Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas!
Ausra: And Ausra!
V: Let’s start episode 443 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Dan. He writes:
“Hi Vidas, the whole incident at Notre Dame in Paris, France is shocking, and sad at the same time. It’s really, really good, that the main organ wasn’t damaged by the fire. Very cool that you’d visited that instrument back in 2014. Is the other choir organ that they have, a totally separate instrument, with its own console and everything? If so, how many ranks is it? And is it Cavaillé-Coll as well? A podcast talking about your experience there, due to all that’s happened, would be cool. When you were there in 2014, did you get to have a go at the organ then too? And did you get any audio recordings, or YouTube videos when you were there then? If so, links would be greatly appreciated. Take care, and all the best from Dan in Ontario Canada.”
First of all, Ausra, let’s start with our experience back in 2014. What did we do at Notre Dame?
A: Well, we definitely visited the Grande Organ. We had our personal tour with Gene Bedient upstairs in the organ balcony. So, we saw that great instrument from inside out. Of course, at that time, you could not play it, because it was undergoing restoration, and I think at that time, the console wasn’t ready yet, because the historical console now is stored…
V: In a separate room.
A: Yes, that’s right.
V: Behind the organ.
A: Yes. But the instrument itself is massive! What was your impression, Vidas, about it?
V: Did we go to the Vespers there?
A: Yes, but that’s another story. Now, if we are talking about Vespers, we have to talk about the choir organ, because for people who maybe haven’t visited big cathedrals, and in general, big churches, they used to have two organs—two separate instruments. They are not connected between themselves. And this is the case in Notre Dame as well. Because the Grande Organ is used for concerts and special ceremonies, but not on a regular basis for liturgical purpose, because the distance between the altar and the Grande Organ is too big. So basically, it would be very hard to manage such a thing in such a distance. So for that purpose, there is a choir organ, which stands much closer to the altar, and it’s used for liturgical purposes—to accompany Mass and Vespers, to accompany the choir…
V: Yes. But we could clarify that both organs can be used at the same occasion, just probably the Grande Organ would be used, maybe, as a solo instrument more,
A: that’s right
V: and as an alternatum instrument, if they sing interchangeably with choir or schola. But not in an accompaniment, because, as Ausra says, the distance is too great.
A: Isn’t Alternatum practice now forbidden in the Catholic church?
V: I don’t know, for sure…
A: Because I know it was forbidden for many centuries, actually.
V: Alternatum is when one verse is sung by the vocal group, and another verse is played by the instruments, by the organ, for example. And, the reason for the Second Vatican Council omitting—abandoning this practice, is that not all of the text will be heard by the congregation.
A: And since text is more important in religious hymns, it means that you need to sing it throughout.
V: Yes. So we took a look at the online specification we found of both organs, and because Dan is concerned about the choir organ more, so, let us look at the choir organ specification. This is taken from the Website: http://mypipeorganhobby.blogspot.com (http://mypipeorganhobby.blogspot.com/2008/11/organ-notre-dame-paris.html). We can put a link into the description of this conversation. And it has two manuals and pedals.
A: Yes, that’s a good size—two manual instrument.
V: 19th century organ case, manual compass 56 notes, pedal compass 30 notes. All the usual couplers: Positif to Grande Orgue, Grand Orgue to Pedale, and Positif to Pedale. And now let’s count the stops… 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 on the Grande Organ, and 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 on the Positiv. And Pedals have 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 stops. So, 11, 10 and 8. How many would that be, Ausra? Can you count?
V: 29. I need to learn Math.
A: True! I was enjoying how you were counting, like in a kindergarten.
V: With my fingers!
V: The Grande Organ has Bourdon 16’; Montre 8’, which is the principal, basically; Bourdon 8’; Prestant 4’, which is the principal of the 4’ length; Nasard 2 2/3’, which is the 5th of the flute sound; Tierce 1 3/5’; Fourniture III (3 ranks); Cymbal (4 ranks—those are two mixtures, but Fourniture is a progressive mixture, I think)...
A: That’s right...
V: Trompette 8’; Clairon 4’; and the last one is Dessus en chamade 8’, which means that the chamade division, horizontal trumpets, are only from the descant—from the treble, maybe C or C#. I’m not sure. And Positif has specification as follows: Bourdon 8’; Prestant 4’; Flûte 4’; Nasard 2 2/3’; Doublette 2’; Tierce 1 3/5’; Larigot 1 1/3’ (Larigot is a high pitched mutation, basically, a high pitched 5th sound); Cymbale III; Régale 16’ (Régale means, probably, short resonator lead, at 16’ level);
V: (At 16’ level); and Cromorne 8’.
A: So basically, it’s a softened French organ, in the case of French organ, that the second division is basically a smaller repetition of the larger division.
V: Yes, it looks similar. And then Pedale (Pedals). Those 8 stops: Flûte 16’; Bourdon 16’, what’s the difference between Flûte and Bourdon?
A: Well, one has a darker sound.
A: I guess Flûte is more open than Bourdon.
V: Bourdon is covered; Flûte 8’; Flûte 4’; Flûte 2’; Bombarde 16’; Trompette 8’; and Clairon 4’.
A: Very interesting pedal division, I would say. No principals.
V: No principals, but they have Bombarde 16’.
A: Yes well… True… if you have Bombarde, you don’t need anything else.
V: Imagine, Ausra, at St. John’s in Vilnius we also have Bombarde 16’ in the pedals. But we have 64 stops and 3 manuals. Here is only 2 manual organ, but with Bombarde, also.
A: Well, and Chamade!
V: And Chamade. I guess they need it to fill the space.
A: That’s true, we heard this organ during Vespers that we were attending when we were visiting Paris. Of course, during Vespers, they didn’t use these loud reed stops. But I would say that the sound of the organ was filling enough.
A: Because that space is so wonderful, you know, it has wonderful acoustics—or at least had wonderful acoustics. But you know, it’s really sad to talk about an instrument that might not recover, because as I understood from all the articles and all the friends that are sending us different messages that this organ was heavily damaged by waterfall.
V: And this Website that we’re looking at on http://mypipeorganhobby.blogspot.com, it has also links to online recordings, YouTube recordings of both organs, so we will link it to our conversation, so anybody who is interested in hearing those instruments can visit this site, and without searching YouTube manually, they can just click on the collection and listen right away. Alright, guys, we hope this was useful to you. Please send us more of your questions; we love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice,
A: Miracles happen!
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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