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Historic background

The organbuilders: Jean-Nicholas JEANPIERRE, 1865, Charles DIDIER-VAN CASTER, 1895.
There is no information in either communal or parish archives on the origins of the instrument, about which there have been varying accounts. But an in-depth analysis of the instrument, carried out following a demand for its protection as a Historic Monument, established that it had been built in 1856 in the Vosgian workshop of organbuilder Jean-Nicolas Jeanpierre, for the Dames du Très-Saint-Sacrement, Saint-Nicolas-de-Port.
The old church in Villerupt in all likelihood had no organ. When the issue of furnishing the new church, completed in 1902, arose, the parish tried to obtain one through favourable circumstances: several second-hand instruments became available at that time due to the 1903 closing-down of congregations following the Combes Act. The parish first thought of acquiring the organ of the Saint-Joseph boarding school in Longuyon, put up for sale by the Frères des écoles chrétiennes. In fact, local tradition would have it that the present Villerupt organ is indeed that of the boarding school in Longuyon. However, this origin is unfounded. The brethren transferred their institution in 1905 to Hachy, Belgium and took the organ, built by Jeanpierre & Cie in 1889, there with them. In 1950 the instrument was sold to the Fouches parish, close to Arlon, where it can still be found today (Jacquot company archives, Rambervillers, files n° 416 and 469; written communication by Mr. Jean-Pierre Félix).
In reality, this instrument was not bought in Longuyon, but in Saint-Nicolas-de-Port, from the Dames du Très-Saint-Sacrement, who ran a girls’ school in the town. Music occupied prime position in the boarders’ schooling and the chapel already possessed an organ even before 1850. This instrument, considered to be too modest, was replaced in 1856 by a new organ ordered from Jean-Nicolas Jeanpierre, renowned organbuilder established in Rambervillers, in the Vosges. This instrument had 14 stops, two manuals and pull-down pedals. The original specification is unknown but must have been fairly similar to:

I Positif
(56 notes, C-g’’’)
Bourdon 8
Gambe 8
Flûte à cheminée 4
Dulciane 4
Basson-Hautbois 8 divided in bass and treble
Clarinette 8 ?

II Grand-orgue
(56 notes, C-g’’’)
Bourdon 16
Montre 8
Flûte harmonique 8
Prestant 4
Flûte 4 ?
Doublette 2
Mixture ?
Trompette 8 divided in bass and treble

(25 notes, C-c’ ?)
No independent stops.

Couplers I/II and II/I (single coupler pedal with three positions)
Pedal coupler I and II


The Rambervillers workshop maintained the instrument until 1894 when the two associates of Jaquot-Jeanpierre & Cie, Théodore Jaquot, Jeanpierre’s son-in-law and successor, and Charles Didier ended their collaboration. On November 8, 1894, the Sisters of Saint-Nicolas-de-Port wrote to Théodore Jacquot informing him that henceforth they intended to entrust the maintenance of their organ to Charles Didier. Indeed, from December 1984 Charles Didier-Van Caster undertook “restoration and enlargement works”, this being his first job as self-employed organbuilder. He installed three new stops (Gambe 8, Flûte octaviante 4 and an Euphone 16), added voicing slots, revoiced Jeanpierre’s pipework and renewed the console.
The finished works were accepted and inaugurated on Tuesday January 15, 1895 by Auguste Kling, organist of Saint-Epvre in Nancy.
The organ’s transfer to Villerupt occurred around 1905 and was probably carried out by Charles Didier-Van Caster, who seems to have installed a new Clairon on the Grand-orgue, probably to compensate for the size of the church, certainly much larger than the chapel in Saint-Nicolas-de-Port.
Whereas the organs of the district of Briey were emptied of their metal pipes in 1917, in Villerupt only the façade was commandeered. This administrative anomaly can be explained by the fact that Villerupt neighbours the county of Moselle, annexed at that time, where only façade pipes were commandeered in 1917, and that the German administration seems to have applied the Moselle regime to Villerupt, by not commandeering all metal pipes as in the rest of the occupied French territory.
The lost façade pipes were replaced in 1929 by the Jacquot company, Rambervillers, who used the opportunity to add a Montre 16 to the Grand-orgue, a second-hand Cornet to the Récit and a Soubasse 16, borrowed from the Grand-orgue Bourdon 16. An amateur repaired the war damages in 1947. Between 1962 and 1963, Abbot Pigeon moved the organ 140 cm backwards in order to gain space in the gallery.
In 1990, the municipality envisaged restoring the instrument which had been left neglected for many years, but nothing was done. Only in 1998, following the creation of an association of friends of the organ in Villerupt, the municipal council filed a demand for protection of the instrument, which was obtained by decree on 10th November, 2000.

