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 to use the large city churches. Consequently, the Church had to decide what to do with the organs in them. At first, organ music was rejected: the synod of Dordrecht (1578) even suggested that the organs should be removed. This plan was not carried out. By order of the city governments, in most cases the owners of the organs, the instruments were played before and after (but not during) the services. Complaints about the organ music resulted in various instructions, like that given to Eustachius Hackert at Culemborg: before and after the service, he had to play the psalms that were sung by the congregation during the service. Accompaniment of congregational singing was introduced before 1632 in churches in Friesland and Groningen (two Dutch provinces); perhaps it was in customary already in 1628 in the Martinikerk in the city of Groningen. Before 1636 the congregational singing in the Hooglandse Kerk at Leiden was accompanied on the organ; soon after, the practice was adopted in the Pieterskerk at Leiden as well. In Arnhem accompaniment of congregational singing was introduced in 1636. Because the combination of the organ with the singing congregation led to chaos, accompaniment was given up in Maastricht in 1645. The same problem was discussed in other cities as well; Constantijn Huygens published his book Gebruyck of ongebruyck van 't orgel in de kerken der Vereenighde Nederlanden [To use the organ or not in the churches in the Netherlands] (1641) to propagate accompaniment of congregational singing. In most city churches accompaniment of congregational singing was introduced in the second half of the 17th century.