The Face of Johannus, ep. 8: Thanks in part to Vincent, 55,000 people in Manilla were able to sing simultaneously, along with a Monarke

Published on 14 December 2021

The Face of Johannus, ep. 8: Thanks in part to Vincent, 55,000 people in Manilla were able to sing simultaneously, along with a Monarke

Some years ago, Project Manager Vincent van Os was involved with one of the most prestigious projects in Johannus’ history. Within just six weeks, an organ had to be delivered to the world’s largest indoor arena, so that a gathering of 55,000 could sing simultaneously. “We’d never designed an organ for such a large space before.”

Vincent has worked in just about every department of the Global Organ Group, of which Johannus is now a part. He joined the organization as an intern during his electronics studies, and became a permanent employee a year later in 1997, starting out in the production department and then moving to the installation department. He then went on to do servicing work in the field, followed by work in the rental department. When the US market started to pick up in around 2005, he moved to sales, only to join his colleague Dirk Koudijs in the calculation department in 2008. “I already had a great deal of technical knowledge by then, along with a good chunk of commercial experience, and that was a good combination.” He currently does product calculation, technical sales support and project supervision. “After wandering all over the place, this seems like a good spot to settle.”

When Vincent van Os first came to Johannus, he had absolutely no experience with organs. “I didn’t have a religious upbringing, so I hadn’t come across the organ during my childhood either.” However when it came to audio and digital technology, he was full bottle. “And that was the means by which the organ grabbed me; it was here that I really learned to appreciate it. The sound, the tone – it’s an experience, pure emotion.”

Staying on track

Thanks to his versatile job, Vincent’s days are never the same. “I e-mail dealers and sellers, perform calculations and handle projects for custom organs. In the meantime, everyone comes to me with questions about products, current orders, new projects and so forth. On top of that are the projects that I manage, such as developing new organ models. I ensure that everyone stays on track and deadlines are met. Because there’s so much involved in producing a new organ, there are many aspects to a project: design, quality standards, sound, calculation, input from organ builders, marketing, internal communications and more. I do my best to manage all of that effectively.”

Armed security guards, ocean liners, and the world's largest indoor arena

When Vincent reflects on his most memorable projects, numerous stories come to mind. For example, while in Africa for a project, he was accompanied for days by a group of armed security guards. On another occasion in China, he and colleague Bertus Lap got into a small plastic boat in the dead of night to travel on the sea among all the ocean liners.

However, his most impressive project was the development of the organ for the Philippine Arena, on behalf of a rapidly growing religious community in the Philippines. This community, which had already used Johannus organs in its churches for many years, opened the Philippine Arena in the capital city Manilla in 2014. It was the largest indoor arena in the world, and the opening of the complex coincided with the community’s centenary celebrations that year. Part of the spectacular ceremony involved singing, traditionally accompanied by the organ. Given that the arena could accommodate 55,000 worshippers, the organ would need to have a considerable reach. “We received the request one day, and had six or seven weeks to realize the project, from design to on-site intonation.

There was rather a lot more bustle in the corridors at the Global Organ Group during those weeks, as Vincent recalls. “It was a prestigious project, and everyone sensed that.”

The organ – a Monarke – had to be designed from scratch. The end result was a three-manual organ with over a hundred amplifiers, more than 250 loudspeakers and dozens of subwoofers. “Because we’d already been supplying to this religious community for years, we knew roughly what kind of style would be appropriate. The size of the arena was our main concern – we’d never designed an organ for such a large space before.”

To the Philippines by air

It was up to Vincent to keep everyone on schedule and ensure that the organ could be delivered to Manilla within six weeks. “After the organ and all of its amplifiers, loudspeakers and subwoofers had been extensively tested in Ede, it left for the Philippines by air. Dirk Koudijs and I followed by plane.

We had two weeks for the installation and intonation, which of course we’d thoroughly prepared for beforehand in the Netherlands. Based on a blueprint of the arena, we had calculated exactly what was necessary in terms of sound and amplification, and where. We also knew that a lot of steel and concrete had been used in the construction, which gave us a rough idea of the building’s acoustics. Despite all the preparations, you only discover the reality of the situation once you’re on site, and then you have to adjust the organ accordingly.”

The installation and intonation team experienced some initial delays. The arena was still under construction, which meant that Vincent and Dirk couldn’t get started right away. “We couldn’t do anything else, so we swam a few laps of the pool every now and again. While that was lovely, it was also frustrating because we wanted to use all the time we had. In the end, we were left with one week during which we worked very long days.”

Shrieking grinders and thumping drills

Because the sound of shrieking grinders and thumping drills was still echoing throughout the huge hall, Dirk and Vincent had to do their work at night. “That was the only time it was quiet, and you really need complete silence to do good intonation work.”

As if the situation wasn’t already extreme enough, something else happened that made it completely unique: typhoon Glenda. “We were there right when she raged across the city. The strange thing was, we’d been working all night when the typhoon hit, but we hadn’t noticed a thing. It was only when we went outside in the morning that we saw the devastation: thirty-meter high advertising pillars folded up as if they were paper, uprooted trees, flooding, media reports of the tens of thousands of people who had been evacuated... It was an extremely bizarre experience.”

Despite the extraordinary working conditions, they completed the organ on time. It was officially used for the first time on July 27, 2014, and it was the first time in the history of Global Organ Group that 55,000 people had sung along simultaneously to the same organ.