Technical analysis of the instrument (prior to restoration)

Jean-Nicolas Jeanpierre showed a predilection during the 1850s for neo-baroque style cases, often very elegant both in both their proportions and construction. The preserved organ case in Villerupt also fits into this tradition, as does the woodwork found in Chamagne, Darney, Gondrexange, Rehaincourt, Russ and Val-et-Châtillon. But whereas all these cases have three towers, this case is much larger and has four, a solution already employed in the early jobs of Jeanpierre, for example Lusse and Saint-Georges de Raon-l’Etape.
The case consists of a front and two side-walls in varnished oak, with back panels in oak. There is no ceiling, nor any evidence of any having existed in the past. Originally, the towers were joined by a back wall which rose to the height of the side towers, but this was probably removed at the time of the transfer to Villerupt to avoid obscuring the stained-glass at the back of the nave. The cul-de-lampe of the left central turret has disappeared. The left side of the lower case was moved 324 mm toward the centre by Abbot Pigeon when he moved the organ backward toward the belfry, in order to facilitate access to the gallery from the left staircase. The lower case central panel was also cut out at the same time to install a speaker and a cabinet to store music scores; it was recently replaced with a new panel. The case is not self-supporting, the chests are placed on an independent building frame made by Jeanpierre.
The swell box is pine, probably by Didier-Van Caster, with vertical shutters at the front. The front pipes are in tin, replaced by Jacquot in 1929. The pipes in the side towers have rounded soldered-in lips while those of the central turret and flat fields have bay-leaf, pressed-in lips, without ears. Whereas the Jeanpierre organ had many sham pipes in the façade, now all 61 pipes are functional.

Present specification:

I Grand-orgue (56 notes, C-g3)
Montre 16
Bourdon 16
Montre 8
Flûte harmonique 8
Salicional 8
Prestant 4
Doublette 2
Trompette 8
Clairon 4

II Récit expressif (56 notes, C-g3)
Flûte d’orchestre 8
Gambe 8
Voix céleste 8 c-g3
Flûte octaviante 4
Cornet 5 rks c1-g3
Cor anglais 16
Basson-Hautbois 8

Pédale (30 notes, C-f1)
Soubasse 16
Coupler II/I
Pedal couplers I and II
Reeds on/off, I and II


Slider chests by Jeanpierre, in oak. The toe-boards are in varnished oak, screwed down with a layer of leather as if it were being done with forged nails.
Single chest for the Grand-orgue placed behind the façade, diatonic with the basses at the outsides. The chest measures 1990 mm long and 1050 mm deep. The palletbox is at the back and opens above the passage-board. The mortised faceboard is oak, closed with screwed-on iron catchers. The hinged pallets are oak, glued-in. There is one pallet per note, with no double grooves in the bass. The pallets are numbered in pencil. Pallet springs in brass with double coils. There are no purses and the pull-down wires are let through narrow openings. The toe-boards are 25 mm thick, the sliders 9 mm and the tables 9 mm. The groove heights measure 100 mm above the pallets but less at the front (sloped grooves).

Order of the stops on the chest, from the façade:
1) Montre 16 (on a clamp at the front of the chest)
2) Montre 8
3) Prestant 4
4) Salicional 8 (Originally Flûte harmonique?)
5) Bourdon 16
6) Flûte harmonique 8 (Originally Flûte 4?)
7) Doublette 2
8) Trompette 8 (Originally Plein-jeu?)
9) Clairon 4 (Originally Trompette 8)
Single chest for the Récit placed behind the Grand-orgue on the same level, diatonic with the basses at the outside. The chest measures 1965 mm in length and 700 mm deep. The palletbox is at the back and opens above the walking board with a mortised faceboard. The hinged pallets are in oak, glued in. There is one pallet per note from C. The pallets are numbered in pencil. Spring guides in brass. Pallet springs in brass with double coils. There are no purses and the pull-down wires are let through narrow openings. The toe-boards are 21 mm thick, the sliders 9 mm and the tables 9 mm.

