Haarlem 2011

Grote Kerk Haarlem

A visit by one of our members!

In June 2011 I visited Amsterdam on business and as when I visit anywhere I tried to see if there were any organ recitals or concerts to attend in the vicinity. As usual there were not! I generally miss these by a day – too early or too late. But, on the website of the Grote Kerk (literally Large Church) in Haarlem I noticed what looked like an invitation to come and play the organ. However, not speaking or reading Dutch I needed to get the page translated, and on doing so there it was. A day for amateur organists to play the great Müller Organ of the Church of St Bavo in Haarlem – only the best organ in the world! And the most photographed.
St Bavo, Haarlem, Netherlands

So, I emailed the contact from the website as soon as I could to ask if I might take part in this day put on by the City of Haarlem. The organ is owned by the state and the organists appointed by the municipality. A reply came back saying that as long as I was an amateur organist of an appropriate standard of playing that I would be welcome to go along and have an hour to play the organ.

I submitted a programme for approval and booked my flights and hotel – before anyone could change their mind.

The weekend soon came, and I left Gatwick airport on a very lovely Friday afternoon in September arriving at my hotel in Haarlem at 6.30pm.

On Saturday morning I managed to look around one of the many art museums in Haarlem as well as seeing a working windmill very close to the town centre.

St Bavo, Haarlem, Netherlands
After a light lunch I made my way to the church. It is an immense building in the town centre dwarfing all other buildings in the area.

The interior is very light and airy, with many fine features as you might expect from a church built between 1347 and 1538.The church  in 108 metres long and the width of the Nave is 31 metres. The Nave is around 30 metres high with a roof extending a further 10 metres above.
St Bavo, Haarlem, Netherlands








The organ was built between 1735 and 1738 and has some 68 ranks and 5068 pipes. It was restored by Marcussen between 1959 and 1961 and between 1987 and 200 voicing work was done by Flentrop.

Eventually it came to 2pm – my turn to play. The town had provided an assistant to work the stops and assist with registrations, and I began my programme.

Wie schön leuchtet den Morgenstern - Pachelbel

Prelude & Fugue in B minor - J S Bach BWV 544

Mein junges Leben hat ein End' - Sweelinck

Voluntary III - Peter Prelleur

Prelude & Fugue in E minor - J S Bach BWV 548

I can’t begin to put on paper what a pleasure and a privilege is was to be able to play this superb and historic instrument. The sound in the church is magnificent and to play – well actually very light and not too difficult even with a straight and flat pedalboard (Actually I play one of those every week at Charlwood so perhaps that has been good training).
St Bavo, Haarlem, Netherlands


My hour went quickly, and now it is over I wonder if I can persuade them to let me do it all again another year!