Celebrating the centenary of organist Jeanne Demessieux  

Posted on: November 4, 2021

“Few musicians have faced a debut more intense than did the organist Jeanne Demessieux,” writes David Allen in Tuesday’s (11/2) New York Times. “For years before her first concert … at the Salle Pleyel in Paris early in 1946—her teacher Marcel Dupré had stoked rumors of her outlandish talent…. Yet Demessieux, who was born in Montpellier, France, in 1921 and whose centenary is being celebrated with performances of her complete organ works at St. Thomas Church in Manhattan Nov. 6, 13 and 20, exceeded expectations…. ‘She certainly earned her place,’ Stephen Tharp, the organist for the St. Thomas concerts, said…. ‘To compose, to improvise, in the way and at the level that she could, was really without equal.’… Although Demessieux was a star in the 1940s and ’50s … her status faltered after her death from cancer in 1968, at just 47…. Organist Joy-Leilani Garbutt … a founder of the Boulanger Initiative, which advocates women composers, [said], ‘She wasn’t the only woman international virtuoso … woman composer for the organ … woman professor of organ, or the only woman to hold a major church position…. But … Demessieux may have been the only woman to do all of those things in her lifetime.’ ”