Organists Ponder Fate - and Future - of Notre Dame's Organ

Apr 18, 2019

The world watched in despair at the images of flames roaring through Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral this past Monday, worrying about the fate of this historic, architectural - and to the French, national - treasure. As the shock and disbelief settled in, thoughts turned to the magnificent works of art inside, and for those in the music world, to the Grand Organ. Built in the 1860s by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll using some parts from two earlier organs, the organ has undergone several modifications and restorations and now features more than 8,000 pipes. Miraculously, the organ survived, although it is as of yet unclear how much restoration work the instrument will require. This Saturday (4/20 at 7 pm) on A Tempo, host Rachel Katz will speak with several organists about what makes the organ so precious to music history and performance, and about the possible scope of the restoration work that will be needed.

Jeffrey Brillhart, director of music and fine arts at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, performs on the organ at Notre Dame, assisted by Notre Dame organist Olivier Latry.
Credit Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Brillhart

The program will include interviews with Jeffrey Brillhart, director of music and fine arts at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, who has performed on the organ; Alan Morrison, who heads the organ department at The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and who had been preparing for his latest recital at Notre Dame this summer; and Eric Plutz, University Organist at Princeton University, who has heard the organ at Notre Dame in the past. These performers will share their experiences with the organ and their thoughts on its musical legacy. 

Other featured guests are Tony Thurman, director of development and communications at the American Guild of Organists, and organbuilder Michael Quimby, owner and tonal director of Quimby Pipe Organs, which oversaw the restoration of the pipe organ of  New York's Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine after a fire damaged parts of that church. 

(Note: A previous version of this post incorrectly included a photo of Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal. We regret the error.)