A few months after Pierre Cochereau’s death in March 1984, the decision was made to return to service by district, as in the 18th century, a desire that Pierre Cochereau himself had expressed. A competition was held, and four new tenured organists were appointed in 1985: Yves Devernay (who died in 1990), Olivier Latry, Philippe Lefebvre and Jean-Pierre Leguay.
Very soon after, the cathedral granted them permission to perform general tuning and dust removal on the instrument, while the Ministry of Culture’s discussions on the great organ’s future, its restoration and its expansion—which had already been suggested by Pierre Cochereau in 1972 and by Norbert Dufourcq before 1980—were making good progress. The project prepared by Pierre Cochereau and Norbert Dufourcq (1982) never came to a fore.
Many options were discussed:
None of these projects was met with the national commissions’ consensus and, in the end, the great organ’s tenured organists, who agreed completely with the cathedral and the Ministry of Culture’s technical consultant, Jean-Pierre Decavèle, suggested to restore the organ entirely based on the following elements:
After an international call to tender, the contract was given to a group of organ builders managed by Jean-Loup Boisseau and his partner Bertrand CATTIAUX, with Philippe Emeriau, Michel Giroud and Synaptel in charge of computer fittings. The restoration of Notre-Dame’s organ brought two completely foreign worlds, the world of organ building and the world of computing, together for the first time. One is a world of high-level crafstmanship, in a country with a very rich organ heritage where the national and local governments’ 15-year organ restoration policy had provided training for internationally-renowned organ builders. The other is a world of engineers and computer scientists, of cutting-edge technologies, aeronautics, astronautics and telecommunications.
The work began in May 1990 and was completed in November 1992. The organ was blessed by Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, Archbishop of Paris and inaugurated in December in the presence of the Minister of Culture. A concert series with performances by the tenured organists would attract fifty thousand people in one week.
The great organ at Notre-Dame de Paris is now, more than ever, one of the main participants in the cathedral’s liturgical and musical life. Louis Vierne, Pierre Cochereau, and their substitutes played in two morning masses and in afternoon vespers every Sunday and on holidays, but, for the past twenty years, the great organ’s tenured organists have played at six Sunday services (five masses and the vespers) in addition to weekday holidays at Notre-Dame de Paris and national ceremonies.
Notre-Dame de Paris’s great organ testifies to the history of a country that has often been intertwined with that of the cathedral. From its centuries-old loft, it watches over the cathedral’s nave and the millions of pilgrims and visitors who come to this great spiritual site each year. And when it wakes up every Sunday morning after the Lauds, it makes the stones sing and, just like its rose window, blossoms with the sunrise.