Hooray and up she rises!

Finally has come the time for the vast sum of her parts to come together!

The many windchests and structural members have been pieced together, and the main organ’s structure is now well outlined.

Below you will see the organ structure without walls, where you can see the Great and Swell windchests in place.

IMG_0606The Great windchests are located to the left and right of the picture with the protective white strips along them.    The two Swell chests are in the middle of the picture.

Below you can see the same image with two of Schoenstein’s organ builders (Chet and Nikko) busily working away, which gives a sense of scale.


Not far away the Choir division also takes shape (see below).  This will be housed on the main floor of the Chancel between the choir stalls and the Chapel.

IMG_0603Here some of the bass pipes of the Lieblich Gedackt and the Dulciana can be seen.  The 5 Dulciana pipes are in the middle (not yet cut-up) and the 12 pipes of the Lieblich Gedackt are either side.    This is a rare view of the interior; this will all be covered by shutters and casework once it is installed in the church.

The console shell is also out of the paint shop, and is looking rather gorgeous.    Do zoom in and take special note of the exquisite woodgrain!

And, lastly, the stop jambs have been finished, with the magnificent Karelian Birch Burl making a most excellent show of itself.   Schoenstein’s trademark brass shanks can also be seen here, punctuated by the elegant African Blackwood drawknobs.

If you look closely, you can see the wiring in progress on the Great jamb (right).


Testing, testing,…. 1, 2, 3…. Diapasons!

Right on the heels of Schoenstein’s visit, Michael and Stuart happened to be in San Francisco for an airline “mileage run” (this deserves its own blog!), and, as such, a visit to the shop was in order.

A tremendous amount of work had been accomplished since our last visit on August 31st.      Jack and Louie were our gracious, and rather well informed hosts.

The organ’s thousands of bits are spread across a goodly portion of the vast shop, and it is almost complete in the sum of its parts.

Upon entering, one is greeted by trays of pipes.   Most of the organ’s pipes are ‘shop voiced’ and lie in wait to be placed on their windchests (see further below).  Louie dove into a pipe-tray, and extracted one of the 8′ Bourdon pipes – we can now say we’ve heard the first sound of the new organ!  (kind of)

Further into the shop, we found the various windchests for the organ.    Windchests (or “soundboards” in the Queen’s English), are large wooden boxes on which the organ pipes sit.   Each windchest holds air from the wind system at a pressure specific to its pipes.   Once a stop is selected and a note played, the electro-magnet (the silver colored, round disc-like shapes seen across these chests) is energized, which in turn exhausts a pneumatic action, allowing the pressurized air to flow into the pipe.   The meticulous wiring pictured here is an organ-builder’s work of art!

Back toward the Paint Shop, there lay various swell shutters, both finished and unfinished, and various parts of the organ’s structure.

In the wood shop, we came to the console shell, which is coming along *very* nicely indeed and is nearing completion – it should be ready for staining and finishing within the next week or so.

Seeing as our visit coincided with the console being almost finished, the walls of Redeemer’s new console alcove were simulated in tape and cardboard so that we could ensure clearances between the walls and the console were wide enough to allow a page-turner to squeeze between the bench and the wall.    This was tremendously reassuring that all our thought and planning seem to be spot on.  The old phrase of ‘measure twice, cut once’ is the understatement of the millennium on this project!  Nothing is left to chance.

The details of the console are coming together in a spectacular fashion.  The Karelian Birch Burl seen on the stop jambs (the angled wood where the stopknobs will eventually be housed) promises to be quite scrumptious; even without a finish coat it is positively delicious.  An ebony inlay divides the stops of each division of the organ, and the main shell is gorgeous oak to complement the chancel furnishings.   It is important to realize that these beautiful woods are not only an aesthetic treat, but also a functional one.   The contrast between the different woods of the jambs and the stopknobs facilitates efficient visual navigation for the organist; we often don’t have time to go searching for a stop mid-hymn – that is often a split second glance.

Note: The bench that appears in the pictures is not ‘our’ bench; it is an old one that is used for open houses and the like.

The music rack was temporarily held in place to double check its height and ensure that sight-lines were clear above the console for conducting.   We all shared a little joke about various conducting techniques.

The magnificently executed toe-rails are perfection in the ergonomic department.  One  is even able to push Pedal 8 and General 8 at the same time – it may not be terribly lady-like, but it is possible (see picture).

Finally, we inspected the stopknobs.    These are some of the most heavily used components of the organ, and considerable conversation over nomenclature was required.      One of the proudest moments came with the ‘reveal’ of the Great 8′ Diapasons.  In the pictures below, one can see the amazing attention to detail, and subsequent elegant results of many months of work.


The Feast of the Visitation!

This weekend we were visited by the blesséd trinity of Schoenstein & Co.    Jack Bethards (President & Tonal Director), Louis Patterson (Vice-President and Plant Superintendent), and Glen Brasel (Design Director) dropped by to check on the progress of our preparations.

Thankfully we got very good marks, and are on a good trajectory to have the building ready to receive the organ installation, phase one of which will begin in February 2018.


Toe rails to make Rubens blush!

Fresh from the shop floor, some new progress pictures came in today.   Much work has been done, with the last of the wind chests (the Open Wood 32′) being completed in the mill.

