The Notre-Dame Cathedral Paris Pipe Organ

The world watched in frozen horror as news broadcasts showed a fire blazing through the Notre Dame Cathedral on April 15, 2019. The fate of the historic building and its contents hung in the balance. The damage was extensive, yet somehow, miraculously even, some things survived. Among the remaining treasures in the cathedral is the pipe organ, known as the Grand Organ.

There were actually two organs in the cathedral. The Choir (smaller) organ received significant water damage, but reports are water flowed down both sides of the Grand (main) Organ case rather than into it, sparing it from flooding. There appears to be water damage to the organ’s wind chest (where the air comes from that makes the pipes sound). There is also a concern for the electrical system that runs throughout the organ. It is impossible to determine how extensive the damage is without actually taking the organ apart. Yet, in spite of the smoke damage, dirt and soot, so far it seems that the facade and the organ pipes are intact.

What’s next? During the time the cathedral is undergoing repairs, the organ will be dismantled and moved to a safe place for cleaning and restoration. It is going to be a few years before we hear the Grand Organ again, but thankfully, we will hear it!

A printable and expanded version of this lesson, complete with projects for review, is available for free here.

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February 16, 1848: Chopin’s Final Concert

Frederic_Chopin_photo-713x1024Born in the Duchy of Warsaw (present-day Poland) and raised in Warsaw, Frederick Chopin (1810-1849) settled in Paris by the time he was 21 years old.  His musical compositions are primarily for solo piano and remain among the most popular selections for students, artists, and audiences.  While admired for his technical virtuosity at the piano, he was generally in poor health throughout his life.  He was in Paris when died of tuberculosis, just 39 years old.

Chopin preferred intimate salon performances over concert work and only gave about 30 public performances once he moved to Paris.  The last of these performances was in London on February 16, 1848.  The occasion was a fundraising concert presented by Literary Association of the Friends of Poland to aid the several hundred Poles that had fled to London in the wake of the November Uprising of 1830.  The “Annual Grand Dress and Fancy Ball and Concert” was a grand and lavish evening.  Chopin was one of several performers for the concert portion of the evening, and his appearance was scheduled between operatic vocalists.

Chopin performed on a Broadwood grand piano and felt he had done well.  The audience agreed, giving him “much applause.”  Others described his playing as  “like an angel” and “most brilliant.”  Even though he was frail, his artistry was appreciated as “that pure and vigorous style which has already earned him admiration is musical circles.”  After his performance, Chopin left the event early and collapsed when he arrived home. 

Many examples of Chopin’s music are available on YouTube.  Click here to go to one extended playlist.