Schoenstein Pipe Organ

The Instrument

The organ was built by the Schoenstein Organ Company of San Francisco, California specifically for Covenant Presbyterian Church. The registration of the instrument or choice of pipes and sounds, was made by then-organist Sam Hutchison in collaboration with the builder, Jack Bethards. The purchase and installation of the organ was made possible by a generous gift of long-time members, Ray & Virginia Malmquist. The organ consists of over 2,700 pipes ranging in size from 16 feet long to just a few inches long. It was installed in its current location behind the front chancel area in 1997.

The Schoenstein Organ Company

The Schoenstein Organ Company is one of the premier organ building firms in the United States, and specializes in the design of instruments in the "American Symphonic" tradition. They have many instruments across the United States. For more information about this style of organ building, written by the tonal designer Jack Bethards, click here.

What this means for the listener is that there is an extremely wide diversity of tonal color, making this instrument very capable of playing music from different musical styles and periods. Many other modern organ builders have sought to build instruments replicating styles of organ building that were used in earlier centuries. While there are many spectacular instruments built in these styles, many suffer from the inability to perform music of later centuries very well, and are less well suited to accompanying modern worship. The Schoenstein instrument is able to play organ music of many centuries extremely well. Plus, the rich and varied colors of the instrument, the wide dynamic range, and the warm quality overall also makes this an exciting and outstanding instrument for accompanying choirs, accompanying other instruments, and enhancing the services of worship.

Unique Characteristics of The Instrument

For the organ enthusiast, several unique characteristics of this organ are worth highlighting. The entire instrument, with the exception of the pedal division, is under expression. This means that the pipes are located behind wooden louvers ("swell shades") that can be opened by the organist to allow more or less sound to escape. In addition, two divisions of the organ, the ethereal division in the solo, and the celestial division in the swell, are enclosed within other divisions, effectively boxes inside boxes, making it possible to have a wider degree of expression for these divisions by having two sets of swell shades controlling the sound of pipes in these divisions.

For example, the ethereal division tuba, with both expression shades open, can solo above the rest of the instrument; with one of the shades closed it can blend with the great plenum as a chorus trumpet. The assignment of the expression shades to the swell shoes can also be changed, a unique characteristic of this instrument, further enhancing its expressive capabilities. In addition, several stops have been modeled after other builders. The majority of the reed stops are hooded, in the style of English 19th century builder Henry Willis. The tuba in the ethereal division was also modeled on a Willis tuba. The French horn and English horn in the solo division were modeled on stops by 20th century American builder Ernest Skinner. The harmonic flute in the solo division was modeled in scale and design on a harmonic flute by the great 19th century French builder Aristide Cavaille-Coll.

Registration of The Instrument

Link to articles about the Schoenstein approach to organ building.

Covenant Presbyterian Church
326 South Segoe Road Madison, WI 53705
(corner of Mineral Point & Segoe Roads)
Phone: (608) 233-6297
Fax: (608) 233-6489