The world was obviously taken aback when news broke with terrifying videos of smoke and fire coming from the beloved Notre Dame Cathedral. News reports came slowly about damage.
Finally, the question that every organist asked themselves was answered: The organ lives! But why is this instrument listed among the treasures of Notre Dame?
As a new organist, I’d like to share a few facts about organs, specifically Notre Dame’s organ. That may help one understand the instrument Mozart called “the king of instruments.”
Describing an organ may sound like French to those who do not play, so I will explain it. Here’s a few facts about Notre Dame’s organ:
- Notre Dame’s organ is the 27th-largest in the world
- Notre Dame’s organ is monstrous in size. It has approximately 8,000 pipes, and five manuals (keyboards).
- If their organist wanted to “pull out all the stops” they would have to spend quite some time. It has 153 of them. One stop operates a rank of pipes, which is group of pipes. Each rank sounds different.
- You can imagine it takes quite a lot to play this work of art. It takes many years to complete such a project. Notre Dame’s organ builder, Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, finished building it 1868.
- If the fire had destroyed this organ, it would have been very expensive to replace. An organ with more than 100 ranks costs hundreds of millions of dollars, in addition to the loss of history.
Notre Dame’s organ truly is an irreplaceable French treasure.
When Catholics get the chance to go to Mass after the rebuild of Notre Dame, I hope they hear the “King of Instruments.”
Until then, you can listen to it on YouTube (posted above).
— By Mat Burkepile, courtesy of ChurchPOP. This article was originally posted on ChurchPOP’s website April 17.