With choir in hard hats, fire-ravaged Notre-Dame rings in Christmas

A view shows the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral, which was damaged in a devastating fire one year ago, as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown slows down its restoration in Paris, France

For the first time since a fire that nearly destroyed it, the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris played host to a Christmas Eve choral concert, an annual tradition in France.

In a concession to the fact that the Gothic cathedral is still being rebuilt, the choristers wore construction hard hats and boiler suits, and there was no audience.

The concert was recorded at the cathedral earlier this month, and was broadcast on French television just before midnight on Thursday.

The choristers performed classical pieces by composers Mozart and Schubert, but also a more light-hearted repertoire, including “Jingle Bells.”

“It was very moving,” said cellist Gautier Capucon, describing the experience of recording the concert. Along with an organist, he provided the musical accompaniment for the choir.

“It was the first time we had all been back at Notre-Dame cathedral since the fire, so it was a moment full of emotion,” he said in an interview with television station franceinfo.

The cathedral, a landmark of Gothic architecture dating to the 13th century and a major tourist attraction, caught fire on April 15, 2019. The blaze destroyed the spire and roof.

French President Emmanuel Macron undertook to restore the cathedral within five years.

But to date, most work on the site has focused on making the building safe, including clearing up toxic lead from the roof and spire that melted in the fire.

In the meantime, Notre-Dame is closed to the public and masses are cancelled.

In April this year, seven people were allowed to attend a religious ceremony in the cathedral to mark Good Friday, when Christians commemorate the death of Jesus Christ.

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