An English Guittar in Langbroek…

A couple of years ago I visited the Dutch Reformed Church in Langbroek. It was “Open Monuments Day”, an annual event where local monuments open their doors for visitors.

It wasn’t the first time I saw the church, since it was one of only two in my old home town. And the history of the organ was familiar to me. It was made in 1809 by J.C. Friederichs, and he used a case that was probably 50 years older. This is one of only two surviving organs by this maker, the other is in the “Waalse” Church in Haarlem. But it was the first time I took a good look at the little statues on top of the organ. In the middle a woman with a dove and bible, on the left a baroque traverso and a lyre, on the right a clarinet and something that looked like a cittern…

When looking through the tele lens of my camera the details of the instrument became visible. Most statues like these are faint representations of the lutes and harps. They look like drawings someone made from memory, rather than modelling them after an actual p. But the pegbox of this cittern looked different. The pegs all pointed in a different direction, like the strings were tuned (it really looks weird when online instrument resellers photograph their guitars with all tuners in one direction).

The organ was undergoing a thorough restoration at the time, and only the empty chest was left in the church. I asked the church custodian wherether there was a possibility to examine the statue up close. He told me that they would give me a call…

Two weeks later the phone rang; they Built a scaffold to treat the chest of the organ against wood worm. If I was still interested I could view the instrument up close. Armed with pencils, rulers, a pair of calipers and some large pieces of paper I went to the church…

One of the nice things about instrument making; it can take you to the most unusual places. This was certainly one for the top ten. Measuring a late 18th century statue of an instrument, in the top of the church (6-7 meters above the ground) on a shaky scaffold. But it was here that the details became really clear. Even the strings and signs of frets were depicted. The neck pofile reminded of baroque violins. I quickly took photo’s, traced the outline and took measurements. It certainly looked well, maybe even good enough for a reconstruction? Well, that would require more information…

One of the most interesting things were the two ‘points’ on both sides of the body. I never saw these on cittern before. When I looked further into it I found out what kind of instrument it really was: an English Guittar. A brother of the cittern strung with metal strings.

Later I came in contact with a Dutch musicologist and guitar player who did extensive research about this instrument. She gave me a mountain of information about this, which I am still studying.

Mrs. Robert Gwillym playing an English guitar, painting by Joseph Wright of Derby (1766)

As with many of my projects it has to simmer for a while. I do research, compare data, draw a plan, try out some techniques and search for parts. It became clear that the form of the guittar was very close to the instruments of Frederic Hintz (1711-1772), a maker of German origin who also worked in London. He was a friend of the famous cabinet maker David Roentgen. They probably worked for eachother, some furniture signed by Hintz can be ascribed to Roentgen and vice versa. Both were members of the same congregation, the Moravian Brotherhood or Hernhutters. A relatively young Christian group, founded by Von Zinzendorf, a German nobleman. On of the nice things is that I finally have an excuse to look further into the life and works of the Roentgen family…

Over the last couple of weeks I started my reconstruction of the “Langbroek” English Guittar. Make a forms and templates, cut a rose and gather the materials needed. Simetimes inspiration is just around the corner…

English Guittar Langbroek

English Guittar rose

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