Celebrating the pipe organ, the King of Instruments
Members of the tour assemble for a group photo in the
Oude Kerk (Old Church) in Delft, Netherlands
Great developments took place in church music at the end of the Middle Ages, and were concentrated in an area which encompassed Italy, Southern Germany, Northern France, England, and the Netherlands. Keyboard instrument building, in particular, underwent an intensive development, and especially in the Netherlands. The spring chest, which freed individual stops from the Blokwerk, was developed in the Netherlands, as were certain stops, such as the Quintadeen.
Netherlands’ builders worked in foreign countries more than did other national builders. From the 16th century there are many references to Dutch instruments in France, Italy, Germany, England, and Denmark. A strong reason for this is that several branches of the Rhine and the Meuse crossed the country, so the Dutch lived, as it were, on the shoulders of a great Autoroute, and were familiar with the doings and the mentalities of other countries.
During the century prior to the Calvinist Reformation of 1566, the amount of energy and imagination directed by the organbuilders toward the furtherance of their profession was nothing short of monumental.
How could such a small country support this? The organs were not, in many cases, built as much to enhance worship as to provide an outlet for cultural expression, especially after humanism started to take hold, and were most often thought of in terms of civic pride and often civic rivalry. As a result, in small villages you find often immense churches with spectacularly ornate organs. As far as its role in worship, even before the Reformation, the organ was restricted by the church officials to concerts before and/or after worship, as often as not using secular music.
During the Reformation, the expected civil unrest saw the destruction of many organs. The Rugwerks suffered most because of their relatively easy accessibility. The larger organs survived, however, because the remembrance of their tax dollars being used to build these organs for civic use was too fresh in the memory even of the mob…
Once the violence had run itself out, the organs were duly repaired and the concerts surrounding worship services were resumed.
Arrive at Schiphol Airport and board the motor coach for the short trip to Haarlem. The city of Haarlem, only 20 km from Amsterdam, has both flourished and suffered over the centuries. Beer is an important commodity made in Haarlem, a tradition that dates back to the 1400s; and tulip bulbs are grown here to be shipped worldwide. Enjoy some time for lunch on your own around the Market Square (Grote Markt), which is graced by the magnificent City Hall. Gather at Saint Bavokerk, adjacent to the Grote Markt, to see and hear the 1738 Müller organ with one of the world’s most impressive and famous organ cases. Continue to the Saint Bavo Basilica for a demonstration of its 1906 Adema organ. Later this afternoon arrive at your hotel overlooking the sand dunes along the North Sea shore near Alkmaar. After check-in and time to refresh, gather for a Welcome Dinner at the hotel.
After breakfast travel the short distance to Alkmaar. Amidst the 12th century streets of Alkmaar visit two historic organs at Saint Laurenskerk including the magnificent 1725 Frans Caspar Schnitger. Take time for lunch on your own then depart northward for Leeuwarden, which dates back to the 15th century and is the capital of the province of Friesland. In Leeuwarden enjoy a demonstration of the 1727 Müller organ at the Jakobijnerkerk, followed by a drive to Groningen. Before hotel check-in there will be a brief stop to hear the J.W. Timpe instrument (1831) at the Nieuwe Kerk. This evening stroll to the 15th century Martinikerk for a demonstration of the reconstructed 1692 Arp Schnitger organ. Groningen is the capital city of the province of the same name. Known as the “Metropolis of the North” and with a population of 185,000, it is by far the largest city in the area and boasts a remarkably large student population (approximately 40,000), which gives the city a young and vibrant atmosphere. Eden City Hotel.
Depart Groningen for a day excursion to area villages and churches, visiting organs in Noordbroek, Farmsum, Zeerijp and Leens. Throughout the journey you’ll see evidence of the province’s characteristic “terp” (mound) villages, which were constructed by the Netherlands’ earliest settlers and were the forerunners of the Netherlands’ dikes. We’ll hear a recital at the church in Zeerijp followed by hearing the Hinsz organ in Leens. Continue to Leeuwarden for dinner. This evening attend a performance of the Dutch Chamber Choir at the Jacobijnerkerk Leeuwarden. Return to your Groningen hotel for overnight. Eden City Hotel.
Travel amidst steep-roofed, half-timbered farmhouses to the old seaport of Kampen to visit the 1743 Hinsz organ and the 1999 Reil choir organ in the Bovenkerk. Drive to nearby Zwolle for time to lunch on your own. This afternoon visit the Saint Michaeliskerk for a demonstration of the 1721 Schnitger organ and the O.L.V. Kerk to hear the 1898 Maarschalkerweerd organ. Drive to the old town of Zutphen for a demonstration of the 1642 Bader organ at the Walburgiskerk. Continue to Arnhem for hotel check-in and dinner. Arnhem nestles against the southern edge of the largest nature reserve in the Netherlands. The city traces its roots as far back as the year 893, and it joined the Hanseatic League in 1443. Golden Tulip Arnhem Velp.
