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  • "Reveling in the music of a Paris church" Rick Steves' Europe (Seattle Times article)

    RICK STEVES

    Daniel Roth welcomes guests at the grand pipe organ of St. Sulpice in Paris.


    When I attend church services in Europe, surrounded by vast drafty buildings, statues of weary saints, foreign-language sermons, and tiny congregations, it's the music that sends me.

    And in Paris' St. Sulpice cathedral, that music comes with a bonus: a pipe organ concert — and not just any pipe organ concert. I'm sitting on the bench with perhaps the greatest organist in Europe as he plays what many consider the finest pipe organ anywhere. Any visitor is welcome to enjoy this unique tradition of musical hospitality at St. Sulpice Church.

    The spiritual sails of St. Sulpice have been filled for two centuries by its 6,600-pipe organ. Enthusiasts from around the world come to Paris just to hear it played.

    As the 10:30 Sunday Mass finishes, most of the crowd files quietly out. But a few always remain seated as the organist runs a musical victory lap. I remember my first visit well. I sat next to Arnaud, a young organist from Switzerland, who never comes to Paris without visiting St. Sulpice. When the organ stopped, he whispered, "Follow me. You see nothing like this in America."

    I followed Arnaud to the back of the church where the group of organ fans gathered. A small church-mouse of a man opened a tiny, unmarked door. We scampered up a spiral staircase into the organ loft of our wildest fantasy. The organ enthusiasts became animated. Intimate with an obscure world, they spoke of masters from 200 years ago as if they just heard them in concert.

    Arnaud stopped me at a yellowed document. Dragging his finger reverently down the glass frame, he said, "The 12 St. Sulpice organists. Most are famous in the evolution of pipe-organ music. With no break, they make wonderful music here in this church for two centuries." The lineage is charted — like presidents or kings — on the wall. Charles-Marie Widor played from 1870 to 1933. Marcel Dupre from 1934 to 1971. And now, Daniel Roth.

    "Dupre started a tradition at St. Sulpice," Arnaud said. "Now people who love the organ are welcome here in the loft every Sunday."

    The dozen or so visitors gathered around Daniel Roth. He knew he was sitting on a bench that organists the world over dream of warming. Maintaining Dupre's tradition of loft hospitality, Roth was friendly in four languages.

    History was thumb-tacked all around: dusty charts of the pipes, papers from master organ builders, busts of previous organists, and a photo of Albert Schweitzer with Dupre. And overseeing everything was a bust of the god of organists, Johann Sebastian Bach.

    Arnaud pulled me behind the organ into a dark room filled with what looks like 18th-century StairMasters. "Before electricity, it took five men to work these bellows. And these powered the organ."

    Suddenly, the music for the second Mass began. Back at the organ, a commotion of music lovers crowded around a tower of keyboards in a forest of pipes.

    In the middle of it all, under a dangling heat lamp, sat Daniel Roth. A slight, unassuming man, , he pushed back his flowing hair with graceful fingers. Then, with a boyish enthusiasm, he sank his fingers into the organ.

    With an assistant on either side of the long bench, and arms and legs outstretched like an angry cat, Roth played all five keyboards. Supremely confident, he ignored the offbeat camera flashes of his adoring fans, followed the progress of the Mass via a tiny mirror, and made glorious music.

    The keyboards were stacked tall, surrounded by 110 stops — - wooden knobs that turn the pipes off and on — creating a multitude of tonal packages. Between hurried huddles, his assistants pushed and pulled the stops after each musical phrase.

    Arnaud propped a chair against the front wall of the organ, allowing me a commanding perch to oversee the musical action. On a well-worn wooden keyboard of foot pedals spreading below the bench, Roth's feet marched with his fingers, as he craned his neck to find the priest in his mirror.

    Turning around, I peeked through the pipes and down on a tiny congregation. Just as priests celebrate Mass in a church whether there are worshippers present or not, this organ must make music. I marveled at how the high culture of Europe persists. I'm thankful to experience it, in person, with Daniel Roth.

    You can, too, on your next visit to Paris. The 10:30 Mass at St. Sulpice is generally followed by a 25-minute organ recital; then you're welcome to enter the loft for the second Mass. For details on dates and concerts, go towww.danielrothsaintsulpice.org


    source:

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/traveloutdoors/2003508100_websteves07.html



  • #2
    Re: "Reveling in the music of a Paris church" Rick Steves' Europe (Seattle Times article)



    That was a really enjoyable read. I've made that pilgrimage myself a couple of times, and it really is something else to climb the stairs into that organ loft. I was really quite moved. The organ itself is, of course, awesome.





