A French Church Organist at Play

With 8,000 pipes, and more than a hundred registers. This is the organ of St Eustache Church.

Only two people are authorized to use the organ, and Marie-Ouvrard is one of them.

When he puts his hand on it, these walls, that witnessed the passage of French Kings and Princes, seem to awaken from a long sleep.

“I’m so lucky to play this amazing organ, it is the second biggest in France.”

In contrast to pianos, every organ is different. This organist says to play, one must truly learn the language of the instrument.

And that it seems to come with a personality of its own—needing much maintenance. A big part of that is that it has to be played often.

The organ is often played alone. Which means a dedicated organist may pay a price in loneliness, although they have a whole orchestra of possibilities beneath their fingers.

“The possibilities of tone and sounds are without limits. It’s possible to get very dark, murky tones or very pure, crystal clear tones.”

And this is how Marle-Ouvrard operates.

“And we have a whole variety of instruments imitating orchestra sounds let’s try oboe and transverse flute, we have a mini orchestra here.”

“We can combine and mix those different registers, this is like a painter preparing a color palette, I’m also adding different harmonies there.”

“I propose we hear the Tocata from 5th symphony by Charles Marie Widor.”

St Eustache is a gothic church laden with paintings and other art pieces.

Many parishioners, in days past, couldn’t read. So paintings were made to teach lessons from the bible.

While the organ and its so-called “celestial voices” would accompany these teachings, and the people’s spiritual life.

“The organ has an important role. All these pipes are here to accompany the voices of parishioners, and allow them to reach the heavens.”

When he doesn’t travel the world to give concerts, Marle-Ouvrard pursues his goal here, to carry the music beyond this Church.