Pitching the Eiffel Tower – 1/6

On Saturday November 6 (2010), I play the organ for a Bar Mitzvah at Vassar Temple and then jump in the car headed for the airport (I scheduled my trip so that I would leave immediately after the bar mitzvah and return for regular Friday night worship services the following week!). In four days I present my plans to the Eiffel Tower administration (SETE) for Tower Music.

An interesting digression
Since I was going to arrive in Paris on Sunday, November 7, I wrote to both Notre Dame Cathedral and titular organist Olivier Latry’s management company and asked permission to go up to the organ loft during Sunday Mass to see/hear the mighty organ up close. I received word back from management that there are four titular organists who rotate duties [one from each of the 4 districts in Paris…different from the 20 arrondissements], and that Philip LeFebvre would be on duty that weekend. So I wrote to him directly and he wrote back directly, very graciously providing the info on how to gain access to the loft that morning.


This organist’s duties consist of playing processional music (Mass begins with a choral introit/motet, after which the Grand Orgue plays music to accompany the clergy and altar servers from the side of the church, winding their way under the organ loft and back up to the front altar. This can take about 4-6 minutes). Then he plays the Kyrie, Gloria and Psalm in alternation with the choir and altar organ, sits it out till Communion and then a Postlude. There are no hymns.

He was very gracious and would talk to his guests, including me, when he wasn’t playing, showing this or that, answering questions, or sitting in his private room. I was hoping to get to play the organ myself, but as the Masses there are jammed up against one another, one starting 5 minutes after the other just ended, I contented myself with presenting M. LeFebvre my ‘Orfeo Suite’ for organ solo as a gift.


Another interesting digression

There’s one item of particular note I will relate, and then if you are really interested, I’d suggest you go to the wonderfully complete Notre Dame de Paris website (available in English too). They list all the organists, give some bios, and provide terrific pix and specs of all the organs over the centuries.


Carved cherubs on the towers of the organ case of Notre Dame de Paris.

There are huge cherub faces carved under three of the towers, but there are two towers whose faces are noticeably and violently hacked away. I was told that they weren’t cherub faces but royal coat-of-arms. During the French Revolution, the mob was going around defiling churches and taking the pipes out of organs to melt them down for bullets. When the organist at the time saw them heading for the cathedral, he ran up to the loft {he and his organ-pumper-boy too I suppose} and began playing “La Marseillaise.” Happy to hear that music, the mob rejoiced and spared the organ, but they chopped away the coat of arms. During all subsequent restorations of the organ, those spots have always been left in their damaged state as a reminder of the Cathedral’s history.