Arp Schnitger organ in Noordbroek

In 1695 Arp Schnitger built an organ for Noordbroek, using pipes from the previous organ. The church was built in the Romano-Gothic style in the 13th century as a cross church with vaults and has an overwhelming acoustics. Organists from many countries visit this special organ, which is known worldwide. Every organist is impressed by the striking sound beauty of the centuries-old pipes. The church is located on the edge of the small village of Noordbroek in the province of Groningen.

Albertus Antoni Hinsz restored the organ in 1752. In 1768 Hinsz built new wind chests for main and back work and enlarged the lowest octave to a full chromatic bass octave. The Quintadena 16’, Vox Humana 8’ and Dulcian 8’ registers were made by him. He also expanded the organ case and replaced the keyboards to be able to play the lowest octave fully. The pipes Hinsz added were voiced in the clear baroque style of Schnitger.

In 1809 Heinrich Hermann Freytag further expanded the organ case by adding pedal towers on both sides of the organ case and changing the pedal registers. Freytag made new pedal drawers and new bellows and Frytag also ensured that the pipes were voiced in the clear baroque style of Arp Schnitger. The high scales mixtures gave the plenum a silvery sound.

Hoofdwerk C - c3

Quintadena       16’
Praestant           8’
Holpijp              8’
Octaaf               4’
Speelfluit           4’
Quint                3’
Octaaf              2’
Mixtuur           IV-V
Trompet            8’
Vox Humana      8’
Rugpositief  C - c3

Fluit douce      8’
Praestant        8’
Spitsfluit          4’
Octaaf             2’
Sesquialter      II-IV
Scherp             III-IV
Dulciaan         8’

Most successful sample set

A few years ago I chose the Noordbroek organ with its striking sounds as the Theme for a conference of organ builders. I got to know the sounds well and they were examples for me when I voiced the pipes of my house organ. Now the opposite occurs: I can compare the tones of the samples with my pipe organ. The tones need to be voiced at a volume that suits the living room but maintains the character, and then my pipe organ is an excellent benchmark.

Some of the pipes from the previous organ have been reused by Arp Schnitger. At that time it was customary to keep good material and to fit it into the new organ. Hinsz and Freytag also added registers with respect for the sound characters already present. The Praestanten beautifully reproduce the North German Baroque sounds in a style that Arp Schnitger aspired to. Each register is a solo voice with great eloquence. Combined with the high mixtures, a plenum with a silvery sound is heard. The Trumpet enhances the plenum and adds shine. Striking are the velvety sounds of the four-foot Flutes. The Vox Humana is a nice solo voice, with a modest but sweet sound. The transparent sounds give the Dulcian a singing character. The Mixtuur and the Scherp are composed of elevated foot measures,

The beautiful acoustics of the church are not transferred through the samples but with an IR recording. It gives the tones more fullness and promotes the beautiful silvery timbres.

The DRY samples made by Jiri Zurek testify to the high level of his craftsmanship, which is not surpassed by anyone. This sample set is the most successful set to reproduce a pipe organ. It is an art to reproduce a tone with typical characteristics for each sample and yet have them harmonize together like the voices of a choir.
The samples are recorded with eight microphones (four times stereo). The microphones that were located a short distance from the pipes captured the pipe tones with their striking properties as (semi) DRY samples.
I only use these samples, because the pipe notes can be heard here just as the organist in the church hears them. In the acoustics of the church, the tones become fuller and fill the large space. That effect cannot be conveyed by the reverb from the other channels, but an IR recording makes a copy of the acoustics, which is able to make the tones sound fuller. This copy is already in the Hauptwerk organ and will be activated when installing the sample set.


I have performed the voicing of this organ in a very special way, especially aimed at the clear sounds that this organ shows so strikingly. When voicing pipes I always chose an intonation that suited the nature of that organ. In this way I was able to accentuate the characteristic properties of the sounds from the samples, in order to make them sound equal to the sounds in the church in living room volume. I described my way of voicing in a book and photographed the positions of all voicing sliders. By literally copying the voicings, the sounds are optimally reproduced. Depending on the speakers, the volumes may differ, but these differences can easily be equalized with the amplitude sliders.
In the acoustics of the IR reverberation, the silvery plenum sounds in a room of cathedral size.

The book will be sent free of charge if requested with name and full postal address.
                                                                 Mail to: John Boersma

In 1855-1856, Petrus van Oeckelen introduced modernisations to the organ and replaced the Quintadena 16’with a Bourdon 16’. The cups and reeds of the Dulcian 8’ were adapted by him and he changed the intonation of a number of stops of the Positive.

In 1947 Simon Graafhuis became organist in Noordbroek. In 1956 Cor Edskes began a thorough investigation into the original sounds of baroque organs. The clear sounds of these organs had been changed into round tones according to the romantic taste of the last century, as a result of which they had lost much of their expressiveness. In the 17th century, beautiful baroque organs were built in many villages in North Groningen and Ostfriesland. In later centuries there was no money to modernize these organs, thus preserving their original sounds. For Cor Edskes it was sublime study material to rediscover the old baroque sounds. Together with Simon Graafhuis he brought the sounds of the organ in Noordbroek back to the state of Freytag in 1809.

The organ has 24 stops, of which six reeds. The sounds are of a special beauty with a silver transparency. The special character of the organ is beautifully reflected by the grandiose acoustics of the church.

Pedaal C - d1

Bourdon              16’
Praestant             8’
Gedekt                8’
Octaaf                 4’
Bazuin               16’
Trompet              8’
Cornet                4’