One week ago, many watched in horror as Notre Dame burned in Paris. Musicians were especially concerned about the cathedral’s iconic pipe organ. It's the largest in France, with five keyboards and more than 8,000 pipes; some parts of the instrument date back to the 1730s. Going back farther in history, there has been an organ in the same spot since 1402.
Rick Parsons, President of Parsons Pipe Organ Builders in Canandaigua, said that he, too, watched the fire and worried. Knowing where it was physically situated in Notre Dame, he and his colleagues speculated with each other online until the news came out that it was salvagable. He says his sadness last Monday turned to hopefulness and then optimism when he learned the instrument had been saved.
“It’s very large so it’ll be a big project just to remove it and reinstall it,” Parsons said. "The first thing they’ll do hopefully soon (as they’re allowed in there) is to remove the whole organ. I’m told that there was no water damage (which is a critical point), but smoke damage is repairable. There was no excessive heat damage, remarkably. Obviously, pipes that are made of lead and tin can be easily melted, so with smoke damage it’s really (about) cleaning,” he told WXXI.
It was an emotional week for pipe organ fans and musicians who love the music and culture of Notre Dame Cathedral, Parsons said, adding, “I think this brings people together. Look at the donations that have already been raised. This is a unifying event, as tragic as it is, for the whole world.”