One of my students is playing for the upcoming baccalaureate service for Sacred Heart Academy, a Catholic all-girls school here in Honolulu, and asked me to help her with organ registration. It was the first time I had ever been in the chapel there, and was quite amazed when I saw the beautiful interior.
We climbed the 29 steps to the organ loft where there is a small two-manual pipe organ by Felix F. Schoenstein, the founder of a five-generation organbuilding firm begun in the Black Forest of Germany in the mid-19th century. The Schoenstein & Co. is the oldest and largest organ factory in the Western United States. In 1868, Felix F. Schoenstein came to San Francisco representing his father and brothers. By 1877 he established his independent firm—the most consistently steadfast and successful company in the history of organ building on the Pacific coast, according to the company website. Each son of each generation has been sent to train with other firms. For example, Felix’s son, Louis, worked for E.M. Skinner. Louis’ son, Lawrence, and later his grandson Terrence, joined Æolian-Skinner. (Terry Schoenstein, a Honolulu resident and fifth-generation organbuilder, helped his father Lawrence L. Schoenstein install the Æolian-Skinner organ in 1960 at St. Andrew’s Cathedral. The same company has given a proposal to restore the Cathedral organ.)
I bet you’ll be surprised that at one time, there were forty-some pipe organs in Hawaii!
Here is a 1981 video introduced by Tom Brokaw about the history of this organbuilding company.
As it turns out, I myself will be back at Iolani School playing their Baccalaureate service on May 29th, since their current organist, Geri Ching (my first organ student in Hawaii!) will not be available. I’ll also be playing for the 6th grade Moving Up Ceremony.
It’s Back to School for me!