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Following the Restoration of the English monarchy in 1660, musical culture gradually began to thrive under the support of royal patronage and the emerging middle class. The newly crowned Charles II brought with him a love of French music acquired during his time in exile at the court of his cousin, the young Louis XIV. Organ builders, most notably Bernard Smith and Renatus Harris, brought new life to the instrument, drawing from their experience on the Continent to build larger instruments with colorful solo stops, offering more possibilities for performers and composers. Although relatively few notated organ works survive from the Restoration period, composers generated a niche body of organ repertoire exploring compositional genres inspired by late 17th-century English instruments.
The primary organ composers of the Restoration period are Matthew Locke, John Blow, and Henry Purcell; these three musicians began to take advantage of new possibilities in organ composition, particularly the use of two-manuals with a solo register, and their writing displays the strong influence of French and Italian compositional styles. Each adapts Continental forms and techniques for the English organ, drawing from such forms as the French overture and récit pour le basse et dessus, and the Italian toccata and canzona. English organ composers from the Restoration period borrow form, stylistic techniques, ornamentation, and even direct musical quotations, to create a body of repertoire synthesizing both French and Italian styles.
The organ in the Catholic Church of the United States is a mirror of its time, reflecting the various challenges facing Catholic liturgy today. In some cases, it reflects the rich patrimony of European immigrants, anxious to replicate the liturgical conditions they left behind. In others, it reflects the efforts of liturgical reformers to "update" the liturgy, creating more opportunities for what they understand to be active participation of the faithful. The absence of the organ in some American Catholic churches, particularly, in the time following the liturgical reforms of Vatican II, raises questions on the direction of sacred music in these churches as well as the survival and viability of the organ as the principal musical instrument of the Catholic liturgy. In all, the organ in American Catholic churches serves as a gauge of the current liturgical climate, and, in a broader sense, the direction and viability of the Catholic Church in America. In this paper, I argue that the survival of the organ in American Catholic churches depends largely on the number of Catholics who continue to remain active in the Church, as well as their views on liturgy, and their musical formation. While recent figures indicate a gradual decline in membership in the Catholic Church among younger generations, interest in organ and traditional Catholic sacred music by some Catholics may ensure the organ's continued presence. The extent to which some groups implement liturgical directives of Pope Benedict XVI, and the activities of groups that support traditional Roman Catholic liturgy, play a role in the organ's continued survival. Also crucial are those who support the organ for its own artistic and musical merit, including contemporary composers of liturgical organ music, organ students in Catholic higher education programs, and organ builders. As opposed to total extinction, the use of the organ in American Catholic churches may take on a new shape, surrounded by a church that struggles to reconcile modern culture with the transcendent.