Back to the historical sounds

In the second half of the last century, the realization grew among organ scientists and organ builders, that the art of organ making had been completely lost. The only way to rediscover it was a thorough study of baroque organs that had retained their original form. Groningen and the Environment formed an ideal area for this purpose.

In the 17th century, many wealthy farmers donated an organ to the church. Nowhere are so many baroque organs built than in this area. Later, there was no money left to transform or replace the organs to new ideas. And so a valuable reference point had emerged to rediscover the old style.

Epoch-making work was done by the organ scientist Cornelius H. Edskes in Groningen. In a years-long study, he intensively investigated the historical organs that had retained their original state. It is not only the pipes, but also the whole connection between pipes, bellows, valves, wind chests, keyboards and the tracker action plus the appearance of the organ cabinet that determine the sounds of the organ.

After a thorough examination of the entire construction, Cor Edskes found that the undoing of disastrous renovation of 1939 was possible. The organ could be returned to the state of the historic Baroque organ that had always been. It would be an ambitious and labor-intensive work and take the utmost of an organ builder's ability to implement it. How the restoration had to be carried out he described in a meticulously elaborate plan.

A special story is the Speelfluit 4'. The register from 1542, was removed by Van Oeckelen, except for the gis1, this was taken by a town hall employee. A conical pipe with a small funnel at the top and a mild sound. Later this pipe was kept in the Groninger museum. The pipe was ceded to Cor Edskes who calculated the register based on this pipe. The organ has now 53 stops.

It was established to him that only one organ builder was capable of doing so: Jürgen Ahrend in Leer, Germany. There was no organ builder who had more knowledge of the organ architecture of the past centuries and who had the ability to voice every pipe to his original sound idiom.

Cor Edskes and Jürgen Ahrend examined each part of the organ to bring it back to its original state. Cor Edskes wrote a detailed work plan and Jürgen Ahrend dared to implement this plan. Because of their joint effort, the Martini organ was once given the place it once had, the magnificent Baroque organ with Gothic and Renaissance characteristics, unique in the Netherlands.                    

The restoration of the organ happened in two phases. In 1976 the Positive organ was restored. The goal was to rebuild the mechanical tracker action, the construction of a new bellows and the restoration of the wind chests. The reconstruction had the situation of the year 1740 as a starting point.
Then Anthonie Hinsz, pupil of Schnitger, had put the organ in perfect condition. In addition, some registers of Lohman van Van Oeckelen were preserved.                  

The beautiful resonance of old pipes is always preserved. The oldest pipes were made by Then Damme more than 500 years ago. In the centuries that followed, several organ makers added registers. During the restoration, all the pipes were voiced by Jürgen Ahrend, he understood the art of gives the pipes made by different organ makers in former centuries, their own sound back and yet they sounded harmoniously. He gave the organ his signature as well as Arp Schnitger had done in 1692.

The same situation I had found at the Schnitger organ in Norden (Dld) where Jürgen Ahrend had merged three styles of former builders. I played on that organ for hours and heard the small, yet well distinguishable differences between the Principals of Andreas de Mare, Edo Evers and Arp Schnitger. When merging these registers, they sound harmonious.

Jürgen Ahrend has determined the current sound of the Martini organ, in unrivalled collaboration with Cor Edskes. The special features of five centuries of organ art, merged into one organ make it a unique instrument.

Nowhere in the world an organ can be found with such a wide historical sound palette.

Cor Edskes has worked tirelessly for decades to recover the historical organ heritage and he laid the foundation for how these organs should be restored. The great fame that the organ obtained is mainly due to him. In 1996, the University of Gothenburg quite rightly granted him the honorary doctorate.

Jürgen Ahrend, is recognized as the best organ builder of this time. At the Martini organ he joined five centuries of organ architecture into a monumental organ with an impressive character.

Two icons that have prepared the way for the next generation of organ builders

Orgel Martini Church  Sounds in the Living room

The organ in the Martini church of Groningen has the reputation of being one of the most beautiful organs in the world. Jiri Zurek has used all his skills to capture the optimal sound in the samples. This surpasses any sample set from any sample maker, creating an extremely high quality set.
The samples reproduce the sounds very faithfully, but the volume must be reduced to living room strength. After the adjustment that I have described in my book, the sound beauty can be heard again in full splendor in the living room.

As a voicer with absolute hearing, my experience in voicing pipes has now applied to the voicing of samples. Often a minimal correction just brought the sought-after sophistication I wanted to hear. The reeds in particular require great care and very precise settings. In the book, two hundred photos show exactly the positions of the control sliders that show the most beautiful sounds on my organ.

Another organ does not have the same speakers, so my voicing has to be adjusted per organ. I have found a method for this that every organist can easily perform. This method has now been tested by so many organists that I have the certainty that everyone can achieve the optimal sound on his or her organ.

Quintadena    16'
Prestant          8'
Bourdon          8'
Roerfluyt         8' Octaav            4'
Speelfluyt        4'
Nasat             3'
Gedacktquint    3'
Octaav            2'
Fluyt               2'
Sexquialter     II
Mixtuur      IV-VI
Cimbel           III
Basson          16'
Schalmey        8'
Hautbois         8
History of the Organ in Groningen (Nld)

The history of the organ in the Martini church starts 570 years ago, when Master Hermannus in 1450 built an organ on a new gallery to replace the previous organ.
Eighteen years later, the tower collapsed and although the organ had not been touched, it had to be disassembled for the restoration of the church. Johann then Damme from Appingedam rebuilt the organ in 1482 and expanded it with a Positive.
The adviser was the humanist and organist Rudolphus Agricola. His name is shown on the cartouche under the Positive.

