Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Great Organ

The Great Organ, Cathédrale Saint-Gatien, Tours, France

The present cathedral building was started in the 12th century and was not completed until the 16th century

It is dedicated to St Gatien, the first bishop of Tours (previously dedicated to St Maurice)

The first organ documented in the cathedral was in the 16th century by the Archbishop Martin de Beaune (1519 - 1527)

The present organ (with a few reconstructions) is from the 17th century

The Tours organ illustrates that at one time, the organ and its music was regarded as fundamental to liturgy

Consider the labour in the making of the great instrument, not simply the external decoration but the  sheer technical proficiency in the selecting of the materials, fashioning it and ensuring  the sound produced

Then the effort in installing it taking into account the acoustics of the building in which it resides

Then the maintenance and renewal

And lastly the effort and talent in making the instrument sing throughout its life

No mean effort and no mean achievement. But then it was for the liturgy, the centre of worship when  the centrality of worship of God in society was undisputed

Perhaps nowadays (apart from cathedrals and major churches) we do not receive the opportunity to hear it

Pius XII extolled the place of the organ in church and in liturgy

In Musicae Sacrae (25th December 1955) he wrote:
"Among the musical instruments that have a place in church the organ rightly holds the principal position, since it is especially fitted for the sacred chants and sacred rites. It adds a wonderful splendour and a special magnificence to the ceremonies of the Church. 
It moves the souls of the faithful by the grandeur and sweetness of its tones. It gives minds an almost heavenly joy and it lifts them up powerfully to God and to higher things."
The most musical of Popes, Pope Benedict XVI likewise praised its position in the Church and its use in liturgy when he blessed the new organ in Regensburg's Alte Kapelle (13th September 2006) in a speech which showed his passion for music:
"The organ has always been considered, and rightly so, the king of musical instruments, because it takes up all the sounds of creation – as was just said - and gives resonance to the fullness of human sentiments, from joy to sadness, from praise to lamentation.  
By transcending the merely human sphere, as all music of quality does, it evokes the divine.  
The organ’s great range of timbre, from piano through to a thundering fortissimo, makes it an instrument superior to all others. It is capable of echoing and expressing all the experiences of human life. The manifold possibilities of the organ in some way remind us of the immensity and the magnificence of God. 
Psalm 150, which we have just heard and interiorly followed, speaks of trumpets and flutes, of harps and zithers, cymbals and drums; all these musical instruments are called to contribute to the praise of the triune God.  
In an organ, the many pipes and voices must form a unity.  
If here or there something becomes blocked, if one pipe is out of tune, this may at first be perceptible only to a trained ear. But if more pipes are out of tune, dissonance ensues and the result is unbearable.  
Also, the pipes of this organ are exposed to variations of temperature and subject to wear.  
Now, this is an image of our community in the Church. Just as in an organ an expert hand must constantly bring disharmony back to consonance, so we in the Church, in the variety of our gifts and charisms, always need to find anew, through our communion in faith, harmony in the praise of God and in fraternal love.  
The more we allow ourselves, through the liturgy, to be transformed in Christ, the more we will be capable of transforming the world, radiating Christ’s goodness, his mercy and his love for others."

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