Order of the stops on the chest:
1) Cor anglais 16, 130 mm (Originally Basson-hautbois 8)
2) Basson-Hautbois 8, 86 mm (Originally Clarinette 8?)
3) Flûte octaviante 4, 101 mm (Originally Flûte 4)
4) Cor de Nuit 8, 103 mm (Originally Bourdon 8)
5) Voix céleste, 108 mm (Originally Dulciane 4)
6) Gambe 8, 133 mm
7) Cornet 5 rks, 98 mm (on a clamp at the back of the chest)

The action is essentially that of Didier-Van Caster, but re-using various elements of Jeanpierre. The action is non-suspended, equipped with brass squares. The rollerboards are by Jeanpierre, except that of the pedal coupler where the rollerboard is of oak, the rollers in black-painted iron with brass roller-bearers.
The Pedal has pneumatic tubular action between the pedal keyboard and the borrowed Bourdon 16, dating from 1929.
The stop action is mechanic, with iron backfalls in the keydesk and pine shanks.

The detached console seems to have been rebuilt by Didier-Van Caster, although still fully in line with the Rambervillers workshop tradition. It is in varnished oak, in good state of preservation, turned toward the nave and closed by means of an inclined lid. The keys are in linden-wood, the keyfronts are square for the Grand-orgue and angled for the Récit. The naturals are covered in galalith, the sharps in ebony. The octave division measures 163 mm, the keyheads measure 40 mm, the sharps 70 mm for the Grand-orgue and 80 mm for the Récit. The manuals were originally transposable as shown by the space at either end between the keyboards and the stop jambs, as well as the evidence of buttons -used to move the keyboards laterally- on the mahogany veneer of the keycheeks.
Jacquot rebuilt the concave pedal keyboard in oak with mahogany sharps in 1929. The bench is oak and in good condition. The stop knobs are round and placed in stepped stop jambs on either side of the keyboards. The white porcelain stop-heads by Jacquot (1929) are circled in red for the Grand-orgue, blue for the Récit and yellow for the Pédale. Three of them are from a later date (Montre 16, Montre 8 and Salicional 8).
On the left-hand side, the stops are placed as follows:
Soubasse 16/Basson-hautbois 8/Cornet V rgs/Flûte octaviante 4
Tacet/Cor anglais 8/Voix celeste 8/Gambe 8/Flûte d’orchestre 8
On the right-hand side:
Bourdon 16/Prestant 4/Salicional 8/Trompette 8
Montre 16/Montre 8/Flûte harmonique 8/Doublette 2/Clairon 4
The couplers and “appels” iron pedals date from Didier-Van Caster and are identified with white oval porcelain medallions:
[Trémolo] / Accouplement des claviers / Tirasse Grand-orgue / Tirasse Récit / Anches Récit / Anches Grand-orgue
There is an empty space, probably meant for the pedal controlling the lost transposition mechanism. A balanced pedal in oak, placed slightly off centre to the right, serves to operate the swell. The music desk has been lost. The rosewood address plate with brass inlay is fitted in the centre of the board above the Récit:

Grandes Orgues d’Eglises
NANCY (Meurthe & Moselle)

The Jeanpierre pipes are characteristic of the Rambervillers organbuilder’s work in the 1850s. The pipes are of very good quality, closely resembling those from the Ancient Régime, made in rich metal with large and regular seams. The pipe feet are fairly long (215 mm). Didier-Van Caster bought his pipes from a Parisian pipemaker and they can be attributed to Masure.
The pipework in detail

Montre 16
Stop added by Jacquot in 1929, clamped to the front of the chest.
C-b open pipes in pinewood with tuning slots and slides, off-set on pneumatic motors. Metal harmonic bridges. These pipes probably date from before 1929 and come from a Pedal Flute 16 since they are stamped ”Fl 16”. c1 on the chest, tin with tuning slots and ears; second-hand pipe marked “P”. c#1-f3 in the façade, Jacquot, tin, with tuning slots. F#3 and g3 on the chest, in tin, with tuning slots and ears ; second-hand pipes marked “FH”.

Bourdon 16
Stop by Jeanpierre.
C-d#1 in pinewood, stopped, off-set on pneumatic motors for transmission to the Pedal. e1-g3 in plain metal, stopped with soldered canisters. The e1 and f1 are off-set to allow use on the pedal, but they were originally on the chest, f#1-g3 are on the chest.

Montre 8
C-D# in pinewood, by Jeanpierre, open with tuning slots and sliders. E-f# in the façade, by Jacquot, in tin with tuning slots. g-g3 on the chest, by Jeanpierre, tin with plain metal feet, with tuning slots and and ears.

Flûte harmonique 8
C-B in pinewood, possibly by Didier-Van Caster, open and off-set, with tuning slots and slides. c-g3 in low-percentage tin, c by Didier-Van Caster and cs-g3 by Jeanpierre, moved up one semi-tone. Tuning slots by Didier-Van Caster. gs-g3 over-blowing, with two lateral holes.

