The Norwegian Rollon was baptized in Evreux in 912 during the reign of Charles III ( Charles the Simple), transforming the Episcopal church of Evreux into the cradle of Norman Christianity. Today’s building, characterizes by an unusual nave, narrow, long and high, has been damaged by fire and rebuilt a number of times. The need to build a new organ in such a prestigious site has led Bruno DECARIS, chief architect or Monuments Historiques, to design an impressive case to house the organ.
This instrument was inaugurated in September 2007 and is the response to a request made by the Friends of the Organs of Evreux Cathedral (Amis des Orgues de la Cathédrale d’Evreux, -AMORCE). Tenders were invited in 1994, contracts signed in 2002, and the organ was built from 2002 to 2004 in Provence (Saint-Didier) by the organ builder Pascal Quoirin. Final on-site assembly was carried out from the end of 2004 to June 2005, and the instrument was voiced and tuned at the end of 2005.
This organ forms part of a centuries-old programme of construction work carried out in this stone nave which was erected in the 12th and 13th centuries. The vertical soaring of the instrument perfectly matches the narrowness of the space defined by the trefoil pillars. This cylindrical shaft, ‘dropped’ in the luster of the white rose window, enables us to rediscover the intricate contours of its shapes and sections. The pearly exterior finish made of birch wood, varnished and studded with gold dust, perfectly complements the chalky Vernon stone, which forms the container in which this instrument nestles.
In a long and narrow nave, the need to project the sound correctly towards the altar justifies the louder high up above both the corbelled Positif and the main body of the instrument under the keystone. Six colored shutters protect the organ mechanism when closed, but can be opened by means of jacks to project the sounds forwards, and reveal the beauty of the interior design of the shutters. These are adorned with decreasing patterns of gold-leaf squares based on the initials of the Monuments Historiques on a blue and red monochrome background. The colours remind us of the Middles Ages when the interiors of our cathedrals were painted in such bold shades.
The structure of wood and steel weighs twenty tons of which the instrument itself weighs only five. This construction lies on deep foundations which guarantee that it remains absolutely vertical even though it is completely detached from the stone walls. There is only a very light overhead metal passageway which gives access to the console from behind, and which carries the power cables.
The oak used for the timber frame and for the wooden pipes, as well as for the manufacture of the trackers and pallets, is of an exceptional quality. It contains no knots or flaws and the grain is all in one direction complete alignment. It was specially selected from a forest in Burgundy.
Inside this large cylindrical body there are many little wooden ladders made of oak and several very narrow manholes giving access to the various parts of the organ for maintenance, tuning and repair.
The instrument is divided between five levels, has four different wind supplies and a Barker machine. This latter pneumatically operates the pipes which are up to twelve meters higher than the console by the simple depression of a manual key.
The final tonal modifications to the façade pipes (montre) were made on the ground with the pipes lying on cushions placed on the stone floor of the cathedral. These tin pipes are heavy and fragile, weighting more than a hundred kilograms, and are of variable thickness; thin at the top, but getting thicker towards the bottom so that they can support their own weight without deformation. The smallest pipe is only twelve centimeters long. The façade pipes on the positive all appear to be the same length, but a special method is used to make only the lower part of each pipe resonate so as to produce the different pitches.
The horizontal trumpet pipes, so-called “en chamade”, project the sound towards the altar in an arrangement which is rare en France.
The delicate process of tuning the instrument gives each pipe its correct pitch by slightly adjusting its length. Each pipe obtains its desired tone and colour according to the shape of the; flared, open, stopped, pierced, cut, closed, crenellated or slit, and adjusting the shape and size of the upper lip, the mouth opening and the ears. These fine adjustments are called voicing.
The choice of registration and control of the combinations of stops chosen from the fifty three available can be pre-programmed by the organist. During the performance, the organist can engage the stops required at that particular moment simply by pressing a button.
The console contains four keyboards with fifty-six notes each, and a thirty-two note pedal board. The organ contains about four thousand pipes.
The exterior lighting of the instrument is provided by twenty-four halogen projectors which hang from the bottom of the gateway and point upwards. This tangential projection brings out the intricate elegant and soaring structure of the building.
Pascal QUOIRIN, inspired by the works of Dom BEDOS*, has created an instrument which he terms “new-classical” by conserving the techniques of the baroque period .
This new and prestigious organ wil be used for parish services in the cathedral as well as being available for the teachers and pupils of the “Conservatoire à Rayonnement Départemental” d’Evreux. It wil also be used for many concerts-there are many famous organists in France and abroad who wish to come and play the exceptional new instrument, which is unique by virtue of its shape, size, specification and layout in an entirely vertical enrironnemental frame.
*Dom Bedos, 18th century Benedictine monk whose the treaty “L’Art du facteur d’orgue” has become a reference among the organ builders.