'Just devastated': Australian musicians fear for fate of Notre-Dame's organ

Article written by: Ben Weir and Broede Carmody, and posted on The Sydney Morning Herald

A young Australian musician who has played the Notre-Dame organ says he is devastated about the fire and fearful for the cathedral's instrument.

Budding organist Edwin Kwong, from Melbourne, had the privilege of playing the Notre-Dame organ earlier this year and dreams of performing to an audience at the cathedral.

Edwin Kwong playing the Notre-Dame organ.

"It was just jaw-dropping for a young organist to see such a world-famous instrument," he said. "It is one of the most historic and impressive organs in the world."

It comes as fire ripped through the Notre-Dame cathedral on Monday evening local time, destroying the roof and the cathedral's spire. The state of the organ is unclear.

But the 23-year-old said the chance to play on such a unique instrument that is part of history was amazing.

"I got to sit down and play pieces written by organists at Notre-Dame on that actual instrument," he said.

Mr Kwong, who has been in contact with the Notre-Dame organists since the fire, said any damage to the organ is likely to be everlasting.

The Notre-Dame organ pipes.

"There is absolutely no chance an organ like that can be restored to its original condition as the organ builders have died a century ago," he said. "Any restoration would not be an exact replica."

The musician said he was devastated for the French people and music lovers around the world.

"I was just devastated when I heard. The cathedral has survived a revolution, multiple wars and to see it go up in flames, my heart goes out to the French people,” he said.

Mr Kwong is not the only Australian music lover affected by the Notre-Dame fire. Douglas Lawrence, the artistic director of the Australian Chamber Choir, said the group was meant to sing at the cathedral in July as part of Bastille Day celebrations.

"The choir will be really disappointed," he said. "It's probably one of the most famous buildings in the world. My first reaction was that [the fire] was an online joke. Then, of course, I realised very quickly it was true. I felt empty."

Mr Lawrence said he performed an organ recital at Notre-Dame just last August and is worried the instrument's non-metal pipes are "damaged beyond repair".

"I wanted to [play] forever," he said. "Very few Australians have ever played there. I think playing in Notre-Dame was as big a kick as playing in St Paul's Cathedral in London. It's a precious thing. It's an experience you can't really duplicate."


Article Written by Ben Weir and Broede Carmody, and posted on The Sydney Morning Herald

Images provided by Edwin Kwong