Who is Rens Bijma, and how did he come to thoroughly explore the performance practice of Bach’s vocal-instrumental church music?
Rens Bijma was born on December 4, 1947 in Groningen (The Netherlands). From the age of seven he took harmonium lessons. At the Christelijk Lyceum in Alkmaar he went to gammar school, where he passed his exams in 1965. During this period he developed a love for the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. He studied chemistry (main subject Biochemistry) at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. During his doctoral studies, Musicology was his second subsidiary subject; the exam for this he took with Prof. Dr. Frits Noske at the Gemeentelijke Universiteit (Municipal University) in Amsterdam. In 1972 he was appointed as a chemistry teacher at the Develstein College in Zwijndrecht and in 1987 at the Griftland College in Soest.
During his working life he devoted a lot of time and energy to music on an amateur level. He built his own harpsichord and played the organ during church services. He sang, among other things, as tenor in the ‘Laurens Cantorij’ in Rotterdam and in the choir of the ‘Nederlandse Bachvereniging’ with its director Jos van Veldhoven. He conducted teachers’ choirs and temporarily the Church choir of De Oude Kerk in Soest. He co-organizes projects of the vocal-instrumental ensemble Quintessens, designs programs for them and sings in them as tenor or bass. Together with the theologian Rev. Kees Bregman, he organizes musical evenings on a biblical theme, in which theology, music and paintings come together. He has engaged in research into performance practices as used by the composer himself. In 1992, together with Jos van Veldhoven, he published an article in the Dutch Early Music Review on Bach’s role as conductor and harpsichordist during the performance of his cantatas in Leipzig.
Since his retirement at the end of 2010, he has set out to study the performance practice of Bach’s vocal-instrumental works in Leipzig, in close collaboration with Jos van Veldhoven. Since December 2016, he has used some of the material created in this process for a PhD project under the direction of Prof. Dr. Albert Clement. On December 11, 2017, he received his doctorate in Musicology in Utrecht. Since then he has been working on completing his project by expanding the number of chapters and publishing them on this website. In 2021 he started having these chapters translated into English, and publishing them on his website www.rensbijma.nl.