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The Grand Organ of Notre Dame de Paris was one of the greatest losses of the 2019 fire. The massive musical instrument thankfully survived the fire, but it was coated with toxic lead and must be cleaned. There was concern that the process of restoring the organ would take longer than that for the cathedral, but now a report from Smithsonian Magazine gives us hope that it may be finished well before.
Smithsonian Mag’s Isis Davis-Marks reports that the restoration process of the organ is two months ahead of schedule. In order for the lead to be cleaned away, each and every one of the 8,000 pipes had to be removed. The process was expected to take six months, but it’s been completed in four.
The reason it was supposed to take so long is that the disassembly must be undertaken with the utmost care. The 8,000 pipes are in a wide range of sizes, from 32-feet long to some that measure mere inches. The work is slow because if workers accidentally put a single dent in one of the pipes the tone would be irrevocably altered. Their work was not helped by the roundabout way they had to access the organ, through the use of 98-foot-tall scaffolding installed as part of the greater restoration effort.
A long road ahead
The pipes were taken to an offsite warehouse, where they will be washed of the toxic lead. The wood frame of the organ, which holds the delicate keyboards and switches, cannot be removed, however, and must be cleaned in Notre Dame. While the dismantling phase may be done, the organ will take a considerable time to clean.
A report from the Associated Press notes that the cleaning will take approximately four years to ensure the lead is gone. Considering the organ will take about six months to properly tune, this timeline may come down to the wire with the restoration of Notre Dame. It is hoped that the Grand Organ will play at Notre Dame again on its scheduled reopening on April 16, 2024.