(SEINE ET MARNE – FRANCE)
The Organ and its History
Internal side of a Renaissance back door (around 1500)
Lower part of the medieval organ case (around 1390 – 1410)
Near the bellows, graffiti ‘FANCHON T 1748’ and ‘Clavde GERVAIS 1748’
The bellows blowers of the period ?
The window type console and its original keyboards which date from around 1690
Partial view of the Grand Orgue pipes
You may notice the récit cornet in the middle with the G.O. cornet on each side
Master Organbuilder :
(restoration ended in march 1996)
Technical supervisor : Jean-Pierre DECAVELE
Shift coupler for Grand-orgue and Positif
No pedal coupler
New stops :
Main case frame engraved by the carpenter (CHARPI) in 1737
At the end of a simple presentation of the historic organ to local school students, a little girl asked me an interesting question : “Tell me Sir, why isn’t your organ in Le Louvre ?”
Appointed Principal Organist
After this short and simple presentation of the origins of the organ, this little girl had understood the real historic value of this famous instrument, part of the French cultural patrimony.
From the organ origins to 1790
The rare known organists for both the 17th and 18th centuries tell us more about the existence of an organ rather than about its origins. In 1606, Justin Charon played an organ which is certainly a Renaissance instrument. The guardrail panels, renaissance on the south side, as well as the use of salvaged renaissance panels for main case back doors, prove this particular point. Moreover, the guardrail on the south side has mortises the arrangement of which shows the original position of the “plates faces”. In 1720, Etienne Royer is mentioned as the organist in the parish registry. He is shown as the successor to Claude Royer (his father ?). In 1764, we find the name of the organist, Jean Pascal, also designated as “master writer”. For the first time in 1790, the parish inventory shows the wages of the organist, but without mentioning his name… This is quite a poor harvest of memories which nevertheless shows that the organ was considered to be an important aspect of country life during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Gabriel d’Alençon, who restored the organ in 1933 while retaining all the original parts, reminds us of the tradition that describes the Rozay organ as a gift of Madame de Maintenon who had a residence in the area.
Another tradition claims that the organ, or specifically the ‘’Grand-Orgue’’, was made by Louis-Alexandre Clicquot.
All this deserves to be accepted with some reserve, considering the total absence of documents.
‘’The’’ document !
A single document in the archives, published by Norbert Dufourcq, describes the history of the organ during the 18th century. The document mentions the inventory taken after the death of François Deslandes for work to be done on the organ, but we find no information about it. Probably some work on the case itself. We know that the instrument remained unchanged.
The cases of both the grand orgue and the positif, which are clearly of similar construction, and with rare precision in their respective proportions, show, without a doubt, a profound impression of unity.
In spite of this evidence, numerous contradictions appear: coexistence of “claires-voies” from the early 18th century (whose remarkable design and execution was probably done by Varlet, who sculpted the “ange musicien” in 1741) with the molded panels of the lower part of the case, clearly from the 17th century, or yet with the base of the positif, so similar to the one made by Ducastel in Le Mesnil-Amelot (1678)…
How to explain such incoherencies of style without bringing to mind a rearrangement of the 17th century elements, executed in 1737 ?
The missing link : the former stop jamb panels
In 1983 Pierre Dumoulin noticed two former panels with square stop shanks. These panels, slightly cut short and possessing most of their labels, were reused as an internal support for the main organ case.
These miraculously preserved panels made it possible to reconstruct the original specification of the organ as it was in the 17th century. Therefore, we have discovered the divided registers - bass and treble - of the Trompette, Tierce and Nazard stops which correspond precisely to the layout of the present – and original – wind chests. This also substantiates the number of stops currently on the Grand Orgue and Positif.
The almost entire preservation of the reused stop panels, and the fact that these registers correspond with those on the present windchest - especially the bass/treble division for the Trompette, Tierce and Nazard stops - were conclusive in enabling the instrument to be brought back totally to the late 17th century. This includes - without a shadow of doubt – the [original] magnificent keyboards.
Former stop jamb panel with square shanks (back side)
The lower two keyboards from the 17th century
IN THE XIXth AND XXth CENTURIES
The organ had been used less and less, and hardly maintained during the XIX century with its resulting deterioration. The pipes accumulated in the positif, and in the kingdom of the pigeons, in the attic.
It is to be noted that in 1900, the proposal and the cost estimate drawn up by the establishment Anneessenss and sons to completely burn the instrument and reconstruct a new one, was never carried out because the establishment Anneessens went bankrupt.
When the Republic took possession of the organ the instrument was unusable and beyond repair. Irreparable until the study in 1930 by the Father Levasseur, senior priest: (…) After having studied for months the deplorable condition of what remained of the organ, I was able to conclude that hopefully it would be possible to use what was left of the organ, on condition that an organ builder could be found who would agree not to build a new organ, but rather to use the lamentable remains.
It was under these conditions that Gabriel d'Alençon, contacted by Father Levasseur, consented to undertake the restoration of “ces lamentables restes”, as early as the month of August 1930. The restoration was not fully completed until August 10, 1933, and is, according to connoisseurs and artists like Georges Bonnet, organist of Saint-Eustache, truly a work of art.
The restoration by Yves Cabourdin, completed in 1996, faithfully follows the lines established by Gabriel d’Alençon and restores to a raisonable degree the original composition of the XVII century instrument.
To those familiar with organs, the history of the anonymous (let’s hope only temporarily) Rozay organ will not fail to be atypical. Whereas simple interventions, modifications, repairs, additions, normally accumulate through the centuries, the Rozay organ illustrates a quasi fetal regression. From the XVIII century ambitious plans only the upper part of the big organ case remains, but not the instrument itself, and its XVII century keyboards.
Through the works of Yves Cabourdin, assisted by the brilliant plan of the musical cultural heritage, the quality of the original mellow, soft, sonorous sounds and powerful harmonics, such as the ones enjoyed by Bossuet, when he visited Rozay, were restored to the great instrument.
Extracts drawn from the text by Michel FOUSSARD (Chargé de mission pour le Patrimoine Musical), ‘’UN ORGUE ROYAL ENTRE HISTOIRE ET TRADITION’’ and published in the brochure of the Rozay en Brie organ, edited by l’Association des Amis de l’Orgue de Rozay.
Yves Cabourdin during the dismantling of the organ of Rozay en Brie
In the organ brochure, edited by the Association in 1996, Yves CABOURDIN, Master organ builder, describes the different steps in the restoration of the great instrument of Rozay en Brie.
You may find this technical description in the Organ brochure.
Translation: Robert F. ALLEN
Thanks to our friend Pastor de Lasala for his technical help during translation