Dutch News

8 July 2014
The world’s most important church organ festival exists 50 years

The Dutch are forerunners in the centuries old tradition of improvisation on the church organ. From 12-26 July the world’s most important organ festivals will take place for the 50iest time in the Dutch city of Haarlem. In this anniversary year, prominent organ specialists, students from more than 30 countries and many music lovers from Holland and abroad will gather to share their passion for the King of Instruments.

The world-famous Baroque organ in St Bavo’s and the romantic instrument in the Philharmonic concert hall are at the very heart of the festival. But several other fine organs elsewhere in the town can also be enjoyed. Besides the three rounds of the Improvisation Competition, the 14-day festival offers some 40 activities in the historic town centre and excursions to historic churches and fine instruments in Alkmaar, Amsterdam, Leiden and Utrecht.

The Dutch and the French school are dominating the contemporary organ improvisation. The French play colourful, symphonic and a little traditional. The Dutch use playful lines and pointy rhythms. The two styles are totally the opposite of each other. Nowadays organ improvisation is different from the past. In earlier days the improvisation was based on musical themes. Today also a poem, a statue, a movie or a painting can be the starting point of an improvisation.

There is no other country in the world where there are so many church organs as in the Netherlands. Most of the time these organs are extremely old, but they still work like a dream. Religion, prosperity and showiness were the reasons for the popularity of the organ in the 15th century. But at the time a church or a city had to be able to afford it. Behind the keys and the pipes there is a very complex mechanism of bellows and tubes.





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