Jesuit Historian to Speak at Fairfield University about Composer Olivier Messiaen

Jesuit Father Stephen Schloesser will discuss the early years of Olivier Messiaen, one of the most influential composers of the 20th century, when he delivers Fairfield University’s Bellarmine Lecture on Wednesday, February 1. This “concert lecture,” free and open to the public, will feature a gripping story of love and love lost, interspersed with songs for soprano and piano. Works to be performed include Messiaen’s “The Smile,” and “La Fiancee perdue,” from his “Three Melodies,” “Action de Grace,” and “Priere exaucee,” as well as two songs by his wife at the time, Claire Delbos.

The event, presented by the University’s Center for Catholic Studies, will take place in the Egan Chapel of St. Ignatius Loyola at 8 p.m.

In a talk entitled, “Olivier Messiaen: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” Fr. Schloesser, associate professor of history at Loyola University Chicago, will chronicle the young life of this artist who was greatly inspired by his Catholic beliefs. He will start by exploring Messiaen’s parents, especially his mother Cecile Sauvage and her poetry, punctuating the talk with Messiaen’s compositions while emphasizing the evolution in his writing. The lecture will provide attendees with an intricate look at Messiaen, his mother, and his wife Claire, and how their relationships so deeply affected the composer’s early works.

Educated at Stanford, Fr. Schloesser has explored such intriguing subjects as Jazz Age Catholicism and Mystic Surrealism as Contemplative Voluptuousness. He was a faculty member of Boston College, a Bannan Fellow at Santa Clara University, and an adjunct professor in the Department of Church History at the Weston Jesuit School of Theology.

The Bellarmine Lecture series was set up to bring distinguished Jesuit Scholars in a variety of disciplines to Fairfield. For information on other Center for Catholic Studies events, visit

[Fairfield University]

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