The Swallow's nest organ of the Brussels Cathedral
The organ is barely noticeable from the nave
Cross section of the metal structure
Fully mounted in the workshop
The en chamade Trumpets above the console
In 1997 our workshop competed for the building of a new organ in the Cathedral Church of Brussels. Its goal was to build a work of art for the third millennium, an organ of around 60 stops spread over 4 manuals, to be placed in the delicate Gothic structure. The instrument was to be contemporary in style. A further stipulation required that the view of the organ from the nave be limited visually as much as possible.
We proposed an instrument mounted on the triforium in the middle of the nave. The choice of this rather risky placement was decided upon for historical reasons. It was, in fact, a common placement for early organs in the Balearic Islands, Catalonia and Valencia and all of them had given favourable acoustic results.
The nave, however, was not even 11 meters wide and a large organ, with a number of 32' and 16' stops required greater depth. This, of course, could easily disrupt the elegant balance of the Gothic architecture. The solution was to divide the organ into several separate cases and put them on different levels. That way, the Grand Orgue would only be 125 cm. deep and the pedal would be from between 90 - 115 cm.
After a period of feasibility testing with an innovative action, we confirmed the viability of the project. The cases interior structures were determined and Simon Platt, the architect, designed the façade.. After careful deliberation regarding the available space, the final position of the pipework was decided upon.
Those in charge of the Belgiums Department for Patrimoine Artistique gave their permission to proceed with the project and it was agreed to place the organ on top of the barrel arch, with internal steel supports allowing us to place the organ from the triforium.
As usual, acoustical testing was done so that we could determine the proper sizes, alloys, wind pressures, etc. and begin building the pipework and start the voicing process. The internal structure was designed. We considered making a steel structure that could be dismantled into large modules which would greatly facilitate transportation by truck and ease our entry into various sized doorways. Besides this, they would also form one block with the windchests, magnets for the stop action, rollerboards, etc.
While the organ was fully mounted in the workshop, we held our traditional Open House on the 4th and 5th of March 2000. Around a thousand people got the chance to hear and see the organ in the three concerts we organized for the over thirty concert organists who attended from Spain, the United States, France, Japan, Portugal and, last but not least, Belgium.
Everything went as planned: we loaded the large modules from our workshop floor into trucks which would soon be unload everything into the Cathedral's nave. Once there, we partially mounted the modules on the ground. That way it was much simpler, quicker and safer. Our project manager, Jordi Andujar, had calculated everything correctly and an enormous crane lifted the different modules – weighing over 3 tons each – into their final positions. In a few cases, as with the Great Organ and the pedal towers, we even raised these huge modules with the largest pipes already in place.
The solemn blessing of the organ took place on the 1st of June 2000: the Feast of the Ascension. A series of inaugural concerts began on the 29 of September.