Organ lessons
As can be expected I received my first organ lessons from my father. How did this come about? When I said to my father: “I want to learn to play the toccata of Grison”, he responded quite sober by saying: ”than you’ll first have to learn to read music notes”. No sooner said this was done. That same evening I received the Harmoniumschool of Frieso Moolenaar and off I went. If I remember correctly, I mastered the basic notes that same evening. After this I studied the Harmoniumschule of August Reinhard and of course the Psalms of J. Worp.

After having learned the craft from my father by playing on the Liebig harmonium for a few years, I studied with Wiebe Zeilstra. Wiebe was a well liked family friend who played piano and organ with virtuosity. With Wiebe I wrestled among other things with the old masters of the publisher Schuitema.

Wiebe improviseert op de piano onder toeziend oog van mijn vader
Wiebe improvising

The inevitable could no longer be postponed: I wanted to make the transition from the harmonium to a real church organ. It sounds logical and self-evident, but to learn to play on a church organ – let alone study on it regularly – is an enormous task which requires a lot of stamina and patience.

I became a pupil of the Rotterdamse Muziekschool and was fortunate because my teacher was Jet Dubbeldam.  Jet Dubbeldam was an organist of the Duitse Kerk ( Deutsche Evangelische Gemeinde ) in the Zwarte Paardenstraat in the center of Rotterdam.
Moreover, she was head teacher organ on the Rotterdam Conservatorium. The years in the Duitse Kerk are unforgettable for me. The organ was a gift from Hiter to the Duitse Kerk. That as a result of this the organ was possibly cursed was something I never noticed. On the contrary, it was a great organ!

Rotterdam Duitse Kerk - Zwarte Paardenstraat - exterieur
Rotterdam Duitse Kerk -
Zwarte Paardenstraat 
Rotterdam Duitse Kerk - Zwarte Paardenstraat - front
Rotterdam Duitse Kerk - Zwarte Paardenstraat - front
The Rotterdamse Muziekschool occasionally handed out grades, and I could not avoid this as well.  An annual concert of the students was a regular event.  In addition, every Christmas a concert was organised. Students of the Muziekschool brought out the best from their instruments. I played a piece of Willem Mudde. You could say that this was my first public performance.

Rotterdam Het Steiger
Rotterdam - Het Steiger
het steiger
Citykerk Het Steiger - organ

Jet Dubbeldam regularly replaced organist Piet van den Kerkhoff in the Nieuwe Zuiderkerk in Rotterdam. As a result of this I regularly studied on this imposing organ with four keyboards - and echo - and I could experience how it was like to play on such a huge organ.

Jet Dubbeldam op het orgel van de Nieuwe Zuiderkerk te Rotterdam
Jet Dubbeldam
Nieuwe Zuiderkerk - Rotterdam
Nieuwe Zuider Kerk - Rotterdam
Study organs

When you take lessons you need to study as well. One way or the other I needed to find study organs to play on. In Rotterdam-Schiebroek were the Reformed Meidoornkerk and the Dutch Reformed Goede Herderkerk.

Rotterdam-Schiebroek - Meidoornkerk
Rotterdam-Schiebroek - Meidoornkerk

Rotterdam-Schiebroek Meidoornkerk
( during the weddingday of my sister Marianne 1970 )
Rotterdam-Schiebroek - Meidoornkerk
Jan ( registration -  assistant and organfriend ) & Cor
Rotterdam-Schiebroek - Meidoornkerk
Jan, Cor & father
To study the organ a lot of bumps had to be cleared. In particular the amount of time and limits on which I could study, were absolutely insufficient. Two examples of this, one of the Meidoornkerk and one of the Goede Herderkerk.

To be able to study every evening, I had to pull the most crazy stunts. For instance, in the Goede Herderkerk was a lobby where meetings and parties where regularly held. In return for more time to study I assisted the verger and his wife with washing the dishes. Washing and drying mountain high heaps of cups, saucers, glasses etc. in return for an extra hour of time to study. In the Meidoornkerk I often had to assist in adjusting the chairs in the surrounding building “the Brandaris”. In my memory they amount to thousands. To compensate, the vergers silently closed their eyes when the key to the church was returned later than was officially permitted.

