On May 17th (the eighth day of the tour) we left Carcassonne on the bus, taking a route to Toulouse that meandered through several small towns nestled in the Pyrenees, and that led from the province of Langedoc to Midi-Pyrenees.
Our first stop was Montreal de L’Aude, where we visited the Collegiale Saint-Vincent with its well-preserved typical southern French Gothic exterior. The organ there is the product of three centuries of construction and reconstruction by several famous organ builders. It was a magnificent-looking organ with a huge organ case. Jean-Claude did an improvisation that showed the very flexible sound of the instrument. It performed well with both classical and contemporary music. Unfortunately, again, some strong smell inside the church (furniture polish?) drove me outside before I could hear the full range of its possibilities. I sat on a ledge near the entrance, watching clouds pass overhead behind the gargoyles.
|Organ case, C. St-Vincent|
The next church was the Collegiale Saint-Michel in the town of Castelnaudary. The organ was originally built in the late 18th century by Cavaille (baroque style) and was rebuilt in the 19th century by his grandson, Cavaille-Coll (romantic style), and restored in the late 20th century. It has very nice tones; slow pieces showed off the sweetness of the sound and the good, unobtrusive reverberations of the space. The church was light and white inside, clean, with beautiful stained glass windows, almost clear glass along the walls of the nave and beautifully painted, arched ceilings along the side aisles.
|Collegial Saint Michel|
I couldn't find a YouTube recording of the organ at Collegial Saint-Vincent, but Ian Cook did a fine recording of the organ at Collegiale Saint-Michel in Castelnaudary as well as the other organs on this day. I've tried to link the music to the word "organ"in the text; the photo captions with links were too long. We'll see if this works. You should probably try to open it in a new tab, which you can do if you right-click on the link.
|Cathedral Saint Maurice|
The third church we stopped at was the Cathedrale Saint-Maurice in Mirepoix. The town of Mirepoix was charming, with medieval, half-timbered houses surrounding the church and marketplace. I believe this was the only organ of German origin (brothers Link) that we heard on the tour. It was built in the late 19th century and is apparently unreconstructed and does not have electric bellows. It is not as large as some others we’ve seen, but it produces a good sound for the space. One can, however, hear the tapping and clacking of keys and pedals if the music is soft.
Next, we went to the town of Foix, to listen to the organ in the Eglise Saint-Volusien. The church is a very old one, begun in 1111 by Roger II upon returning from the Crusades. It was damaged during the wars of religion in the 14th century and restored in the 17th century. The church is light inside, but the organ loft is dark. The organ has a pretty sound, different from most of those we’ve heard so far, with clear tones and a deep base (a 32’ soubise?).
|Eglise de la Nativite de la Vierge|
The final church of the day was the Eglise de la Nativite de la Vierge in the town of Cintegabelle. The organ has a long and checkered history. The case displays a great many pipes, but I made no notes about the sound of the instrument. The church boasts an ancient lead baptismal font from the 13th century.
|13th century baptismal font|