THE ROELEVELD-ORGAN IN THE LUTHERAN CHURCH KIRCHDORF (WARTBURG, KZN)
(Pastor Roland Johannes, Wartburg)
The Kirchdorf Lutheran Church, a German-speaking congregation founded in 1881 in the picturesque village of Wartburg, has had a pipe organ since 1951. With the traditional Lutheran liturgy being held in high regard, the organ has always played an important role, not only in leading the strong congregational singing, but also in accompanying the choir and the brass band, which regularly perform in the Divine Service.
The previous instrument, built by Gustav Steinmann in Vlotho, Germany, had a total of 12 stops and was equipped with a tubular pneumatic action. The instrument was interesting, in that the stop-list and the voicing were clearly influenced by the upcoming “Orgelbewegung”, whilst the technical aspects were still firmly rooted in the romantic era. The pneumatic action however proved to be very unreliable, so that the late Colin Hele, who had taken care of the instrument for many years, was instructed to replace it with a solid-state system in the 1980s.
In this form the instrument was reliable, if not very inspiring. With Mr. Hele moving towards retirement, we started thinking along the lines of acquiring a new tracker-action instrument, even going so far as to start setting up stop-lists and consulting with organ builders about possible designs.
This process was greatly accelerated when we found a used Roeleveld Organ with a grand total of 18 stops for sale on Junkmail. Unbelievable, yet true. Immediately we organised to visit the instrument in the NG Church Verwoerdpark in Alberton, and were amazed not only at the tonal beauty of the instrument, but also by the imposing appearance and impressive façade. The Kirchdorf congregation decided unanimously to purchase the instrument, and so, only a few months later, organ builder Jan Elsenaar was able to install the Roeleveld Organ in Kirchdorf.
The instrument fits into the church at Kirchdorf as if custom made. After careful consideration, we decided not to change the voicing of the instrument, which was expertly done by Jan Roeleveld in collaboration with the organ consultant Eddie Davey back in 1983. This also meant that we kept the Werckmeister III tuning, which, whilst limiting the organist to a certain degree, also gives the instrument an exceptional amount of character. Since the church music performed at Kirchdorf is more traditional in nature, the use of keys further than 4 sharps or 4 flats is hardly necessary.
The instrument is designed in a North German baroque style, and has the following stops (the names on the drawstops are in Afrikaans):
Manuaal I: Koppelmanuaal
The organ was dedicated on 5th March 2017. Dietrich Johannes and Roland Johannes held the inauguration recital, performing works by Bach, Böhm, Buxtehude, Bruhns, Scheidemann, and Mendelssohn. It is particularly in the North German baroque pieces that the instrument shows off its amazing qualities – beautifully bold yet singing diapasons, bright mixtures, powerful reeds (almost French in character!), and seemingly endless possibilities for solo registrations. Jan Roeleveld always described the Alberton organ as one of the best he ever built. I can only emphasise this – it really is an instrument to behold, also in it’s new surroundings.
Incidentally, some of the old pipes from the Steinmann organ from 1951 were of decent quality, and have been put into storage in the workshop of Jan Elsenaar. In the coming years we plan to use these pipes to build a new tracker-action instrument with 10 stops for the Our Saviour Lutheran Congregation, the English-speaking part of the Kirchdorf congregation. The Our Saviour church building presently only has an electronic instrument, but – God willing – will soon also have a beautiful pipe organ. Together with the large Fehrle Organ with 37 stops in the Lutherkirche (the third Lutheran Church in Wartburg), this little village is well on its way to become a hub of organ music!