update: 22-11-2011

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Gerald Dumont: Mustel harmonium d'art

My story of connection with the Mustel Art expressive harmonium

© 2010 Gerald Dumont, New York

A dutch translation was published in
Vox Humana, Quarterly Magazine of the HVN,
Volume 83. 21st yr. nr. 03, 2010 | p. 23-26
translated and edited by Piet Gielen

© Louis Huivenaar
© Tim Clayton where mentioned

As a boy, I remembered vividly the parish Church where I grew up in the early fifties. In that Church, there was an old Debain harmonium that was in very bad shape. It was in the town of Leogane,  a few kilometers from Port-au-Prince, the capital city.

A lot of restorers, including some religious brothers have managed to restore it,  but unfortunately every time a restorer tried to restore it, it changed into a worst situation that it was before. It reached the point where no restorer wants to touch it anymore, for the mice, rats, and other insects were in competition to make this harmonium their  permanent residence. Sometimes during Mass or vesper or any other religious service, the harmonium started to act up and the organist, Abner, who did not know any better opened it up during the service  trying in vain to solve the problem. It was every time a very funny and disturbing moment when everyone was supposed to be engaged in prayer and meditation. The parishioners suggested to the Pastor at that time, Rev.Maurice Ballade, to toss it out as garbage and to buy a new one.

Debating on the two propositions, Maurice Ballade opted to buy a new one.  It suggested to buy a Victor Mustel Art Expressif harmonium.  Maurice Ballade knew the Victorr Mustel Art Expressive harmonium from experience as he had connections with the Mustel’s Family. He had studied at the (conservatoire de Musique a Paris) with Alphonse Mustel, the Grandson of Victor Mustel.

At that time, no one knew what Maurice Ballade was talking about for no one has ever seen or heard of a Mustel. He went on to explain that it is not one of the best that ever existed but rather it is the best that ever existed and it is the best that will ever exist for it is absolutely impossible for any harmonium builder to build a harmonium that can be more valuable than a Victor Mustel Art Expressive harmonium.  When the parishioners heard those words from the mouth of Maurice Ballade, they were all agitated and restless like rats that are newly poisoned.  Even though the price for such an instrument was thirty five thousand French franks, a lot of money at that time, they did not get discouraged.  They did their best efforts to raise the money to buy such an instrument which will establish the honor of their parish and town, for they will be the only Church in the entire country having a Victor Mustel Art Espressive Harmonium.

As for the second proposition, to toss out the old Debain harmonium, Maurice Ballade resented that vehemently. He wanted to keep it at all cost for he wanted to use it to teach the youths how to play the harmonium and it will be a useful instrument upon which they can practice.  For according to him when one is a learner and a beginner, one has to practice on an old harmonium.
He had a valid point but at the same time it was the worst statement that he could have ever made in his life.  For many who followed him as Pastor, especially his immediate successor who carried the name Pastor valued the Victor Mustel Art Expressive harmonium more than he valued himself as person, as priest, as educator, as a shepherd or anything else of value that one can ever think, have thought or imagine. Even though he has such a strange attitude I have to say that I admire a lot of his good qualities. He was a man who I love and care for.  Therefore, I was so afraid for him - that one day he would position himself in front of the Mustel and adore it as his Lord and Savior as the Israelites did to the Golden Calf in the desert.  Not only he did he put a padlock on the Mustel which was a very imbecile idea. He also declared arrogantly, this is the Organ of the prestigious, to quote his own words, (c’est l’orgue des Grands). That was a lot of nonsense for the ones he reverenced as prestigious, today I can be their organ teacher and teach them how to use the Mustel Art Expressive harmonium.

During Maurice Ballade’s time he permitted his students to play on the Mustel in his presence only. In the late fifties when the president of Haiti, Francois Duvalier sent Maurice Ballade in exile for good that was the end of this practice until Rev. Pierre Le Menn was assigned as a New Pastor in the late sixties and put an end to all the nonsense of the Mustel being the organ of the Prestigious or (l’orgue des Grands). Until the coming of Pierre Le Menn, all the Maurice Ballade’s disciples including myself were condemned to practice on the old Debain whether we liked it or not. Pierre Le Menn like Maurice Ballade was a great musician, organist and a great harmonium restorer. Contrary to the other restorers that brought the old Debain harmonium to ruin, Pierre Le Menn restored it to its original beauty where everything in it worked and this job fascinated the parishioners.

During this period of time, I always longed to have a Mustel Art Expressive harmonium for myself. It was like having a burning desire and not knowing how and when it will manifest itself. At that time, my father saw that desire manifested in me for I constantly talked about Mustel. He offered me the choice of a convertible and a Mustel Art Expressive Harmonium. No matter, how much I loved the instrument, for a teenager that I was; a convertible was more appealing than a Harmonium. I opted for the convertible. That was one the worst mistakes of my life, for at that time one could have ordered a Mustel Art Expressive Harmonium and have it delivered but today it is impossible to order one while it is still possible to order a convertible if it is the wish and the desire of someone.

Unfortunately, the convertible lasted a few years and it is now history, but I was still longing for a Mustel Art Expressive Harmonium. I put advertisements all over the place about my intention. I came across one day a fellow at the website and asked him if he could help me find a Mustel Art Expressif harmonium regardless of its condition. He was kind enough to answer me that he can, but it is going to be an expansive proposition. That is all I needed to hear to say to myself to forget about for I have no money whatsoever, but I could not abandon the idea. Instead my longing and desire kept increasing tremendously. There were moments when I felt so good and excited inside like if I was in possession of the Mustel. I kept saying to myself that it is on its way.

One day, out of the blue, a group of friends invited me to go on trip to Europe to visit France and England for about two weeks and the price was so cheep and I opted for that. While I was in Paris, the idea of Mustel art expressive harmonium kept haunting me to the point that I could'nt resist it anymore and decided to go on a tour of the Mustel establishment on Wagram Avenue.  I was shocked when I saw that little electronic store and I said to myself - is that the Mustel’s Place?  Someone had already informed me that inside of this little shop, in the back they still have in cases by the multitude Mustel harmonium from the twenties to the thirties that  have never been played from since they were manufactured.  My desire and wish was to be able to get in there and search but unfortunately that area was not open to the public. What a deception? That did not turn off my longing and my desire which I had since my youth, instead the longing and the desire persisted more than ever before.

Few days later, we travelled to England. We were in the city of Wales. I was fascinated by the way that people travelled there. We went to Mass in the morning and we were on our own for the rest of the day. There was a lot of time to kill. Around two in the afternoon, I went for a walk not knowing exactly where I was going and where I would end up to.  I happened to pass by a Church and I saw people going  in and out. It was a catholic Church and I was debating whether  I should  go in and to take some pictures or keep going my merry way.  I opted to go in. It was a Church with two levels, the Upper Church and the Lower Church. Here I am in the Upper Church and I say to myself that I wished that I could celebrate here with a full congregation. While I was contemplating this idea, I saw a stairway leading to the lower Church and I took it down with many other people.

picture © Tim Clayton

Guess what I saw in front of me abandoned in a corner by itself waiting for me?  A Mustel!  I recognized it by the double expression and the red velvet on the pedals.  At that point, my heart began to palpitate like if I had been running plenty miles. I opened the cover just to peer in and I saw the seal Vor Mustel.  Quickly I found my way to the presbytery where I met the Pastor who welcomed me.  After five minutes of conversation with him it seemed as if we knew each other for a very long time. When I mentioned to him about the Mustel, he had no idea of what I was talking about even though he had been in that parish for a very long time. It is a normal reaction, with everything that a Pastor has to think about and worry about in those days and age, if you are not a musician, you are not going to know the presence of a Mustel even though it might be in front of your eyes and nose.

I took him to the place where the Mustel was. His first reaction was that since he had been here which is over seventeen years no one had ever come to look for it or to play on it.  Do you want it?  He ask me?  There was no doubt that my answer is yes, but I say to myself it is too good to be true.  I cannot stop thanking him for this wonderful gift for he wants absolutely no remuneration for it.  When we went back to the presbytery I saw that I no longer had his full attention. Surprisingly enough, while I am thinking how am I going to do to bring the Mustel home, he was thinking of the same thing too. He stood up and looked for a transport number. I called them up and left them a message for it was Sunday.  By the time I walked back from where I was, it was a little bit late for they had worried about what may have happened to me. When I told them my discovery, it was again too good to be true.

The next day, early in the morning, while I was still sleeping, the phone in my room  wake me up and I was told that I have some movers looking for me impatiently downstairs. I take a shower in a hurry and get myself downstairs to meet with them. We drove down to the place. Surprisingly enough, when we get there, we find that the Pastor has already prepared the Mustel to be on the go. While they are parking the Mustel, the pastor ask me if would like to officiate for Mass is about to start. I said yes, of course. Remember yesterday I said to myself that I wish that I can officiate here with a large congregation. Here we are, another dream has come true. After Mass, the Mustel was already in box ready to go to the shore. I signed the paper with the necessary informations, I paid those movers with credit and they too me back to the place where they pick me up early in the morning.

At the end of my sojourn. I came back home waiting for the Mustel while continuing my daily obligations and commitments. After two weeks, No Mustel. One month later, no Mustel and I reached the point where I said to myself - here you are, you are being fool again, they have once again taken advantage of you.  One day, a Tuesday, I had just finished supper and I heard the door bell ring and I remembered the Sunday when I ran the door bell of that presbytery in England. When I opened the door, here was this big box. I did not have to ask what that was, for I recognized it. I knew it was the Mustel. For me, that day was a great day, like any other great days of my life for which I am constantly grateful.

picture © Tim Clayton

Today, I have my Mustel Art Expressif Harmonium. I also have an Organ Estey with two manuals and a pedal board of thirty notes. My longing and desire is to have a Harmonium 2 claviers et pédalier MUSTEL Modèle N°8.   And also I am longing and desire for a Mustel piano dated 1930/1940. My dream is to be able to build a music room where I have all those instruments to develop my musical talents in order to serve the Church in this Millennium.  Right now, I am taking organ lessons at the feet of one of the greatest organists in our time where he has been teaching me the Bach’s chorals.  He has a four manual Allen’s, it is brand new & he let me play it with no problems.

To this experience, I have learned to value the power of my thoughts. One has to be careful of what one thinks for it is a fact that whatever you think, whatever you want, long for or desire or intend can be manifested and it will, according to God’s plan and according to his calendar. This is my belief, this is my vision and I want to hold to it in a state of trust and gratitude.