Ladies & Gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure to welcome you all to our – if I may say so myself – magnificent
concert hall. We chose to design the Orgelpark in this luxurious manner, to serve our
mission: to present the organ in new ways, thus integrating it into the wider musical
culture. In order to attain such a goal, nice instruments and good acoustics are just the
beginning; modern audiences rightly value a welcoming and stylish atmosphere as well. A
new example of the combination of these elements can be seen taking shape on the
balcony behind you: we’re building a new organ, designed to render performances of the
French Romantic organ literature with just the right bon gout on the one hand, and
contrasting with our marvelous German romantic organ on the other.
Ladies and Gentlemen, today is a special day for the Orgelpark. Today, we celebrate the
launch of our other key activity.
This obliges me, of course, to define our first key activity. Since we opened the Orgelpark
in January 2007, we have marketed it as a new and fresh concert venue, staging about
one hundred performances per year. I’m quite sure that our colorful palette is rather
unique. In fact, any style goes in the Orgelpark, as long as artistic integrity and quality are
assured. Hence the wide range of concerts we present each year, varying from
contemporary dance events and Bruckner evenings to jazz sets and film presentations.
Based on the reactions and the attention we’ve received until now, we’re confident that
the Orgelpark is addressing a major musical demand.
Now the other basic activity of the Orgelpark, the one we’re introducing today is...
musicology. We have spent the last year and a half planning how we could integrate the
scientific treatment of music into our performing activities. Eventually we decided to
launch a series of musicological research projects, called, and I’m proud to officially
announce it here for the first time: the Orgelpark Research Program.
But why is musicology important at the Orgelpark? Why should a concert venue initiate
and support musicological research? For me, its self explanatory; undertaking research is
in itself so exciting, often leading to new ways of looking at things, at music. And
perhaps even leading to new ways of making music.
However, that is just one part of the answer. Our primary consideration was this. To us,
music and musicology are two sides of the same coin. Especially at the Orgelpark. The
decrease in popularity of the organ, which has undeniably taken place during the past few
decades, and which provided the impetus for the Orgelpark in the first place, was
accompanied by an almost inevitable side-effect: serious musicological consideration of
organs and organ music decreased as well. Of course, one can still study organ related
musicology at the universities of Amsterdam and Utrecht, the two universities offering
full time musicology study programs in the Netherlands. But I’m sure I’m not
exaggerating when I say that it doesn’t happen very often.
In fact, we’re witnessing the end of an era. Utrecht University was long famous for its
attention to organology, the musicological study of organ building. But the days when
that University could actively foster this special tradition seem to be over. In addition,
the special chair ‘Ars Organi’ at the Free University at Amsterdam, held by Professor
Ewald Kooiman, seems destined to be discontinued in the near future. In the years to
come then, organ and organ music related musicology faces the prospect of being
somewhat short-changed in the Netherlands, to say the least.
A second thought that I’d like to share with you is this. It has always struck me that
many organ art related publications, recent dissertations included, focus on the organ and
its history, whereas relatively few pay attention to organ music. Does the present situation
perhaps offer an opportunity to focus organ art related musicology a little more on organ
music and a little less on organ building? Looked at this way, our mission would be well
served. And that, in turn, would mean that the Orgelpark is in a position to present
organ art related musicology in new ways, just as it does with the performance of organ
music. Once again, we seek to integrate organ music into the wider musical culture, with
performance and musicology complementing each other in the process.
So we have at least two reasons to view musicology as an integral part of the Orgelpark’s
mission. We believe that our country, being a paradise for lovers of the organ art, is
frankly obliged to find a place for organ music related research. Secondly, this is an ideal
moment to focus musicological research a little more on organ music. A third
consideration of course, might be the wisdom of supporting our unique array of
performances with well-considered arguments, ideas and discussions.
Consequently, musicology at the Orgelpark will be obliged to function on different
levels. One of them, the popular level, has already become an essential element of our
product: the magazine Timbres. We’re happy that many of our ‘Gastvrienden’ – as we call
the wonderful people who have decided to support us – and other readers have
expressed their appreciation of the magazine as a real ‘eye-opener’ as well as a nice-to-
read-and-glance-through magazine. Some even say that it opens perspectives on musical
worlds they had yet to encounter.
The projects of the Orgelpark Research Program represent the next level of musicology
at the Orgelpark. The first project will last until 2011, and will focus on improvisation,
that specific and intriguing way of making music spontaneously, as preserved, uniquely in
western music, by organists.
It’s interesting to observe that organ improvisation, or, to be more specific, improvisation
involving the organ, appears to have become an art in itself during the last few decades. No
longer related to religion per se, it is increasingly reflects developments in several different
contemporary music scenes. The music we present this afternoon and evening reflects
this: as well as the ‘straight’ organ improvisation we have already enjoyed, the program
also features live film music and ensemble improvisation. The latter will be performed by
the contemporary ensemble Computer Aided Breathing, while tomorrow there will be
more ensemble improvisation, this time in genuine rock style with organs, guitars and
percussion. Finally, maestro Jean Guillou will perform here next week, in true Parisian
Which brings me to a level where I have little more to add. Perhaps just this: the
Orgelpark Research Program will be directed by Hans Fidom. He completed his PhD in
2002 at the Free University here in Amsterdam, has written various books and articles on
organ art and organ music, and I can assure you: he does know a thing or two. In the
Orgelpark, he works in partnership with our artistic director, Johan Luijmes.
I’m proud to work with these two – and at least from my perspective – young men.
Together we’ll try to re-affirm the basis of the truly magnificent organ art – by providing
you with quality organ music and musicology, here at the Orgelpark.