History of the Christian Müller organ

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History of the 1756 Christian Müller organ.

The organ in the Grote Kerk Beverwijk was built in 1756 by Christian Muller, Master Orgelmaker & Son, who lived at that time in the Kerkstraat in Amsterdam. Christian was born on February 4, 1690 in St. Andreasberg in the Harz mountain area of Germany. On March 20, 1720, he married Elisabeth van der Berg, who died one year later. On October 2, 1721 he married his second wife, 19-year old Catherina. The couple had 11 children.

The Beverwijk organ was a gift from Anna Elisabeth Geelvinck. Anna Elisabeth was born on April 15, 1702 in Amsterdam as the daughter of burgomaster Lieve Geelvinck (1676 – 1743). Anna Elisabeth inherited the Scheybeek country estate, located south of Beverwijk from her father. At that time, many wealthy and important people living in Amsterdam owned large estates in the western part of Holland and used them during summer to escape the warm and dirty city. After her first husband Nicolas Pancras died in 1739, Anna Elisabeth re-married in December 1740 to Johannes Lucas Pels, heer van Hogelande en Oud schepen van de stad Amsterdam. At that time, Pels owned Akerendam, a country estate next to Scheybeek. Johannes Lucas and Anna Elisabeth were already neighbors - both lived on the Herengracht in Amsterdam. After only one month, Pels died; Anna Elisabeth subsequently sold Akerendam to her brother Nicolaas. In a later period of her life, Anna Elisabeth was devoted to charity work. Since sister and brother were unhappy with the quality of the singing in the Beverwijk church, Anna Elisabeth decided to have an organ built for the church. There is no information about an organ in the church of Beverwijk before 1756. Singing was normally led by a soloist singer, typically the local schoolmaster, without any additional accompaniment. The assignment was given to Christian Muller, already famous for the organ in Sint Bavo, Haarlem (1738). The Beverwijk organ was inaugurated on July 7, 1756. Shortly thereafter, Anna Elisabeth died in Amsterdam, on January 13,1757 and was buried in the Old Church of Amsterdam.

It is interesting to recall some details of the selection procedure for the first organist in Beverwijk in 1756. Twenty-two candidates applied for the task of orgalist (now called organist). From these, the Vrouwe van Hooglande (Anna Elisabeth) selected six candidates to demonstrate their skills at the organ for Jacob Potholt, at that time orgalist at the Westerkerk (Amsteldam, 1743-1765, organ by Duyschot, in 1727 enlarged with a third manual by Vater). Potholt had studied with Locatelli, among others. Five candidates showed up on the examination day, each was required to play the Hymn of Zacharias choral plus two improvised variations. After this obligatory part, each candidate was given 30 minutes to further demonstrate his skills on the organ (there is no record of female candidates!). The examination was carried out by Potholt and further witnessed by the Vrouwe van Hooglande and family, some members of the church council, noble representatives (both women and men) of the city of Beverwijk, some local music lovers and some other “important” people. The playing order of the candidates was kept secret for Potholt and the audience. After the exams, Potholt was summoned at Scheybeek to discuss the findings with Vrouwe van Hooglande and other noble attendants. This took thirty minutes after which Potholt left for Beverwijk. The Vrouwe van Hooglande then wrote a letter for Potholt, mentioning that she would favor candidates number 1 and number 4 since these candidates pleased her the most. She further instructed that the choice should be made by lottery between the two remaining candidates for Beverwijk’s first organist, i.e. candidate 1 or 4. This information was given to the five candidates, and two folded papers of equal size were put in a hat, on one piece was written “orgalist” and one piece was blank. One of the representatives then went to the room with the two remaining candidates, holding the hat high, so that the candidates could not see the folded papers. The remaining candidates were Johannes Sterk from Amsteldam en Joannes (Jan) Radeker from Haerlem, born in 1738 and son of the Hendrik Radeker, orgalist of the Bavo church. (It was father Hendrik Radeker who later introduced Mozart to the Bavo organ, in 1766). Jan Radeker won the lottery, received congratulations from everyone in attendance. He then went with his father Hendrik to the Vrouwe van Hooglande to express his gratitude for the position. In 1774, Jan Radeker succeeded his father in Haarlem. There is no record of Jan’s presence during the Mozart’s visit to Haarlem.

It was agreed that the first use of the organ would be on the next Sunday, July 11, 1756. The contribution of the young organist Radeker was much appreciated, it was concluded that it helped singing and the congregation was also pleased with the music Radeker played at the end of the service. Radeker was instructed to accompany the singing of psalms, and to play the organ for 15 minutes, both before and after the sermon. He was also instructed to demonstrate his skills and the organ during the summer to the general public, each Monday and Saturday from 11:30 – 12:30. He was required to maintain the clockwork in the church tower and tune the reeds of the organ every two weeks (although current organists of the Beverwijk instrument find it necessary to tune the reeds before every recital). Maintenance of the organ was carried out by Christiaan Muller for 30 Dutch guilder a year until 1766. No major maintenance or repair was needed during these years, and even in 2022, the instrument is very much in its original state.

