A New Organ for a New Chapel
Belen Jesuit Preparatory School was established in 1854 by royal charter of Queen Isabella II of Spain. The school was based in Havana, Cuba until 1961 when Fidel Castro, an alumnus of Belen, expelled the Jesuits, forcing the school to relocate to Miami. Belen has a long history of rigorous academics and emphasis on the arts. It’s no surprise, therefore, that when the school began planning for a new chapel they chose Jorge Hernández, an alumnus of Belen, to be its architect. We were honored to be selected as organ builder for this historic school.
As we began working on a new organ for the Chapel of Our Lady of Belen, the building was not yet constructed. This meant that we could not perform our usual on-site tonal test and geta “feel” for the room. Thankfully, the school added Scott R. Riedel & Associates to their design team. They provided acoustical reports for the building along with suggestions for modifications to improve the projection of tone from the gallery.
The school’s music program called for an American-Romantic style with a focus on leading liturgies and accompanying choral singing. Consultant Luis Cuza was very helpful in refining the stop list based on Belen’s specific needs. The result is a three-manual design with evenly-proportioned divisions.
Of particular note is the large, independent Pedal division – a luxury for a modest-sized organ! Contained therein is a set of three independent diapasons at 16’, 8’, and 4’. The large-scale 8’ Principal in the Pedal anchors the whole organ and lets the 16’ Open Wood speak naturally without muddying the bass. The 4’ Choral Bass is then scaled to add clarity with a uniform timbre across its compass. A Tromba and Chalumaeu offer more variety and French-flavored fire to the division, leaving the 32’ and 16’ reeds enclosed for maximum flexibility. The Belen organ also features the Tuba Ignati, a special solo reed that carries a full-bodied sound with lots of French brilliance.
The Chapel of Our Lady of Belen was opened in the Summer of 2022 and we began installing the organ immediately after the opening. We were pleased that the new organ required minimal on-site adjustments. The chapel provides a warm, ringing acoustic well-suited to the organ, and we were happy to hear our design choices fit well in the new space.
We were fortunate to work with a talented team at Belen led by the Rev. Guillermo García-Tuñón, President; Jonathan Sánchez, Music Minister; and Ricardo Echeverria, Executive Director of Facilities. Luis Cuza and Joanne Schulte served as organ consultants. The organ was dedicated in a recital by Nathan Laube on March 5th, 2023, as the final performance of the Miami Winter Organ Festival. As the music program and school continue to expand, we hope this new organ, housed in a beautiful new chapel, will inspire young students for generations to come.
Schoenstein & Co.