Leo’s background training brings with him a unique set of skills that is perfectly suited for our work here at St. Dunstan’s.... There’s also an enthusiasm about him that’s contagious, so that the choir and other people that work with him are being stretched,” Gallant says.
In preparation for Friday’s concert, Marchildon is spending every free moment rehearsing the repertoire.
The concert will feature works by Bach, Handel, Mozart, Karg-Elert and Widor, as well as the world premiere of a new piece, St. Dunstan’s Dream, written by Marchildon especially for this event.
“St. Dunstan was an English priest. He worked under the king in the 900s. There’s a legend that he was credited for writing the Kyrie chant, after hearing it in a dream,” says Marchildon who, inspired by the story, composed the piece for organ.
The recital, he adds, has plenty of extras, including the members of the Strathgartney Chamber Orchestra, which he will be directing from the organ.
“They will be helping me out with a Handel organ concerto in which they play the baroque orchestra and I will play the organ solo part. We will be also playing some romantic pieces from the romantic repertoire,” says Marchildon, adding the recital has several goals.
“This is a wonderful chance to start fresh with a restored instrument. It’s also a nice showcase and a nice thank you to the people whose donation made this possible,” he says.