Music at Grace Church is a vital part of our worship. Our 10:15 Solemn Mass on Sunday mornings is rich with traditional hymns, chant and organ. The choir sings during this Mass from September through May and on other major feasts. Grace Church, being a relatively small congregation, is extremely blessed to have the ministry of a full-time, doctoral level musician, R. Benjamin Dobey, as well as an extraordinary instrument, the Schoenstein Organ. As an outreach ministry to the community, Grace Church sponsors numerous organ and choral concerts, and other musical events throughout the year.
Organist and Choirmaster
Dr. R. Benjamin Dobey, Organist and Choirmaster of Grace Church, has had family in the Sheboygan area since the 1970’s, when Sheboygan quickly became one of his favorite resorts. He did not come to live here until 1997, which was largely in order to escape the rush-hour traffic in the Washington, D.C. area, where he had spent most of his career as an organist, accompanist, singer, conductor, and college teacher. A native of Virginia, his music degrees are from Oberlin and Eastman. He also spent a year in Germany studying organ on a Fulbright grant, and two years singing in the choir of Wells Cathedral in England.
The parish had a traditional men and boys choir from 1877. This was replaced by a small volunteer choir of men and women in 1963, which now sings for the Solemn Mass on Sundays and on major feast days. In addition, a male Schola Cantorum sings Gregorian chant in English and Latin for the monastic service of Compline once a month, and a Youth/Children's choir sings on Christmas Eve and for other special occasions, such as the Bishop's visitation and First Communion.
The Charlotte Kohler Memorial Organ
During the pastorate of Fr. Robert W. Blow, Rector from 1862-1890, a Roosevelt organ was installed in what is now the parish's Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. This organ was replaced in 1929 by an Austin instrument, which was placed in what is now the Christ the King chapel. The Austin was rebuilt and relocated in the late 1950s by Verlinden of Milwaukee to the present (then new) choir loft in the rear of the church. Both the construction of the new balcony and the organ rebuild were made possible by a gift from Herbert V. Kohler and his sister Lillie Babette Kohler.
Decades later, under the leadership of Dr. George Damp, an organ committee was formed when the Austin/Verlinden instrument was becoming increasingly unreliable mechanically. Thanks to a major donation from the Charlotte and Walter Kohler Charitable Trust, generous funding from the Hayssen Foundation, and numerous smaller contributions, the 23-rank organ built by Schoenstein & Co. of San Francisco was installed in the summer of 2001. The 16' Open Wood, 16' Lieblich Gedeckt, and 16' Bourdon from the Austin organ are retained in the new Schoenstein instrument. The organ façade was carefully designed to be compatible with the Victorian Gothic style of the building. San Francisco artist David Boysel decorated the casework with Japan colors complementing those found in the the nave and chancel woodwork. In addition, he used jet black highlighting with genuine gold leaf for the major motifs, including a variation of the Canterbury Cross called Alisée Patée, which is also to be found in the decoration of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City.
The organ is remarkable for its versatility achieved within a very limited space, containing some types of organ tone that would normally be found only in much larger instruments, and having a variety of tonal colors at different dynamic levels to support a small volunteer choir without overpowering them. The high pressure Tuba and keen, orchestral Swell strings are enclosed in their own swell box which speaks into the main swell – thus they are doubly enclosed, increasing their range of volume at both ends of the dynamic spectrum. The Tuba, for example, can thus be used either as a powerful solo stop, or as a chorus reed blending with the ensemble.