Tag Archives: Notre Dame

The fire at La Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris and the Grand Orgue

The Grand Orgue was saved because the stone slab connecting the two towers protected the organ. But, if the vaults of the Nave are not consolidated quickly, this will probably dismantle the organ says one of the three Titulaire Organists at Notre-Dame, Vincent Dubois.

Hola a todos. When I saw that the Cathedral was on fire, a sense of disgust and sadness came over me as if someone close to me had died and my memories of watching their Liturgies (the best High Church Liturgies one will find anywhere, and that glorious Grand Orgue high up in the back of the Nave). And as usual and as expected, during and after the supposedly accidental fire at La Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris this week, there’s been no word, talk, concern or even mention of “What about La Grand Orgue?”

Instead, reporters have been concerned with and about anything but the Cavaillé-Coll Grand Orgue/Great Organ. Some reporters didn’t even know what the Nave was. One referred to it as “an alley.” Do some reporters not look things up anymore? The Nave is the main area/room where the congregation sits either on the Epistle side (right side facing the High Altar) or The Gospel Side (the left side facing the High Altar). The “alley” I think she was referring to is the aisle in the middle of the Nave where the procession enters and exists. Note to ignorant reporter: The aisle is not the Nave; it’s only a part of it. (Sigh.) Reporters were asking the usual ludicrous questions that one has come to expect from reporters in the US in times of a tragedy, such as “What was your first reaction when you heard that Notre-Dame de Paris was on fire?” Or “How does it make you feel to see Notre-Dame burning?” You know, I wish someone would tell it like it is and tell these people, these idiot reporters: “How do you think it makes me feel, idiot? I’m just as human as you, reporter. I haven’t had a lobotomy, how about you? How does it make you feel to see Notre-Dame burning? Or do you like this because it gives you a story to report on? It gives you work. Then sarcastically add: Oh, I’m just delighted to see Notre-Dame burn, aren’t you? It delights me. I feel giddy. Doesn’t it delight you, too? It’s a hobby of mine to watch parish and cathedral churches and other things burn. I love seeing the smoke rise above the building, don’t you?” Morons. (roll eyes) I look forward to the day — probably not within my lifetime — that reporters stop asking these idiotic “How does this make you feel?” type question in times of a tragedy. But they always ask them. I think this stupidity-level started in — can you guess where? — the US. Then, reporters were obsessed with the lead roof, but no questions or concerns about the two organs in the Cathedral. A roof is fairly easy to replace these days. It’s all precut and assembled in a factory and delivered on-site and can be installed in probably a few days for something that size. But replacing an organ like the Grand Orgue would be nearly impossible if not take years.

The corporate media regardless of country have no interest in the music of a grand cathedral such as Notre-Dame de Paris, or its musical instruments, or anything else musical.

I also learned from watching the Liturgies at Notre-Dame — from the insipid camera work as well as the U-toob comments — that to most Catholics including some priests, the music is considered unimportant. Instead, it’s all about “The Spoken Word.”(TM) That explained why KTO-TV always disrespected the Organ Voluntary at the beginning of the Messe by turning the cameras on late in the middle of the organist’s glorious improvisation, and by disrespecting the Organ Sortie at the end of the Messe by turning off the cameras in the middle of the piece being played, whether an improvisation or a prepared piece. These are renowned organists that KTO-TV routinely disrespects. But they don’t care. This has been an ongoing complaint for years and KTO-TV continues to disrespect these three organists at Notre-Dame. Fortunately, from my experience, most Anglicans don’t disrespect their organists by holding to this sad view of music in their Liturgies.

I had to search around because no one was saying a word about the Grande Orgue or the Choir Orgue.

Vincent Dubois, one of the three Titulaire Organists at Notre-Dame, said:

“Unlike the rumors that circulated early this morning, the great organ is, a priori, saved. It has some puddles of water left and right, but nothing dramatic. The buffet would be spared, as well as the piping… It’s miraculous. We were in contact all night with my colleagues Olivier Latry and Philippe Lefebvre and we did not believe it. It is the slab of stone covering that connects the two towers that saved the instrument: there is no framing in this place of the roof: the water sent by the firefighters sank on both sides and did not fall on the platform of the organ. However, if the vaults of the Nave, very fragile, are not quickly consolidated, it will probably dismantle the organ and find a workshop big enough to put away. There is no such workshop in the Paris region. The challenge is, very quickly, if cornerstone will withstand the weight of water and molten lead which spilled there. The choir organ did not burn either, but it, on the other hand, totally took the water. It remains to be seen what’s left… It will take years to play this instrument, but the main thing was that it does not end up in ashes. We will wait and we will mobilise for its rehabilitation, once it will have to be closely examined.” (Interviewed by Suzanne Gervais at source below)

The Choir Orgue which is a much smaller organ — it’s about the size that would be used in a small parish church — supposedly wasn’t burned at all but suffered a lot of water damage and it will take years before this organ plays again he said.
[Source]. The organ pictured at that link is the five-manual Grand Orgue in the back of the Nave, roughly up on the second story of the Cathedral, and the picture was taken during a Messe/Mass in the Cathedral where Vincent Dubois was organist. It’s not a picture taken after the fire.