The cartouche in the center of the organ balcony reads as follows:


Which in old Dutch is: Den Al-Goeden en Al-Grooten God toegewijd. Door ene bijzondere Milddadigheid voor de Stede Beverwijk heeft Anna Elizabeth Geelvinck, Vrouwe van Hoogelande, Weduwe van de Edelen Achtbaren Heere Jan Lucas Pels, heere van Hoogelande, wel eer voorzittend Schepen te Amsterdam. Dit orgel dat de toon zet op de Gewijde Lofzangen uit hare bezittingen gegeven, toegeëigend en doen stellen in het jaar 1756.

And in English: To the glory of the good and great God. Donated by Anna Elizabeth Geelvinck, Mistress of Hoogeland Estate, Widow of the Honorable Jan Luck Pels, Master of Hoogeland Estate, retired Councilman of Amsterdam. This organ to set the tone for the songs of praise – given, accepted and put into use in the year 1756.

[English translation coming soon] Reparaties en restauraties.

1756 Inauguration of the organ by Johannes Radeker
1779 Repair of paint layer on the organ façade by Jan Bloemker.
1794 Repair by organ builder Hendrikus Hermanus Hess for 350 Dutch guilder: Removal by polishing of moisture spots on façade pipes and new leather placed on some parts of the wind bellows and wind chests.
1846 Large restoration by Abraham Meere, after dismantling of the instrument. Most likely, Meere replaced the Schalmeij on the upper manual with a Viola di Gamba. This restoration is marked on one of the largest pipes in the façade, mentioning the finalization of the restoration: “Toen de Weledele heer C. Stumpius als president kerkmeester deze pijp terug plaatste na de uitbreiding en reparatie van het orgel op 30 september 1846” (This pipe was placed back on 30 September 1846 by C. Stumpius, president of the Church Council after repair and extension of the organ). After the restoration, the organ was inspected and approved by Johan Peter Schumann op 19 November 1846. Schuman was organist at the Chr. Müller Bavo organ in Haarlem from 1800-1857.
1853 Gabry Father & Son Organ Builder from Gouda started regular maintenance activities of the Beverwijk instrument. Gabry left various inscriptions in the organ, so we know when they worked on the organ. B.J. Gabry & Sons tuned the instrument on 28 April 1853. In that same year, father B.J. Gabry died and was succeeded by G.T. Gabry who tuned the instrument on 21 November 1854. The last tuning by Gabry was carried out on 21 December 1869.
1867 An inscription on the façade mentions painting work by Bertus Nottelman from Oosthuizen (“at the age of 18 years, 6 months and 2 days”).
1870 Tuning of the organ by A.N.T. van Ingen.
1870 Renewal of pedalboard by organ builder H. Knipscheer & Son and some other repair work including transfer of the tremolo from the upper to the lower manual, and tuning of the organ for 40 Dutch guilder/year. The organ was inaugurated by Bavo organist J.G. Bastiaans on Sunday 10 July 1870. For this, Bastiaans received 100 Dutch guilders which at that time was a large sum. Visitors to the inauguration where asked to donate 0.25 Dutch guilder. Bastiaans played an important role in the revival of J.S. Bach’s music in The Netherlands.
1881 Repaint of the organ case to a lighter color, most likely carried out by C. Th. Willemse, H. Amse and carpenter W. Betke, for a total of 225 Dutch guilders.
1882 Repair by A.M.T. van Ingen. The worn out pedalboard was replaced by a new one. Some parts of the reed stops were renewed (resonators and shallots). Renewal of the ivory veneer of upper and lower keyboards and repair of couplers. Inauguration was done by Bavo-organist Johannes Bastiaans, son of J.G. Bastiaans.
1896 Van Ingen replaced the 4 original Chr. Müller bellows by a new, cylinder-type bellow for 500 Dutch guilders.
1902 Upon request of the organist, van Ingen replaces the Gemshoorn 4’ of the upper manual for a Flute 4’. He also places a new pedalboard and decreases the noise (rattle) of various mechanical actions. After a fire in the footstove storage room, the organ was again painted before Christmas by G.K. Willemse, H. Amse and J.P. Assema.
1909 Some detailed painting work was carried out around the stops area (left and right of the manuals) between 29 April- 6 May by F. van den Heuvel from Heemskerk. At that time, this area around the organ stops was inspected in detail, and the old paint was restored.
1912 The organ was equipped with gas lighting on 13 September, a recital was given on 15 September.
1926 The organ was equipped with an electrical wind motor.
1931 Cor Kee, a well-known Dutch organist, composer and teacher visited the Beverwijk organ. Cor Kee was organist of the Bätz organ in the Ronde Lutherse kerk (Koepelkerk) in Amsterdam. He was also the father of Piet Kee, organist in Bavo-Haarlem and later in Alkmaar. Comments of Cor Kee on the condition of the Beverwijk organ were pessimistic, and he found it necessary that the organ should be cleaned and that this piece of art should be kept for later generations. Costs for restoration were estimated at 3000 Dutch guilder, and the Church Council decides not to order for restoration; the Dutch economy at that time was very poor and in an economic crisis.
1933 George Robert (Bavo organist) visited the organ and also his report is rather pessimistic. In a letter to the Church Council on 18 March he mentioned that the reeds were not tuned properly and that an appointment with organ builder van Ingen would be most urgent.
1935 K.P. van Ingen, son of A.N.T. van Ingen carries out his last tuning of the organ on 23-24 October 1935. After 1935, H.W. Flentrop (Zaandam) takes over maintenance.
