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The Great Casavant Organs

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Inaugurated in 1891

Inaugurated in 1891, it now has 7,000 pipes with the longest one stretching over 32 feet (9.75 m) and the smallest one at a quarter-inch long (6.35 mm). It contains 92 stops on 4 manual keyboards of 61 notes and a pedalboard of 32 notes.

A Few Years Earlier, in 1885...

The contract to build Notre-Dame’s organ was signed a few years earlier in 1885. La Fabrique de la paroisse Notre-Dame de Montréal chose Casavant Frères, a new firm founded five years earlier, to carry out this ambitious project. In fact, the pastor wanted a four-manual organ that would become the largest in North America. The Casavant firm then sent one of the Casavant brothers to Europe to meet with some of the most renowned organ builders. It was in France that Casavant met Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, who restored the great organs of Notre-Dame Cathedral and the Church of Saint-Sulpice in Paris. This meeting was important for the design of Notre-Dame de Montréal’s organ, which is part of the French symphonic tradition of the 19th century.

Notre-Dame de Montréal’s organ is the greatest instrument in North America and is matched only by Notre-Dame de Paris.

- Alexandre Guilmant
famous French organist and composer who came to play the organ at Notre-Dame in 1896

Pierre Grandmaison, titular organist

Since 1973, Pierre Grandmaison has been the titular organist of Notre-Dame Basilica. Born in Montréal, he studied piano at the École de musique Vincent-d’Indy in Outremont while working on the organ with Eugène Lapierre and Françoise Aubut. He earned his Bachelor of Music degree from Université de Montréal in 1970.

He has a busy schedule at the Basilica, as he performs for some 400 celebrations each year: weddings, funerals, Masses and more. He also makes a point of sharing his passion for the organ by welcoming the Basilica’s many visitors with the Take a Seat at the Organ activity. In 2004, he founded the Grand Organ Festival of Montreal, which is held every summer at the Basilica.

Image credit : Alain Régimbald