After last week’s fire that ripped through the roof of Notre-Dame Cathedral, many musicians were nervously awaiting news regarding the state of the 8,000-pipe Organ.
The cathedral was an iconic part of the development of Western music: as the home of the Notre-Dame school of polyphony, where the creation of multi-part music gained international prestige.
Pascal Quoirin, who restored the famous organ in 2017, announced yesterday that there was no damage to the instrument. He spent two hours examining the electronic components and pipes, and could see no effects of the fire, stating that the temperature inside the organ did not reach above 17°C on the day of the blaze, ensuring there was no degradation.
Notre-Dame Cathedral has been home to an organ since the 14th-century, but since then has been subject to many renovations. In 1730, the original organ was replaced, before robustly withstanding many attack attempts during the French Revolution, the scars of which can still be seen on the organ case.
A big change occurred in 1963 ,when Pierre Cochereau replaced the console, with further renovations in 1990, 1992, 2012 and 2014. The cumbersome original can still be seen in the next door museum.
One of the cathedral’s three resident organists, Vincent Dubois, said that every great organ builder has worked on the Notre-Dame instrument, and said that ‘the synthesis of all that work is just a miracle’.
It is also a miracle that the instrument survived the flames, as well as the enormous volume of water that went into the attempt to save the cathedral. It was only due to the slanted stone roof above the organ, which created an umbrella over the instrument, that led all of the water from the hoses to slide over it.
President Emmanuel Macron has set a somewhat ambitious goal of rebuilding the cathedral within the next five years. However, with this in mind, hopefully the wonderful organ music will be heard again sooner than we think.