Jan R. Luth: The organ and congregational singing in the early 17th century

by Jan R. Luth | Het ORGEL | Year 95 | (1999) | Issue 20


Jan R. Luth The organ and congregational singing in the early 17th century
het ORGEL 95 (1999), nr. 3, 5-8

After the Reformation in the 16th century, the Dutch Reformed Church obtained the right touse the large city churches. Consequently, the Church had to decide what to do with theorgans in them. At first, organ music was rejected: the synod of Dordrecht (1578) evensuggested that the organs should be removed. This plan was not carried out. By order ofthe city governments, in most cases the owners of the organs, the instruments were playedbefore and after (but not during) the services. Complaints about the organ music resultedin various instructions, like that given to Eustachius Hackert at Culemborg: before andafter the service, he had to play the psalms that were sung by the congregation during theservice. Accompaniment of congregational singing was introduced before 1632 in churches inFriesland and Groningen (two Dutch provinces); perhaps it was in customary already in 1628in the Martinikerk in the city of Groningen. Before 1636 the congregational singing in theHooglandse Kerk at Leiden was accompanied on the organ; soon after, the practice wasadopted in the Pieterskerk at Leiden as well. In Arnhem accompaniment of congregationalsinging was introduced in 1636. Because the combination of the organ with the singingcongregation led to chaos, accompaniment was given up in Maastricht in 1645. The sameproblem was discussed in other cities as well; Constantijn Huygens published his bookGebruyck of ongebruyck van ‘t orgel in de kerken der Vereenighde Nederlanden [To use theorgan or not in the churches in the Netherlands] (1641) to propagate accompaniment ofcongregational singing. In most city churches accompaniment of congregational singing wasintroduced in the second half of the 17th century.