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

Changing styles

Franz Caspar, son of Arp Schnitger, built new wind chests for the main and pedal in 1728, as well as a new Positive in a case with wood engravings. After the death of Franz Caspar Schnitger, the work was completed in 1730 by Master Albert Anthony Hinsz. In 1740 Hinsz installed seven new stops and now the organ had 47 stops. In the 19th century, the organ was adapted to changing style insights. The organ makers Nicolaus Lohman and then Petrus van Oeckelen made changes to the stops and expanded the organ to 52 stops. The sounds were adapted to the style of the time and did not differ greatly from the Baroque style.

In 1939 the organ was modernized and fitted with an electric console. Historical sense of norm had to make up for showing off a newfangled madness. Dr. Gustav Fock and George Stam, both connoisseurs of Arp Schitger's organ architecture, strongly urged not to carry out this disastrous renovation. Unfortunately, the Dutch Bell and Organ Council nevertheless commissioned De Koff to rebuild the organ according to their modern ideas.

Sounds of a sample set

The most striking feature of the organ in the Martini Church is that the sounds are so relaxed and colorful. As a voicer I learned how to make a pipe sound relaxed and colorful. The wind from the languid gap should be directed towards the upper labium. The sound is created when the wind hits the upper labium at the right angle. If blown with light wind pressure produces a tone at low volume and then gives the tone more fullness with increasing pressure, the pipe sounds relaxed.

When the wind current from the languid gap is directed more outward and at the same time the upper labium is pulled forward, more overtones are created and that gives a colorful sound. The difference between a relaxed and a forced sound can be heard when blowing against the rim of a bottle. When the right angle is found, a nice, deep tone will sound that does not require much effort.

Jiri Zurek found this richness of sound so striking that it stimulated him to store the sounds in the samples as detailed as possible. He placed the microphones so close to the pipes that the character was not obscured by reflections from the acoustics.
He took a different path for acoustics by incorporating it with Impulse-Response technology.                          See:   Sonus Paradisi

Organ Martini church Groningen       Colorful and relaxed sounds

The organ in the Martini Church of Groningen has the reputation of being one of the most beautiful organs in the world. To be able to reproduce these beautiful sounds through a Hauptwerk organ, a sample set should meet the highest requirements. Jiri Zurek has worked intensively on it for almost a year and has fully succeeded in capturing the sound beauty in the sample set. Never before has an organ been made into a set that shows the sounds of the church in the living room so realistically.

In Groningen I grew up in the vicinity of this organ and I got to know its sounds well. I think it is fantastic that I can now play with this richness of sound in my living room. I lowered the volume to an appropriate level for a room. By reducing the volume, the proportions shift, but by voicing the registers they sound like in the church again. It is extensively described in my book and 200 photos show the positions of the control sliders that let the sounds be heard in full glory. My organ offers a wide choice of sample sets, but I prefer to play the organ of the Martini Church.

I applied my experience as a pipe voicer to voicing samples. The reeds in particular require extremely careful adjustments. Often a minimal correction brought just the sophistication I was aiming for. The Hautbois 8' sounds wonderful as a Oboe d'amore

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.

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'
Jürgen Ahrend

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 have been recorded in the sample set with great care. It is the best set ever made of an organ.

In this book about the organ I show a refined voicing to make the sounds in the living room sound exactly the same with the sounds in the church.

My loudspeakers are of the type used in many organs and for that reason the differences turned out to be minor. Yet they are easy to compensate with a new method that has already been tested by many organists.

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