The organ front mentions the year 1542 when the Gothic organ was converted into Renaissance style by a skilled but undocumented organ builder. At the same time, the organ was expanded with a Upper Organ. However, the Gothic framework for the organ cabinet is almost completely preserved.

Further additions were made around 1564 by Andreas de Mare and in 1627/28 by Anthoni and Adam Verbeeck. From 1685 to 1690 Jan Helman performed elaborate works, such as new bellows, keyboards and spring chests for the main work and the pedal, but he died in 1690 without having completed the work.

The church board then contacted Arp Schnitger, who completed the work in 1692. He built two large pedal towers on both sides of the organ and placed the pipes of the Prestant 32'. The large pipes were made in the church, where the shipmasts were used to bend metal around. The alloy for the pipes had a high lead content. Schnitger also built three reed registers, a new wind chest for the upper organ and he lowered the pitch by moving the pipes one step. All pipes were voiced in the style of Arp Schnitger. He indicated his signature, so it was justified to call the organ a Schnitger organ.

Franz Caspar, the son of Schnitger, built in 1728 new wind chests for the main work and the pedal, as well as a new positive in a case with woodcarving. After the death of Franz Caspar Schnitger the work in 1730 was completed by Master Albert Anthony Hinsz. In 1740 Hinsz installed seven new registers and now the organ had 47 registers.

In the 19th century, the organ was adapted to the changing style insights. The organ makers Nicolaus Lohman (1830) and Peter van Oeckelen (1852) made changes to the registers and extended the organ to 52 registers. The sounds were adapted to the style of that time and did not differ to a large extent from the Baroque style.

In 1939 the organ was modernized and provided with an electrical console. Historical ethics was defeated by flaunting a newfangled madness.
Dr. Gustav Fock and George Stam, both connoisseurs of Arp Schitger's organ art of organ building, have strongly urged not to carry out this disastrous renovation. Unfortunately, the Dutch Clock and Organ Council ordered De Koff to rebuild the organ according to their modern views.

Prestant I-III    8'
Holfluyt            8'
Octaav             4'
Nasat              3'
Sexquialter      II
Mixtuur       IV-VI
Trompet         16'
Vox Humana     8'
Prestant         16'
Octaav            8'
Salicet             8'
Quintadena      8'
Gedackt           8'
Octaav             4'
Gedektfluyt      4'
Octaav            2'
Vlakfluyt          2'
Tertiaan           II
Mixtuur       IV-VI
Scharp            III
Viola da Gamba 8'
Trompet           8
Prestant        32'
Prestant        16'
Subbas          16'
Octaav            8'
Gedackt          8'
Roerquint        6'
Octaav            4'
Octaav            2'
Nagthoorn      2'
Mixtuur          IV 
Bazuyn          16'
Dulciaan        16'
Trompet         8'
Cornet           4'
Cornet           2'

Bazuyn          32'
Sounds of the sample set

After several months of playing with the sounds from the sample set, the most striking fact is that the relaxed and colorful character of the sounds of the pipes can also be heard in the samples. The pipes of this organ work at a wind pressure of 80 mm WC (Water column).

As a voicer I have learned how a pipe can be sound relaxed and colorful. The wind from the languid split must be pointed at the upper labium. The sound occurs when the wind hits the upper labium at the right angle. If blowing with light wind pressure makes a low-volume tone heard and then with increasing pressure gives the tone more fullness, the pipe sounds relaxed. When the angle is too large or too small, only part of the wind current hits the upper labium. To reach the same volume, the wind pressure is increased and that will forces the sound.

When the upper labium is pulled more forward, which directs the wind current from the inside out, the overtone gives a colorful sound. A opposite action gives a round and flute-like sound. The relaxed sound is a naturally breathable sound like a good singer.

The difference between a relaxed sound and a forced sound can be heard when blowing against the edge of a bottle. When the right angle is found it will sound a nice, deep tone that doesn't take much effort.

The sounds of the organ of the Martini Church in Groningen are very relaxed. An example of hard, somewhat forced sounds is the Marcussen Main Organ of the Laurens Church in Rotterdam.

It depends on the voicer whether this sound is reached and Jürgen Ahrend was a master in voicing. All the good qualities that previous organ builders have given to the sounds disappear, if the pipes are forced to a different sound. However, a skilled voicer can find the sound properties and restore the beautiful sound of old pipes. Many good organ builders worked on the organ of the Martini Church, in which Arp Schnitger and his son Franz Caspar had a large share. The title Schnitger organ is therefore not misplaced, but the current sound is fully applied by Jürgen Ahrend and therefore it would actually be very justified to call the organ of the Martini Church an Ahrend organ.

The Schnitger organ of Norden has the same relaxed sounds and other organs by Jürgen Ahrend, such as the organ in Joure (Friesland), I have played the organ and heard very pleasant sound properties. The pipes of his organs are stable and never need to be tuned. Joure's organ would need a tuning after 10 years; but all that happened then was with a vacuum cleaner removing the dust from the languids and the pitch was perfectly fine again.

The sounds in the samples are like in the Martini Church, but need an voicing to the smaller space of a living room. But due to the large evenness, voicing the samples is a simple task.

  The book  Martinikerk Groningen - Sound beauty of a House organ  explains it.

Martini church Groningen
Sound beauty of a House Organ

The sounds of the organ in the Martini church are carefully recorded in the sample set. The sounds correspond accurately to the sounds in the church. It's the best set ever made of an organ.

In this third book about the organ, I show a sophisticated voicing that makes the sounds in the living room sound just like in the Martini church. Another organ doesn't have the same speakers, so my voicing has to be adjusted for each organ. The new method I found for this was tested for six months and proved to be well understood.

The book will be sent free of charge if it is requested by name, e-mail address and full mailing address                     mail to:    John Boersma