Wearing hard hats and protective suits, members of the choir of Notre Dame Cathedral sang inside the medieval Paris landmark for the first time since last year’s devastating fire for a special Christmas Eve concert.
Accompanied by an acclaimed cellist and a rented organ, the singers performed beneath the cathedral’s stained-glass windows amid the darkened church, which is transitioning from being a precarious hazardous clean-up operation to becoming a massive reconstruction site. The choir initially planned to bring in 20 singers but for safety reasons they were limited to eight.
The choir members stood socially distanced to be able to take off their masks — which is required indoors in France to stem the spread of the virus — and sing.
The concert — including “Silent Night” in English and French, “The Hymn of the Angels,” and even “Jingle Bells” — was recorded earlier this month and broadcast just before midnight Thursday. The public was not allowed and isn’t expected to see the insides of Notre Dame until at least 2024.
The diocese called it a “highly symbolic concert … marked with emotion and hope,” and a celebration of a “musical heritage that dates to the Middle Ages.”
The archbishop of Paris, Monsignor Michel Aupetit, held Thursday’s Christmas Eve services in Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois Church across from the Louvre Museum instead of Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame choir used to give 60 concerts a year inside the cathedral but has been itinerant ever since, moving among other Paris churches.
The April 2019 fire consumed the cathedral’s lead roof and destroyed its spire, and only earlier this month did workers finally stabilize the site enough to begin rebuilding.