History of the organ
Les Amis de l’Orgue de l’Église Saint-Nicholas à Meursault
Meursault, situated in the heart of the famous burgundian wine region in the Côte d’Or, six kilometers south of Beaune, is an enthralling mediæval village with some 1,800 inhabitants and famous for its wonderful white wines and its splendid parish church. Due to the current shortage of priests, the parish of Meursault now incorporates another twelve wine producing former parishes, including Auxey-Duresses, Chassagne-Montrachet, Monthélie, Pommard, Puligny-Montrachet, Saint-Aubain, Saint Romain, and Volnay. Indeed the list reads like the Carte des Vins in a better restaurant. The origins of Meursault are clouded in the mists of history and so is the etymology of the name of the village.
The present parish church of Meursault, dedicated to St Nicholas, is a large hall church, with three naves of equal height in restrained cistercian gothic, dating from the latter part of the XVth century. It has a central tower crowned by a magnificent spire, reaching 57 m above the ground.
One of the treasures of the parish church of St Nicholas in Meursault is its organ, a Mutin & Cavallé-Coll, acquired by public subscription from Concert Colonne in Paris in the late 1920s at the initiative of the then curé, Abbé Narbonne. Today, this organ is almost unique. Originally built as “portable” temporary instrument for use in large churches whilst the existing organ was rebuilded or replaced, this organ, in spite of its modest size, has an unexpected capacity. The date of construction has not yet been firmly ascertained but the original façade shows a striking similarity with that conceived by Aristide Cavallé-Coll in 1872 for organ in the main hall of the old Conservatoire de Paris. (The massive country-baroque-style branches above and on either side of the organ case, the work of a local wood carver, were added in the 1930s.)
The organ has one manual of 56 notes and a straight pedal board with 30 notes. There are nine registers with eleven draw stops, three combination pedals and an expression pedal. The entire organ is enclosed in a swell box.
This is the disposition of the organ :
Diapason 8’ Basse & Diapason 8’ Dessus
Flûte Harmonique 8’
Plein-Jeu à 3 Rangs
Tuba 16’ Basse & Tuba 16’ Dessus
Combination pedals :
Bourdon 16’ to pedals (18 notes only, borrowed from manual the stop)
Couple, manual to pedals
Engage / cancel reeds & Plein-Jeu
In the 1960s, the 16’ Tuba was removed and replaced by a divided Sesqualtra. Fortunately, however, somebody had the sense to have the redundant Tuba classified and protected under heritage legislation and it remained stored on church property. At the beginning of 2005, the Sequaltra was discarded and the Tuba reinstated.
Following the restoration of the church in the 1990s, the organ, although originally bought by public subscription in the parish, was sold for a nominal sum to the municipality of Meursault which, since the separation of Church and State, owns the church building. In any case, until recently the organ at Nicholas in Meursault was little appreciated. There were two main reasons for this. First, due to its immediate provenance, having been purchased from the Concert Colonne in Paris, there was a widespread misunderstanding that it was “just a theatre or cinema organ”. Second, in the wake of Vatican II and the introduction of the vernacular, traditional church music was generally replaced by contemporary compositions of a more popular character and Meursault is no exception in this respect. However, the hearing of the organ played again on most Sundays at Mass has awakened a fresh interest for the instrument among many of the parishioners.
The inspiration to an association of friends of the organ of St Nicolas at Meursault came from M. Philippe Ballot, Vice-Mayor of Meursault, in a conversation with the organist early in 2008. The latter soon established that there was sufficient interest to proceed. With the dedicated and generous assistance of Maître Henri de Suremain, a son of nearby Monthélie and an avocat à la cour in Paris, statutes for an association in accordance with the Law of 1901 were drawn up and, with the support of some twenty local vignerons, the association Les Amis de l’Orgue de l’Église de Saint-Nicholas à Meursault was established on 25th July 2009. The Association was registered at the Sous-Préfecture in Beaune on 10th November and gazetted in the Journal Officiel de la République Française on 21st November 2009. The registered address of the Association is La Mairie, 21190 MEURSAULT.
There are two ex officio members of the Board, the Rector of the church and the Mayor ; four elected members, a president, a vice-president, a secretary, and a treasurer ; and two suppleants.
According to its Statutes, the Association aims to promote interest in and appreciation of the Mutin & Cavaillé-Coll organ in Meursault by way of concerts, conferences, musical and other cultural initiatives and performances, and to ensure its restoration and maintenance.
Just before last Christmas, M. Barthélémy FORMONTELLI, renowned traditional organ builder based near Verona (Italy) visited Meursault at the request of the Association and spent a long afternoon inspecting the organ, taking notes and pictures in order to present a detailed estimate for complete restoration and conservation of the instrument. At the beginning of January, M. Formontelli submitted a most interesting report accompanied by a surprisingly favourable estimate. It is very much hoped that sufficient funds can be raised to allow for this restoration to commence before the end of the year. M. Formontelli is well known locally for having fully restored the precious XVIIth century organ at the basilica of Notre-Dame in Beaune. He is also the author of the magnificent new organ at Santa Maria degli Angeli in Rome and, most recently, the papal Dom Bedos organ at Rieti (Italy).
The Association of Friends of the Organ of the Church of St Nicholas at Meursault records its profound gratitude to Mr Paul ISOM, Organ Consultant to the anglican diocese of Rochester and an excellent organist. Mr Isom has shown great interest in our organ and was instrumental in launching the embryo of our Association by giving the first organ recital ever, the 26th July 2008, on the Mutin & Cavaillé-Coll after its installation in our parish church. In appreciation of his considerable contributions with time and talent, Mr Isom was unanimously voted Honorary Life Member of the Association at its constituent assembly on 20th December 2009.
Click here for notes and history of the church