The Casavant Organ at the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
t is not without justification that the pipe organ is called the king of instruments. A single instrument, it can not only rival the full power of a symphony orchestra but imitate many of the orchestra’s individual subtleties. The pipe organ produces its sound in much the same way the human voice does, with air. This makes the pipe organ an excellent accompaniment instrument for the voice, from a single person to a large choir. With many different types of pipes, a pipe organ is also capable of a great variety of sound color. This diversity of sound has inspired many of Western music’s greatest masters to compose some of their greatest works. Gabrieli, Bach, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Franck, and Messien all wrote masterpieces for an instrument that not only represents a pinnacle of musical achievement, but in its construction is also a triumph of human mechanical ingenuity.
The French Canadians who made Lewiston their home and Saints Peter and Paul their church in the late 19th century attached great value to music and the arts. In pursuit of excellence, they hired one of North America’s greatest organ builders, Casavant Frères, to create an instrument that would fill their new edifice with glorious sound. The results were the opus 1587 and 1588 instruments that, combined through a single console, comprise the largest church organ in the state. After its dedication in 1938, the Casavant was used to accompany several community ensembles and served as a recital instrument for some of the world’s leading organists including the great French organist, Marcel Dupre and Dr. Charles-Marie Courboin.
Of the many people who have
served as organist at Saints Peter and Paul, the most renowned was certainly Bernard Piché. A Recipient of the Prix d’Europe prize, Mr. Piché studied under the master Charles Tournemire and went on to concertize widely in North America to great acclaim under the auspices of Colbert-Laberge Concert Management. Mr. Piché was appointed to his position at Saints Peter and Paul in May of 1945 and served until 1966 when he left to take a place on the faculty of the Conservatory of Quebec in Trois-Riviers.
Now that the economic revival of Lewiston-Auburn is well underway, it is time to also revive one of the area’s great musical treasures. Through its use as a superb accompaniment and solo instrument for concerts, recitals and liturgical events, the Casavant organ in Saints Peter and Paul and its accompanying acoustic could once again be a cornerstone for the arts in Lewiston-Auburn. Your support of this endeavor will not only return this world-class instrument to its former glory but will help to ensure that future generations will have this tremendous resource.
For further information regarding this beautiful organ, visit the Organ Historical Society website by clicking