I hope he’s correct about the Grand Orgue. There’s currently no electricity in the Cathedral to turn the organ on — and that probably wouldn’t be a good idea at this point anyway — to see if it indeed undamaged. The pictures I saw looked like the entire length of the Nave was ablaze or at least the ceiling area and that smoke would have damaged the organ.

Although, I doubt we’ll hear the Grand Orgue any time soon because of the — what appears to be — lack of stability of the Cathedral structure. Nevertheless, this is wonderful news, at least about the Grand Orgue. I should think that the Choir Orgue is more easily replaceable because of its smaller size. It’s a two manual with a full pedal board (32 pedals), of course! It’s a very nice organ (or was) with the pipes installed in the Quire area up behind the organist. It accompanied the choristers, and they also used it for evening Vespers — similar to Anglican’s Choral Evensong) when the Grand Orgue was not being played. Often the two organs overlapped and played at the same time perfectly in tune with each other. In fact, if you didn’t know, you would think it was all one organ, but they are two separate instruments. Although I suspect they won’t be using the Cathedral for some time to come, so they may be having their Liturgies outside the Cathedral with piano or Digital Organ accompaniment and with their heavy-vibrato choristers who don’t sing with perfect intonation. Perfect intonation — one of the basic principles of choral excellence — is the perfect blending of voices in ensemble singing, regardless of how one is trained as a vocal soloist or by one’s voice professor. Chau.—el barrio rosa

The Glory of the High Church

One of the most memorial examples of High Church for me was this performance from 2017 of the “Kyrie, eleison” in this Messe/Mass (which begins at 14.44 in the first video below), but I’d suggest watching the video from the beginning to hear the Grand Orgue improvisation used in this special Liturgy, and you can see how the Cathedral looked before the fire. The processional hymn is the Doxology, complete with descant from the Children’s Chorus. The “Kyrie” is by Louis Vierne and it’s one of the finest I heard at Notre-Dame. It’s rather grand and glorious, which is my preference, and gives a very High Church feel to the Liturgy. In it, you’ll hear the Grand Orgue as well as the Choir Orgue (the Grand Orgue begins the piece then the Choir Orgue takes over for a bit). The Choristers include the superb Children’s Chorus of Notre-Dame de Paris. It’s a rather excellent performance, despite some needless and noticeable vibrato from some of the adult choristers (tenors in particular). The Children’s Chorus sing with a lovely straight tone giving them the desired perfect intonation (the perfect blending of voices). Listen to the roar of the echo from the Grand Orgue at the release of “son” of “eleison.” Glorious! In that instance, the camera crew gave a panoramic view of the Nave, Sanctuary and Quire Areas including the pipes of the Grand Orgue. Beautiful. For those who don’t know, from the High Altar looking back towards the Grand Orgue, the Choir Orgue is over on the right side at the end of the seated Choir. It’s sort of tucked in there at the end of the Quire stalls.

After I posted this, I played it for mi amigo/my friend from the beginning of the organ improvisation through the Kyrie. He said, “It doesn’t get any better than that! We’ll be watching that again! That should put to rest the thinking that ‘the music is an unimportant part of the Liturgy.’” I told him, “But there are those Catholics with little regard or respect for music that complain in the comments that this is “too much like a performance or a concert.” He said, “But it is a performance. All of it is a performance from the glorious music to the procession coming up the center of the Nave, the priest and chorister robes, the incense rising above, the performance of the processional hymn, the well-trained acolytes, the choristers, the priests, verger et al. How they all perform is critical to the Mass and whether it is very moving to one’s being or whether it falls flat and does nothing for one. In this instance, it stirred me deeply and I’m not even religious. So I would say they gave a superb performance.” I agree. It compares of sorts to the Choral Festival Eucharist at St Thomas Church Fifth Avenue (Anglican Communion) in Manhattan with their renowned Choir of Men and Boys and Choir School (the only residential Choir School in the US). Their Choir sings all the movements of the Mass setting. It does sound like a concert and like one of the finest one would hear in Carnegie Hall, for example, and St Thomas knows that and is very proud of that, in part, because they value and have great respect for their rich Anglican tradition music programme. They even completed the installation of a new pipe organ for the parish recently, when other churches are going in the opposite direction and abandoning their pipe organs as they age and moving to other types of (tacky) music.

