New Organs

December 1, 2017

First Presbyterian Church,
Monterey, California

Schoenstein & Co. Pipe Organ Builders, Benicia, California

The work of Murray M. Harris, the legendary Los Angeles organ builder whose firm built what is now the nucleus of Philadelphia’s Wanamaker organ, is much admired, especially here in the West where a few of his brilliant creations survive untouched. Organist, organ technician, and historian Thomas L. DeLay, serving as the consultant for First Presbyterian Church of Monterey, California, contacted us about a new organ. DeLay told me that he had invited the committee to a church where he played a 1910 Murray M. Harris organ. This was an educational session just to show the committee the parts of an instrument and how they worked; it was not to talk about tone. In fact, he was a bit concerned that they might be put off by an “old-fashioned” instrument. Much to his surprise and delight, when he demonstrated the instrument, the committee was absolutely captivated and said, “That’s the kind of sound we want!”

Tom asked if we could make something with a bit of the Murray M. Harris character. We could, but wouldn’t it be better to have the real thing or something close to it? One of our long-term clients had an organ in storage with us that was about 90% from Murray M. Harris Opus 91 of 1912. We also had in stock several stops from Opus 83 of 1911. I suggested that we make a brand-new reproduction Murray M. Harris organ with mostly original pipes. The two churches got together and made an arrangement favorable to both, and we set out on one of our most interesting projects.  

Every part of this two-manual, 26-voice, 28-rank organ is new and based on the Schoenstein System except the original pipework. Our windchests happened to be appropriate for Murray M. Harris pipes, having a similar expansion chamber that elongates the wind path between valve and pipe toe. The entire organ is under expression speaking down the long axis of the church with Great and Pedal in one chamber and Swell in the other. The church went to great lengths improving the organ chambers with effective insulation and temperature control. The previous organ had suffered badly from swings in temperature. (Yes, it happens in Monterey!)  

The console is a reproduction of the Murray M. Harris style of the period. An original console was thoroughly measured and photographed. Every detail of the cabinetry is an exact match as are drawknobs and other accessories. To give the instrument added flexibility, the console is equipped with modern playing aids of the Peterson ICS system and has a third manual that draws mainly solo stops from the Great and Swell divisions.

All of the original pipework was carefully cleaned and prepared in our voicing rooms. Fortunately, the pipework had been well preserved over the years and not altered. The stoplist is very much of the period with 69% of its stops at 8 pitch or below, but they are brimming with color and character. Typical of Harris organs, the upperwork adds a completely satisfying and perfectly balanced glow to the sound. The Dolce Cornet is new but based strictly on Murray M. Harris models of Salicional scale. It has found multiple uses. Of special interest is the Harris tradition of celestes that work with either medium or soft unisons. In this organ they are found on both Swell and Great. The tonal result is a versatile church organ fully suitable to modern demands.

Many modern instruments have been made on 18th- and 19th-century models, but this reproduction in the early 20th-century style may find a new audience for just plain beautiful tone. The instrument was presented in a recital on May 6, 2017, featuring five performers associated over the years with the church: Tiffany Truett Bedner, Aaron Nee, Kitty Du Vernois, organ consultant Thomas DeLay, and current organist Margaret Bellisomi. A formal dedication recital was given by James Welch on September 9 featuring works by Bach, Gounod, Hollins, Parry, Vierne, Clokey, Purvis, and Nevin, among others. The organ project manager for the church is Walt Prowell, the music director is John Koza, and the pastor is Reverend Mark Peake.

—Jack Bethards

President and Tonal Director

Schoenstein & Co.

Three manuals and pedal, incorporating pipes from 1911 and 1912 Murray M. Harris organs: 26 voices, 28 ranks, electric-pneumatic action.  

GREAT (II – Expressive) 

8 First Open Diapason* 61 pipes 

8 Second Open Diapason 61 pipes 

8 Melodia* 61 pipes 

8 Unda-Maris (TC)* 49 pipes 

8 Dulciana* 61 pipes 

4 Octave 61 pipes 

4 Flute d’Amour* 61 pipes 

223 Octave Quint 61 pipes 

2 Super Octave 61 pipes 

16 Trombone 12 pipes 

8 Tuba 61 pipes 

8 Clarinet 61 pipes 

Tremulant 

Great 16 

Great Unison Off 

Great 4 

SWELL (III – Expressive) 

16 Bourdon* 61 pipes  

8 Violin Diapason* 61 pipes 

8 Stopped Diapason* 61 pipes 

8 Salicional* 61 pipes 

8 Vox Celeste (TC)* 49 pipes 

8 Aeoline* 61 pipes 

4 Fugara 61 pipes 

4 Harmonic Flute* 61 pipes 

2 Piccolo 61 pipes 

Dolce Cornet III 171 pipes 

8 Trumpet 61 pipes 

8 Oboe* 61 pipes 

8 Vox Humana† 61 pipes 

Tremulant 

Swell 16 

Swell Unison Off 

Swell 4 

†with separate Tremulant 

SOLO (I) 

Great Stops

8 First Open Diapason 

8 Second Open Diapason 

8 Unda-Maris II 

8 Tuba 

4 Flute d’Amour 

8 Clarinet 

Swell Stops

8 Violin Diapason 

8 Stopped Diapason 

8 Harmonic Flute (4 Harm. Flute; 

    Aeoline & St. Diap. bass) 

8 Vox Celeste II 

8 Trumpet 

8 Oboe 

8 Vox Humana (with Tremulant) 

Chimes†

Solo 16 

Solo Unison Off 

Solo 4 

†From existing organ

PEDAL 

32 Resultant (Open Diapason/Bourdon)

16 Open Diapason (wood)* 32 pipes 

16 Bourdon (former Tibia)*  32 pipes 

16 Lieblich Gedeckt (Swell) 

8 Open Diapason (Great 2nd Open) 

8 Violin Diapason (Swell) 

8 Lieblich Gedeckt (Swell) 

4 Octave (Great First Open) 

16 Trombone (Great) 

8 Trumpet (Swell) 

4 Oboe (Swell) 

*Murray M. Harris pipes 

 

COUPLERS 

Great to Pedal 

Great to Pedal 4 

Swell to Pedal 

Swell to Pedal 4 

Solo to Pedal 

Solo to Pedal 4 

 

Swell to Great 16 

Swell to Great 

Swell to Great 4 

Solo to Great 

 

Great to Solo 

Great to Solo 4 

Swell to Solo 

Swell to Solo 4 

 

MECHANICALS 

Solid-state capture combination action with: 

100 Memory levels

Programmable piston range for each 

memory level

40 Pistons and toe studs.

7 Reversibles including Full Organ.

Record/Playback

Crescendo pedal 

Adjustable bench

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