600 Years of Organ building
Approximately 600 years of organ building in the Eifel-region can be traced back from its darkest beginnings to the present day. Just as politically and culturally influential regional noble families where on the imperial court and the surrounding kingdoms, organ builders of the Eifel-region have been majorly influential to the early Brabantian organ style which ranged up to Friesland and Schleswig.
The very few historical documents which survived the wars and pillages of the Eifel-region tell us that the small number of organ builders known by their name where keen travellers. We know, that the organ in the parish church of Mayen/Eifel had a rebuilt conducted by Peter Briesger of Koblenz in the years of 1436-1437. Evidence taken from civil and parish registers, the Eifel organ building tradition evolved only from 1711 and is continued to this day.
|1711 - 1735||Balthasar König, Bad Münstereifel, from 1735 in Köln,|
|himself and his sons worked in the Eifel region until 1780|
|1735 - ca.1770||Johann Odendahl, (son-in-law Königs), Bad Münstereifel|
|1770 - 1780||Peter Kemper, (son-in-law Odendahls), Bad Münstereifel|
|1802 - 1921||Gebrüder Müller, Reifferscheid (Hellenthal)|
|1921 - 1926||Gundling, Reifferscheid (Hellenthal)|
|1927 - dato||Weimbs, Hellenthal|
In the end of the 19th century, father and brother of Josef Weimbs senior worked already as joiners in the organ factory of Gebrüder Müller in the town of Reifferscheid. The inter regional importance of Gebrüder Müller manifests itself in 113 still existing organs spread across the Eifel region, the areas of Köln-Bonn and Aachen, as well as the border regions of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg. The technical characteristics of Müller’s instruments show continuous development and progression which comes to an end with the construction of cone-chests and pneumatic actions in the end of the 19th century. Josef Weimbs senior serves his apprenticeship as organ builder in Reifferscheid from 1900 until 1905. He was working as tuner and voicer thereafter until 1913. As a consequence, the factory of Gebrüder Müller is to be seen in a direct relation with the foundation of Weimbs Orgelbau in Hellenthal. Josef Weimbs senior works for several other organ builders between 1914 and 1926 and founds his own factory in 1927. His first commissioned organ is for the parish church of St. Anna in Hellenthal.
This instrument already shows his unique style which appears mainly in the generous designs of the front displays and divisions with a larger number of stops. This counts especially for the pedal sections. Organs of the Gebrüder Müller often have only an attached pedal board or only a few stops. Organs of Josef Weimbs senior are consistently found with fully developed and well-disposed pedal divisions. After only a short while, Weimbs Orgelbau stood on firm ground and maintained a good reputation which reaches far beyond the Schleiden area and the Eifel-region.
After the passing of the company’s founder in 1949, his son Josef Weimbs (1916-2005) takes over business. In the 1950s, as in the time before World War II, the Weimbs factory manufacture a range of remarkable instruments which have mostly been fitted with electrical actions according to the style of this period. He eventually passes his examination as master craftsman on 15th June 1957.
Josef Weimbs junior proves his high level of craftsmanship especially in the 1960s and 1970s when more and more need arises to preserve, restore and reconstruct instruments of historical value and leave them unaltered contrary to the fashion in those days. Over 80 restorations of old organs are listed in the works register of which the extensive works carried out on the grand König-Organs of the Basilika in the Monastery of Steinfeld and the castle church of Schleiden are especially notable due to their interregional importance.
With passing his exams as Master Craftsman on 3rd November 1973, the son of the company’s owner Friedbert Weimbs, joins the business. He developed a good reputation as voicer and contributed to the overall esteem of the business. Many years of experience in the fields of scaling and voicing – the calculation and tonal conceptualisation of the organ pipes is a hallmark of Weimbs Orgelbau. Friedbert Weimbs commits himself to even further develop the quality of voicing: In the 1980s, the economical more efficient pre-voicing in the workshop is given up in favour of having all voicing work executed in the church itself. This is the only way which allows to adapt optimally to every spaces unique acoustical characteristics.
Friedbert Weimbs‘ son Frank, served his apprenticeship as organ builder in the Schwarzwald region. After further additional qualifications in the years after, he passed his exams as Master Craftsman on 11th September 1998. Since then he manages the business in economic and technical matters. He leads the organ factory Weimbs together with his father Friedbert now into the fourth generation of organ builders.
One of Frank Weimbs‘ foremost challenges is the restructuring of the business. With the move of the whole factory into the premises “Im Kröpsch” in Hellenthal in the year 2000, ideal conditions have been created to meet constantly growing requirements in craftsmanship, technology and size in organ building.
Josef Weimbs junior, son of the company’s founder, passes away in 2005 in the great age of 89 years.
A long-lasting desire has been fulfilled. In September 2010 the existing pipe shop has been extended with metal casting facilities and a pipe factory and placed in charge of the renowned pipe maker Toni Käs. Since then, Weimbs builds new metal pipes for own projects and colleagues.
For many years, the training of voicers is a special concern of Friedbert Weimbs. The art of voicing and harmonising sounds and sound concepts is passed on to young, talented organ builders. He was able to pass on this knowledge to the next generation. It is important to him that the voicer does not copy his style, but to feel the sound and the harmony and act accordingly. Voicers trained by him are working in our company on their own accord since 2012. Next to working on his own projects, Friedbert Weimbs is as head voicer now in the fortunate situation to act as an important advisor for the next generation.
Though, organ building is arts and crafts, we are forced to go with the times in our production. For that reason, we decided in 2015 to expand our machinery with a modern CNC-workstation. The aim of this purchase was although not measures of rationalisation with a possible omission of jobs but an adaption to modern manufacturing methods. In the beginning we have limited ourselves to use the system for milling new soundboards, but with continued use, ever new ideas evolve for new applications. Due to this diversely usable machine, we have been able to create a new job for a colleague with a walking impairment, which we could eventually also employ as a CNC-technician.
Review and Outlooks
In recent years equally technical and musical interesting new organs have been built, such as the „Max-Reger-Memorial-Organ“ (III/53) in the Lutheran St. Michaels Church of Weiden, Oberpfalz or the new baroque style organ (II/26) of the abbey church St. Nikolaus of Brauweiler. In 2015 a new Weimbs organ (II/31) in the church of St. Mary in Bergen (Norway) has been solemnly inaugurated.
After the among experts recognised restorations of the König-organs in the castle church of Schleiden and in the basilica of Steinfeld, also younger restoration projects e.g. the Stahlhuth-organ of Bedburg-Kirchherten or the Voltmann-organ of Wehlen (Moselle) as well as the Walcker-organ of Köln-Bickendorf attract attention.
There has been an increase in demands for expansions or reorganisations of existing organs in the last two decades with re- and new voicing. In this field projects as Provost Church of St. Franziskus and St. Elisabeth Halle (Saale), St. Paulus of Recklinghausen, or St. Donatus of Aachen-Brand had positive feedback.
An unreserved openness to the in Europe grown organ styles is also a part of the standard of today’s organ factory. This manifests itself in new organs built in the Italian style and one in the Spanish style. Instruments in the French style and classic German manners come also from our factory and laid the foundation for today’s reputation reaching far beyond the borders of Germany. The completion of the construction of a new Weimbs-organ for Doshisha Senior and Junior High school in Kyoto (Japan) is noted in our order book for completion in 2017.