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St Michael Zwolle


Jim Treloar
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I wonder if any other member of this group has heard of a very worrying development at Zwolle, reported at an Organ Club meeting today. Apparently the church has gone happy-clappy, the organist has resigned and the traditional congregation have decamped to another building. It is intended that the church be used for exhibitions and pop concerts (!) and there is no use for the organ. Both church and organ are of course priceless and one wonders, if true, how this has been allowed to happen.

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Does Holland have anything comparable to our 'National Heritage' system that might apply to such organs of historical interest? I can't imagine that any government with an ounce of common sense would allow any such thing to be lost.

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The church website sets out its strategic purpose (Google translation attempted):

 

http://translate.google.co.uk/translate?hl=en&sl=nl&u=http://www.grotekerkzwolle.nl/&prev=/search%3Fq%3DSt%2BMichael%2BZwolle%26client%3Dfirefox-a%26hs%3Dri2%26rls%3Dorg.mozilla:en-GB:official%26channel%3Drcs

 

http://translate.googleusercontent.com/translate_c?depth=1&hl=en&prev=/search%3Fq%3DSt%2BMichael%2BZwolle%26client%3Dfirefox-a%26hs%3Dri2%26rls%3Dorg.mozilla:en-GB:official%26channel%3Drcs&rurl=translate.google.co.uk&sl=nl&u=http://www.pknzwolle.nl/&usg=ALkJrhgGMxM0_TJF9x5a3qeDdlrGvtEOkw

 

Of course the church has to live in the real world of shrinking resources and make best use of its assets to continue its ministry for future generations. The work of the church is far bigger than keeping its organ going - though the website does mention that for a fee advanced amateur players can hire the organ to play on certain days. Like Liverpool, Lincoln and some other cathedrals, a very worthy venture I think.

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Holland has a very strict system in place to safeguard historic organs. Government-appointed experts must be consulted before anything is done to them. Having said that, a number of churches are no longer used for the purposes of worship, but the organs are still subject to the same rules.

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I sometimes think the "strict systems" of which David spoke, no matter how well-intentioned, can prove to be a mixed blessing. The more complex a set of rules becomes, the easier it is to find more and more ways around them. This is true of life generally. In Britain there seem to be an increasing number of (Anglican) churches who have realised this, so instead of 'fighting' a corner to dispose of their organ through the traditional system of faculties, consistory courts, etc, they now simply leave the organ where it is and allow it to rot. In the meantime they then import ("temporarily" of course!) an electronic, or worship band or anything else that they prefer. They are also able to ignore the howls of protest from outside their ranks, no matter how loud they might become, because those doing the howling can do virtually nothing about it.

 

Having said all this, I do agree with Contrabombarde who said that "the work of the church is far bigger than keeping its organ going" - Church with a capital "C" of course in this context. I am as fond of the organ as the next person, but if a conflict should arise between money going to the organ fund or supporting a local soup kitchen, I know where my preference would lie.

 

CEP

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Whereas I sympathise with the comment expressed by Colin above, if taken to its logical conclustion, you could echo a comment often given to me by my wife, that since Catholicism is popular in so many poor countries why does not the church, particularly the Vatican, sell off many of its treasures to support the poor in those countries. I'm afraid I have no answer.

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A number of Dutch churches have similar arrangements, some containing equally significant organs.

 

For example, the Laurenskerk at Alkmaar is regularly used for exhibitions and there is even a bar in the south transept, with the seating area being in the transept itself.

 

The Martinikerk and Aa-kerk in Groningen are also now "community" rather than religious buildings.

 

I attended recitals at many Dutch venues during a trip last year and interestingly Zwolle and Haarlem were rather the exception in that one could still attend services! At the main Sunday morning service, Zwolle was standing-room only which casts a curious slant on the latest developments.

 

None of these communities seem to have forgotten about or neglected their irreplacable heritage; quite the opposite in fact, as the magnificent restoration of the Aa-kerk Schnitger shows, as does the painstaking attention currently being lavished on the vaulting at Alkmaar.

 

The star of the visit for me was the reconstructed Martinikerk organ - it is just breathtaking to hear live. On the other hand, Haarlem's much-modified main chorus now slips into the insipid when compared to the spiky glories of the smaller Mueller at Leeuwarden.

 

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I wonder if any other member of this group has heard of a very worrying development at Zwolle, reported at an Organ Club meeting today. Apparently the church has gone happy-clappy, the organist has resigned and the traditional congregation have decamped to another building. It is intended that the church be used for exhibitions and pop concerts (!) and there is no use for the organ. Both church and organ are of course priceless and one wonders, if true, how this has been allowed to happen.

 

 

Holland has a very strict system in place to safeguard historic organs. Government-appointed experts must be consulted before anything is done to them. Having said that, a number of churches are no longer used for the purposes of worship, but the organs are still subject to the same rules.

 

I'm relieved to hear that this (and other historically important organs) is safeguarded.

 

On the other hand, if the church is concerned about a lack of income, wouldn't it be possible to encourage attendance of both the happy-clappy and the traditional people (who have apparently gone elsewhere), on different days if necessary. I just feel it's a shame that the organ is no longer used for worship.

 

Similarly, the church could be used for both pop concerts (if there's nowhere more suitable) and organ recitals - most certainly on different days!

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I sometimes think the "strict systems" of which David spoke, no matter how well-intentioned, can prove to be a mixed blessing. The more complex a set of rules becomes, the easier it is to find more and more ways around them. This is true of life generally. In Britain there seem to be an increasing number of (Anglican) churches who have realised this, so instead of 'fighting' a corner to dispose of their organ through the traditional system of faculties, consistory courts, etc, they now simply leave the organ where it is and allow it to rot. In the meantime they then import ("temporarily" of course!) an electronic, or worship band or anything else that they prefer. They are also able to ignore the howls of protest from outside their ranks, no matter how loud they might become, because those doing the howling can do virtually nothing about it.

 

Having said all this, I do agree with Contrabombarde who said that "the work of the church is far bigger than keeping its organ going" - Church with a capital "C" of course in this context. I am as fond of the organ as the next person, but if a conflict should arise between money going to the organ fund or supporting a local soup kitchen, I know where my preference would lie.

 

CEP

 

 

BIOS carried an interesting transcript of a question and answer session with a Dutch organ advisor a while ago. The system seems excellent, in that there are various areas of expertise to be called upon and the advisors are knowledgeable about the use as well as the historical importance of various instruments.

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