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Orient church taking music into the digital age

Frederick performs concert on new organ

Ryan Frederick, a 2004 graduate of Orient-Macksburg, is the organist for three worship services each weekend. At the Orient United Methodist Church, he now has the pleasure of playing a custom-built organ that he showcased in a concert Sunday night at the church.
Ryan Frederick, a 2004 graduate of Orient-Macksburg, is the organist for three worship services each weekend. At the Orient United Methodist Church, he now has the pleasure of playing a custom-built organ that he showcased in a concert Sunday night at the church.

ORIENT – Its visual presence may seem to some as a bit understated, but its sound certainly isn’t once it fills the entire sanctuary at the Orient United Methodist Church with music.

The congregation dedicated its new organ to many years of faithful service ahead with a concert last Sunday night given by the church’s organist, Ryan Frederick.

For nearly two hours, Frederick gave those in attendance a taste of what this custom-built, state-of-the-art instrument can do by performing works written by composers ranging from the late 17th Century all the way to the mid 20th Century.

The new organ, which took three days to install, is a three-manual, 67-stop digital instrument that was built by Encore Organ Technology in Sacred Heart, Minnesota, according to the concert’s program. To put it simply, it’s a virtual pipe organ with state-of-the-art speakers in each organ pipe.

“This is really cutting edge technology and is really new stuff,” Frederick said. “It was a bit of a project getting it built and to this point. It’s absolutely marvelous. I think the generosity of the folks here to put money into a project like this is phenomenal.”

The Orient church’s organ includes a digital “copy” of the organ in Hereford Cathedral in Hereford, England, built by historic organ builder Father Henry Willis in 1892.

“When you really think about ‘digital copy,’ that’s a remarkable thing in and of itself, that we have technology that even allows us to do that. It’s built from scratch. The case is an old Allen organ that wasn’t any good anymore. They tore the guts out of it, built it all, and if you open the back of that, it’s got four amplifiers and a computer tower. That’s pretty much it,” Frederick said. “It runs on Windows just like about anything else. Now, there are hundreds of organs you can get digital copies of and put on there.”

Frederick, who is a 2004 graduate of Orient-Macksburg, currently plays organ for three worship services each weekend — Greenfield’s Emmanuel Lutheran Church on Saturday nights, Orient on Sunday mornings, followed by Faith Lutheran Church in Winterset.

Frederick began taking organ lessons from Janna Nelson of Menlo when he was in high school. It’s an art that takes musical talent and hand-eye coordination, as many of the pieces Frederick played in Orient Sunday required both hands and both feet playing notes simultaneously.

“It’s a rare art, there aren’t many who take it up. There aren’t as many who take piano lessons anymore. I teach piano lessons, and right now I have one student. If we don’t have people to play the piano then we don’t have people to play the organ,” Frederick said. “I think it’s an interesting thing to do and you get to do a lot of different things. I love what they’ve done here, I think it’s marvelous.”

The Rev. Cathy Nutting serves the Orient and Fontanelle United Methodist Churches. She says funding the organ, which cost in the thousands of dollars, was an entire parish-wide effort.

Nutting said the old organ began malfunctioning and sometimes wouldn’t work. The discussion to buy a new organ moved from a want to a need quickly for the congregation.

“A lot of people donated to this. Some probably gave $20 and some might have given $1,000. It was really kind of a group effort, and that’s kind of how this church is,” Nutting said. “When there’s a need, people step up. People have loved the organ for the years we had the old one and I guess the old one lasted longer than ones from that era are supposed to last. This is so far above the sound that the other one had you can’t even compare it.”

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