Organ renting firm and museum join forces
The Perlee family, Netherlands' most famous organ family, announced
today, April 21st, that their collection of 12 street organs will find a
new home in the Nationaal Museum van Speelklok tot Pierement in Utrecht.
The family firm, G. Perlee Draaiorgels, is the oldest organ renting
company of the Netherlands, founded by Leon Warnies in 1875.
The Perlee family will concentrate more on the restoration and repair
of the street organs and wishes to present the collection in the
setting of a museum. The family's main consideration to house the
collection in the Utrecht museum, after more than a century, is the
worldwide leading position of the museum in the field of mechanical
Organ renting firms, with the Perlee family as the most important
representative, played a major part in the flourishing street organ
culture of the Netherlands in the first half of the 20th century.
Tine Van Leeuwen-Perlee, who will celebrate her 70th birthday on
April 22th, and her son Leon (46), are themselves, apart from their
collection, figureheads of that Dutch street organ culture as well.
They traveled throughout the world with their street organs to give
concerts. Netherlands' most famous street organ, "de Arabier"
("The Arab") from their collection, is listed as part of the national
The Dutch cultural council writes:
The Netherlands has become world famous in the field of street
organs during the 20th century. This could happen thanks to the
unprecedented flowering of the typical Dutch street organ, almost
unknown in other countries. The success of street organs here
is the result of the development, in the first decades of last
century, of a unique Dutch phenomenon: the organ renting company.
These renting companies, which bought and maintained the organs,
have for more than 100 years cared for the spreading of these
instruments throughout the Netherlands.
"The Arab" is the most famous street organ of the Netherlands.
Due to its national and international success it has become the
symbol of the Dutch street organ culture. "The Arab" was mentioned
in sketches and songs of well-known artists like Wim Kan and Wim
Sonneveld; it appeared in TV-shows regularly and adorns the poster
of the film "Het wonderlijke leven van Willem Parel" ("The odd life
of Willem Parel"). Thanks to several embellishments by the Perlee
firm it has its own unique sound character.
The acquisition of the Perlee collection by the Nationaal Museum van
Speelklok tot Pierement means that the collection will stay together
and be visible to the public, and that the street organs will be well
maintained and can continue to play live. By the joining of the two
collections the result will be the most important collection of Dutch
street organs in the world.
A particular element of the agreement is to present the Perlee
collection not just as museum pieces but as a living inheritance as
well. The firm of G. Perlee Draaiorgels will remain active and it will
carry out several restorations of the Perlee collection in their own
workshop at the Westerstraat in Amsterdam. The Perlee family will also
use "The Arab" for competitions and concerts outside the museum, and
will get changing organs in loan for appearances and demonstrations
inside and outside of Amsterdam.
Hans van Oost, webmaster KDV, Netherlands