March 13, 2022, 3:00pm

Holy Rosary Cathedral 

Jean-Willy Kunz will play his own transcription of Camille Saint-Saëns’ « Carnival of the Animals » on the magnificent Casavant organ at Holy Rosary Cathedral. The performance will be accompanied by the reading of humorous poems, and by the projection of artwork by Mary GrandPré, who is best known for her illustrations of the Harry Potter book series. Other pieces on the programme include J.S. Bach’s Passacaglia, as well as masterworks by Louis Vierne and César Franck. Jean-Willy Kunz is Organist in Residence of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, and Artistic Director of the Canadian International Organ Competition. 

Jean-Willy Kunz was appointed in 2013 as the first Organist in Residence of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. In addition to playing both with the Orchestra and in recital, he sees to the development and showcasing of the Grand Orgue Pierre-Béique, Casavant Frères’ opus 3900 installed at the Maison symphonique in Montréal.

His performances with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra include concerts conducted by Kent Nagano, Masaaki Suzuki, François-Xavier Roth, Vasily Petrenko, Juraj Valčuha, John Storgårds, Carlo Rizzi, and David Zinman. He has also performed as a soloist with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Quebec Symphony Orchestra, and Les Violons du Roy, conducted respectively by Stéphane Denève, Michael Willens, and Fabien Gabel.

At the Maison symphonique, Kunz has premiered numerous pieces for organ and orchestra, and for solo organ, by Tod Machover, John Rea, Samy Moussa, Harry Stafylakis, Matthew Ricketts, Régis Campo, and Maxime Goulet. A highlight among his many solo performances on the Grand Orgue Pierre-Béique was a recital presented in 2017 in collaboration with the NASA, the Canadian Space Agency, and the European Space Agency, during which a live audio-video duplex with an astronaut aboard the International Space Station allowed for the first ever Earth-Space organ duet.

Jean-Willy Kunz’ interest and versatility in different styles of music are reflected in the various projects he has been involved with for the last ten years, and which shed new light on the pipe organ, including jazz music in duo with Branford Marsalis and with the Ensemble InSpirations, pop music with Rufus and Martha Wainwright, stage music with the Cirque du Soleil, contemporary music with the Quebec Contemporary Music Society and the Quatuor Bozzini, and baroque music with the Ensemble Caprice and Les Boréades.

His discography includes many recordings which reflect the broad range of his musical influences. His most recent CDs include a solo organ album Jean-Willy Kunz au Grand Orgue Pierre-Béique ; Impressions with the Ensemble InSpirations (organ, clarinet, saxophone, trombone, double bass, and percussion) ; Symphonie et créations pour orgue et orchestre with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (which was awarded a Juno in 2016) ; and The Pipes are Calling for organ and trombone.

Jean-Willy Kunz studied the organ at the Music Conservatory in Lyon with Louis Robilliard, at the Music Conservatory in Montréal with Mireille Lagacé, and holds a doctorate in organ performance from McGill University where he studied with John Grew. In 2018, he completed an MBA at HEC Montréal. He is organ professor at the Conservatory of Music in Montréal, titular organist at the church of St-Jean-Baptiste, and artistic director of the Canadian International Organ Competition.

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