CBC Digital Archives

Saint Joseph's precious pipes

In 1904 a humble Montreal monk named Brother André realized a dream: to build a shrine to St. Joseph. Pilgrims flocked there, seeking not just a place of prayer but the touch of Brother André — a man his followers believed could work miracles. A century later the shrine, St. Joseph's Oratory, was attracting two million visitors every year and in 2010 Brother André was declared a saint. CBC Archives looks at his life and legacy.

At seven storeys tall and 5,811 pipes, the organ at St. Joseph's Oratory is an impressive instrument. For Philippe Bélanger, playing it is a privilege he's been waiting for since he was nine years old. At age 28 he's become the oratory's official organist, coaxing beautiful sounds from a machine he says is like an orchestra. Bélanger says he's there to stay. "I see myself dying at this organ," he tells CBC Montreal. 
. The organ at the oratory was designed and built in Germany by renowned organ maker Rudolf von Beckerath. Two years in the making, it took seven months to install and has been at the oratory since 1960.
. The mechanical organ weighs 42 tonnes. Its tallest pipe reaches almost 10 metres high.

. As large as it is, the pipe organ at St. Joseph's Oratory ranks 62nd in the world, size-wise. The largest is the Wanamaker Organ, a behemoth bearing 28,482 pipes. It's at the Lord & Taylor department store in Philadelphia.
. The largest pipe organ in Canada is the Casavant Organ at the Metropolitan United Church in Toronto. It has 7,840 pipes.

. At age nine Philippe Bélanger became the organist at his local church in Aylmer, Que.
. Bélanger is an employee of the oratory, not a member of the religious order that runs it.
. Bélanger replaced organist Raymond Daveluy, who was the oratory's official organist from 1960 to 2002. Daveluy was an accomplished musician and teacher who also appeared on CBC Radio's French service on a program called Récital d'orgue.

. Visitors can hear the organ Sunday afternoons and Wednesday evenings in summer.
. Music can also be heard on the oratory's 56-bell carillon, an outdoor bell tower that chimes songs twice a day Thursdays to Sundays. 
Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: May 23, 1982
Guest(s): Bill McGinnis
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Larry Stout
Duration: 2:21

Last updated: October 15, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

All Clips from this Topic

Related Content

Woodstock Remembered

They say if you can remember Woodstock, you weren't really there. Of course, that's not entire...

1978: Hot night of disco

Disco movers and shakers strut their stuff at the Canadian National Disco Dance Championships.

1962: Country legend Hank Snow tops the chart...

Nova Scotia's 'Singing Ranger' has a No. 1 hit with I've Been Everywhere.

The Rolling Stones: Canada Gets Satisfaction

It's only rock 'n' roll but we like it! For nearly 40 years, Mick and the boys have had a torr...

Joni Mitchell: All Sides Now

Long before she was a music icon, she was a Canadian Prairie girl who loved to paint. But art ...

Hip Hop North: Canadian Rappers

In the 1980s, a new rhythm began to capture the ears of North American youth: rap music. Inspi...