1937 Extensive restoration by H.W. Flentrop, including new keyboards, new pedalboard, stabilization of the wind supply by means of the application of a separate bellow for the upper manual and various shock bellows, and new wind channels. The pitch (half tone below a-440 = the 18th century chamber tone) was increased to normal by shortening pipes. The Flute 4’ from 1902 was replaced by a new Gemshoorn 4‘ with dimensions of the corresponding register in Müller's organ in the Bavo.
1943 Due to conditions during World War II, H.W. Flentrop partially disassembled the organ and stored the pieces in the church of Oostzaan. In 1945 the removed parts were placed back in the organ. After the war, a liberation concert was given by Jo Vincent (vocals) and Piet Halsema (organ).
1982/1983 Restoration by Flentrop in Zaandam. The original wind channels were reconstructed, and a new wind motor was installed. The cylinder bellows from 1896 were replaced by two old bellows, donated by Wim Husslage (former organist of the Waalse Kerk in Haarlem) and Willem Wijting (organist Nieuwe Kerk Haarlem and Grote Kerk Beverwijk). The current pair of bellows with accompanying bellows chair came from a church in Jutphaas and was stored for a long time at Flentrop in Zaandam. Restoration of wind drawers and mechanics, plus complete restoration of the wind drawers took place. Restoration of the mechanics was done in historic style. The keyboards from 1937 were modelled in the Müller’s style. Van Ingen's recovered pedalboard replaced the modern pedalboard from 1937. All pipes shortened in 1937 were extended again so that the original pitch (more than a half tone below a-440) was restored and with it the original dimensions of the pipes. De Gemshoorn 4’ from 1937 was maintained, but shifted one tone. The double pipes in some Prestant registers that had been removed were newly installed. The shallots and tongues from 1882 and 1937 were replaced by new based on Müller’s dimensions. The 19th century Viola di Gamba was replaced by a Schalmeij, based on the Schalmeij stop in the Bavo organ. Unfortunately, during this 1983 restoration work, the pipes of the Quint 3’ were lost, these were replaced by new ones. The very thin and leaking Prestant front pipes had to be reinforced and repaired. The restored organ was inaugurated by the Bavo church organist Klaas Bolt on May 27, 1983, he also functioned as restoration advisor.
1988 The painting of the organ case was restored after a thorough investigation by Mr. Curvers of the Rijksdienst voor Monumentenzorg (National Monument Service), after the organ in the Bavo in Haarlem had been repainted. On the advice of the Rijksdienst voor Monumentenzorg, painters were invited who had to make a test panel in order to meet the set requirements. During the examination of the old paint layers, the rococo decorations around the stops emerged, which could not be restored at that time due to a lack of financing. The flat brown paint layer from 1902 of organ case and balcony was replaced by the Schoen company from Zaandam with a new wood imitation in the original color red mahogany. This company also cleaned and brought the bronze work on the organ to original condition.
1991 Restoration of painting by F.H. Roskam: lettering above the manuals, names and ornaments around the stops, the family nameplate of Pels-Geelvinck and the cartouche with name and titles of the donor, Anna Elisabeth Geelvinck on the organ balustrade.
2001 Re-installation of recovered copper candle holders (donation A. Engels). These are actually the copper candle holders of the Bavo organ in Haarlem (as evident from the city symbols on them)
2003 The organ suffers from falling grit and plaster that ends up in the pipes and causes malfunctions. This requires increased maintenance, in particular at the south-east side, which is the prevailing wind direction bringing most of the moisture to the church walls. Extensive discussions on mitigation options: removal of the plaster, finish with lead plates or layers of resin.
2008 In mid-February 2008, all pipes (except for the front pipes) were removed, after which the organ was shielded with plastic film. In collaboration with Flentrop, and with the help of volunteers, the plaster behind the organ was removed, after which it was covered with layers of lead. The grit was removed from the wind chests and pipes and, where necessary, pipes were repaired. Now that the organ is fully assembled and tuned again, the beautiful sound of this instrument can be fully enjoyed again.
2013 The church closes for worship. Organ concerts are organized each year, during the summer season. The church is now rented by the Vereniging Grote Kerk Beverwijk, who use the church for exhibitions, concerts, lectures.
2020 Repair of leather on the bellows by Flentrop, leather replaced also on the pedalboard.

The anniversary booklet 250 years Müller organ (2006) is available digitally (in Dutch). More information about the organ can be found in this anniversary bookas well as an interesting story of Jan Jongepier in search of Christiaan Müller. Click here to view the document.

Organist, musicologist and music theorist Gerben Gritter obtained his PhD in 2014 with a thesis on organ builder Christian Müller. On page 225 you can read (Dutch) about the Beverwijk Müller organ. The thesis can be downloaded here.

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