“Mission accomplished!” , rejoices Anthony Berrou, president of the association for the restoration of the organ of the church of Saint-Sauveur (ARO). Since August 2020, the wind instrument has made the religious building vibrate. In 2016, he received the Special Pèlerin Editorial Prize, during the 26th edition of the Grand Prix Pèlerin du Patrimoine. A reward with the key sum of €3,000.
The organ is installed in the church of Saint-Sauveur, a small town of 800 inhabitants. “Built in 1670, this religious building had been completely destroyed in 1992 due to a fire. Only the wall, the steeples and the sacristy remained”, recalls Anthony Berrou. Touched by the sad fate of the church, an English couple, who had a second home in Saint-Sauveur, bought this organ and offered it to the town for reconstruction. The instrument joined the renovated church in 2000. “It had been reassembled but without having been restored and the humidity of Brittany did not help its conservation! The woodwork and the mechanism moved and therefore the organ was out of tune. “
A media boost
For Anthony Berrou, the history of this church and its organ has been highlighted thanks to the Grand Prix Pèlerin du Patrimoine and the number of visits is increasing. “The award ceremony, with Stéphane Bern, was a real media boost.” The jewel of the Saint-Sauveur church is becoming known locally and nationally. “And even international because many English people have contacted us to participate in the financing of the restoration!” , he adds.
Following this media spotlight, concerts and conferences are being organised, starting in 2016, to raise the €25,000 needed for the complete restoration of the organ. Added to this are the subsidies from the town hall and the trick is played: in 2019, the organ is dismantled to join the workshop of organ builder Alfred Poeschl.
An organ with preserved beauty
Based in Irodouër (Ille-et-Vilaine), the man is not at his first renovation. He has fifty years of experience in his field! “It is a chance to have welcomed this beautiful object in my home. Its decoration, its painted pipes… It is absolutely charming! It is one of the most beautiful that I have restored during my career.” The organ of Saint-Sauveur gave him
required ten months of work, or 500 hours. “Everything had to be reviewed because, after 150 years, there is bound to be wear and tear. The damage was mostly mechanical and involved wood, copper and fabric. It was clear that we had to take the instrument to the workshop.”
For a year, the organ was installed in Alfred Poeschl’s workshop to be dismantled and restored. “We opened his ceiling to repair the mechanics, he explains. The instrument had to be in tune with today to accompany other instruments during concerts. It was a semitone higher than the norm and so all the music was moved up.” To do this, the organ builder adds four more pipes: two in wood and two in pewter. He also pushes the keyboard to make room for a new C. “We see the new pipes but it remains discreet. This is added history.”
Indeed, Alfred Poeschl wanted to preserve the original beauty of the organ. “I cleaned it, rewaxed it a bit. Some parts have been planed and some pipes straightened. But that’s all! The organ has kept its original appearance, that of 150 years ago.” An original beauty which is sublimated by Alfred Poeschl with the addition of light on the notes and the pedals. “It’s an instrument that surprises with its simplicity and its power, he rejoices. There are few organs that can fill a church with only five stops.”
The restoration being completed, the ARO association was dissolved. It is now up to the town hall to maintain the instrument and organize concerts to bring it to life and let it take its place in the heritage of Finistère!
A story that begins across the Channel…
The history of the English organ of Saint-Sauveur obviously begins in Great Britain. Produced in 1864 by Gray&Davison, it was first installed in a prestigious location: one of the chapels of Oxford University. In 1897, it was recovered to join the church of Saint-John de Ford, in the middle of the English countryside, near Bristol. The religious building was itself decommissioned at the end of the 1980s. It was in 2000, during the complete restoration of the church of Saint-Sauveur, that the beautiful instrument of Victorian construction joined Finistère.