By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Philippe Lefebvre, an organist at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, will make his second visit in six years to St. Anthony Parish for a concert on Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. to benefit the famed cathedral’s restoration fund.
Lefebvre “is one of the greatest organists in the world. He is also a very famous improviser … one of the greatest of the century,” said Kim Nofsker, music director at St. Anthony Parish. She first invited Lefebvre to St. Anthony in 2017 for a dedication recital of the parish’s new organ, built by a company whose owner is from France. The French connections continue.
Nofsker knows Didier Grassin, the owner of Noack Organ Company in Georgetown, Massachusetts, which built the St. Anthony organ. He collaborates with Bertrand Cattiaux, also of France, who came to “voice the pipes of our organ,” Nofsker said. Cattiaux heads restoration of the Notre Dame Cathedral organ, damaged in the devastating fire that nearly destroyed the cathedral in 2019. Her French connections led Nofsker to make contact with Lefebvre.
Lefebvre has been with Notre Dame Cathedral since 1985 and was on a rotation with two other organists at the cathedral. “He was actually scheduled to play the Holy Week and Easter the week after the fire.” Shortly afterwards, “I called Phillipe and his wife Pascale,” Nofsker said. “He told me that the organ was not greatly damaged but covered with toxic lead from the roof.”
St. Anthony Parish decided in early 2020 — before the COVID-19 pandemic — to offer a fundraiser for Notre Dame Cathedral. The pandemic, however, put the 2020 concert on hold. Lefebvre did not travel for a few years. “I have kept in touch with him and his wife to see how they were doing. He resumed his international concert schedule recently. He has been practicing on organs nearby where he lives.”
“Phillipe has played all over the world and with many major symphonies. He had just played with the LA Philharmonic before his last concert here. He also ends his concerts with a spectacular improvisation of a well-known hymn. We are so lucky to have such a famous artist here in Davenport as he usually plays in major cities. He told a mutual friend after a concert in Washington, D.C. what a wonderful time he had in Davenport and how much he enjoyed being here. We are excited to have him here,” Nofsker said.
She has been offering concerts and music programs as a way to evangelize to the community and parish – through music — since her arrival at St. Anthony Parish in 2015. Community outreach is one of the goals of the concerts and program. “Anyone is welcome regardless of religion and we have brought people into the Church that way,” she noted.
The parish will offer a meet and greet event with the organist after the Oct. 5 concert. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for students and can be purchased on the St. Anthony website at http://www.stanthonysdavenportiowa.org/organ-concert.html or by calling the parish at (563) 322-3303. Tickets are also available at the door.