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Tyrone ninth graders discover how performers compose musical essays

On Friday, April 28, in Tyrone’s High School Library, 110 students in Richard Merryman’s ninth grade English classes discovered that even as authors use words to create stories and poems, so performers use tones or sounds to compose musical essays that can teach, or inspire, change behavior, or transport a listener to a by-gone time.
Utilizing a $20,000 Allen Digital Computer Organ donated by Mr. Virgil Cannarsa of The Music Emporium in Altoona’s Wal-Mart Plaza, Merryman conducted students on a musical journey entitled “From Back, To Weddings, To Movies, To Baseball”.
Merryman began with a trip 300 years back in cultural history to Germany, where organist/composer Johann Sebastian Bach composed musical essays or exercises called, “Eight Little Preludes and Fugues”, to teach some of his twenty children to play the organ.
From the Germany of the 1700’s, Merryman zoomed forward to an American wedding, where he demonstrated how an organist can employ digital sound technology in an Allen Computer Organ to enhance the musical experience of a wedding for bride, groom, parents and audience. Specifically, Merryman exhibited how an organist can draw pipe-like trumpet, diapason, string and flute sounds form the digital memory of The Allen Organ to help the audience appreciate the wedding events as they unfold.
From a modern wedding, Merryman flashed back in history to the glory days of Tyrone’s Wilson Theatre. With the Allen Computer Organ, he imitated how the Wurlitzer Pipe Organ housed in Tyrone’s Wilson Theatre in those days provided a smorgasbord of sounds to accompany silent movies. In the early years of the last century, with each showing of a silent movie, the local theatre organist Eugene Dayton improvised a musical essay with assorted bells, diapasons, drums, harps, oboes and whistles from The Wurlitzer to accompany the black and white action on the screen.
With spring in bloom throughout Central Pa., and baseball players in action on local ball diamonds, Merryman encouraged students to reflect on a musical essay writer based in Pittsburgh for the past 36 years, Pirate baseball organist Vince Lascheid. Drawing on the baseball theme song “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”, Merryman utilized the Allen Organ Midi Ensemble Box to imitate how 36-year veteran organist for the Pittsburgh Pirates Vince Lascheid uses assorted musical phrases and organ stops to describe the baseball situation, inspire the fans or even influence the outcome of the game.
Concluded Merryman, “At the end of the day on Friday, we hope our Tyrone ninth graders appreciated that you can write a powerful essay in organ sounds as well as in the words of a language. We also hope they understood that an organ is not a piano with extra keyboards, but an orchestra of sounds that can inspire listeners to action.
“And speaking of action, probably most organists envy that baseball organist who managed to get himself ejected from the game because he played ‘Three Blind Mice’ in response to an umpire’s bad call.”