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Grand Chœur Division

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  • Grand Chœur Division

    Hello, I'm new here and I have a question that's been bugging me: What's different about the Grand Chœur division in French organs (St. Sulpice organ, Notre Dame Cathedral organ to name a few) when compared to other more common divisions such as the Grand Orgue or the Positif?

  • #2
    This is only a guess - because I really do not know:

    To me, Grand Chœur inidicates something like full organ fluework with reeds added.


    • #3
      I tried a web search on "Grand Choeur" with limited success. One reference stated that Cavaille-Coll had placed that manual below the "Grand Orgue" (Great) manual in some of his organs (not much help); another says it is an indication of "full organ" as a registration. Those words also apparently are part of the titles of a lot of French organ music, as in "Grand Choeur Dialogue" (of which there are many--I especially like the one by Gigout).

      I am surprised that Menschenstimme doesn't know the answer. Maybe Soubasse32 will ring in here.



      • #4
        Menschenstimme had a start on the right answer. To understand the full answer, you have to understand the French way of doing things.

        French organs are not blessed with the combination action that we so take for granted on English and American organs. Rather, they depended on a system using ventils. Ventils are used to cut off air to certain combinations of stops until the organist is ready to use them.

        On the average Cavaille-Coll organ, there would be two ventils for each manual. One would control the lower pitched flues, and sometimes minor reeds like the Hautbois or Clarinette, the other controlling the powerful reeds and upper flues. The organist could play on, say, the flues, and register up the reeds and upper fluework that he would want farther along in the music, and when he got to the place where he wanted those stops, he simply pulled out the ventil control that would allow air to the chest holding those stops, thus allowing them to sound.

        In the two organs mentioned above, instead of having ventils for the Grandorgue (the equivalent of English Great manual), Cavaille put the upper fluework and reeds on the Grand Choeur manual. The lower fluework remained on the Grandorgue. To play everything together, the organist needed to couple both manuals.

        It sounds like a very clumsy way of doing things, but it works with French Romantic music of the 19th and 20th centuries.

        My home organ is a Theatre III with an MDS II MIDI Expander.


        • #5
          M&M provides a good explanation. A good example is the organ at St. Ouen, Rouen. If you look at the stoplist, it will become apparent: it is really a three manual instrument spread over four manuals (except think of the Bombarde manual as the Grand-Chœur. Interestingly with this organ, unlike other French instruments, it has the Grand-Orgue on the second manual. The reason for this is that it is mechanically simpler, and since there was no famous organist presiding over the instrument at the time of building, Cavaillé-Coll did not have to put the G.O. on the bottom as was usually insisted upon if there was a fmous organist at a large church.


          • #6
            There is an excellent series of videos where Daniel Roth demonstrates the instrument. The Grand Chœur is explained.