Salicional 8
C and C# in pinewood, open and off-set, by Didier-Van Caster, with tuning slots and slides. D-g3 on the chest, by Jeanpierre, originating from a Gambe as it is marked “G”, in tin, with tuning slots and ears up to g3. The pipes c3 and fs3 have disappeared.

Prestant 4
C-d# in the façade, by Jacquot, in tin, with tuning slots. e-g3 on the chest, by Jeanpierre, in tin and with tuning slots. e-a2 with ears. The g2 has disappeared.

Doublette 2
Complete stop, by Jeanpierre. C-g3 in tin, C-g2 with tuning slots and g#2-g3 cut to length.

Trompette 8
Pipes by Didier-Van Caster. Tin resonators, f#2-g3 harmonic. C-d with regulating slots. English blocks for C-B and c#2-g3, sleeves for c-c2. Many blocks are oxidised and stuck in the feet. Bertounèche shallots.

Clairon 4
Stop by Didier-Van Caster, but later than the Trompette (1905?). Resonators in spotted metal with regulating slots. English blocks for C-F, sleeves for F#-a and olive-shaped for b-g2. Bertounèche shallots. The C is marked “Clairon 4 pieds”. The c#2 is a salvaged flue pipe by Laukhuff, with rounded raised lip and tuning slot. g#2-g3 were also flue pipes, but have disappeared. 

Récit expressif

Flûte d’orchestre 8
C-d# in pinewood, by Jeanpierre, stopped and off-set to the sides. e-g3 in low percentage tin, stopped with mobile caps. e and f by Didier-Van Caster, f#-g3 by Jeanpierre, moved-up one tone. Nicks deepened by Didier-Van Caster.

Gambe 8
C-B by Jeanpierre, tin, on the chest except for C and C# off-set on the Cornet toe-board. C-F are mitred. Tuning slots, ears and harmonic bridges by Didier-Van Caster. c-g3 by Didier-Van Caster, tin, with tuning slots and harmonic bridges up to fs3, without ears from c2-fs3. Stampmarks “V”. The g3 is unmatched, tin, cut to length with ears.

Voix céleste 8
c-g3 by Jeanpierre, originally a Dulciane since stampmarked “D”. Pipes in tin with tuning slots, ears and harmonic bridges by Didier-Van Caster. Pipes moved up by one tone in order to cut in tuning slots.

Flûte octaviante 4
Stop by Didier-Van Caster. C-g3 in tin, with tuning slots. C-b2 with ears, c1-g3 over-blowing with two lateral holes. Stampmarked “O”.

Cornet V ranks
Stop clamped on to the side of the chest by Jacquot (1929), using older pipes. The 19th century grooved blocks in oak were made for 30 notes (c1-f3), but Jacquot enlarged it to 32 notes (c1-g3). Conveyances in lead.
Low percentage tin for c1-f3, 19th century, with pressed-in bay-leaf lips and rounded upper lips. The 8’-rank stopped with mobile caps, the other ranks cut to length. The pipes are stamp-marked. The feet measure 180 mm. f#3 and g3 are of different and of more recent origin.

Cor anglais 16
Stop by Didier-Van Caster. Resonators in tin, of which C-F are mitred. English blocks, oxidised. Free reeds. Variable feet lengths for d1-d#3.

Basson-hautbois 8
Stop by Jeanpierre. C-b Basson. Resonators in tin with tuning slots, of which C and Cs are soldered. English blocks for C-B, tuning slides thereafter. Teardrop shallots replaced by Didier-Van Caster. Resonators marked “Basson”. The pipes have not been moved up or down. c1-g3 Hautbois. Resonators in tin, without regulating slots, of which b2-g3 are harmonic (double-length). Sleeve blocks. Shallots are original, untinned.

Jeanpierre set the pitch at 440 Hz and Didier-Van Caster took it to 435 Hz by moving the pipes and adding tuning slots.

Placed in the belfry behind the organ, the bellows with parallel boards and compensated folds is by Jeanpierre and characteristic of his work. It measures 2315 x 1750 mm. It has two feeders of which the mechanisms have disappeared. The counterbalances are in oak and one has disappeared on one of the four sides. The blower made by the firm Meidinger is no longer supplied with electricity and is connected to the bellows by means of a very basic curtain regulator.
The two conveyances feeding the chests are by Jeanpierre, in pinewood, which means that the position of the bellows with regards to the chests have not been modified, either by Didier-Van Caster, or at the time of its transfer to Villerupt. The pipe conveyances are in lead. The tremulant is by Didier-Van Caster.

Christian Lutz (extract from the Restoration programme).

Traduction : François Uys







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