I am sad to hear of Jan van Eijk's passing. Some years back,
I heard a cassette tape of one of his 51-key street organs, and
I liked it very much. I ordered a dozen more cassettes of the organ,
and finally decided to purchase one from Jan. He and his two sons
built a few organs each year, including the facades and figures.
Jan, a talented artist, also did the paintings on most of his organs
which he named after famous Dutch artists (his own namesake included,
Several months passed, and Jan informed me our new organ was ready.
Lucille and I traveled to the small town of Terwolde where we met
Jan and his family at his rather spacious shop. I discovered a
friendly, energetic older man with good English and (I was jealous
here) a full head of hair, constantly rolling and smoking cigarettes.
He said he learned to speak English while laying a transatlantic
cable in the 1950s. He took us to a working Dutch windmill in town
which we climbed through as it ground flour.
Jan's shop was impressive, to say the least. A separate,
sawdust-filled room contained a pantograph carving machine which
duplicated original facade pieces and statues. Another corner of the
shop had a pneumatic book copying machine. Jan made and voiced the
pipes, key frames and case pieces. He lived right in the shop, too,
in a comfy home built along the side. His parlor wall was covered with
photographs of the many organs he'd built. Our new organ sounded
great, by the way. We ordered it "in the white" and had a local artist
I still enjoy my Van Eijk & Sohn organ and will always remember its
maker and our delightful visit.
West Chester, Pennsylvania
[ Phil Jamison's 51-key van Eijk organ (facade painted by Sarah Kirkpatrick)