Christ Church, Cambridge

Schoenstein & Co., Organ Builders, Opus 149


Christ Church was dedicated in 1761. A year later an organ by John Snetzler of London was installed in the rear gallery. In the Revolution the pipes were melted down to make bullets; decades of neglect followed.

In 1845 the Senior Warden presented the Church with a new instrument, by the local builder George Stevens. An organ by G. D. Simmons replaced it in 1860, to be moved to a new chamber at the front of the Church in 1877. This location suffocated the sound, and six years later a two-manual instrument, built by the Boston firm of Hook & Hastings, was installed. The possibility of moving it further into the Church and adding a third manual was immediately tabled. When no action had been taken by 1940, the Æolian-Skinner Organ Company of Boston designed a four-manual console to play a three-manual-and-pedal organ in the front chamber, supplemented by a two-manual-and-pedal organ in the rear gallery to aid congregational singing. The latter section was never installed, and many attempts were made to modify the front instrument in compensation.

In 1999, the new Director of Music initiated studies to address the growing deficiencies of this organ. A series of education segments and organ tours followed. An Organ Study Committee researched a range of solutions for the Music Committee, the staff, and the whole parish to consider. Finally, Schoenstein & Co., Organ Builders of San Francisco, were commissioned to build a new organ for Christ Church. Founded in 1877, and now under the direction of Jack Bethards, Schoenstein has gained a reputation for unqualified success in difficult acoustics. The diverse color palette and dynamic range of their instruments are ideal for accompanying congregational and choral music. These same qualities also facilitate superb interpretations of both organ repertoire and transcriptions of orchestral works.

The new instrument at Christ Church was dedicated before a packed congregation on April 30, 2006. The project, and related outreach effort, was supported by gifts from hundreds of parishioners and friends. The rebuilding of the organ chamber has achieved sound projection and tuning stability beyond all expectation. Clear choruses, warm foundation tone, orchestral voices, profound bass, and a presence in the room all contribute to renewed musical life within Christ Church. - text by Stuart Forster, from the Christ Church website

Photo by Len Levasseur

Photo by Len Levasseur