Willeke Smits is the organist in residence of the Hooglandse Kerk in Leiden, the Netherlands, and therefore of the monumental, baroque De Swart-Van Hagerbeer organ and the romantic ‘Father’ Henry Willis organ. She is also the permanent accompanist to the Leidse Cantorij, with musical director Hans Brons.
Willeke studied organ under Kees van Houten and Reitze Smits, church music under Bernard Winsemius and choral conducting under Krijn Koetsveld at the HKU Utrechts Conservatorium. She subsequently embarked on follow-up studies in choral conducting under Joop Schets and piano under Geoffrey Madge. In 2017 Willeke was a finalist at the ‘International Sweelinck Competition’ in Amsterdam and Haarlem.
As an ambassador of the organ, Willeke also has a thriving career as concert organist, in which a challenging repertoire is for her a priority. She teaches organ and piano, and is a member of the editorial committee of the work group ‘psalms’ of the Interkerkelijke Stichting voor het Kerklied [inter-church foundation for sacred music]. Until the middle of 2018 Willeke was cantor-organist of the Tuindorpkerk in Utrecht, where she played the monumental Ruprecht organ.
Willeke has recorded a number of CDs, one of which with organ works by Hendrik Andriessen was awarded a 10 by the classical music publication Luister. She also made a double CD with works by Johann Gottfried Walther, undervalued contemporary of Johann Sebastian Bach. This received a 10+ in De Orgelvriend magazine. Equally successful was the release of ‘Happiness’, a CD that, as its name suggests, makes the listener happy!
Photo by Heiko Bertram