This was the recommendation given by Kurt Tucholsky eighty years ago as an antidote to provincial narrow-mindedness. A complementary recommendation from ORGANpromotion: just once to climb up the 67 steps to the organists' heaven, the Cavaillé-Coll organ in Saint-Sulpice. And around 100 organists, organ students and church music students plus organ fans from all over the world had come together in Paris to do just that. 150 years Saint Sulpice organ, 75th anniversary of the death of Charles-Marie Widor, plus a round anniversary for Maitre Daniel Roth, these are not everyday events. They are a reason to celebrate and an occasion for a 5-day study session in Paris containing a full, wide-ranging programme of lectures, recitals, sound demonstrations and an organ course with Daniel Roth.
Dr. Kurt Lueders was our academic guide to the course. He described the situation that existed in the middle of the 19th century and then the development leading to the French symphonic organ in his lecture „1862 Saint-Sulpice – and what came after?“ In this way the unique Paris organs were made tangible to us in a music-history context, for example the old-French organ of St. Gervais, Cavaillé-Coll's original in Saint Sulpice, St. Louis d´Antin and in Bécon, instruments of his environment in Notre-Dame des Blancs-Manteaux or newer organs like St. Severin and St. Louis en l’Île. A visit to La Trinité on the 20th anniversary of the death of Olivier Messiaen rounded off the palette of impressions.
It is overpowering to experience the world-famous instruments with their characteristic sounds up close, whether it be the Voix céleste, the Flute harmonique or the vastly powerful voices which characterize full organ. As well as the usual organ literature on offer, we were privileged to hear examples of the breath-taking improvisational skills of our world-class soloists. Thanks to the overwhelming kindness of the Titulaire it was even possible for participants to play the organ themselves.
Participants were from Germany, Denmark, Norway, The Netherlands, Austria, Great Britain, Switzerland and the USA, all used .this event to get to know each other and establish contacts.
The central focus of the trip was an organ course with Daniel Roth in Saint Sulpice. Using video and a big screen, all participants were enabled to follow what was happening on the console and in three nights many a dream was fulfilled: just once in Paris, just once on the Boulevard and just once a night alone in Saint Sulpice with the sounds of Cavaillé-Coll, sitting in the salon rouge next to Widor and Albert Schweitzer.
„In its ancient majesty, the organ speaks like a philosopher. It is the only instrument that can produce a constant volume of sound and thus can express the religious concept of Eternity.“ (Charles-Marie Widor).
(Walter Blum, Tübingen, Translation: Peter Kirk)