Magazine article The American Organist

OBITUARIES: Noël Goemanne

Magazine article The American Organist

OBITUARIES: Noël Goemanne

Article excerpt

Noël Goemanne, 83 years old, January 12, 2010, in Dallas, Tex. Most Catholic choirs and congregations end the "Lamb of God" with a quiet "grant us peace." That wasn't the case for the adult volunteer choir at Christ the King Church in Dallas. Goemanne, director of the choir from 1972 until his death, always asked them to sing that ending with all the power they had. His experiences during the Second World War in Belgium had made him a strong pacifist, and his choral direction, along with the tone of many of his hundreds of sacred and secular compositions, reflected that.

Goemanne could have been Central Casting's idea of a conductor. He had a leonine sweep of silver hair, an aura of power and confidence, and a glare that could freeze an off-pitch alto in her tracks. Born December 10, 1926, in Poperinge, Belgium, he was named "Noël" in honor of Christmas, and during his long career as a composer of sacred music he wrote many choral and organ pieces to celebrate that season. He attended the Lemmens Institute and the Royal Conservatory of Liege in Belgium. During World War II, Nazis who occupied his country promised him fame and fortune if he became a composer for the Third Reich. He refused. He was later arrested for publicly playing the music of the Jewish composer Felix Mendelssohn.

In 1952, newly married and realizing that Europe had an overabundance of organists, Goemanne and his wife Janine immigrated to the United States, and he took the position of church organist at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Victoria, Tex. When the liturgical rites of the Catholic Church changed in the early 1960s, he was quick to adapt to the changes while adhering to classical good taste. He composed the first Vatican Il-approved Masses in English for use in the church and would write more than 20 Masses in his lifetime, often combining Latin and English texts. During the 1960s, he traveled to college campuses, conducting sacred music workshops. He established the sacred music program at St. Joseph College in Rensselaer, Ind., for which he was awarded an honorary doctorate. Another honorary doctorate came in 1999 from Madonna University in Detroit, Mich.

Goemanne held organist and choirmaster positions at St. Rita's Catholic Church and Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Detroit; St. Monica's Catholic Church and Holy Trinity Seminary in Dallas; and, finally, Christ the King Catholic Church from 1972 until his death. …

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