One of my favourite instruments is the church organ, and I never miss an opportunity to listen to a performance. It is not just the organ’s music, but also the mechanics of the instrument that intrigues and fascinates me. The grandness of the organ never fails to thrill and always sends a delicious shiver down my spine. No visit to a church or a cathedral is complete without me checking out the “resident” organ.
When I checked out the organ at the Cathédrale St. Pierre at Geneve or St. Pierre’s Cathedral at Geneva, Switzerland, a shiver did go down my spine, but for entirely different reasons !
The organ had a most unusual design—imposing and spooky at the same time. Set in a Cathedral with a romanesque exterior (complete with a neo-classical façade), and a gothic spire and interiors, the setting was quite dramatic considering the Cathedral’s history.
It’s austere, whitewashed interiors hide colourful and intricate murals and its unadorned, bare walls are mute spectators to the Catholic cleansing that occurred during the Reformation and the subsequent change of the St. Pierre from a Catholic to a Protestant place of worship. Only the stained glass windows were left untouched. As for the organ, it was deemed too grand and unsuitable for Protestantism. According to the Cathedral’s website, ” The history of the organ of the Cathedral is linked to that of the place, but it is also a reflection of the history of music”.
The St.Pierre Cathedral’s organ was designed by Zurich Metzler and Danish Andersen, and installed in 1965 to “to address the return to authentic performances of baroque and classical works”. The bloody and violent history of the Reformation and Protestantism and the organ design do make for an interesting combination.
I can’t attest to the quality of sound or music of the organ as I did not get an opportunity to hear a performance. But I can definitely attest for its spookiness and my echoing steps in the deep, cavernous, austere and practically empty interiors of the St.Pierre Cathedral only added to the entire effect.