Fascination is the key to quality

The first find: a small organ with electropneumatic slider chests from Pels English text Nederlandse tekst

June 2016

Previous page: an organ for my own, introduction and overview

Het orgel van de Bonifatiuskerk in Alphen aan den Rijn

As described elsewhere on this site, I grew up with the organ in de church of Saint-Boniface in Alphen aan den Rijn. This pneumatic organ from 1900, built by Johannes Hilboesen, was overhauled by Bernard Pels in 1940, by making new chests. These were rather progressive, due to the involvement of the consultant father dr. Caecilianus Huygens: the organ got slider chests! But it had no tracker action, as the pallets were electropneumatically governed via a pulling bellow under each pallet.

In the meantime, I was involved as organ consultant in the committee that aimed at realising a choir organ in the mentioned Sint-Bonifatius church. The choir organ should physically be not too large and should be played from a new central console placed in the choir that would also govern the original Pels organ on the organ loft at the 'west end' (in fact east) of the church. A plan was made for the composition of the choir organ and quotes were received from organ builders. They got the opportunity to also offer a reused organ from elsewhere. As the quotes for new instruments were rather steep, we decided to concentrate on a superfluous organ that required not too much work and would fit both physically and stylistic in the gothic revival Bonifatius church with its 1900/1940 Pels organ.

Then in a Dutch organ magazine an organ was offered for sale in May 2012. It turned out to be the small sister of the organ I had played on so long: it was built by Pels in 1938 and consisted the same type of slider chests. However, in the eighties the instrument was overhauled by Pels' successor Pels en Van Leeuwen and the pallet bellows were removed in favour of strong magnets that pull the pallets directly. Furthermore, the swell box was removed. An organ builder bought and dismantled this organ.

I regarded this as the perfect match for Saint-Boniface. However, the bisshop's organ consultant wanted to leave it to the three selected organ builders what organ they would come up with. After several months, it turned out that a new organ was financially out of the question and one proposed used organ was in the end not acceptable for us. Then in June 2014, more than two years after the Pels organ was offered, we yet considered it as a suitable candidate and visited the organ. An organ builder made a quote for realising our plans. However, he came up with an incredibly high quote. So again a no to the idea to unite this little sister with her larger brother in the Sint-Bonifatius church.

I then, in December 2014, two and a half year after I discovered it, came up with a plan: why not buy it for myself?! I could assemble it in my warehouse, on a new floor, over my cars. In the end I had an agreement with the organ builder who dismantled the organ that I would get it as soon as I had the space to assemble it, although he allowed me to also consider other options.


The organ was built for the Alverna convent in Aerdenhout, near Haarlem, by Bernard Pels from Alkmaar in 1938, as opus 125. In 1984 the sisters went to a new smaller chapel and the organ was removed. It was, according to manager Peter van Rumpt from Pels en Van Leeuwen, in good working order, but physically too large to fit in the newly built chapel. It was placed in the 'Oud-Gereformeerde Gemeente in Nederland' in Geldermalsen in 1986. It was moved to the new church in 1992, but in 2012 it became superfluous as Van Vulpen built a new organ in this church.

It is a pity I do not have photographs from the organ in the Alverna convent (anybody?). But here an image on its last location (photo Kerkenverzamelaar, all other photos Rens Swart). All pipes larger than 4' are made of zinc, including the prospect pipes.

Het Alverna-orgel zoals het stond in de Oud-Gereformeerde Gemeente in Nederland in Geldermalsen

It was not in original state any more. The typical large scale oak slider chests with electropneumatically governed bellows that pulled the pallets, as I knew them from the Pels organ in the Saint Boniface in Alphen aan den Rijn, were changed by removing the pallet bellows and adding directly pulling electromagnets, as these photos show.

Direct elektrische magneten onder de ventielen van de sleeplade Direct elektrische magneten onder de ventielen van de sleeplade

Furthermore, spring throats were added over the sliders. (Chest is on its side.)

Veerhulzen tussen de slepen en de pijpstokken

The pneumatic action for shifting the sliders was retained, although during the last removal they were damaged as they were not thought of being reused. The swell box has been removed in earlier times. The five (!) reservoirs have been discarded and replaced by one reservoir.

De hoofdwerklade met de pneumatische bediening van de slepen

Yes, quite some work to do … The organ seems to be mainly dismantled for (some …) its parts. I think I will change the pneumatic bellow slider action for slider pulling electromotors.

In Geldermalsen, the Mixture was renewed and the principals were made louder. (The difference between a singing sister congregation and a singing conservative reformed congregation is about a factor ten in sound volume!!) After organ builder René Nijsse removed the organ from the church, the Mixture, Trumpet and Subbass were sold separately, a pity but our interest (as a choir organ for the Bonifatiuskerk) was not concrete.


Pedals Great Swell †
Subbas 16' * Prestant 8'
Bourdon 8'
Octaaf 4'
Mixtuur 2–3 sterk *
Salicionaal 8'
Roerfluit 8'
Fluit 4'
Nasard 2 2/3'
Blokfluit 2'
Trompet Harmonique 8' *

* Not present any more, pipework sold separately.
† Swell box and engine not present any more.

It seems from the original specification, as kindly supplied by Pels en Van Leeuwen, that the compass of the windchest of the second manual was extended with an octave for the octave couplers, althought I cannot see it on my photos. That would be nice! By the way, it makes the swell slider chests even wider: 390 cm including stop action.

The console is very nice and of course reminds me of the console of the organ I played on from my 13th year … (see the picture from 1977 on http://www.rensswart.nl/orgels/).

De fraaie speeltafel van het Alverna-orgel

To conclude some pictures of the pipework, that nicely wrapped lies waiting for its next life. Hopefully in my warehouse. This is the Nasard 2 2/3'.

Pijpwerk van de Nasard 2 2/3'

And this is the Octaaf 4'.

Pijpwerk van de Octaaf 4'

Next page: what's next? And a swell engine and shutters, blower and windchests

Overview: an organ for my own

Kind regards,
Rens Swart