The console is the part of the organ where all the instrument’s controls are grouped together.
It includes the keyboards, the pedalboard, the stop ties, the couplers, the expression and crescendo pedals and the combiner control buttons.
Originally, the great organ’s console was integrated into the great buffet, with the organist’s back to the nave. This arrangement was the most preferable, since it did not block access to the back positive, which was right against the gallery, yet guaranteed direct mechanics inside the great buffet. Today, you can still see a few old marks from the 18th century console, in particular traces of labels and stop tie positions on the arms that surrounded this area at the centre of the buffet.
When the instrument was rebuilt in 1868, Viollet-le-Duc’s removal of the positive buffet and the use of new transmissions made it possible for Cavaillé-Coll to separate the console and turn it around. Since then, the console has been independent and the organist has sat facing the cathedral’s nave.
Today’s solid oak console was added in 1992, when it replaced Cavaillé-Coll’s version, which is housed in the Musée Notre-Dame, and the console installed in Pierre Cochereau’s day. This console’s five 56-note keyboards, its 32-note pedalboard, its register buttons, its foot-controlled pistons and its bench were kept.
Finally, the new technological innovations added in the last restoration made it necessary to integrate two cathode displays into the console which made it possible to constantly show the organ’s status (user, combiner, crescendo, etc.) while providing easy access to the various functions (MIDI, replay, etc.).