Schoentein & Co. is in process of building a three-manual, 34 rank organ for St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado, CA. The Norbertine Fathers, who can trace their heritage back to 12th-century northern France, have constructed a new monastery which opened in 2021. The first phase of this project included the installation of our opus 116A, a small French choir organ to accompany the liturgy. Opus 183 is a 31 voice, 34 rank organ to be placed in the Abbey’s Tribune (rear balcony), with installation planned for Summer of 2023. This is a unique project for us in that the instrument is designed for one purpose: to play the French Romantic repertoire. The Fathers regularly host acclaimed organists to give recitals, and this new organ will serve that purpose.
Opus 183 gives us an opportunity to use our study of Cavaillé-Coll organs over the years to fashion an instrument that is patterned after that tradition without being a copy. The new Abbey has similar acoustics to that of a French cathedral, and the new organ will offer a rare opportunity in the United States to hear French Romantic music on an instrument and in a space which are both designed to support that repertoire.
The 1928 Welte organ at Grace and Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Colorado Springs is a remarkable example of American symphonic organ building. It is filled with 8’ tone of every color and volume, it uses smart tonal design and voicing, its expressive capabilities are vast. These are all values we uphold nearly a century later, and so we were excited at the chance to complete this organ by adding an antiphonal division at the west end.
Welte’s original specification called for an antiphonal organ to draw the sound of the main organ to the back of the church. Over the years an additional musical problem emerged: bass did not carry well past the chancel. Rhythmic pulse did not come through to aid in hymn singing and processions. We wanted to design an antiphonal division that would enhance the already-expressive main organ while remaining small and practical. The space for the division was very tall and shallow, meaning there was no room for swell shades. Stops chosen had to be planned carefully for maximum color and dynamic variety. The tall space did, however, allow plenty of room for 16’ pipes.
Our antiphonal organ is comprised of three diapasons, one chimney flute, and a harmonic tuba. The three diapasons are of different tones and volumes. The 8’ Diapason is in line with our usual approach to antiphonals: most organs only need this stop to aid congregational singing, if they need an antiphonal organ at all. This diapason draws the sound of a rich, sonorous registration from the main organ to the back of the church without drawing attention to itself.
For more versatility another diapason of a milder tone was added. The Echo Diapason allows the organist to bring the sound of mp swell registrations from the main organ to the back of the church. This stop blends perfectly with the Welte Horn Diapason. With the Echo Diapason off, the swell sounds more distant, lighter – a fine effect. With the Echo Diapason on, that same swell sound becomes more present and gently surrounds the listener. Extension to 16’ pitch solves the rhythmic pulse problem with a clear, fast-speaking bass.
The Principal Conique is a way to bring subtle brilliance to the rear of the church as the main organ’s registration grows in volume. With reeds drawn on the Welte organ, the three diapasons in the Antiphonal give the main organ presence without sacrificing character or distracting the listener. The Chimney Flute, an English Lieblich Gedeckt, colors the other 8’ flues, expanding timbral possibility for each dynamic level. It also serves as a way to draw the many flute voices of the front organ back, allowing for that magical “flutes all around” effect. The Harmonic Tuba fits right in with the rest of the organ, heralding the entrance of the procession, or even accompanying the choir in the Howells Collegium Regale service.
When listening to both organs working together, one probably thinks the Antiphonal organ is enclosed – if they notice it at all! The new division can keep in lock-step with the main organ, from soft flutes to warm diapasons to rich reeds. Our challenge to complete an organ installed nearly 100 years ago in our shared symphonic ideal was a challenge, especially without the aid of swell shades. This project illustrated just how expressive unenclosed voices can be with the right design and voicing. Our thanks go to Organist and Choirmaster Simon Jacobs, Acting Organist and Choirmaster Scott Christiansen, as well as consultants Joseph Galema and Ralph Valentine, for giving us the opportunity. This project was funded through a generous gift from Conni Eggers. We hope our antiphonal organ brings out the beauty of the Welte organ for generations to come, giving even more musical possibility to a grand old instrument.
Schoenstein & Co.
A three-manual, 30 voice Schoenstein organ is in production for the new Our Lady of Belen Chapel now under construction on the 33-acre campus of The Belen Jesuit Preparatory School in Miami, Florida. The school was founded in 1854 in Havana, Cuba by Queen Isabella II of Spain. In 1961, the communist regime confiscated the school property and exiled the Jesuit faculty. The school was re-established that same year in Miami. It has graduated over 7,500 young men in the tradition of Saint Ignatius of Loyola — academic excellence and spiritual discipline. Musical education at the Ignatian Center for the Arts includes instrumental instruction in Band and Orchestra and vocal instruction in the Music Ministry Ensemble. The new instrument will be used for school liturgies and organ instruction. The president is Fr. Guillermo M. García-Tuñón, S.J. The director of music ministry is Jonathan A. Sánchez, MM. The organ consultant is Luis J. Cuza.
A new three-manual, 27-voice, 32-rank organ under construction at the Schoenstein & Co. factory is to be installed at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Waco, Texas as part of a major campus-wide expansion and renovation of this rapidly growing parish. The main organ is in a north chancel chamber. Unenclosed stops for congregational support and children’s choir accompaniment along with the Pedal Open Wood are in the west gallery. Acoustical consultation is by Paul Scarbrough of Akustiks LLC, Norwalk, CT. The tonal design is focused on support of the Anglican service. The organist and director of music is Eugene Lavery.
Schoenstein & Co. is building a new three-manual, 14-voice, 16-rank organ for Bishop Gadsden Episcopal Retirement Community in Charleston, South Carolina. It is in the symphonic style with Great and Swell enclosed and high pressure stops doubly enclosed within the Swell. The third manual borrows solo and ensemble stops from the Great and Swell. The beautiful and resonant chapel is in the traditional Southern Colonial style. The instrument will be free standing in a case elevated at the west end. Installation is scheduled for September 2020. Musical advisor and organ consultant for the project is Nigel Potts, Canon Organist and Master of the Music, Grace Church Cathedral in Charleston. Cummings & McCrady, Inc. are architects of the Chapel and provided this rendering.
Schoenstein & Co. is building a new three-manual, 34-voice, 42-rank organ for the First United Methodist Church of Montgomery, Alabama. The main organ is in lofty chambers on either side of the chancel. The Antiphonal division is at the north and south corners of the balcony. The Swell division will include the Schoenstein double expression system for the chorus reeds including the 32′ full length Contra Posaune, Mixture and the softest strings. The director of music is Dr. James H. Seay, organist and assistant director of music is Dr. Joshua Coble, consultant is Andrew Risinger, associate minister of music and organist at West End United Methodist Church, Nashville, TN