“Composing is the spice of my life” – A chat with Jan Welmers by Peter Ouwerkerk

by Peter Ouwerkerk | Het ORGEL | Year 102 | (2006) | Issue 6

Peter Ouwerkerk “Composing is the spice of my life” – A chat with Jan Welmers
Het ORGEL 102 (2006), nr. 6, 21-26 [summary]  

Photo: Peter Ouwerkerk
Last year Jan Welmers was awarded the Sweelinck prize for his complete œuvre. The organ always played a central role in his life; he composed countless works for the instrument, won the Improvisation competition in Bolsward, and taught many organists, always giving new music an important place in his lessons. Born and raised in a musical family, Welmers studied organ with Wim van Beek and Cor Kee. In his lessons with Kee the accent on improvisation was strong, and when Kee noticed that Welmers liked to compose, he advised him to study composition with Kees van Baaren. All of these teachers had an important influence on Welmers’s development.Welmers always propagated the inclusion of improvisation in organ instruction, especially when in the 80s historical performance practice pushed this subject more and more into the background. The situation in Utrecht, when he was teaching there, was ideal: there was extensive collaboration among colleagues, which even included exchange of pupils.Welmers doubts the necessity of further development of the organ; the possibilities of the instrument are, in his view, far from exhausted. He sees more in the combination of electronica and organ, using filters, live, for the organ sounds.After retiring as organ teacher and organist of the Stevenskerk in Nijmegen, Welmers devotes himself to composition (“the spice of my life”) and, when requested, the accompaniment of performances of his own compositions. He is happy to do this, and is of the opinion that his compositional responsibility involves more than simply delivering the manuscript of a composition.