Organic Creatures

van eyck orgEL in concert

9 & 10 mei 2020


Catalina Vicens brengt samen met klassieke en experimentele muzikanten Colin Van Eeckhout en Jozef Van Wissem een unieke live performance met historische instrumenten in de Sint-Jacobskerk. Een van die historische instrumenten is een draagbaar orgel dat werd gereconstrueerd op basis van het orgel dat afgebeeld staat op een paneel van het Lam Gods. 

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Catalina Vicens, together with classical/experimental musicians Colin Van Eeckhout and Jozef Van Wissem, present a unique live performance with historic instruments in the church of Sint-Jacobs. One of these historic instruments is a portative organ that is a reconstruction based on the organ depicted on the Ghent Altarpiece, the famous painting by Van Eyck.




How I fell in love with the Van Eyck Organ.
Or how Consouling Sounds designed a project for the Van Eyck Year 2O2O.

It was the end of 2018 when I first met Catalina Vicens. She was introduced to me as a wonderful, enchanting musician. A scholar also, specialised in historical keyboard instruments. She walked into our store, straight into the home of Consouling Sounds. And from that moment on she sparked in me a kind of imagination that blossomed into the project that is now before us: ‘Organic Creatures’, music in the light of the Jan Van Eyck Year 2O2O, in our hometown Ghent.

Catalina grew up in Chile but she has found a home in Europe - Switzerland to be precise - from where she travels the continent to perform the classical music she specializes in. Recently she has also been working on a PhD studying old music, which brings her to Ghent on a regular basis. Some of her friends in Ghent have told her: “You really should drop by at Consouling, because that’s really a place for you. These people ‘get’ music. These people think differently.” And so we do. And apparently that was just what Catalina needed.

Having been interested in various kinds of music every since her teenage years, there was an immediate understanding between us. I still remember this moment distinctly, when we were sitting opposite a table in our store, sipping a coffee and getting to know each other. As I looked into Catalina’s eyes, I understood this was not just any woman sitting in front of me. This was a dreamer, an entrepreneur, and most definitely, a game changer. I felt humble and was impressed, and I wanted just one thing and one alone: to get the opportunity to build something beautiful together.

And so it occurred that Catalina was looking for partners for her next musical challenge. She explained to me that she was recording organ music on different portative organs, some music was old, and some was new. The combination of all of this made the project too experimental for her usual partners. I was intrigued, because this was not the first time that a classical musician looked for solutions outside the typical network, but it felt rare. I felt we should look into it. Her story continued: “One of the organs is a replica of the organ depicted on van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece”. I listened wholeheartedly, my jaw started to drop a little bit. At that moment I was not even aware that 2019 would be the Van Eyck year in Ghent. I began to feel really intrigued. How was it possible that an organ existed, that was a replica of an instrument of a painting? A painting that was so important to the city I lived in? Catalina explained. I learned all about the wonderful world of instrument reconstructions. And there and then, I fell in love with the Van Eyck Organ. Love on first sight, or at least, on first discovery. For I had not seen the organ at that time, and I still haven’t at this very moment when I am writing this text. But I have plans to go and discover it in person in the very near future.

From that moment on, the project took wings. How it developed along the road during the year that went by, and what you can expect from the concert in May, I will explain in the following weeks. For now, I invite you to follow the story on this page. Our team of storytellers, researchers, musicians, all kinds of people involved in this amazing once-in-a-lifetime project will share with you their experiences. Hope you will be back here very soon!

Nele Buys,
Co-Founder of Consouling Sounds


Visiting the home of the Van Eyck organ

When we talk about the ‘Van Eyck organ’, we are talking about a reconstructed instrument. The name refers to the fact that it has been modelled on the organ depicted on Van Eyck’s painting ‘Het Lam Gods’, or the so-called Ghent Altar Piece. Actually, you could ask the question whether it is reconstructed or in fact constructed? What we can say is, in the time of the painting such organs were common instruments. None however survived the passing of time. Through historical research and knowledge of instrument builders, organs are being rebuilt to research how the would have sounded. The assignment to build the Van Eyck organ was given by the National Organ Museum of the Netherlands – where the instrument now resides – and the instrument was built by specialist Winold van der Putten.

Last Thursday Jan. 16, our team visited the Van Eyck organ in its museum for the very first time. It was a long drive to the town of Elburg, about 4 hours away from Ghent, but it was very much worth it! Upon arrival Winold, together with Maarten Seijbel and Eelco Elzenga, welcomed us. Eelco is the conservator of the museum, while Maarten is the initiator and director of the board. It did not take the three gentlemen long to completely overwhelm us with the wonderful world that they have created in the museum. The museum leads you through a series of historical developments that led up to the organ as we know it today. Also, it explains how several parts were made in the past, and how intricate the inner construction of these instruments can be. After a welcoming lunch (Elburg does have some nice lunch spots!) we set out to discover every room in the city castle that now hosts the beautiful collection. During our stay an organ builder was active in one of the rooms, finetuning or restoring an instrument to its optimal condition. We asked her how one becomes an organ builder. She smiled and said it happens, just like that. Not many people have this profession, it is something you just get into by being a restorer of other instruments, or that was at least the case for her.

We left a good two hours later, still very much impressed by the passion of three gentlemen. We learned many details about the Van Eyck instrument, for instance, howcome the upper keys are black (and how they were made black), how it was difficult to find the range of tones, how high the matching stool must have been and what the average length of legs of people ware, in the time of Jan Van Eyck. We were baffled. Now we had to go home and start planning the move of this instrument to be able to bring it to Ghent. It is a delicate piece of craftsmanship; it will have to be handled with the best possible care. To be continued!

Nele Buys,
Co-Founder of Consouling Sounds