Dr. Christiaan Teeuwsen, professor of music, spent a number of weeks this summer in the Netherlands teaching and performing on organs with a rich history. The instruments were mainly the handiwork of celebrated 17th-century builder Arp Schnitger, whose instruments are mainly seen in the North of The Netherlands and Germany.
Schnitger was prolific and built or rebuilt over 150 organs in his lifetime. Many of Schnitger’s surviving organs are located in Groningen, The Netherlands. There are so many organs in Groningen, the country’s northeastern province, that it has been nicknamed the “organ garden of Europe.”
For many, these are essential instruments on which to learn and perform baroque music to its fullest. “Organists from around the globe have a strong pull to these instruments,” Teeuwsen explains. “There are practices of performance that can only be realized on these historic gems! Playing and studying late 16th- and 17th-century repertoire on these organs is magnificent!”
Teeuwsen shares his passion for organ music from the late Renaissance and early baroque periods with the Dutch organist and educator Peter Westerbrink. The two created the Noordbroek Organ Academy, which is now in its third year. The week-long workshop invites organists from around the world to learn historic repertoire on some of the best and most authentic organs. The group plays the works of German organists and composers from the period. Many of these masters inspired Johann Sebastian Bach, one of the greatest contributors to the West’s musical canon.
This summer, Teeuwsen and Westerbrink ran the workshop twice, once in June and once in July. The second workshop was offered to nine women who are all church organists in Seoul, South Korea. Hanna Lee, one of the Noordbroek Academy’s first participants, took so much from her experience that she encouraged the idea of a workshop focused solely on South Korean organ professors and church organists.
Over the course of a week in the northern Netherlands and Oostfriesland (Northwest Germany), the women learned about important performance practice elements and manners of musical expression on ten historical organs. Each workshop was kept intentionally to eight participants so that each had significant time to practice and perform. It was time well spent as the organ remains one of the most complex instruments and draws from one of the oldest and largest repertoires in Western music.
The workshop also drew interest from local and national Dutch media as part of a broader discussion on preserving the instruments and organ performances. “It is a blessing to be able to study and meditate on the organ music that God has given us,” said Lee in the regional newspaper Dagblad van het Noorden. “We are learning from great teachers and playing on some of the most beautiful organs in the world. It’s very special.”