Pipe Organs of Indonesia
With a population of 240 million people, Indonesia is the fourth most populous nation on earth. It is a predominantly Muslim country, so it may surprise some that it also has a Christian population of over 20 million people and a small treasure of pipe organs. These are the organs I have discovered, or been advised of, in that country.
Other items concerning pipe organs in Indonesia on this site:
I travelled extensively around the islands of Java, Bali, Lombok, Kalimantan, Sulawesi and Ambon. I was particularly interested in tracking down some of the old organs that I had heard existed in churches dating back to the Dutch colonial era. I would like to tell you a little about Java and the organs I found there. Although I found magnificent churches on all the other islands I visited, particularly in Ambon where there are several cathedral proportioned buildings, I did not discover any other pipe organs.
Many others who have travelled or lived in Indonesia, or in other ways have had contacts with the country, have been kind enough to pass on more information on pipe organs than I originally had and have located other wonderful instruments hidden in these tropical islands. Please continue to contact me if you wish to share information through this site.
I had heard rumours of a pipe organ in Surabaya, the sprawling cosmopolitan city at the eastern end of Java with a population of 4 million, the commercial hub of the country. In one large suburban church was a loft, which had some crude pipe work protruding from it, but they were not organ pipes and only vaguely resembled the same from a distance. Another central city church had a well-made facsimile of a pipe organ in their rear gallery, but it was made of a metal and plywood cutout. Had it been the real thing, it would have been an instrument of considerable size.
Formed in February 1967, the Yayasan Musik Gereja (Indonesian Institute for Sacred Music) was formed in Jakarta to promote the calling and responsibilities of church musicians. The Institute conducts harmony singing clinics and workshops for hymn singing and composition, teacher training and music presentation. The most well known product of the Institute is the Kidung Jemaat hymnbook, which has done for Indonesian church much the same as the Australian Hymnbook and it's successors have done for Australian churches in bringing together a useful collection of hymns from a previously diverse array of material.
For many westerners visiting Indonesian churches, the strange tablature used for music in hymnbooks is a surprise. It is a form of the tonic scale which personally I cannot read and certainly can't play from. Yet, Sunday by Sunday many organs are played in Indonesia from the tonic scale notations. Of course, the obvious problem is that one is given melodic indicators with no true harmonic support, and this can lead to a distinctly "thin" form of music. A large task facing the Institute is the introduction of true music format.
The Yayasan Musik Gereja is the leading body in Indonesia for promotion of the place in worship for the pipe organ and it's vast literature of music. Another organisation in Yogjakarta, conducted by the Jesuit seminary there, is also striving to assist church music primarily in Catholic churches.
It is encouraging to see that organs and the organ literature are alive in Indonesia. At each church I visited there was a warm sense of the imparting of encouragement to the people who are proud of their fine instruments. Many other churches I visited in Java and the other Indonesian islands possessed large electronic instruments quite capable of providing an economic substitute for the pipe organ where installation and maintenance costs are probably beyond local means. But, with the growth of the Christian church and the introduction of a local organ building industry, it may well be that Indonesia is set to launch a new pipe organ era in South East Asia.
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