As Blanche would say, “Muscles bulgin’!!”

Today Schoenstein & Co, assisted by the friendly Organ Clearing House fellows, gathered in the wee hours of the morning to meet the truck from A. R. Schopp’s that was full of various organ parts, most noticeably, the 32′ Double Open Wood.


Whilst only 21 pipes were delivered today as a part of the first phase of installation (the main installation will occur on April 2nd), it was by no means a small one.    The pipes ranged in length from a “mere” 5 1/2 feet tall, to a whopping 24 feet tall.

All of the pipes in this delivery are made from wood, and are a part of the 32′ Double Open Wood.  Many people have asked what these immense pipes will sound like, and my best analogy is that of a giant purring kitten.    I imagine it will be the sonic equivalent of taking a bath in velvet.

Below you can see some images of the largest pipe (32′ F) being moved into the church.   The main entrance under the tower was much too tight a turn, so the side porch entrance was used.  This was truly an ‘all hands on deck’ kind of moment!


Yours-truly and the good Dr. Forster were ready and able to lend a hand, and ultimately all 21 pipes were resting safely in the church Nave (I’m quite sure the extra manpower provided by us made all the difference!).



Once all the pipework was safely in the church, various other organ parts were moved into their new homes.

The wonderfully robust 5 HP Zephyr blower also took many hands to help it into its new residence.


Many thanks to all the fellows from the OCH & S&CO who got quite the workout – no need for the gym today!


Weaving windlines and wires,….. and winter!

Following the Christmas break, work on the organ continues.     The structure of the organ is now mostly complete and, in these past few weeks, work on the wiring and the wind system have been the order of the day.

In the below pictures one can see two photographs of the carefully planned wind system;    the curvaceous windlines weave their way under the Swell and Great windchests.   Also visible in the image of the Great are some wooden pipes mounted on their side.   The smaller 8 pipes belong to the Great 8′ Bourdon, and the larger two are the highest two quint pipes for 32′ D# and E (the 32′ Double Open Wood is full length from 32′ F; the low five are an independent quint).

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Further around the corner, Nikko continues his tireless and painstaking work on the organ’s wiring (see below).   This is a very carefully planned equation so that one can quickly, and easily, find the needle in this haystack!

IMG_5714In addition to all the wires (take a close look!), one can see the low 5 notes of the Great 16′ Double Diapason to Nikko’s right.

Whilst all of this was going on at the Schoenstein shop in Benicia, our intrepid travelers made a quick stopover in Dallas en route back to Boston from Hawaii’s warmth.   This was in order to see the Schoenstein organ at Park Cities Presbyterian Church, now just a little past her 10th birthday.

Somewhat bleary-eyed from flying overnight, and shellshocked by the 25°F(!) weather, the organ at Park Cities wowed with its colour and exceptional beauty; surely some of the most beautiful 8′ Great flues (amongst other things) that we’ve heard!  Gotta love all those marvelous brass expression shoes!!

On the Third Sunday of Advent, my organ-builder said to me……

Advent is one of the busiest times of year for both organists and organ-builders alike.  Schoenstein & Co. maintain a busy service schedule, but construction continues on Op. 172 at the shop during this busy, busy time; likewise this busy organist manages to maintain a blog post or two to spread the good news (a little after midnight), whilst keeping up appearances on the liturgical front.

The console shell has received its finish showing off the scrumptious woodwork, and the careful console wiring is well under way.

The Choir division box is also nearing completion.    In the below pictures you can see the great wall of shutters, which will live (behind casework) between the Chancel and Chapel.   These shutters are controlled by the beautiful (and robust!) brass pedals seen in the previous pictures, opening and closing at the will of the organist to allow the organ to create a crescendo (get louder) or diminuendo (get softer).   A good, and effective swell box (or two, or three!) is an essential element of a church organ (we will have two of them).


In these other pictures, Nikko examines the tuning doors on the Chapel side of the choir box that will allow access for tuning.   All of this blonde wood will be concealed behind beautiful panels, stained to complement the existing church woodwork.

Inside the Choir box, the wind system is fairly close to completion, and the bass pipes of the Dulciana 8′ are on their little chest, offset from the main portion of the division.

Meanwhile, on the main organ, the Swell box begins to take shape, with its walls now up.    The large voids (where one can see the red ladders, for instance) will be filled with shutters (like the aforementioned for the Choir division).

This is a very large room that will house nearly 800 pipes ranging in length from 32′ to the size of a pencil.       Without a person in the picture for scale, one should take note of the ladders in the picture to gain a sense of scale.   The walls of the Swell enclosure rise 15′ from the shop floor.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled liturgical happenings; the impending Nativity.

Happy Advent, and Merry Christmas (in due course, of course)!

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.