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What would Christmas be, without hymns and spiritual songs

by Jerry Melrose

Maestro keyboardist Terry Thatcher positioned at his self-designed Virtual Pipe Organ (VPO), which was manufactured in the Philippines and shipped to his and wife Linda''s Orderville home. The screen image (center) displays flute, string, reed and principal stops of the actual Skinner organ in Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church in Chicago today. It was crafted in 1928 by tonal designer G. Donald Harrison, who in 1949 designed the famed Mormon Tabernacle Organ. Photo by Jerry Melrose.

Terry Thatcher, 78, began piano lessons at age five and switched to classical pipe organ at age 13. Through his teens, he studied in the Los Angeles area from organ professors at USC, Pasadena City College and Whittier College. He continued private organ and piano studies at BYU. He met Linda Heaton online in 2000, and they married in 2002. He retired to Orderville to her home in 2008, and completed a 39-year career as a school psychologist.

“I fell in love with pipe organ music when I was in my teens! I was a ‘nerd’ in high school and wandered around campus with a pipe organ building text under my arm. Summers in high school were spent working for a company in Los Angeles and while working on a masters degree between 1970 and 1975, I sold, installed and maintained 12 organs in churches for a pipe organ company in Kansas.

“Anymore, pipe organs are so expensive and so large that you just can’t get one into your house. You must find a church and live where the church is if you want to go play. And that’s just not convenient! But, finally, with modern day electronics being what it is, they have been able to come up with a Virtual Pipe Organ.

“When digital audio recording became possible, very old organs throughout the world were being recorded meticulously to preserve their sound for future generations. Recording organ pipes one pipe at a time and creating files can take as long as two years to complete. New software enabled a person to sit down at a Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) keyboard and play digitally recorded musical files of any instrument through a sound system. For pipe organs, these are now called VPO’s, or Virtual Pipe Organs.

“I first learned about VPOs from a fellow organ recitalist who played Saturdays in the St. George Tabernacle. I had a few extra bucks in a retirement fund that I could spend, so instead of buying a new car or three sets of golf clubs, we added a room to our home and designed this organ for it. It was built in the Philippines, and shipped to us. When the room addition was built, it was pre-wired for a 12-channel sound system that supports the organ. Then, I started collecting digital recordings of different organs throughout the world that I could play through my VPO. It sounded as though I was playing in that cathedral, wherever in the world it was.

“Now, any time I hear a new organ I like, I can purchase the digital files on a CD and add it to my home collection. These days I have five different organs: Chicago, Budapest, Hungary and the Salisbury, UK cathedral organ that was built in the 1880s. The cathedral itself was completed in the 1300s. A newer organ, built in 1954, was installed in an Anglican Church near Toronto, Canada. Now I can just sit down, load an organ from its CD files, and play like I’m in that church! Sounds just like I’m in there, in that very cathedral, complete with its individual acoustics. I can even hear the organ blower softly, and the muted clicks of pulling the stops on and off.

“As a youth serving a church mission in British Columbia and southeast Alaska, Alexander Schreiner, Tabernacle organist in Salt Lake City, played a live Sunday evening organ broadcast that I could hear over KSL’s 50,000-watt clear channel AM radio station. So I made sure I was having dinner with a church family who shared my love of the instrument and we would listen together on their radio, since missionaries weren’t allowed then to have radios. For me, that experience set a sweet spiritual tone for the whole week; it was just beautiful!

“Not long after installing our VPO eight years ago, I remembered listening to Dr. Schreiner in Canada and thought ‘I can do this ... online! Why not just share it?’ For 36 years, I had served as a church organist every Sunday and had already been composing my own arrangements of many hymns, so I started four years ago sharing music that I have recorded on my VPO: classical, hymns and hymn arrangements, anything that is sacred or Sabbath-related. I began blogging at my school district for years before retiring by sending out a ‘Thought of the Day’ to school teachers. I combined the two ideas and currently send great organ music, choir music, instrumental performances from other artists, and often a Christian thought on ‘Sabbath Evening’ to over 70 friends living as far away as the Philippines and Nova Scotia, Canada.”

If you’d like to receive Sabbath Evening, just send a request to: expressing your interest.




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