Precomposed and Extemporized

The result of several years of research, John Paul Farahat’s doctoral dissertation Precomposed & Extemporized: Rediscovering the Life and Improvisatory Work of Canadian Organist Victor Togni (1935 – 1965) connects Togni to his European teachers, including Jean-Jacques Grunenwald, Jean Langlais, Olivier Messiaen, Marcel Dupré, Rolande Falcinelli, Jeanne Demessieux, and Fernando Germani. The text catalogues hundreds of previously unpublished archival documents, providing a full-length biography, as well as several reconstructed improvisations from historical tapes.  Additionally it provides an in-depth analysis of the musical language and improvisatory forms of Togni’s Five Liturgical Inventions and improvisations as they related to his unfinished organ improvisation method book.

The abstract of the dissertation is found below:

The legacy of the Canadian organist Victor Togni (1935 – 1965) lies in his contributions to church and organ music as a performer, composer, pedagogue, and improviser. Considered by Jean-Jacques Grunenwald as his most gifted and brilliant student, lauded by Olivier Messiaen for his abilities as a composer, and praised by Healey Willan as being “the most accomplished and brilliant Catholic organist in Canada”, Victor Togni was a rising star of Canadian organ music. His early passing at the age of 30 in a car accident undoubtedly contributed to the dearth of published materials on his life and music. Though public awareness of Togni is limited, this dissertation brings to light substantial previously-unpublished materials, revealing a missing link in the cultural mosaic of Canadian music. It provides a biographical text on Victor Togni and assesses his role in the field of organ performance and improvisation in the mid-1900s. It addresses Togni’s role as an organist-improviser in North America, his philosophies on concert/liturgical improvisation, as well as the philosophical influence of his teachers, including Jean-Jacques Grunenwald, Jean Langlais, Marcel Dupré, and Olivier Messiaen, among others. Seventeen recordings of Togni improvising, of which fifteen are unpublished, are analyzed and contextualized. Togni’s efforts to advance the field of organ improvisation in Canada are considered, with particular importance given to Togni’s unpublished draft method book, The Liturgical Organ Improvisation. This dissertation also analyzes Togni’s well-known precomposed organ suite Five Liturgical Inventions with a view to asserting the presence of improvisatory formulas drawn from his draft improvisation method book. Furthermore, several of Togni’s extemporized works themselves are transcribed and also analyzed, showing a more complete picture of Togni’s improvisatory style. The centrality of Togni’s unpublished method book both in his precomposed and his extemporized works is shown, reemphasizing his efforts to advance the field of organ improvisation in Canada.

John Paul Farahat fosters a diverse career as organist, improviser, accompanist, and conductor. He holds the post of Director of Music and Principal Organist of Saint Basil’s Collegiate Church, the collegiate church of the University of Saint Michael’s College in the University of Toronto. He further serves as one of five cathedral organists for Saint Michael’s Cathedral Basilica, Toronto.
Active as an international concert organist, John Paul Farahat’s notable past engagements include the Cathédrale Notre-Dame and Église St-Eustache in Paris, the International Organ Festival Toulouse Les Orgues and the Cathédrale Saint-Étienne in Toulouse, Saint Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey in London, UK, the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, and Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC, Saint Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral in Buffalo, Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, as well as the ORGANIX festival and the Cathedral Church of Saint James in Toronto, and the Cathedral of Saint Hyacinthe in Québec. 

John Paul Farahat holds the Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Toronto, where he studied organ, harpsichord, and improvisation with Kevin Komisaruk. He received additional instruction from Olivier Latry, Peter Williams, Martin Haselböck, Noam Sivan, and Thomas Murray. Visit for more information.