The console is well on its way, and the ‘paparazzi’ have caught on camera for the first time the lusciously curvaceous custom toe rails.

These elegant curves not only appear pleasant to the eye, but afford the organist refined efficiency in reaching for toe studs.    A note for the uninitiated: “Toe studs” are buttons pressed by the feet in order to engage preassigned combinations of stops.  These are often cumbersome, cluttered, and difficult to reach, though they shan’t be here!

Also of note is that the console shell is coming along very nicely.  Careful attention to detail in grain matching for the panels on the console is already evident, even before staining and finishing.

Elsewhere in the shop, the work on the chests is nearing completion, and the structural elements for the organ await their role in the erection process.



The passing of the torch.

Today, the Noack Organ Company held an open house to show off the Redeemer’s old organ (originally built in 1989), as rebuilt for St. Paul’s Chapel of Trinity, Wall Street, New York.

It was a fairly surreal experience to hear and play parts of an organ I have known intimately for 16 of its 28 years, now in an entirely different setting.

The handsome case built by John Geib in 1802 has been modified and restored, and Noack has rebuilt the organ to fit within its confines.    The organ will head for New York in October.


Measure thrice, cut once!

By early August, with the removal of the Noack façade, the time had come to reconfigure the Chancel furniture.

There were many elements that needed modification in the Chancel, not just for the organist, but the choir and clergy as well.   The front row of the choir stalls on the south side were moved so close together in the 1980’s, that it was extremely uncomfortable to sit in this row (and forget about kneeling!);  the organ console had to be moved from the south to the north side; seating capacity, seating usefulness, and sight-lines needed to be optimized; the lack of symmetry between the stalls needed correction; the center aisle needed to remain as wide as possible, yet the reading desks should act as safety rails for congregants en route to the altar rail; and, above all, it had to look like Henry Vaughan just left the building.

The key to the whole equation was flipping the furniture from one side to the other.   Now that the space for the organ console niche was prepared, the platforming could be modified. The old platforming was not level on either side, and was of less than stellar construction, so it was decided to make new platforming.   The beautiful (and thick!) original oak flooring was salvaged and reused as much as possible.

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Some delicate work was required to modify the enormous old wall panel that would frame the newly reclaimed space on the north side.

This beautiful woodwork was superbly constructed and required a careful hand to ensure it would be structurally sound.   The removal of the back panelling allows for the beautiful tracery to be even more eye-catching.    Thankfully, the removal of the back panels was a fairly simple affair.   The answer to the question of what to do with the long descending trim in between the three removed panels was quickly found in the reredos.    We had some original tracery that was a part of the lost screen formerly separating the chapel and chancel.   So it was decided to use two of the rosettes from a damaged panel to mimic the ‘finial’ on the reredos.    See pictures below.

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With the staining now complete for the flooring and niche, the furniture was ready to be placed back into the Chancel.

To return symmetry to the Chancel, and adequate space for those who inhabit these seats, the previously luxuriously spaced back row of choir stalls was reduced, and the space divided to achieve the necessary result.

The front row reading desks had a curious shelf for books, instead of the more usual rack.     This shelf hit one’s knees.   The solution was to modify the shelf to become a more normal book rack in keeping with the rest of the church.   This also provided the opportunity to provide those in the front row with discreet cup holders.

The stalls all came back together in a whirlwind on September 7th and 8th, and a massive cleaning job then ensued!

Once all of the work was complete, the New Holland Furniture Company, who will be making the organ cases, also stopped by to double check measurements.

Hopefully Mr. Vaughan would approve.

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Here’s a before and after:

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When in Rome…..

Schoenstein & Co. are well placed between San Francisco and California’s famed Napa and Sonoma Valleys.    So, on a weekend away to indulge in culinary delights of the latter,  our intrepid travelers, Michael and Stuart, took opportunity to stop in and spend a morning at “the shop”, checking in on the organ’s progress.

Op. 172 is well on her way.    The two windchests for the Great were nearing completion.   The Swell chests were running close behind the Great’s, but not by much.    Miles of wires were being meticulously run for the action.   Trays of Swell pipework were stacked up, and in various states of voicing.    The console was being constructed and taking very nice shape, indeed.

Here are a few shots of Op. 172 in the shop:


Our visit was close on the heels of an open house the previous weekend.     There were several different organs in various stages in the Erecting Room – a Möller Artiste; an old tracker action instrument by Bergstrom & Sons from 1897, bound for the Cline winery in Sonoma; a new, small Schoenstein for Holy Cross Church in San Jose, CA; and the new organ for the chapel of St. Philip’s Cathedral, Atlanta, GA (this was in the process of being packed up to be shipped).

The console for the Atlanta organ was just about to be wrapped, but not before Glen Brasel demonstrated how wonderfully easy it is to maintain – almost like an “Inspector Gadget” episode, every part of the console opened to reveal a piece of machinery that was either easy to get to, or was on a slide to make it easy to get to!   Clever organ builders here, who are careful to ensure their organs are well maintained!

The Schoenstein shop also includes the most astonishing archive of their history, as well as an exhaustive library of almost every publication ever produced about the organ (Dr. Forster was pleased to see his hymn playing book on the shelves!).    An astonishing place; what a privilege to work with such amazing artisans!