Monday, October 1, 2012

Organ Tour, Marseilles, Day 1

Monday, May 10, 2010
The Pipedreams tour began in Marseilles immediately after several members of the group were picked up at the airport. We took a quick bus tour around the noisy, bustling city. The first of the three churches visited that day was the Reformed Church, Eglise St.-Vincent-de-Paul. It displayed two large organ cases, mounted on either side of the transept, as well as a choir organ (1948) in the apse. The main, historical organ (1888) had been out of commission for a while, but has since been restored. It was the first organ I heard, so I had nothing to compare it with, but it had a grand sound. The choir organ was not as rich or versatile.
Eglise St. Vincent-de-Paul
One person in the group, Ian Cook, posted video and sound of several of the organs we heard on YouTube, and I have included links to some of these beneath captions. 
After listening to the organs at the first church, we had lunch in a quaint library/lunch room near harbor, which was jammed with boats. The lunch, a nice salade Nicoise, was upscale, but we had an issue trying to get some salad (in a plastic container) to take out to our bus driver.
Abbaye de Saint-Victor
After lunch, we mounted the hill overlooking the harbor to the imposing Abbaye de Saint-Victor, a basilica that looks like a fortress and that apparently functioned for centuries to protect the harbor. It looms above the harbor, beside a nearby fortres--a statement in stone and strength. Much of the building was done from the 10th through the 14th centuries.

It is an ancient fortress-abbey. Pope Urban V (in Avignon) had once been abbot there and, as pope, fortified it further. It was also used by the Knights of Malta during and after the Crusades. I didn’t have change in Euros at the time to go down into the crypt, which houses remains of pre-Roman habitation, and I regret not seeing that. Apparently the organ in this abbey is a combination of old and new (1888 – 2009), and the sound didn’t seem quite as rich as that in the previous church, but its resonance in that old stone structure was body-penetrating.

Abbaye organ with prominent trumpets

The third church we visited that day was the Eglise Sainte-Marguerite. It was a modest church with a new organ (2003). The church appeared to be modernized from an older church, with bubble-d├ęcor windows and plain, painted walls. The paint was peeling in places though, and revealed evidence of painted (frescoed?) walls beneath.


Eglise Sainte-Marguerite

Jean-Claude Guidarini at the organ