A short history of the great Beckerath organ in the Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal Basilica
In 1957, Rudolf von Beckerath installed a 44-stop organ in the Trinity Lutheran Church in Cleveland, Ohio. He then made a trip to Montreal, at the invitation of organists Kenneth Gilbert, Raymond Daveluy and Lucienne and Gaston Arel.
This journey shaped the course of the future, leading to the installation of three instruments: one at Queen Mary Road United Church in 1959, another at Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal in 1960 and the magnificent organ at the Église de l’Immaculée-Conception in 1961. These three major Beckerath instruments spurred a major change in organs in Quebec and throughout North America.
The first correspondence relating to the purchase of the organ for the Basilica at Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal dates from February 25, 1958. The letter is from the Oratory authorities to Mr. Rudolf von Beckerath, a German organ builder, informing him that he had been chosen to build the Basilica organ. At that time, the Basilica was still a large building site, though it was nearing completion. The contract was signed on June 23, 1958, with the builder agreeing to deliver the organ 30 months later. All the subsequent letters from both sides regarding the design of the instrument are written in an elaborate, sophisticated French style. As part of this correspondence, Mr Beckerath submitted a sound composition and different sketches of the casing in watercolour, where the dominant colours were various shades of blue and yellow. The Oratory architects did not approve of the initial submitted designs, as there were too many diagonal lines. They asked that the vertical lines be made more dominant. As for the sound composition, the Oratory Organist, Mr Daveluy, asked via the rector if it could be changed to allow a Récit de Tierce to be played.