Schuurkerk in Zaandam
(c) Google Streetview

Violinist Maria Milstein and the members of the Busch Trio, Mathieu van Bellen, Omri and Ori Epstein, have realized an ambitious dream: the creation of a chamber music centre called MuziekHaven in Zaandam, a suburb of Amsterdam. « A sanctuary where musicians can dedicate themselves entirely to their music, our location aims to provide chamber musicians with the ideal conditions for development and discovery », Mathieu van Bellen says. The word sanctuary is well chosen though, because MuziekHaven is located in a historic church. Remy Franck attended the MuziekHaven’s inauguration.

« We looked for several years to find an appropriate location, and this church looked like the ideal place », Van Bellen says. The former catholic Holy Mary Magdalene Church, its three-storey rectory and a large garden are located on the Papenpad in Zaandam, The wooden barn church (Schuurkerk in Dutch) was built in 1695 and is a classified national monument.

At that time, Dutch Christians who did not belong to the Reformed Church – then the only recognized church in the country – had to live their faith in secret in so called shelter-churches. This happened in buildings that looked like a barn from the outside.

The Schuurkerk of Zaandam is the only barn church in the Netherlands that has been preserved almost entirely in its original state. The church has an antique organ from 1714, restored to its original state in 2010.

The church is beautifully located on a small canal

Schuurkerk in Zaandam
(c) Google Streetview

After the young musicians of the Busch Trio and Mathieu van Bellen’s wife, violinist Maria Milstein, visited the church and the rectory, they fell in love with the place and subsequently came up with their project which was in concurrence with several other proposals. Eventually, the diocese of Haarlem of the Old Catholic Church concluded that the idea of creating a MuziekHaven in the church was the most suitable destination the Schuurkerk could get. So, the church and the rectory were sold for €850.000 to a foundation which the musicians were able to set up with several patrons, Stichting de Schuurkerk. This foundation will give the building into use for the musicians who consider it a perfect place for intensive residencies, rehearsals, master classes, concerts, educational workshops and recordings.

While Maria and Mathieu live in the adjoining rectory, there is place enough to create four bedrooms and two bathrooms as well as a large living room and several smaller rehearsal rooms.

The interior of the MuziekHaven
(c) Reliplan

The unique church with its excellent acoustics will become the main rehearsal and performance space, seating 150 people. It has the potential to become a prime location for CD recordings, yet in order to be able to rent it for such purposes, the new owners will have to insulate the roof. Indeed, as Mathieu van Bellen told us, on some days, especially when the weather is bad, the church is overflown by planes landing or starting from Schiphol airport. On the other hand, the airport is only at some 15 minutes by train from Zaandam, which is an asset for the MuziekHaven.

Inaugural concert with the Busch Trio and Maria Milstein, seen here with a broken leg and face injuries after a recent fall with the bike © Remy Franck

Basically the acoustics are excellent in the church, as we could experience ourselves during the inaugural concert played last week by the Busch Trio and Maria Milstein. The Trio will of course use the MuziekHaven for their own recordings, and in December they are scheduled to make a recording of Schubert Trios. « We plan to make most of the recordings during night time, when no planes will disturb us », Mathieu van Bellen says. « I guess, every musician dreams of a place like the Mary Magdalene Church. To be able to work when you want, as long as you want, with the possibility to eat and sleep on the spot, is simply perfect. Our MuziekHaven is a wonderful place to retreat for every artist wanting to dedicate himself peacefully to music.

Questioned on how much they will charge musicians to rent the building, Ori Epstein insisted on the fact that the use of the MuziekHaven will be free of charge for musicians. Only recording companies would be charged if using the premises for commercial recordings.

Busch Trio rehearsing at the MuziekHaven
(c) PR

Mathieu van Bellen added that they are fully aware that heating and other housekeeping cost will be considerable, but that they have a business plan which is including the rental of the church for other purposes, meetings and conferences for instance. Also, a local choir is rehearsing in the church and pays a small rent. Even the local Catholics still attend a mass on Sunday, and the parishioners, as a counterpart, take care of the garden

« We decided to call this unique place MuziekHaven, Music Harbour », says Mathieu. « It’s like every haven, a safe place. It used to be a safe place for the Catholics. Now it is a safe place for musicians! »

For more information, please contact the Busch Trio or at


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