1588 : construction of an organ for St Bartholomé Collegiate church.
1700 : a new instrument was built for 4300 Dutch florins.
1794 : the organ was bought for £1650 by Denis Sage who transferred the instrument.
1888 : César Franck unveiled the new Merklin organ (33 plays). The organ was destroyed with the church during the First World War.
1930 : Ets Krisher from Lille constructed a large organ (34 plays) was inaugurated by Flor Peeters.
1971 : the two instruments with pneumatic fluid powers stopped being used.
1974 : the parish financed an organ of accompaniment built by Rene Godegroy from Longuenesse (11 plays).
28th September - 9th October 2001 : inaugural demonstrations of the 44 plays great organ Freytag/Tricoteaux Orgelbau Felsberg (CH), with Jean-Marie Tricoteaux (http://www.tricoteaux.com), Jean Boyer, Michel Chapuis, Bernard Foccroule, Olivier Latry, Philippe Lebfevre, Michel Alabau, Nicolas Bucher, Ghislain Leroy, David Gallois, Bernard Hédin, Etienne Vallin, Luc Weeger, les Swingle Singers, and the harmonic orchestra of Béthune.
An esthetic choice
At the beginning of 21st century, we must admit that there does not exist an «organ on which everyting can be played». On the contrary, using typical instruments representing each specific school may be the best translation of the repertory.
The polyphony inspired of large organs of northern Europe and for which many major works had been written, did not exist in our area. However, our region was at the origin of polyphony : Philippe II of Spain even invited Pierre de Manchicourt from Béthune to the Spainish Court in 1559.
Bach, Buxtehude, Böhm, Haendel… had been quite impressed by the wide range of possibilities of the north-German style, adapted to the acoustics and the architectural conditions of the Saint-Vaast church.
This kind of organ, having very general functions, permits to play a broad repertory which had not been written for it at the origin. The quality of its harmonization and its tuning also allow to play part of the 19th and 20th century repertories or plays from current composers.
This aesthetic choice make of the organ of Béthune a unique instrument over the north of Paris. It develops the instrumental range, already made up of many French and Flemish, traditional, romantic, symphonic, neoclassical and néo-baroque instruments.
Proportions principle : Application
According to Plato, harmony, that is to say proportions and numbers come from the gods.Human beings, stemming from gods, use art to find what is related to divinity inside themselves. This idea has been a source of inspiration for our European civilization since Ancient times. Numbers were considered as the basis of everything. All scientific disciplines were bound : rhetoric, grammar, music, geometry, philosophy…For example, 2/3 is a fraction in arithmetics, a proportion in geometry, a fifth in music and a ratio in astronomy.
The major aim of this work was to touch people and make them better or to help them to overcome their problems. Individual expression started to be sought for itself in the 19th century. But before this, everything even the choice of the painting on the organ aimed at serving the others. All the dimensions of the case and the pipes of the organ of Béthune come from a unique geometric model : the 12 feet meters high central column.
The organ builders took care of harmonizing each number with each other and with the case in order to obtain a visual harmony (case proportions), a intellectual harmony (numbers), and a sound harmony (pipes and music). This harmonic concept had been improved by Arp Schnigter (17th century), a German organ builder.
4 dressers in oak
3 keyboards of 56 notes and pedals of 30 notes
Couplings I/II, III/II, Tirasse I, Tremblants I, II, III, Zimbelstern
Mechanical hard copy of the notes and plays
Keyboards in fir tree, plating of natural out of boxwood, ebony pretences
2 wedge-shaped bellows and additional bellows for the pedal
8 diagrids in oak without table but with strengthening pieces, in oak, embedded in the stoppings
Valves in pine of the Grisons
Boursette in skin
Pression : 84 mm
Accord : Valotti
Piping scraped and polished with the hand
Alloys: 80% for the pipes of frontages, 30% for the interior pipes, oak, fir tree 3 344 pipes
13 000 hours of work
Overall costs with the platform and the options : 654 372 Euros.
Town (owner) : 35 %. State : 25%. Conseil Général du Pas-de-Calais : 20%. Region Nord/Pas-de-Calais : 15%. Association Orgues en Béthunois (parrainage de tuyaux) : 5 %.
A detailed tender was made by Bernard Hédin. The construction started on September 1st, 1998 to Orgelbau Felsberg (CH), Richard et Michael Freytag (direction), Werner Meier (plans, construction and direction of the assembly), Jean-Marie Tricoteaux (measurements and harmonization), Peter Meier, Markus Lampert, Sebald Endner, Ismael Schwarz, Aven Flores (construction), Hans Sievi, Johannes Buchli (cabinet work), Alfred Wolf (piping), Duri Caviezel (sculptures), Michel Bignens (Buffet), Thomas Bösch (apprenti). Les enterprises Pecqueur (foundation of the organ), Seca/Kosiada (metal structure), Norelec (electricity), Hussor (scaffolding), Ludwig (staircase), Bouinguez (painting).