Expected for many years, the reconstruction of the great organ of Chartres Cathedral began in mid-September 2022.
Owned by the State, the great organ of Chartres was at the end of its rope, and had been on a drip for years in order to maintain its religious and cultural activities.
The Association des grandes orgues de Chartres, and in particular its president Philippe Lefebvre, has been working hard for several decades to achieve this result, which is the result of an unprecedented effort by the State, which provides 75% of the financing, with the support of the local authorities (City of Chartres, Région Centre and Département d’Eure-et-Loir) and the assistance of the Chartres Sanctuary of the World Association.
Following a call for tenders launched in 2021 by the Direction des affaires culturelles du Centre, a jury composed of internationally renowned organists and qualified personalities selected the project presented by a group of three French organ builders who joined forces for this large-scale project: the Muhleisen organ builders in Strasbourg, the Atelier Chevron in Corrèze, and the harmonist Bertrand Cattiaux.
An operation in several stages:
– installation of the scaffolding,
– dismantling of the case and the organ in a few weeks,
– restoration of the organ case, classified as a historical monument, in the workshop,
– construction of the new organ in the organbuilders’ workshops,
– reassembly of the case and installation of the new instrumental part,
– harmonization of the pipes.
The project proposed by the group of companies consists of the construction of a large organ with four manuals and about fifty stops adapted to the historical case and to the acoustics of the cathedral. This project takes into account the different uses of the instrument: religious (more than 200 services per year with the organ) and cultural (concerts, international festival, summer evenings) and the Chartres International Organ Competition which has been welcoming young organists from all over the world for 50 years.
Following the proposals presented to the State by the Association des Grands Orgues de Chartres, the project aims to provide the cathedral with an instrument representative of the art of French organ building, offering musical possibilities for repertoires from different periods but also open to creation and improvisation.
The instrument will combine the age-old and proven techniques of organ building (mechanical transmission, use of traditional materials such as oak and tin) and will offer new possibilities thanks to the digital technologies that organ building has integrated for several years. Heritage and modernity: this is the challenge of this operation, which will be carried out under the supervision of the state-approved technical consultant Thierry Semenoux.
The reconstruction work began in September 2022 with the dismantling of the entire instrumental part and the restoration of the case.
The new instrument is expected to sound by the end of 2025.