Today was our first full day in Paris after a welcome dinner with our GoAhead tour last night. The tour has 15 people in it, with a great mix of people, young and old, a much more manageable number than we had in Iceland. Pilar is our guide—she is Scottish, but Spanish is her native language and she normally lives in Rome! We had a 3 hour bus tour this morning and hit all the highlights—The Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, Place de la Concorde, etc.
The afternoon, however, we were on our own to do what we wanted. I was brave enough to travel around town on the Métro, all by myself, and I never got lost! Carl would have been so proud of me!
I first went to the St Séverin church, very close to Notre Dame Cathedral. This beautiful church dates back to the end of the 11th century, built on the place of a former chapel (VIth century). The clocktower dates to 1412. Its present appearance in flamboyant Gothic style dates back to the 15-17th century.
There are altogether three pipe organs in this building. The primary organ was built by Claude Ferrand (1748), using pipes from the former organ, probably of Valéran de Héman (1610). In 1889, the organ was transformed into a symphonic organ. In 1963, a reconstruction and reconception of the orginal French classical organ into a neo-classical German-French concept was carried out by Alfred Kern. The instrument has 4 manuals and 58 ranks, but I unfortunately did not hear it.
Here are some of the pictures I took in this beautiful church, St Séverin.
After getting a bite to eat (a Croque Monsieur—a ham and cheese sandwich which was my student staple 48 years ago) my next stop was at the Cluny Museum, which features medieval works. I then sat in the museum’s garden for awhile until walking back to Notre Dame.
They were having some kind of peace demonstration with speeches and loud rock music (!) in front of the Cathedral and the place was crawling with police. Our bags were inspected twice before being allowed to enter the cathedral where I sat down and listened to a visiting choir rehearse. It immediately gave me goosebumps because guess what they were singing?! Ave Maria by Franz Biebl!
At 5:45 pm, a congregational Vespers service began, led by a male and female cantor. The entire service was sung, with the organist connecting everything with organ interludes, transposing seamlessly to the key of the next part of the service, psalm, or canticle.
At 6:30 pm, the visiting choir sang the Biebl Ave Maria as the prelude to the mass that followed. It was not quite as polished a performance as the Hawaii Masterworks Chorus had done in Ireland, but these were after all, only high school kids from a public school, Valencia High School, Valencia, CA, directed by Christine Tavares-Mocha. The choir sang the Kyrie, a polyphonic Sanctus, and during communion. It was surprising that a public school would have this kind of repertoire!— and the kids got applauded as they processed out.
I had come to hear Olivier Latry, the organist, and he improvised a grand prelude for the entrance of the priests, and something French baroque for the offertory. What was amazing was that after the choir sang the communion, he picked up and improvised from their communion piece (I am afraid I could not identify the piece except it was based on a benediction theme—”The Lord bless you and keep you,” sung in English.)
At the end, Olivier Latry improvised a postlude and I took a short video to give you an idea of what he played.
I think I saw enough for one day! And it only took me 13,521 steps!