After breakfast at your hotel board the coach and travel to Nijmegen, one of the Netherlands’ oldest cities, to visit the Saint Stevenskerk and its 1776 König organ. Have lunch in Den Bosch (The Woods) then visit the magnificent Gothic Saint Jan Cathedral and hear the Hocq organ, which dates back to 1617. Travel among picturesque villages and ancient towns to Oirschot to visit the Saint Petruskerk and its 1845 Smits organ. After dinner in charming Oirschot drive into the heart of the Dutch moorlands (de Peel) to Helmond to visit the Saint Lambertuskerk and hear its Robustelly organ from 1772. Return to your hotel in Arnhem in late evening. Golden Tulip Arnhem Velp.
Depart after breakfast this morning for Utrecht, one of the Netherlands’ most important cities, with a population of over 280,000. Like Amsterdam, Utrecht has a series of canals that connects various parts of the city. Visit the Saint Nicolaikerk and its two Marcussen organs, then enjoy time for lunch on own. Take a guided tour of mechanical musical instruments in the National Museum, housed in a former church. Carillon clocks, musical boxes, pianolas, belly organs, orchestrions, as well as full-size street-, fairground- and dance hall organs are all on show. After the tour, proceed to the Domkerk for a 3:30pm recital featuring the 1831 Bätz organ. After the concert, continue to Amsterdam for hotel check-in, dinner and overnight. Hotel Novotel Amsterdam.
Amsterdam has long been a center of trade and a crossroads of culture. Its ring of canals was finished by the 17th century, and gabled, patrician houses from that era line the banks. The group will transfer this morning into the city center. There will be the option to attend services at the Westerkerk with a possible demonstration after worship (1712 Duyschot/1988 Flentrop). Enjoy time at leisure for individual explorations. Later this afternoon we hope to have a demonstration at the Oude Kerk, the oldest parish church in Amsterdam and the proud sponsor of a long tradition of excellent organs and organ players dating back to Sweelinck in the 16th century. After dinner on your own, the group is invited to Arjen Leistra’s recital at the Nieuwe Kerk after which there will be a group transfer back to the hotel. Novotel Hotel Amsterdam.
Travel to Zaandam, a shipbuilding center for all of Europe in the 17th century. Upon arrival visit Flentrop Organworks, a family business of organ builders since 1903, famous for its association with recording artist E. Power Biggs. Proceed to the Westzijderkerk in Zaandam for a demonstration of the 1712 Duyschot organ. After time on own to lunch in Zaandam, drive to Haarlem for a recital on the 1875 Cavaillé-Coll organ at the Philharmonie. Return to Amsterdam for dinner at the hotel; this evening attend a performance of the Dutch Philharmonic Orchestra at the Concertgebouw Amsterdam. Novotel Hotel Amsterdam.
This morning the group will visit Keukenhof Gardens where Dutch flower growers display their wares in a dramatic, natural setting. Walk through the park-like grounds extensively adorned with blooming plants (especially tulips) amidst towering trees and serene ponds. This is the peak of the flower season in the Netherlands, and Keukenhof Gardens is the ultimate place to experience these floral wonders. Travel to Leiden for time to lunch on your own. Many of Leiden’s historic buildings of the 16th and 17th centuries remain and Leiden University is the oldest in the Netherlands. Visit the Hooglandsekerk and its 1565 de Swart organ. Drive to the lovely town of Gouda, which is famous for its cheese, smoking pipes and its charming 15th century Town Hall. Visit the Saint Janskerk, learn about its stained glass, and hear and play the 1738 Moreau organ. End your day in Rotterdam for hotel check-in and dinner. Eden Savoy Rotterdam.
The bustling port city of Rotterdam started in 1228 as a small fishing village. Most of the city center was destroyed in WWII, but it was quickly rebuilt to modern standards; very little of the old city survives. Today visit significant organs in Rotterdam and its environs including the 1855 Bätz/Witte organ in the Pilgrim Fathers’ church in Delfshaven. After lunch attend a recital on the Marcussen organ - the largest organ in the Netherlands – and see two other organs onsite at Saint Laurenskerk. Later travel to Maassluis to visit the 1732 Garrels organ in the Grote Kerk. Return to Rotterdam for dinner on your own and overnight. Eden Savoy Rotterdam.
Enjoy a morning at leisure - this is Ascension Day and churches have morning services scheduled so organs are not available to the group. You will be given suggestions for activities. In the late morning, journey to nearby Delft, perhaps the prettiest little town in the Netherlands, to hear the 1857 Witte organ in the Oude Kerk and the 1839 Bätz in the Nieuwe Kerk. You’ll have free time in Delft for lunch and shopping for some of its signature blue and white porcelain. This afternoon return to Rotterdam for a farewell dinner and to enjoy a final recital featuring the 1966 Van Vulpen organ at the Hoflaankerk. Eden Savoy Rotterdam.