The Haarlem Summer academy: the development of a world-wide organ mecca by Peter Ouwerkerk

by Peter Ouwerkerk | Het ORGEL | Year 110 | (2014) | Issue 4


Peter Ouwerkerk The Haarlem Summer academy: the development of a world-wide organ mecca
Het ORGEL 110 (2014), nr. 4, 22-37 [summary]

After the first Haarlem improvisation competition in 1951, the Austrian musicologist Josef Ferdinant Obermayr drew up plan for a Summer academy which would take place during a number of weeks. The courses making up the Summer academy were intended to train young organists under the guidance of renowned teachers in diverse aspects of modern organ practice. They were linked to the improvisation competition, in the sense that the courses were intended to increase the students’ interest in and skill at improvising. It was intended that there would be much attention to the art of improvisation during the lessons, but it would be embedded in examples from organ repertoire and divided into two ‘schools’: the German and the French.
Setting up the curriculum, inviting teachers, and the financing of the Academy required a lot of work before the first Academy took place in 1955. In subsequent years it became clear that the Academy was a part of the strongly polarized organ culture of The Netherlands, in particular. The difference between the German and French schools was continually emphasized. This difference was not only æsthetic but political, that is to say, with the Second World War fresh in the memory, rapprochement between Germany and France was desirable.
An important characteristic of the Summer academy is that, from the beginning, totally different approaches have been taught simultaneously, and that the exposure of the participants to both styles is seen as an added value.
The combination of different playing traditions, through which what some had seen as the weakness of the concept was successfully made into a strength, made for a unique Haarlem phenomenon.
At various times the frequency of the Haarlem Organ festival was discussed. The organization originally wanted to hold a yearly Summer academy; but in the second half of the 80s this opinion changed, and with Piet Kee as motor behind the plans, it became a biennial festival in 1987.
After a decline in the number of participants was observed in the 90s, important changes were made after the turn of the century in the organization and financing. New elements were added to the content of the courses, such as the course ‘Young Composers’ and the International Masterclass for YoungTalents.