The Tacoma Mall is an unlikely place to find a tracker organ, but that is exactly what happened the evening of December 15, 2017, as the Seattle and Tacoma AGO chapters collaborated on an event to expose the public to real organs and live organ playing.
The Seattle chapter owns a three-stop tracker organ built by Marceau, and later expanded by the Fisk organ company. For several years, the Seattle chapter has taken the organ into shopping malls to engage the public. This year, thanks to a connection between former Seattle dean Norma Aamodt-Nelson and the Tacoma Mall, where Norma’s daughter is the director of marketing, the list of malls included Tacoma.
The organ is built so that it can be disassembled for transport. The top half sits on four dowels that rise from the bottom half. The pedalboard can be removed, and the keyboard retracted. AGO members Carl Dodrill and David Lepse have become somewhat expert in moving this organ, though it is very heavy and not a trivial task. The organ attracted a few onlookers as it made its way from the curb into the Macy’s court, followed by a steady stream of listeners and curious shoppers as organists played Advent and Christmas music for three hours.
Organists included Tom Clark, Kathy Eggleston, Norma Aamodt-Nelson, David Lepse, and Tim Drewes, all of whom are members of the Tacoma Chapter. In addition, two members displayed dual talents. Karen Bredberg played cello, accompanied by organ, including some “real” pieces and some carols from the 1982 Hymnal. Member Cheryl Drewes, known nationally as an organist, surprised many of us with her expert tuba performance. She and Tim Drewes attracted an audience with a number of jazzy renditions. Satya Jaech and Tom Clark improvised some carol duets.
A few people sat and listened the whole time, and many more shoppers stopped by to investigate. AGO members were on hand to answer their questions, to demonstrate how organs and pipes work, and generally to provide education about real organs.
Members Wendell Brunk, Donald Dunscomb, and Tom Clark arrived early to help our Seattle colleagues set up the organ. Wendell and Don were joined at various times by members Satya Jaech, Nancy Ferree-Clark, and Sandy Tietjen as they engaged the public. Special thanks to member spouses Dick Tietjen and Rick Jaech who stayed to help get the organ back in the trailer, along with Tim Drewes and Tom Clark.
In an age where fewer people are exposed to organ music through church connections, and where most people equate organs with electronic devices, it is important to find opportunities to expose people to real organs and organ music. Perhaps one or more of those curious children at the mall will go home and ask to take organ lessons. Maybe one of those curious onlookers will be on a church music committee.
Many thanks to our Seattle colleagues for proposing this event, for providing the organ, and for transporting it to Tacoma to support our shared mission of advancing the cause of organ and choral music in a very public way.