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Petition calls for reinstatement of organists at Notre-Dame de Paris

21 June 2024 1:18 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Following a decision to make changes to the cathedral's team of organists this past April, a letter urging the church leadership to reconsider has been circulated. Read the full text of the petition below:

We, organists, professionals, students, amateurs, beginning and experienced musicians, music lovers, heritage lovers and defenders, the public and believers, protest against the changes to Notre-Dame’s team of organists imposed without consultation on April 24, 2024 by the cathedral’s rector.

Why were new organists needed at Notre-Dame de Paris? After the disastrous fire, the perfectly understandable decision was taken to lay off the Notre-Dame organists for economic reasons, with the exception of the choir organist, whose service was still required, albeit relocated to Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois.

Five years after April 15, 2019, what is the justification for the partial renewal of the current team? Why was Johann Vexo (substitute choir organist for the past 20 years at the time of the fire) sidelined? Why wasn’t Philippe Lefebvre offered the chance to remain at his position for at least a few months, to participate alongside his colleagues in the cathedral’s reopening ceremonies?

The way in which new organists have been recruited continues to raise questions. Indeed, since 1984 - the date of Cardinal Lustiger's Ordonnance, which proposed special arrangements for "certain organs of specially consecrated renown" - competition has been the sole means of recruiting cathedral organists. Why such a choice?

Of course, the role of any church organist is to serve the liturgy. And as such, it's up to the rector of the cathedral to preside over the choice of appointments. But Notre-Dame, whose international renown is undeniable, is also a most important symbol of organs and music in general, both in France and throughout the world. In view of its immense reputation, it is our duty to make it shine with the talent of highly qualified artists. Notre-Dame de Paris has always been home to exceptional musicians who have brought - and continue to bring - honor to the profession: personalities who have previously proved themselves not only through their vast experience as servants of the liturgy, but also through their academic careers, their success in international competitions, and their international careers.

Of course, exceptional careers call for exceptional arrangements: the appointment of Thierry Escaich, renowned composer, improviser, international concert performer, winner of five Victoires de la musique awards, professor of composition and improvisation at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris, member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts, cannot be contested.

On the other hand, the recruitment without competition and for an indefinite period of time of a young 21-year-old organist, just a student, in the course of his studies and without any diploma, to the choir organ but also to the great organ, on the sole faith of a “promising talent”, seems incomprehensible. It is an arbitrary choice that can’t be explained on artistic grounds, and sends out the wrong signal to young professional organists who have taken or are taking the trouble to train extensively in both musical repertoire and liturgical accompaniment, demonstrating, in the final analysis, a very high level of church musicianship. How can we explain to them that the high level of skills acquired through their work might not be taken into account in the criteria leading to an appointment?

That is why we’re calling for the return of the organists on duty at the time of the fire on April 15, 2019, with the addition - since the rector is calling for a “reinforced” team - of the talented Thierry Escaich. In addition, nothing prevents Philippe Lefebvre’s retirement from being deferred, with respect and dignity, for a few months. As for youth, it is obviously welcome and expected, but any appointment must be subject to the practices that have governed the appointment of organists up until now, and which underpin the legitimacy of the fortunate ones selected in the eyes of the profession, and, more broadly, of believers, of the musical public and lovers of musical and ecclesiastical heritage.

Sign the petition at:à-nouveau-en-feu-contre-la-nomination-des-futurs-organistes


The Royal Canadian College of Organists

20 St Joseph St

Toronto, ON M4Y 1J9

Phone: 416.929.6400
Email: info[at]

The Royal Canadian College of Organists

20 St Joseph St

Toronto, ON M4Y 1J9

Téléphone : 416.929.6400
Courriel : info[

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