Today we visited Mirecourt, a town which is known for its musical instrument making, primarily stringed instruments. The Église Notre-Dame-de-la-Nativité is where we went to play the organ and what is remarkable, is that you have to enter the organ loft by an outside stairway, something I’d never think I’d see in Europe! (There is an outside stairway to the organ loft at St. Mark’s Episcopal in Honolulu, but then we don’t have to deal with icy sidewalks that they may have in France!)
This organ was built in 1826 by Jean-Baptiste Gavot with only 22 stops and a pull-down pedal. Over the years it was transformed by an added pedal division and pneumatic action, but it was restored by Gaston Kern in 1987 and integrated the best of all the changes.
The church also had a unique set of Stations of the Cross, as well as an antique monstrance, cope with golden thread and an ivory crucifix which I photographed below.
We saw a wonderful cartoon posted on the doorway to the organ:
Basically, a little boy says that his father will buy him a musical instrument, and his father suggests maybe a flute, xylophone, harmonica or trumpet.
The father faints when the little boy says he wants to play the organ!
Many of us ate lunch in a very nice patisserie with a choice of sandwich, drink and dessert for only 5.70 euros, then we drove to the town of Darney where we played a restored 1853 Jean-Nicolas Jeanpierre organ. This was going to be the last instrument I play on the tour since I am leaving one day early to catch the train and spend the night in a Paris airport hotel since my flight departs on Thursday morning. There’s no way I could leave any later since it’s a 3-hour train ride back to Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris.
So because this would be my last historic French organ, I decided to play on organo pleno (full organ) the third large Kyrie from Bach’s Clavierübung. People applauded after my performance!
Dr. James Litton was very kind to come up to me afterwards and said it was his favorite piece. As you may remember from a previous post, I took Dr. Litton’s Classical French organ literature class at Westminster Choir College—43 years ago! I told him he taught me everything I know about Classical French organ literature!
Even though this really wasn’t a German baroque organ, I think the Bach sounded just fine.
As you can imagine, I’m not looking forward to that long plane ride, but it’s time to get back to reality.
In my next post I will give you some parting thoughts on this whole France experience and what I’ve learned.