Fascination is the key to quality

A pipe organ for myself English text Nederlandse tekst

June and November 2016

How it started

My fascination for the organ as a musical and technical instrument exists already for my whole life, as I described elsewhere on this site. But in 2013 I got a new idea. That year with a business partner I bought a business unit or warehouse to store my cars and work on them. But in fact it is a large space and, although this space got completely filled up with cars and parts much faster than I imagined, over the cars there is in fact a lot of free height. Why not build up an organ in my own warehouse?

In May 2013 I discovered an interesting neglected small pneumatic organ, offered for free in Flandres because the cloister chapel was soon to be redeveloped. It was exactly my style: very romantic, with only 8' and 4' stops. I believe that was the first time I considered acquiring an organ for my own. Not primarily to play on, but to dismantle, assemble, work on, play and enjoy all this. However, I feared the heavy work to get the soundboards and the console from the balcony, so I doubted and within a few days the organ was gone … But not as an interesting instrument: it was just robbed of its most interesting pipes …

A year before, in May 2012, an organ was offered in a Dutch organ magazine. Although partly renewed, it was still an interesting instrument. It could be considered as the small sister of the organ of my youth, the organ Pels (re)built for the Bonifatiuskerk in Alphen aan den Rijn in 1939. As I was involved in the process to realise a choir organ in this church, I proposed this as a candidate. Because of all kinds of reasons this was not to be.

Only in December 2014, the idea emerged that I could buy this candidate for myself and build it up in my warehouse. As this was not a large organ and more organs were said to be expected to appear on the market because of church closings, I decided to take my time to look around.

Reasons to acquire a pipe organ for my own

Het pijpwerk van het positief van het  Verschueren-orgel dat ik verwierf

Why exactly would I aim at acquiring a pipe organ for my own and assemble it in the warehouse? Several reasons plead for this.

  • Dismantling, assembling and adapting a pipe organ and making it work is for me an incredibly inspiring activity.
  • If the organ of my own is completed, I have my own instrument to practice on.
  • It is a pity, but the frequent closing of churches due to the decrease of the religious community and their funds makes organs superfluous. Depending on the new use of these buildings, organs sometimes need to be removed from these churches. I can give them a rather good new destination, at least compared to the destiny of the complete demolition of the organ or at best the robbing of its pipework.
  • The organs built in the era of, say, 1900 to 1960 receive the least interest because they are often said to be no work of art and craftmanship and historically the least interesting. This can be right, but certainly it is not a rule. Moreover, these organs receive far less interest because they have been built with pneumatic or electro-pneumatic action, instead of the classic mechanical action, with trackers and slider chests. And at the same time the pneumatic or electro-pneumatic action interests me the most. This is both because I like the style of these instruments, I like the technical complexity and I know that many organ builders concentrate on the way organs were built before the twentieth century and therefore qualify less to work on these twentieth-century organs.
  • By doing so in the warehouse of my own, I can do what and when I want; I have only to do with my business partner I share the warehouse with.
  • I can use the knowlegde acquired during dismantling, restoration and assembly to work on organs still doing their job in a church. As said, this knowlegde is not every organ builder's piece of cake.

I got the opportunity to get two organs and a nice collection of organ parts. More on it on the following pages. In particular the page on the dismantling of the Verschueren organ is abundantly illustrated!

The idea is in the end to assemble the organs and organ parts to one single organ, not a good-looking one, but primarily an organ that works well and is put together in a more or less inspiring way. I cannot have high requirements, as I do not have the budget for that at all. (On the other hand, those who know me … when I told a friend that I wouldn't do a job on my house perfectly, he said: "if you say it will not be perfect, then it is still perfect". I don't think he is completelty right, but there is some point in it.)

On the next pages, we will see how this idea develops. I don't know what I will end up with …

Overview: acquiring and dismantling organs

The first find: a small organ with electropneumatic slider chests from Pels

What's next? And a swell engine and shutters, blower and windchests

Abundantly illustrated: the dismantling of an electropneumatic organ from Verschueren

A main reservoir from 1891

Kind regards,
Rens Swart