Appointed organist
In which places have I served as an organist?

My life as an organist can broadly be divided in two phases. The first half, from 1946 until 1978 ( when I was 32 years old ) in Rotterdam and the second half from 1979 until 2009 in Heemstede and vicinity. The following summary gives a precise overview

Bergkapel Rotterdam-Hillegersberg  1965 - 1975
Hillegondakerk Rotterdam-Hillegersberg  1976 - 1978
St.-Jozef Kerk Bennebroek  1979 - 1981
R.K. Kerk O.L.V. Hemelvaart Heemstede  1981 - 2009

Bergkapel in Rotterdam Hillegersberg

My first position as an organist was in the Bergkapel in Rotterdam-Hillegersberg. The Bergkapelgemeente – liberal minded – was a part of the Dutch Reformed Church. The chapel contained a two keyboard pedal harmonium. On New Year’s Eve, 1965, I played my first official church service. Exactly ten years later I took leave on New Years’s Eve of 1975. Those years in the Bergkapel are unforgettable for me. During this period I learned to accompany the congregation in singing. I was given complete freedom to develop my own style in accompanying the congregation. I felt a part of the church service. The cooperation with the minister, the church council and the church-goers were pivotal. It also provided the opportunity to experience your religion in your own way. Throughout my life I have cherished this as a valuable gift.

Bergkapel te Rotterdam-Hillegersberg
Bergkapel - Rotterdam Hillegersberg

Cor van Esch Bergkapel te Rotterdam-Hillegersberg
Bergkapel - I could also look like that as well..........

Hillegondakerk - Hillegersberg – the oldest church of Rotterdam

On January 1, 1976, I switched from organ. I became an organist on an organ witch real pipework. I was familiar with the organ of the Hillegondakerk. During my period in the Bergkapel I was allowed to study in the Hillegondakerk and I sometimes replaced the organist at the time during illness and holiday.

Rotterdam-Hillegersberg - Hillegondakerk
Hillegondakerk - interior
Rotterdam Hillegersberg - Hillegonadakerk - exterieur
Rotterdam-Hillegersberg - Hillegondakerk
Hillegondakerk - front

In the Hillegondakerk I learned to play the organ works in a historical, radiant setting. I learned to appreciate the role the organ can play in Sunday morning services. It frequently happened that after the service church-goers shared their experiences with me. This much has become clear to me: the adaptation of a chorale setting are best suited for a church service. At the end of a church service or during the collecting of money I occasionally played organ pieces. Some ministers liked theme- and youth services. On those occasions, the church was filled to the rafters and my my, what a delight for an organist to accompany such a full house. Unforgettable.

In the Hillegondakerk orthodox church services were held on Sunday morning and in the afternoon more orthodox ministers had their turn. In this way I came to know the two other forms of the Dutch Church. After ten years of liberal minded church services in the Bergkapel, this was quite a change for me. It is sometimes said that “where your organ is, there is your faith”, but the influence it had on me was enormous.

St-Jozefkerk in Bennebroek
St-Jozefkerk - Bennebroek

In 1978 I moved from Rotterdam to Bennebroek. The first priority, of course, was to write and call the churches in the vicinity, with the request to study on the organs. The Catholic Church in Bennebroek was willing to grant my request, provided that I made myself available as their organist. It was a small organ with one keyboard with a pedal clung to it.

Although the possibilities were limited. I accepted the task and I ended up in a new world of church music. Being a protestant organist and playing in a Catholic Church is quite an experience! Fortunately the liturgy was plain, in Dutch and easy to master.

Meanwhile, I attempted to find other organs to play and another Catholic Church responded affirmatively. It was de O.L.V. Hemelvaart in nearby Heemstede.

R.K. Kerk O.L.V. Hemelvaart - Heemstede.

One thing leads to another and this is also true for me. The organist of the OLV Hemelvaart at the time wanted to cease her activities as an organist of the church. This provided me with an opportunity to succeed her. On Easter Sunday, 1981, the big moment arrived. I played my first mass with a large, mixed choir.I came abundantly in contact with the catholic liturgy, both Latin and Gregorian. Although I had rehearsed a few times with the choir, in order to assist me the vicar wrote down the order of the different parts of the liturgy before mass started.

Heemstede OLV Hemelvaart
Heemstede R.K.Kerk O.L.V. Hemelvaart
Heemstede orgelfront
O.L.V. Hemelvaart - organfront
Heemstede olv Hemelvaart speeltafel
O.L.V. Hemelvaart - table

The O.L.V. Hemelvaart arranged the weekend high mass on Sunday morning with the cooperation of the choir. This meant that we had to play the mass every Sunday and rehearse it on Thursday night. It took me some time to adjust myself to play a service according to fixed parts of the mass. The church held several services. Latin and Dutch mass, community singing mass ( without a choir ) and Gregorian ones with the men's choir. As an organist I was occasionally confronted with surprises, for instance a mass composed by Mozart for choir and orchestra, with arrangements for piano.You had to make the best of it as an organist and try to make a proper organ part of it, because piano accompaniments on an organ are not possible.
Through time, of course, I became familiar with the state of affairs in the Catholic Church. I have to conclude that the Latin mass ( for instance by Mozart, Haydn, Schubert ) has become an enrichment for my musical development, but getting acquainted with Gregorian singing by the men’s choir is full of beauty as well.

Before and after the service, during the collecting of money and during communion, I played my own repertoire, as I used to do during the period of the Bergkapel and Hillegondakerk. In this way, Catholic church-goers became familiar with the choral settings of protestant origin ( for instance Zwart and Asma a.o.) Strangely enough, this proved to be a fruitful combination.

Heemstede OLV Hemelvaart Cor van Esch
working in Heemstede - 1981

I was an organist in Heemstede for 28 years. I took leave on July 5th, 2009, in a celebratory service with a.o. the Deutsche Messe of Schubert and “Dank sei dir Herr” of Händel.

Looking back you could say that the combination of reformed and catholic resulted in me becoming a “refolic” organist.

Curiously enough, up to now I have never been an organist in the reformed church, but that certainly has a reason as well, I suspect.