La Grand Orgue. Titulaire Organist, Olivier Latry playing an improvisation on La Marseillaise, the national anthem of France:

Organ Improvisation by Philippe Lefebvre (Organist at Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris)

(This article has been updated/corrected as of el 22 de noviembre de 2016). Hola a todos. La Cathédrale Notre-Dame. What a beautiful (and very large) cathedral, and their beautiful Grand Orgue sounds glorious. This is a High Church cathedral. I finally found one and what a treat! For some odd reason, it’s hard to find High Church cathedrals in the US, so one has to go to Europe (in this case) for that, such as to Paris.

In the first video below you can hear the very High Church organ improvisation played during one of the processionals at La Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris (Roman Catholic) en Francia/in France. Philippe Lefebvre is one of the three tenured Titulaire organists there. I read on their site that each staff organist plays 4 months of the year. Then they have their Quire/Sanctuary organists. There’s a smaller organ console (2-manual/full pedalboard) Orgue de Choeur in the Quire/Sanctuary area. That organ is a completely separate instrument from the Grand Orgue/main organ up in the back Gallery, although to me they sound like the same organ. They are extremely well matched. The organist seated in the Quire/Sanctuary area accompanies the performing Choir either on the Sanctuary organ or on the Orgue Positif/box organ. He sometimes conducts the Choir, and he also plays the service music. Depending upon where the camera is, one can usually see when he’s playing. He’s rather busy! They have multiple choirs at Notre-Dame. From what I can tell, one of the Titular organists up in the back Gallery at the main console plays all other music, such as the processional improvisation and the Organ Voluntary at the end of the Liturgy. And I really liked his toccata — I think it’s an improvisation — at the end of that Liturgy in the third video. That may have been Philippe Lefebvre playing the toccata. He is well-known for his elaborate improvisations.

Their Cavaillé-Coll organ which is located high up in the back gallery has a beautiful sound to it. It reminds me of the fiery sound of the former organ at St Thomas Church Fifth Avenue (Anglican Communion) in Manhattan. I say “former organ” because they are in the process of replacing that organ while keeping some of it at St Thomas. Their new pipe organ is supposed to be in place by 2018.

A little bit of history: The French composer and organist, Louis Vierne, was organist at La Cathédrale Notre-Dame from 1900 to 1937. He made two sets of modifications to their organ. Pierre Cochereau was organist there from 1955 to 1984. Pierre also added to it and made the organ more modern between 1963 and 1975. The organ was completely restored in 1992 regaining the symphonic sounds of the Cavaillé-Coll organ. They also retained some aspects from the 17th and 18th centuries.

I was reading some online reviews of La Cathédrale Notre-Dame and someone wrote:

“It shames any monument in DC or Virginia!!!” (in the US).

Yes it does, doesn’t it! It certainly shames Washington National Cathedral (WNC) in many ways. Watch the videos below and you’ll understand what I mean by that if you’ve paid close attention to what they do at WNC.

And that’s why I feel it’s time for a change of venue. I’ve written nearly 20 articles about the Liturgies and music at Washington National Cathedral (WNC) in the District of Columbia. I and mi amigo/my friend have become rather put-off and come away feeling frustrated by WNC in recent months for various reasons that I’ve written about (see that list of articles on this page), and some of the things they’re doing these days which you won’t see or hear at La Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris. Fortunately, you won’t hear any gospel, jazz or “global song” music at La Cathédrale Notre-Dame. No, thank goodness. You also won’t hear the Widor Toccata interrupted with Big Band music stuck in the middle of it as was the case recently at WNC, supposedly in their attempt to try to be “like cool like” and “like hip like” and dumbed-down and obnoxious US’ans. At Notre-Dame, it’s all about the music with sung Liturgies, unlike WNC. At Notre-Dame, the priests are very respectful of their liturgies and they are not at all afraid of incense. One could say that “everything is in place” at Notre-Dame. Something I don’t say about WNC. Nothing looks left to chance or looks unrehearsed as sometimes is the case at WNC. I see none of that at Notre-Dame. From the Roman Catholics I’ve seen over the years, they are much more respectful of incense than most of the Anglicans I’ve observed. Incense seems to be such a bother to most Anglican priests, especially at WNC. I suspect, in part, that’s because they have many very Low Church priests at WNC. At Cathédrale Notre-Dame, I also noticed how many people in the congregation sing — unlike WNC’s (what I call) “stand and mumble” congregation — and the congregation at Notre-Dame seem to know the service music and they closely follow the service leaflet. They seem very involved in the Liturgy (for example: bowing, genuflecting or kneeling during the Consecration) unlike the bottom-basement Low Church congregation at WNC. At WNC, the congregation appear to mostly be there to observe as if they think they’re in a museum. They mostly just go through the motions. The congregation at Notre Dame takes an active role in the Liturgy.

