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Organist Olivier Latry Plays Organ Dedication at Our Lady of Refuge Church in Flatbush

International audience basks in stylings of world-renowned player on refurbished instrument

Keyed up: The audience was able to watch Latry play in the organ nest on numerous screens around the church.
The Brooklyn Paper
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They’ve got the keys to Brooklyn’s heart!

Believers — from around Brooklyn and across the globe — flocked to a Flatbush church on Oct. 18 to hear the king of instruments ring triumphant in the County of Kings.

The majestic pipe organ at Our Lady of Refuge Church on Foster Avenue came back to life after decades of disrepair at the fingertips of world-renowned musician Olivier Latry, who traveled from his post as official organist of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris to perform in Brooklyn.

The recital alternated between classical music pieces from Latry, explanations from public radio host Michael Barone, and prayers and blessings from borough Catholic officials.

“Sacred instrument, you will sustain the prayer of believers!” intoned the Reverend Michael Perry, pastor at Our Lady of Refuge.

The dedication ceremony was the culmination of a seven-year effort to restore the organ’s voice — an effort led by Midwood native Joe Vitacco.

Vitacco attended mass at Our Lady of Refuge as a boy, and fell in love with the instrument’s magisterial tones. Its powerful sound inspired Vitacco to travel the world recording pipe organ music — but when he returned home in 2006, he found his first love all but mute. Water had seeped in through the church’s time-worn mortar and infiltrated the organ loft, damaging the pipes and wood, along with the leather ligaments that held much of the instrument together.

The church could not afford the $250,000 necessary to set the tubes singing again — so Vitacco helped create an online campaign to raise the funds. Donations poured in from as far away as Europe, until the church could afford to send the organ to a pair of repair specialists in Missouri and Ohio. Vitacco said he was overwhelmed with the results.

“I joke with them that they sent me back a different organ,” Vitacco said.

Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio dedicated plaques honoring Vitacco and the midwestern repairmen Robert Schopp and Michael Quimby, which will be placed inside the organ.

“It’s restoring the glory that was in Brooklyn,” Bishop DiMarzio said.

Even Latry said he was impressed with what he called the organ’s “personality,” distinctive as an individual human being.

“It has poetry in it, which is important in an instrument,” the musical master said. “It’s gentle, quite refined.”

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at wbredderman@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at twitter.com/WillBredderman.
Updated 10:16 pm, July 9, 2018
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