    Si

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    • #3
      Re: "Reveling in the music of a Paris church" Rick Steves' Europe (Seattle Times article)

      Yes indeedy,

      The world's finest organ in a spectacular acoustic.  I enjoy visiting that loft every year when I'm in Paris for a month.  Hmmm - a walker digital with that style of console would be a nice addition to the interior space of my house.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: "Reveling in the music of a Paris church" Rick Steves' Europe (Seattle Times article)



        Wow! Question, please, for you gentlemen who have been there: The lowest manual appears to be further abovethe organist's lap than the lowest manual on American and British (and German, Italian and Spanish?) consoles. I have perceived this before in various photographs of Cavaille-Coll consoles. Is this actually the case, or is it camera angle orsome other illusion?




        Thank you!

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: "Reveling in the music of a Paris church" Rick Steves' Europe (Seattle Times article)

          [quote user="MenchenStimme"]

          Wow! Question, please, for you gentlemen who have been there: The lowest manual appears to be further abovethe organist's lap than the lowest manual on American and British (and German, Italian and Spanish?) consoles. I have perceived this before in various photographs of Cavaille-Coll consoles. Is this actually the case, or is it camera angle orsome other illusion?




          [/quote]





          I think you're right. Here are a few videos which would suggest exactly that. You wouldn't want to be small if you intended using the upper manuals -- even the Swell seems to be quite a reach away.



          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tioi59u0Kj8



          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVJq8aBfBEI&mode=related&search=



          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KjtWbxQNGk&mode=related&search=





          Si

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: "Reveling in the music of a Paris church" Rick Steves' Europe (Seattle Times article)

            Thanks! And one can only raise the bench so high without being too far above the pedalboard. Oh well . . .

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: "Reveling in the music of a Paris church" Rick Steves' Europe (Seattle Times article)



              [quote user="SimonS"]You wouldn't want to be small if you intended using the upper manuals -- even the Swell seems to be quite a reach away.[/quote]




              The preferred method of playing large French organs is to always couple everything and to try to always play on the bottom manual (usually the Grand-Orgue). This wayyouhave the benefit of the Barker machines and also don't have to reach quite so far.When onemust play on thefourth or fifthmanual, the trick is to wear a loose-fitting jacket so as not to tear a seam. [:D]

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              • #8
                Re: "Reveling in the music of a Paris church" Rick Steves' Europe (Seattle Times article)

                Okay, thank you! So it is not an optical illusion caused by a camera angle or whatever.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: "Reveling in the music of a Paris church" Rick Steves' Europe (Seattle Times article)

                  I too have been lucky enough to savour this wonderful experience of visiting the loft at St.Sulpice. It truly is a remarkable instrument, and even a recording of the finest quality cannot do it justice as experiencing it live can.

                  It is wonderful for members of the public, organists and non-organists alike to be able to visit the tribune which are off-limits in so many other churches, not only in France, but all over the world. I know of no other church which has such an arrangement - perhaps other contributors do.
                  If I happen to be practicing in the cathedral and a member of the public who is an organist visits, the churchwarden will frequently get my attention - knowing that I will be happy to delay my practice for a while to let someone come up to the gallery andplay the organ. This is of course during practice only!

                  Experiencing church music in Paris is a highly enriching experience for any organist. Sacre-Coeur was particularly ethereal, when I visited the basilica a couple of years ago during an evening mass.



                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: "Reveling in the music of a Paris church" Rick Steves' Europe (Seattle Times article)



                    That was a lovely read. And it's also so nice to hear that people are allowed to come up and watch.




                    Timothy, that is very kind of you to allow someone to come and play the organ like that. I tried to ask a church while on vacation if I could have a go at their organ and they never replied back. On the flip side I visited another lovely church on Sunday during that same vacation and when I introduced myself to the organist after the service to compliment him he said, "if I had known you were here I would have put you to work," and we traded phone numbers, etc.




                    So to those of you out there who have beengracious to allow people like me who like to play ondifferent organs, you have no idea how much joy you bring to our hearts and I thank you for that a lot.




                    Cheerio, ReedGuy

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