I played the videos below for mi amigo/my friend. He’s an atheist like myself, and he said: “I like that much better than WNC. (So do I.) It feels somewhat Buddhist. It feels spiritual in an ancient way, unlike WNC which has come to feel weird and commercial, especially with all the flat screens around the Nave. They do try so hard to be so USA there.” I said: Oh you mean, for example, like that nationalistic Liturgy they had for Veterans’ Day 2016 where they celebrated the barbaric US Military Industrial ComplexTM, singing the “hymn” assigned to each branch of the US military as well as the “bombs bursting in air” US national anthem, all of which seemed to be in direct opposition to the separation of Church and State that we are supposed to have in the US?

I’ve also noticed how they at WNC go out of their way to be connected with the corporate parasites of the US Oligarchy/The Establishment/the federal government there in the District. They have invited some of the most heinous and despicable people/politicians — including war criminals — to the cathedral to speak either in their Forum programmes before the Liturgy or to give the Homily during the Liturgy. I sense they adore the Obama regime and are quite the Obamabots/Dembots, most likely being one-issue people as many shallow Democrats are. Apparently, they know little about what their Obama has done to expand upon most of the despicable policies of the illegitimate Bush regime, and their Mr Nobel Peace Prize Obama and his 7 wars, or is it 9 now? It’s hard to keep track. (Obama has ordered bombings, cruise missile and drone strikes on Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Syria). Or, perhaps they are like so many hypocritical Establishment Democrats who are of the mindset: “it’s perfectly okay when a Democrat does it. It’s only bad when un Republicano does it.”

They have a very good Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys/Girls at La Cathédrale Notre-Dame. They also have a Women’s Chorus, and a Chamber Choir (well that’s what I call them; I don’t know their official name) for singing more Renaissance-style music and they have excellent diction. With the Chamber Choir, I was listening for the “K” of the word “Kyrie” and I heard it every time the word “Kyrie” appeared in the text. Sometimes choral ensembles get lax/sloppy about that and “Kyrie” becomes “yrie” which is obviously incorrect and makes me wonder why the Chorus Director or Choirmaster didn’t catch that. Choral excellence requires impeccable attention to detail, such as the K of “Kyrie” for example. The choirs at Notre-Dame are well-trained and the repertoire they use I’ve enjoyed so far. Their choirs wear very pretty blue robes and not cassocks and surplices as used in Anglican cathedrals/parishes. And their service music (the Mass setting they use) is a very nice setting and creates a certain/nice atmosphere about the Liturgy. It’s not sing-songy like the settings used by some Anglican parishes and cathedral churches. I like it much better than what they use at WNC.

I also noticed that most Roman Catholics don’t bow to the processional cross as Anglicans are encouraged to do, although most people in the Low Church congregation at WNC don’t do that. Roman Catholics bless themselves instead — as you can see in the processional of the second and third videos below — when the processional cross passes and also when the Bishop passes and blesses the congregation. I noticed a few people in the congregation who also bowed as well. Reminds me of some Anglo-Catholics who bow and bless themselves when the processional cross passes. During the Consecration, they use the Sanctus Bells/Altar Bells along with incense. Being a High Church person, I was very pleased to see such a High Liturgy — especially in the third video below — the kind of Liturgy I haven’t seen or heard since I was organist in an Anglo-Catholic parish. Also, the Roman Catholics have mostly abandoned their vergers. The concept of vergers began in the Church of England (CofE) and to my knowledge most Anglican churches still have vergers. WNC does. But it seems that the Roman Catholics have abandoned their vergers. They have lovely High Church liturgies at Notre-Dame and I noticed that the Nave is full for the High Church Liturgies. (WNC might want to take notice). A lot of care and respect go into their Liturgies at Notre Dame. It would be nice if the television network recording their Liturgies would not cut off the organ works/improvisations at the beginning and end of the Liturgies. It’s good to see a cathedral church that’s High Church, which is how I think a grand cathedral should be. You can watch their Messe/Mass at Notre-Dame from el 6 de noviembre de 2016 below. Chau.—el barrio rosa

This is a very High Church Liturgy (the highest I’ve seen). The Communion Anthem for this Liturgy was “The Souls of the Righteous” by the British composer Geraint Lewis (b.1958). The piece sets a nice atmosphere and I enjoyed their performance. I noticed that for this piece, both organists accompanied the Choir (not at the same time), but it was mostly the Titular organist in the gallery who did most of the accompanying. The two organists had coordinated with each other where one would stop and the other pick up and they did so seamlessly. It still sounded like one organ was being played (even though they are two separate organs) with a registration change, but I got the sense that the organ in the Sanctuary area was used 2-3 times in the piece for a particular (quieter) effect:


The Music and Liturgies at La Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris