Casavant Frères has a unique history, where tradition and innovation, local roots and international outreach are intertwined.
Established in Saint-Hyacinthe, where it was founded in 1879, the company has successfully promoted the ancestral techniques of organ building throughout Canada, North America and all over the planet. It has also adapted to the technical evolution of this instrument and to the artistic trends of the contemporary period. To do this, Casavant has called upon many experts including technical and musical specialists from all over the world.
After working for some local organ builders, Claver Casavant (1855-1933) travels to France in order to familiarize himself with the latest European developments in the field. He then works for the factor John Abbey in Versailles. His brother Samuel (1859-1929) joined him later and both spent time with the organ builder Cavaillé-Coll.
Claver and Samuel Casavant, who are the sons of Joseph Casavant (1807-1874), the first organ builder born in Canada, visit landmark instruments and organ builders in France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, and England. Upon their return to Saint-Hyacinthe in October 1879, they establish Casavant Frères.
Installation of the first organ built by Casavant Frères at Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes Chapel in Montreal (opus 1, two manuals, 13 stops). Rebuilt in 1909, this instrument is still used today. This first organ includes two adjustable combinations.
Casavant installs its first three-manual organ at the Saint-Hyacinthe Cathedral (opus 8, 38 stops). First Casavant organ to use Barker levers (pneumatic assist).
Casavant installs its first four-manual organ (opus 26, 82 stops) at Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal, Canada. The instrument, which was then the second largest pipe organ in North America, features a 32’ principal in façade and an electro-pneumatically operated adjustable combination system. This successful installation established the international reputation of Casavant Frères. The organ was dedicated by Frederick Archer in May 1891.
At Notre-Dame Basilica in Ottawa (opus 34, three manuals, 52 stops), Casavant installs its first organ successfully using electro-pneumatic action.
- Thanks to their relationship with Franco-American communities, Casavant installs a first organ in the United States, at Notre-Dame Parish in Holyoke, Massachusetts (opus 63, two manuals, 16 stops). - Casavant patents its first slider-less windchest which is the precursor of the Pitman-type windchest that we still use today in electro-pneumatic organs.
Casavant installs its first organ built with tubular-pneumatic action at Saint-Jean-Baptiste Church in Troy, New York (opus 68, three manuals, 28 stops). The last Casavant using this type action was built in 1944.
Casavant installs its first organ in New York City, at St. Francis Xavier Church (opus 184, four manuals, 70 stops), where Gaston Dethier is organist.
Casavant patents its first tracker touch contact system for the manual keyboards.
Casavant installs its first organ in a concert hall, at the Boston Opera House (opus 377, two manuals, 19 stops), where Wallace Goodrich serves as adviser.
Casavant installs a new organ at the Anglican Cathedral of Kingston, Jamaica (opus 410, three manuals, 22 stops).
1912-1918. Casavant opens a second workshop in South Haven, Michigan, where 52 new organs will be built.
First use of the Pitman-type windchest.
Casavant installs the then-largest organ in a United States church, at Emmanuel Church in Boston (opus 700, four manuals, 138 stops). Lynnwood Farnam, who was organist at this church, played an important role in the project.
Casavant patents the contact system (called roller relay) which is still in use today.
- In order to ensure the continuity of the firm, the Société Casavant Frères becomes Casavant Frères Limitée, a stock company.
- 1919-1926 Casavant opens a phonograph department, using disc players made by RCA Victor.
Thanks to Joseph Bonnet, Casavant installs an organ (opus 976, three manuals, 39 stops) in Paris, at the residence of New York banker George Blumenthal. This organ was moved in 1935 to the Benedictine Abbey of En-Calcat (Toulouse area), where it is still in use.
- Casavant installs its first organ in Japan, at Holy Trinity Church in Tokyo (opus 1208, two manuals, 18 stops). This instrument was destroyed during WWII.
- Casavant installs an organ in Salisbury, Rhodesia (today Harare, Zimbabwe) (opus 1220, two manuals, 18 stops). The organ, which was restored recently, is still in use.
Samuel Casavant passes away on November 23.
- Casavant installs the largest organ in Canada, at Metropolitan United Church in Toronto (opus 1367, five manuals, 109 stops).
- Casavant Frères is awarded the Grand Prix at the International Exhibition in Antwerp, Belgium.
- Claver Casavant passes away on December 10. - Stephen Stoot (1881-1959) becomes Casavant Frères’ second tonal director.
- Casavant installs two new organs (opus 1587 and 1588, four manuals, 72 stops) at SS. Peter and Paul Basilica in Lewiston, Maine.
- Casavant starts a furniture department, mainly for churches and public buildings (banks, schools, etc.). In 1948, complete furniture is provided for the main court room of the Supreme Court of Canada. This department closed in 1981.
Casavant installs an organ (opus 1732, four manuals, 85 stops) at Saint-Roch Church in Québec City, Canada. This instrument represents the first expression of the Organ Reform Movement in Quebec.
Lawrence Phelps becomes Casavant Frères’ third tonal director.
Casavant installs its first large neo-baroque organ (opus 2557, four manuals, 68 stops) at Saints-Martyrs-Canadiens Church in Québec City, Canada.
