Orgelkids has existed as a project since 2009, but the concept was not fully realized until we met Wim Janssen in October 2012. He is the man who designed the Orgelkids organ. For years he worked as a professional organ builder at Verschueren Organbuilding. Now that he is retired, Wim has time and space to come up with new ideas and try them out. The love for the craftsmanship of organ building still prevails. With three years of work together on Orgelkids, we got together to take a look back on the progress and succes of our program.
Why did you come up with this idea of an action-organ?
“I saw that it was important to introduce children to the organ and its operation. Except that an organ demonstration is actually too passive. You can ask children to look and listen, but the experience rather has to be more active. The best thing would be if they really would be able to build an organ that they could also truly play when it was finished. There are always a few children who can already play a melody; it will be extra nice if they could play some music on the finished organ. With that goal in mind, I went to work. ”
How did you develop the Orgelkids organ?
“I first made a prototype of cheaper wood. It was a real puzzle to see which parts can be put together by children and which parts may already be available as a complete part. So initially I left the frame entirely made of separate parts. But that actually did not really add much value to the build experience. That is why, now, the side panels are one piece; it also has to be built in a limited time. When that prototype organ proved to work well in practice, I made a few beautiful organs of oak.”
What was the hardest part to make?
“A part you can not really see! It’s in the bottom of the section with the two bellows. The wind has to be hand-pumped into the organ. From the two bellows, wind is stored in a reservoir. But while pumping wind must only go in, and not out again. Therefore, I made one-way valves in it which only open when there is wind being pumped in. The valves prevent wind going back out as the bellows suck new wind. This was a real puzzle to solve.”
How do you feel now that your Orgelkids organ has received worldwide attention?
“I love it! The way the organ gets attention now and encourages and inspires people… that’s wonderful! I could not imagine the success. I am very pleased that with this project many children can encounter a real pipe organ. And it is great that my organ is now being embraced in more countries. Of course, while it is my design, I have applied techniques that have existed for centuries. That’s why this organ cannot be patented. It is much more important that people have the right tool to get children excited. If my organ can be helpful, I’m very happy. The past few years have also shown that many older people are excited to learn from this organ. That also makes me very happy!”
In this video, Wim Janssen shows you how to build the organ of Orgelkids (subtitles in English).
The same Orgelkids organ will be produced now in a small series of 4 organs by Verschueren Orgelbouw. Read more about this offer.