In 1731 the organ builder Albertus Anthoni Hinsz completed a new organ in the church in Zandeweer (province of Groningen, NL). The village is very close to Uithuizen, where there’s a famous Arp Schnitger organ. Hinsz, who came from Hamburg, had moved to Groningen in 1728; probably he went to work immediately in the shop of Frans Caspar Schnitger. When Schnitger died in 1729, Hinsz completed the new rugwerk of the organ in the Martinikerk in Groningen at the request of Schnitger’s widow. The organ in Zandeweer is the firstin a long series of beautiful instruments of which most have been preserved and bear witness to Hinsz’s great craftsmanship and artistic ability.  In the province of Groningen we have the organs in Leens, Appingedam, Meeden, Midwolda, and Uithuizermeeden, and outside the province the lovely instruments in Kampen, Wassenaar, Harlingen, Bolsward, and Roden. The instrument in Zandeweer has sixteen registers, divided evenly between hoofdwerk and rugwerk; the old pipework is partly from Frans Caspar Schnitger’s workshop. The decoration, both that of the cases and the statues, was made by Caspar Struiwig, and is of a rare elegance. The whole is a beautiful specimen of Louis XIV style. 


The organ of Zandeweer was drastically altered several times to attune it to a more modern taste. For example, Geert Pieters Dik replaced three registers of the rugwerk in 1853 by an 8’ Viola di Gamba and a 3-rank Carillon. In 1902 the three wedge-shaped bellows were replaced by a wind reservoir and the 16’ Quintadena was remade into a 16’ Bourdon. Starting in 1980 there were attempts to save the organ from further deterioration. Preparations were also made for a complete restoration. Consultant Klaas Bolt made up a restoration plan in 1984, together with Stef Tuinstra. Because the necessary funds then seemed out of reach, certain parts were repaired; due to various circumstances, the work was carried out by three different organ builders. Mense Ruiter Orgelmakers made a new outlet tremulant; organ builder Albert de Graaf reconstructed two rugwerk registers in 1985, the Quinta and the Sexquialtera; and in the same year the Vox Humana (Hinsz) was provided with new shallots and reeds by Bernhard Edskes for the firm of Metzler from Switzerland


In 2004 the contract for a complete restoration was granted to Reil Orgelmakers BV of Heerde. Consultant was Stef Tuinstra. On Friday 13 June, 2008, the organ was inaugurated. The conclusion that Hinsz had tuned the organ in a (modified) mean-tone temperament was a surprise.  Until recently, little was known about the tuning of the early Hinsz organs. The restoration of the organ in Zandeweer has caused quite a bit of controversy since 2008.  But in any case the rich organ terrain of the provinceof Groningen, considered with the German area Ost-Friesland to be Europe’s organ garden, has been enriched by a remarkable jewel.  





In 1980 I was hired as organist in Zandeweer. I was probably the first professional organist there, since in Zandeweer as in many other places there was a long tradition of combining the functions of schoolmaster and organist. This was the case with the first organist of the Hinsz organ: Hero Ipes. He was schoolmaster in Zandeweer from 1721 to 1763. In 1744 he tested the new Hinsz organ in Appingedam, together with the organist of the Martinikerk in Groningen. So Ipes must have had a certain reputation as organ expert.


In 1980 I found an organ with beautiful flute and prestant registers but robbed of its mixtures, with a weak and whiny free-reed Trompet and a rather mysterious-sounding Vox Humana. Under the surface the beauty was unmistakable, and I always had the feeling of working with an organ of rare beauty, an organ that deserved rehabilitation as one of the most characteristic instruments in Hinsz’s oeuvre. Although a few improvements could be made to the organ, there was absolutely no perspective of a complete restoration. 


Partly for this reason I switched in 1990 to the Arp Schnitger organs in Noordbroek and the Der Aa-kerk in Groningen: new challenges, new opportunities. In the meantime, the Zandeweer organ became nearly unplayable. By joining the ‘Stichting Restauratie en Promotie Hinsz Orgel Zandeweer’ in 2004, with the goal of steering the restoration, I became actively concerned for a second time with the vicissitudes of the organ in Zandeweer.


The restoration by Reil resulted in a reborn instrument and is one of the most successful restorations of recent years in the province of Groningen. The Hinsz organ reveals itself as a completely individual but at the same time quite sensitive instrument. It doesn’t reveal its secrets to everybody, and there is no feeling of a casual ‘conversation’ between player and instrument. The difficult toucher, which is quite different on the two manuals with their original Hinsz key actions, is part of the cause. The player who finds this no problem will be amply rewarded with pure tonal beauty offering a rich spectrum of ‘affects’. The mean-tone tuning contributes significantly to the restful sound.