Since its creation in 1975 the Cavaillé-Coll Association has focused its energies largely on proper conservation and restoration projects of the organs produced by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll in order to prevent these instruments from undergoing modification aimed at so-called “improvement” or “modernisation.”
The association through its administrative personnel has often made contact with various persons involved directly or indirectly with the organ as a musical medium: organists, clergy, organbuilders, heads of non-profit associations, elected officials, administrators etc.
These diverse encounters have led to exchanges that were often fascinating (or, at times, disappointing) but always interesting and crucial when taking on a project, whether the full restoration of an instrument or a mere protective action.
- The first concern of the association to protect Cavaillé-Coll’s work of A. Cavaillé-Coll focused on his first Parisian organ, at Notre Dame de Lorette, the restoration of which, initiated by the Historic Monuments service in 1976, turned out to be catastrophic and was the subject of a petition we drew up and handed out at the entrance of the inauguration concert.
- From its creation in 1975, the Association A. Cavaillé-Coll took a strong interest in several Parisian instruments which deserved special attention: the organ of the Temple du St-Esprit, 5 rue Roquépine in the 8th arrondissement (which became the association’s headquarters shortly thereafter), the organs of the church of St-Louis d’Antin (9th arr.) and St-Bernard de la Chapelle (19th arr.), built in the same period as that of Ste-Clotilde, not to mention of course the prestigious organ of St-Sulpice and that of the Sacré-Cœur d Montmartre.
- For many years (beginning in 1977) we were in contact with the Tourist Office and then the Town Hall of Long (Somme) on the occasion of the restoration of the organ to celebrate the centenary of its construction. Several concerts drew attention to this magnificent instrument which over the years has led to its registering as a “Historic Monument” and then its scrupulous and exemplary restoration in 1989-90.
- The organ of the cathedral of Lescar (64) was a focus of our attention from 1975. This instrument built in 1869 by Georges Wenner (a former employee of the Maison Cavaillé-Coll) was the subject of a project of “baroquisation,” despite its being 95% intact. We collaborated in the creation of a historic preservation association (ASOCL) and actively participated in making the instrument known through concerts, recordings, broadcasts on the France Culture radio station. After a first unconvincing restoration in 1978, the instrument was registered as a Historical Monument, then painstakingly restored in 2000.
- We were invited in 1981-82 to accompany the refurbishing of the great organ of Notre-Dame in Lesparre-Médoc (Gironde) by the same organbuilder Georges Wenner and the impressive instrument of St Louis des Chartrons in Bordeaux (53 stops with a 32′): the latter instrument was registered, then restored some years later. That of Lesparre-Médoc was subsequently placed on the registry as well.
- On November 15, 1982, we sent a letter expressing alarm and misgivings to Mr. Jack Lang, Minister of Culture, concerning the restoration project of the main organ in the Basilica of St-Denis as programmed by the government. An international petition was then launched by our association with a view to obtaining a more in-depth examination of the project: a direct consequence of this action was the formation of a “Monitoring Commission” to which the association was convened and whose progress – very disappointing – is documented in the contemporary issues of La Flûte Harmonique…
But in those days already, some signs of a more than superficial respect for the work of Cavaillé-Coll were being felt, and the association was thereby increasingly in a position to offer support rather than protest.
- A restoration that also marked a milestone in our approach to protecting the work of Cavaillé-Coll was that of the main organ of the basilica of Sacré-Cœur de Montmartre in 1985 thanks to the conviction and vigilance of its incumbant at the time.
- Thanks to the intervention of a German member, the association established contact with the recording firm Motette and thus set out a musical/documentary program on the work of A. Cavaillé-Coll, distributed in a boxed set of 7 LPs (including a trilingual documentary booklet). This achievement had a beneficial effect for knowledge of the association and the work of Cavaillé-Coll’s heritage, especially abroad.
The association has been asked many times to contribute to various events beyond actual organ projects but closely related to the instruments and organ music of the 19th century (see also our Conferences page on this subject).
- For several years beginning in October 1992 our association was closely associated with Le Puy Musical in Rouen in organizing an international organ academy focused on the prestigious romantic and symphonic instruments of the region. This academy, comprising interpretation courses, concerts, conferences, visits to instruments, debates, lasted a week and was held for 7 consecutive years from 1992 to 1998. The instruments of St-Ouen, St-Godard, St-Sever, St-Vivien, St-Nicaise in Rouen as well as those of Elbeuf, Caudebec les Elbeuf, Bonsecours, Saint-Saëns etc… were available for performance, trying-out and analysis by all the participants.
- The year 1999 (centenary of the death of Aristide Cavaillé-Coll) was commemorated by the Saint-Denis Conference planned and organized by our association in collaboration with the Office of Organs of the Ministry of Culture (Heritage Department). Several concerts and conferences took place in the basilica and in the prestigious Maison de la Légion d’Honneur, not only to honor the memory of Aristide Cavaillé-Coll but also to magnify and ensure a bright future for his work.
- The University of North Texas Denton invited our association to participate with two conferences in the Cavaillé-Coll Symposium it organized from October 13 to 16, 1999. A large audience of students, professors and organists took part in the many events, contributing to acknowledgement of the French organ heritage and in particular that of Aristide Cavaillé-Coll.
- This commemorative year ended on December 17 and 18, 1999 in Mainz, Germany with the Symposium organized around the inauguration of the Cavaillé-Coll restored and acquired by the Parish of St Bernhard in Mainz-Bretzenheim. The Cavaillé-Coll association was privileged to participate in this event with a conference and a concert on the only Cavaillé-Coll installed in Germany at the time.
- Other collaborations have taken place over the ensuing decades; the most recent to date have included actions undertaken in favor of several Cavaillé-Coll organs (Warrington, Ghent, then Vire/Normandie, Épône and Alfortville 2019-22).