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Cover feature: Schoenstein & Co. Opus 182

April 23, 2023
Schoenstein Opus 182
Schoenstein Opus 182 (photo credit: Louis Patterson)

Building for an unfinished room: The value of experience and documentation

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 is 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.

When we set out to design a new organ, almost every job begins with a careful understanding of the client’s musical needs and the room that will house the instrument. An important part of our study is the tonal test where we listen to pipes of varying scale and loudness in the location of the new instrument. This directly impacts how we design the organ to accommodate the acoustic profile of the room. As we began working on the new organ for the Chapel of Our Lady of Belen, however, the building was not yet constructed. Thus, there was no way to test on-site, no way to get a “feel” for the room, and only the architect’s plans to give us a sense of the space.

We therefore obtained every resource we could to get an idea of the new building’s “sound.” The first documents we saw were the architectural drawings, giving us the room’s shape and dimensions. We recommended adding an acoustical engineer to the design team and were pleased when Scott R. Riedel & Associates was selected. They not only influenced the design of the chapel, but also provided us with critical information about how the organ would sound in the finished space. All of this study told us that the chapel would have a resonant acoustic with even sound across the spectrum. The organ would be placed in the rear gallery, speaking directly into the nave.

With a better understanding of how the chapel will look and sound, we studied master scaling, voicing records, and acoustical data from previous organs in similar environments. 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 stoplist based on Belen’s specific needs.

The result, Schoenstein Opus 182, is a three-manual design with evenly proportioned divisions. The Great and Swell are ensembles centered around a variety of 8′ diapason tone. The Swell chorus reeds are English with Willis-style shallots. In the Choir we paired a Bourdon with our Salicional (an echo principal), drawing inspiration from the French Fonds doux. The Belen organ also features the Tuba Ignati, a special solo reed that carries a full-bodied sound with lots of French brilliance.

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′. These stops allowed us to scale the diapasons for all four divisions with fewer stops having to fulfill multiple musical roles. The large-scale 8′ Principal in the Pedal anchors the whole organ and lets the 16′ Open Wood provide rich, warm bass tone. The 4′ Choral Bass is then scaled to add clarity with a uniform timbre across its compass. A Tromba and Chalumeau offer more variety and French-flavored fire to the division, leaving the 32′ and 16′ reeds enclosed for maximum flexibility.

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.

All of the work done to make this new organ is now filed away where it can help guide us again on future projects. This information has proven invaluable to us in jobs of every kind. Even for the more “normal” project, where our tonal test gives a wealth of information, we rely heavily on documentation of previous instruments. We have found these records plus experience is of great value.

We were fortunate to work with a talented team at Belen led by the Reverend 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 5, 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.

—Bryan Dunnewald

Schoenstein & Co.

Builder’s website: schoenstein.com

School’s website: www.belenjesuit.org

GREAT (Manual II)

16′ Contra Viole 61 pipes

8′ First Open Diapason 61 pipes

8′ Second Open Diapason 61 pipes

8′ Harmonic Flute 61 pipes

8′ Viole (ext Contra Viole) 12 pipes

8′ Bourdon (Choir)

4′ Principal 61 pipes

4′ Silver Flute (Choir)

2′ Fifteenth 61 pipes

1-1⁄3′ Mixture (III–IV) 187 pipes

8′ Tuba Ignati (Choir)

8′ Trumpet (Swell)

SWELL (Manual III – Enclosed)

16′ Lieblich Bourdon 12 pipes (ext Stopped Diapason)

8′ Horn Diapason 61 pipes

8′ Stopped Diapason 61 pipes

8′ Gamba 61 pipes

8′ Gamba Celeste 61 pipes

4′ Principal Conique 61 pipes

4′ Harmonic Flute 61 pipes

2′ Fifteenth 12 pipes (ext Principal Conique)

16′ Contra Posaune 61 pipes

8′ Trumpet 61 pipes

8′ Posaune 12 pipes (ext Contra Posaune)

8′ Oboe 61 pipes


Swell 16

Swell Unison Off

Swell 4

8′ Tuba Ignati (Choir)

CHOIR (ManuaI I – Enclosed)

8′ Bourdon 61 pipes

8′ Salicional 61 pipes

8′ Unda-Maris (TC) 49 pipes

4′ Silver Flute 61 pipes

4′ Salicet 12 pipes (ext Salicional)

2-2⁄3′ Nazard (TC) 42 pipes

2′ Harmonic Piccolo 61 pipes

1-3⁄5′ Tierce (TC) 42 pipes

8′ Tuba Ignati 61 pipes

8′ Corno di Bassetto 61 pipes


Choir 16

Choir Unison Off

Choir 4



32′ Resultant

16′ Open Wood 32 pipes

16′ Contra Viole (Great)

16′ Lieblich Bourdon (Swell)

8′ Principal 32 pipes

8′ Horn Diapason (Swell)

8′ Flute (Great Harmonic Flute)

8′ Viole (Great)

8′ Bourdon (Choir)

4′ Choral Bass 32 pipes

4′ Flute (Great Harmonic Flute)

32′ Contra Posaune(ext Swell) 12 pipes

16′ Contra Posaune (Swell)

8′ Tromba 32 pipes

8′ Tuba Ignati (Choir)

4′ Chalumeau 32 pipes


Great to Pedal

Great to Pedal 4

Swell to Pedal

Swell to Pedal 4

Choir to Pedal

Choir to Pedal 4

Swell to Great 16

Swell to Great

Swell to Great 4

Choir to Great 16

Choir to Great

Choir to Great 4

Swell to Choir 16

Swell to Choir

Swell to Choir 4

Choir to Swell


Manual I/II Transfer

All Swells to Swell


Solid-state capture combination action:

5,000 memories

52 pistons and toe studs

15 reversibles 

Programmable piston range

Piston sequencer

Record/Playback system


30 voices, 33 ranks, 1,833 pipes

Electric-pneumatic action


Photo credit: Louis Patterson

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