Fascination is the key to quality

Rens Swart in organ building: fascination for the technique behind playing organs English text Nederlandse tekst

The origin of my fascination and knowledge

At the age of ten, I started studying organ playing. When we did not yet have an organ at home with the full pedal compass, and it became clear that I preferred the classic direction, I was allowed to study on the electro-pneumatic Hilboesen/Pels organ in the church that was my second home from literally the first day of my life: the church of Saint Boniface in Alphen aan den Rijn. It did not take long before my curiousity brought me to alternating the organ study with discovering the internals of the instrument (and on the vaultings and in the tower, by the way). It caused my fascination for the technique and history of the pipe organ to grow and it has led to a rather thorough knowlegde and understanding of the working of pipe organs. Because this organ I played on from childhood on is an electro-pneumatic instrument, located in the splendid gothic revival church of Saint Boniface in Alphen on Rhine, I primarily like this type of instrument, and because of my inquiring and technical nature quickly became knowledgeable in it.

Experience shows that fascination for subjects you are busy with will lead to a high quality of the work you do on the subject. That's why my motto is 'fascination is the key to quality'. But of course, a certain intellect and technical talent do help.

When I was fifteen years of age, on the advice of my teacher Janhans Mathlener I bought the well-known Dutch book 'Orgelbouwkunde' from Oosterhof and Bouman. Two years later, I wrote my first technical-historical report. When the organ consultant for the restoration of the organ in Saint-Boniface did not show up, I took over that job. Only much later I got more active and I developped good contacts with several organ builders and consultants.

In 2009 I met Romy Casteels, director of the almost two twohundred year old organ building company Orgelbouw Jos Stevens in Duffel (between Mechelen, Antwerp and Lier in Belgium). He is fascinated by the same complex organ technique as I am and we share the same critical technical attitude towards organ art aspects. We also both have a preference for the Flemisch-romantic organ. He teaches me every now and then the tricks of the trade, without keeping things secret, but I am self-conceited enough to disagree every now and then with his approach … In 2016 I assisted him a lot during maintenance jobs.

Also some other organ builders share their knowledge with me every now and then. I mention Paul Andriessen, Frans Vermeulen, Rob Weber, Jan Roeleveld, René Nijsse and Henk Bolders (electronics). Consultant Henk Kooiker has the same technically-critical attitude as I have. But all these education tracks are limited to rather hours than months, so I cannot do differently than regarding myself as self-taught. Although I have gathered a reasonable level of knowledge, it is in my nature to keep asking questions.

Further reading …

On this website you can read more on some of the works and projects I executed. More stories, backgrounds and pictures can be found on my personal webpage. Of course, this information overlaps partially with the information presented here.

Website Rens Swart Organbuilding

Some of the works and projects

Personal website Rens Swart

Background of my passion for the organ and organ playing

Backgrounds of my fascination for the technique of the organ and organbuilding

May 2009, May 2016, February 2018

Het orgel waarmee het allemaal begon: het Hilboesen/Pels-orgel in de fraaie Sint-Bonifatiuskerk in Alphen aan den Rijn

The organ it all began with for me: the Hilboesen/Pels organ in the beautiful Saint Boniface church in Alphen on Rhine.

In Slot Zeist was in 1977 een tentoonstelling over orgels die me nog lang zou heugen

In 1977 in Zeist Castle an exhibition was held that impressed me enough to be remembered for years. There was a three stop demonstration organ with 12 tones. To the left my sister, I am on the right. Oh yes, near the stairs was a single 32' reed pipe that one could hear by pressing a button, who knows where that pipe came from and where it is now?

Rens is bij Jos Stevens bezig met het intoneren van een Voix Humaine tongwerk

At Jos Stevens I am busy with the cleaning and voicing of the short resonator French reed stop Voix Humaine. A good hearing but above all a good physical insight and a kind of scientific attitude to keep asking what is caused by what make it a lot easier.

Een balgjeslade van binnen

One type of a stop channel chest (or stop chamber chest) is the bellow chest. Jos Stevens built this kind of chest in the nineteenfifties. If you understand the inner workings of this chest thoroughly, you can trace and rectify faults.

Een pneumatische speeltafel is een wonder van techniek en in dit geval zeer complex

It might seem unlikely, but this is a view at the interior of a pneumatic console. Hundreds of led tubes let the keys, stops, combinations, couplers function and in this case also a multitude of sub and octave couplers. This console is in my possession.

Kind regards,
Rens Swart