Notre-Dame organist to play benefit recital in Washington, DC

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Johann Vexo was playing Notre-Dame’s 8,000-pipe organ when the massive fire that destroyed much of the 850-year-old cathedral broke out.

“I was playing the mass and everything started, I would say, normally and after a few minutes, maybe 10 or 15 minutes, we could hear an alarm in the cathedral during the gospel,” Vexo recalled.

On April 15, the world watched in horror as the cathedral’s spire was engulfed in flames and its wooden roof collapsed.

“This was a terrible tragedy,” Vexo added.

Vexo was able to escape unharmed and remarkably, the organ survived the catastrophic fire as well.

“Inside the instrument nothing burned, nothing took water from the firemen for example, and the organ is apparently undamaged,” Vexo explained. “We still have to switch it on to make sure everything is OK but the organ is still there.”

Vexo is encouraged that Notre-Dame will be rebuilt. Support has poured in from many, including from the Roman Catholic Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., where Vexo will play a benefit recital on Friday.

“The Basilica established a special online collection at for the rebuilding and restoration of this sacred church that we all know and love,” said Monsignor Walter Rossi, the Basilica’s rector.

Vexo said he and the people of Paris are grateful for the help.

“I’m not sure that the country the state would have been able to afford such amount of money even for such a building,” he said.