An Organist’s Diary

by Andrew Cesana

A trip to Normandy

First, some news concerning myself. I am now having my second stay in the Presidents’ retirement home having served my two year stint as President of the Bromley and Croydon District Association in April of this year. However, in September, I was re-elected as an IAO Councillor for a period of three years and am looking forward to working under David Hill next year.

Whilst the Kent County Organists’ Association have been celebrating their 60th anniversary programme, I was pleased to have been invited to participate in the North Hampshire Association’s 40th Anniversary trip to Normandy with the base being in Rouen, the capital of Haute Normandie. I arrived in Rouen at 4.00 p.m on 2nd August. There were no organ visits on the first day but on Thursday 3rd August we visited L’Église St. Gervais et St. Protais at Gisors where Sarah Soularue, an American former pupil of the Duruflés is Titular Organist. The organ was built in 1982 by Haerpfer-Erman and modified by Adrien Maciet in 1986. She played a varied programme ranging from J.S. Bach to Jean Langlais. In the afternoon, we visited Évreux. Here, it was not possible to play or even hear the new cathedral organ built by Pascal Quoirin as it was full of dust and needed cleaning, so they said! However, it was possible to play the organ in the former Abbey Church of St. Taurin originally built by Callinet in 1842 which was again demonstrated by Sarah Soularue.

On the following day, we travelled to Bolbec where in the church of St. Michel is housed an instrument originally built for the church of St. Herbland, Rouen, by Lefebvre in 1685 and installed in Bolbec in 1791. It was reconstructed by Cattiaux in 1998-9 in the Classical tradition and it was demonstrated by Marie Cécile Queffelec, a charming young personality, after which members were allowed to play. In the afternoon, we visited two instruments in Le Havre, first at the Church of St. Vincent de Paul, an organ by Merklin heavily reconstructed in the early 1960’s following war damage. Pascal Estrier the titulaire, who is a keen organ builder, demonstrated with music ranging from Louis Vierne to Gaston Litaize, after which members were invited to play. Then Notre Dame Cathedral, which has an instrument that has been much altered following war damage, and in 1980 a new instrument was constructed by Haerpfer in the neo-classical spirit. Jean Philippe Hartmann the organist demonstrated, following which we were allowed to play.

Saturday 5th August proved to be an exciting day as we remained in Rouen. The morning proved to be free as there was no access to the organ at St. Maclou, but after lunch we were assigned to visit one of Frances’ most famous organs, the Cavaillé Coll at St. Ouen. Marie Andrée Morisset, the Titulaire demonstrated with Widor’s Marcia from the 3rd Symphony and was joined by her husband Michel in two duets for trumpet and organ. I played the Vierne Carillon de Westminster after which the rest of the group played. Following the visit, Marie Andrée Morrisset demonstrated for us at the Chapel of the Charles Nicolle Hospital which was in the French Classical spirit.

On Sunday morning, we attended Mass at Rouen Cathedral, the final voluntary being Elgar’s Land of Hope and Glory following which we were allowed to play the organ. At present, a campaign is being raised for the organ’s restoration, the last reconstruction being in 1956. In the afternoon, Sarah Soularue demonstrated for us at the the Protestant Church of St. Éloi, completely reconstructed by Haerpfer-Ermann in the French Classical tradition in 1979. Her husband Olivier is Senior Organ Consultant for Haute-Normandie and was present with us. Later that afternoon, there was the option of attending the recital at the ancient abbey of St. Martin de Boscherville, an impressive 12th century building with an instrument originally dating back to 1627, restored in 1993 by Bernard Aubertin. Fabien Desseaux, that afternoon’s recitalist, put the organ through its paces in music of the 18th century including the de Grigny Veni Creator. In the evening, Prosper Sevestre and I attended a performance of the Mozart Requiem at Rouen Cathedral interspersed with organ improvisations.

On the Monday visits were made to Mont Saint Aignan (St. Thomas de Cantorbery) which houses a 17th century organ reconstructed by Pascal Quoirin in 2001 where the organist was so shy, she wouldn’t demonstrate it for us and in the afternoon, at St. Rémy at Dieppe, Florence Rousseau demonstrated it for us and took us out to see another instrument in the Baroque style at Arques la Bataille. We also managed to see St. Jacques in Dieppe although the organ here was out of action.

On the Tuesday we travelled to Fécamp to see the massive abbey church of La Sainte Trinite which houses a Cavaillé Coll organ. Regis Feuilloley, the Titulaire, demonstrated with the Vierne Carillon de Westminster then to the Abbaye St. Sauveur at Montivilliers which houses one of the first electric action instruments.

Wednesday, which was the last day of the visit, saw one last instrument, the Cavaillé Coll organ at St. Godard, Rouen, demonstrated by Sarah Soularue. Following lunch with the Soularues, it was time to disperse. I left on the 17.11 train for Lisieux. It had been a super visit. Next year, the North Hampshire Association will be visiting South Africa and our thanks are due to Jeff Lloyd for the organisation of this visit.


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