Rotterdam-Schiebroek - Goede Herderkerk
Rotterdam-Schiebroek - Goede Herderkerk

Rotterdam-Schiebroek - Goede Herderkerk
Goede Herderkerk - former front
Rotterdam-Schiebroek Goede Herderkerk
During study

Rotterdam-Schiebroek - Goede Herderkerk
          Goede Herderkerk
   after the restauration in 1986
Rotterdam-Schiebroek - Goede Herderkerk
Marriage service of niece Linda

Further study.

For me the real work started. I had mastered the fundamental principles and wanted to build a repertoire. After several years of firm individual study, I decided to take lessons again. Not without a reason I ended up with Jan J. van den Berg, organist of the Nieuwe Kerk in Delft . I knew Jan J. van den Berg well of his monthly Thursday night concerts in the Nieuwe Kerk in Delft. I had visited his Thursday night concerts for years. I always sat on the same spot in the back near the tomb of Willem van Oranje.

In the back – as far away form the organ as possible – the organ could manifest itself in the best possible way. In those years I truly enjoyed the organ in the most natural way. The overwhelming sound of the organ and a master on the organ: what more do you want? The winter nights were freezing cold. Because I was entirely seated in the back, that part of the church was not heated. There I was between the tombs and monuments of the Dutch Royals, shivering of the cold……….

Delft - Nieuwe Kerk exterieur
Delft - Nieuwe Kerk

Jan J. van den Berg
Jan J. van den Berg
Delft Nieuwe Kerk - front
Delft - Nieuwe Kerk

A few years later I studied for over a year with Herman van Vliet in Oudewater.

Oudewater Grote Kerk - exterieur
Oudewater Grote Kerk
Herman van Vliet
Herman van Vliet
Oudewater Grote Kerk - front
Oudewater Grote Kerk

I knew Herman van Vliet from the many concerts he gave throughout the country. His search for unknown pieces of organ music – particularly from French Romanticism – was tailor-made. With Herman van Vliet I mainly studied a few French organ pieces with the emphasis on interpretation.

Besides studying on the organ, for a period of time I also pursued the study of choir direction and of harmonics to broaden my horizon.

And I also studied at home. In Rotterdam on the piano and later in Bennebroek and Heemstede on the spinet.

Sawing organworks at home on the spinet

But to be more concrete, the first ideas for the next performance had their actual genesis in the living-room. I had a general idea of what I wanted to play and I tested the practical feasibility of this at home.

Keep on studying

Actually, a organist keeps on studying his whole life through. I never had a moment when I thought: “now the work is finished”. On the contrary, making music remains a challenge.

An important part of the study was spent on visiting concerts. In the first years I especially think of the 14-days concerts of Feike Asma in the Wilhelminakerk, Oranjeboomstraat in Rotterdam-Zuid and later the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam. The organ of the Oude Kerk has a marvellous, silvery sound to it. It's a tremendous organ! Although heavy to play, you get something in return........
Later on I went to concerts in Zutphen, Bolsward, Delft, Gouda, Maassluis, Kampen etc. With other organists including Jan. J. van den Berg, Klaas-Jan Mulder, Herman van Vliet, Willem Hendrik Zwart.

The concerts provide a treasure of information about the construction of a program, the choice of organ works and of course the performance of them. They have proven to be building stones of my own programs. It is also a personal challenge to search libraries ( NOB, Haarlem, Utrecht, Berlin, Munich, Regensburg, Paris ) to discover works or to obtain more information about them.

I do need a purpose, for instance the preparation for a performance or church service. Just to play the organ at random doesn’t suit me. You make a choice from a certain period or style and you start and work with that. You could say that in the starting years the foundation is placed for a house that you decorate in later life.

To summarize my studyperiod:

C.M.van Esch ( father )   1956 - 1960  
Wiebe Zeilstra  1960 - 1964
Jet Dubbeldam  1964 - 1970
Jan J.van den Berg  1977 - 1978
Herman van Vliet      1988 - 1989
Greet Kool   1971 – 1972
Choir direction and Music-education:        
Jan Kriek   1973 – 1975