Giant organ brings French sound to NY

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Here's heavy metal music that won't give you a headache: a French-built organ with more than 6,000 steel pipes that has just started thundering from a New York church.

The organ, built by master artisans in France, draws on centuries of French organ tradition, creating an authentic Baroque sound that other makers just can't copy, according to organist Dennis Keene.

"It reminds you of Versailles at the king's arrival. We don't have this kind of sounds in the US," Keene enthused.

The instrument, comprising a staggering 6,183 pipes in 111 ranks, will be officially inaugurated in May at the Church of the Ascension on Fifth Avenue in New York.

Keene scoured Europe for the organ, paid for by philanthropists, and eventually discovered a traditional builder named Pascal Quoirin in Saint-Didier, southern France.

With a long and distinctive organ history behind them, French instruments sound different.

"This is the first French organ ever installed in New York. The French organ sounds are very distinctive, certain timbers are very specific and very different. Quoirin is one of the only few who are able to build that instrument," Keene said.

But if this organ has the power to transport listeners back to the 17th century, then transporting the beast itself wasn't quite so easy.

"Seven huge sealed metal containers were loaded on a barge in Marseille. Of course there was a strike," Keene said.

"The whole trip took almost two months. Installation and harmonization were made here, pipe by pipe, by Quoirin's team," he said.

© 2011 AFP

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