Fascination is the key to quality

An organ for myself English text Nederlandse tekst

How it started

De door Pels later direct elektrisch gemaakte sleepladen van het 'Alverna-orgel' waarop ik een optie heb Zicht op het hoofdwerk van het verwaarloosde Coloma-orgel

In the course of time, the idea arose to acquire an organ for myself. This has several aspects. In the first place, I found it a very attractive idea that organs that appeal to me in terms of style and technique began to come within reach. After all, because of church closures, more and more organs become available for which it is difficult to find a new destination. Secondly, in my warehouse I, to a certain extent, do have space for an organ and that is an important condition. And thirdly, but actually my main motivation, I would be able to work undisturbed, in my own time and space, on an organ to master its technique to the details. This knowledge can then be applied in working on organs elsewhere.

In May 2013 I discovered an interesting neglected small pneumatic organ, offered for free in Flandres because the convent 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 be busy with organbuilding and organ technique. However, the heavy work to get the windchests and the console from the balcony to the floor scared me, so I doubted and within a few days the organ was gone … It turned out that is was not acquired because it was 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 Hilboesen built in 1900 in the Bonifatiuskerk in Alphen aan den Rijn and that was overhauled by Pels in 1939, equipping it with electro-pneumatic slider chests. As I was involved in the process to realise a choir organ in this church, I proposed this as a candidate. Primarily because the selected organbuilder asked an unrealistic price to adapt it and place it in the church, 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.

  • Working on an organ to the level of fully dismantling, assembling and adapting it and making it work perfectly 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.

When I started to work on this actively, I came across some organs that I could acquire. This exciting search and acquisition and the even more exciting disassembly have been extensively described and abundanly illustrated on my personal website. On the next page I unveil this concisely.

The idea is in the end to assemble the organs and organ parts to one single organ, not an attractive and 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.)

Because in fact they were not paid assignments for Rens Swart Organbuilding, I have included the extensive reports with many photos on dismantling jobs om my personal website. However, I have supplied a concise overview on my company website.

Website Rens Swart Organbuilding

Dismantling of several electro-pneumatic organs (overview)

Personal website Rens Swart

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

It is difficult to synchronise two website with each other, so just look on my personal website for more information.

June and November 2016 & February 2018

Met vriendelijke groeten,
Rens Swart