Casavant installs its first modern mechanical action organ (opus 2698, two manuals, 14 stops) at Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption Church in Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, Canada. A leader in the Organ Reform Movement in North America, Casavant has built more than 200 mechanical action organs since the 1960s.
- Three large instruments are installed at Calvary Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (opus 2729, four manuals, 87 stops), at Notre-Dame-du-Cap Shrine in Cap-de-la-Madeleine, Quebec, Canada (opus 2679, three manuals, 75 stops), and at Central Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota (opus 2722, four manuals, 78 stops).
- 1963-1976 Casavant Frères is transformed into a public company.
- Casavant installs its largest organ built with mechanical action (opus 3145, four manuals, 73 stops) at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Providence, Rhode Island.
- Gerhard Brunzema (1927-1992) becomes Casavant Frères’ fourth tonal director.
- Canadian businessman Bertin Nadeau acquires Casavant Frères. Once again, the firm is a private company.
- Casavant installs its then largest organ (opus 3312, five manuals, 123 stops) at the Basilica de Santa Maria de Guadelupe in Mexico City.
A new organ (opus 3353, three manuals, 64 stops) is installed at Saint Peter Catholic Cathedral in Erie, Pennsylvania.
A new mechanical action organ (opus 3360, three manuals, 36 stops) is installed at Dordt College (now University) in Sioux Center, Iowa.
- Casavant installs a large mechanical action organ (opus 3434, four manuals, 60 stops) at the Victoria Arts Centre in Melbourne, Australia.
- Organist Jacquelin Rochette joins Casavant as Associate Tonal Director. He works closely with Jean-Louis Coignet for some 20 years before becoming Casavant Frères’ sixth tonal director.
A new organ built with electro-pneumatic action (opus 3623, four manuals, 74 stops) is installed at the Jack Singer Concert Hall in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
A new organ (opus 3656, four manuals, 84 stops) is installed at Lake Avenue Congregational Church in Pasadena, California.
A new organ (opus 3690, four manuals, 41 stops) built with electro-pneumatic action is installed at the Naples-Marco Philharmonic Hall in Naples, Florida.
A new organ (opus 3695, three manuals, 40 stops) is installed at Matsuzakaya Department Store in Nagoya, Japan. This is one of the 26 new organ we have built for Japan.
A new mechanical action organ (opus 3700, four manuals, 60 stops) is installed at the Temple of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now Community of Christ) in Independence, Missouri.
Casavant installs its magnum opus (opus 3750, five manuals, 129 stops) at Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas.
- A mechanical organ with a very elaborate casework (opus 3762, three manuals, 47 stops) is installed at The Church of St. Louis, King of France in St. Paul, Minnesota.
- A new electro-pneumatic action organ (opus 3765, three manuals, 44 stops) is installed at the legendary Orchestra Hall in Chicago, Illinois.
A new organ (opus 3800, three manuals, 37 stops) is installed at St. Francis Catholic Church in Melbourne, Australia.
A new mechanical-action organ (opus 3799, three manuals, 50 stops) is installed at Piedmont College (now University) in Demorest, Georgia.
After a devastating fire, a new organ (opus 3812/3813, four manuals, 55 stops) is installed at Central Synagogue in New York City.
A new organ (opus 3927, four manuals, 81 stops) is installed at First Baptist Church in Hickory, North Carolina.
- A large organ (opus 3837, four manuals, 88 stops) designed in the French Symphonic style is installed at The Brick Presbyterian Church in New York City. This is the last instrument designed by Jean-Louis Coignet.
- A new mechanical-action organ designed in the French Symphonic style (opus 3838, three manuals, 42 stops) is installed at Principia College in Elsah, Illinois.
A new organ (opus 3873, three manuals, 31 stops) is installed in the historic, 2200-seat Teatro Aula Magna on the Rio Piedras Campus of the University of Puerto Rico in San Juan.
Casavant’s first organ (opus 3883, four manuals, 60 stops) in the People’s Republic of China, is installed at the Grand Theater of Hefei. The mechanical action instrument has a console attached to the organ, along with a second moveable console on stage.
A first organ (opus 3891, three manuals, 37 stops) for Macau is installed at the historic Igreja de São Lázaro (Saint Lazarus Church).
- A new mechanical-action organ (opus 3875, four manuals, 82 stops) is installed at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Missouri.
- A new organ (opus 3899, four manuals, 58 stops) is installed at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC.
New mechanical-action organs (with a console attached to the organ, along with a second moveable console on stage) are installed in two new concert halls in Quebec, Canada. Maison Symphonique in Montreal (opus 3900, four manuals, 83 stops), and at the Palais Montcalm in Quebec City (opus 3896, three manuals, 37 stops).
A new organ (opus 3905, three manuals, 31 stops) is installed at “Bei Tang”, the historic North Cathedral in Beijing, China.
A first contract is signed in South Korea, with Saemoonan Presbyterian Church, in Seoul. The new organ (opus 3906, four manuals, 63 stops) will be installed in 2019.
Quebec Entrepreneur and professional musician Simon Tétreault acquires Casavant Frères.
- A major contract is signed with the Bucheon Culture and Arts Center in South Korea. - Casavant Frères acquires the large collection of archives and books by William Vineer, The Vineer Organ Library & Archives, Ottawa, Canada.