Tuesday, March 31, 2015

It is called Holy Week in the Catholic Religion. The time between Palm Sunday and Easter. I will not talk about religion although I should. I am afraid that some stranger will chop off my head if I do. Yes, in this day and age of sophisticated ways to communicate, the western world has to live in fear of communicating. We are at an all time low when even our government is not equally represented by the opinions of its people. An all Republican congress is wrong. So, in the spirit of prayer and revelation I will choose to discuss church music.

It was on January 11, 1885, one hundred and twenty years ago that Lawrence Hammond was born in Evanston, Illinois. He was a mechanical, engineer to make a living but he was a lifelong inventor. His early creations included a tick-less spring driven clock, an early 3-Dimensional movie and a bridge table that automatically shuffled and dealt the cards. His biggest breakthrough came in 1934 when he patented the Organ that bears his name.  It was next to a device known as a tone wheel. The Hammond organ produced sounds that sounded like a full scale pipe organ only found in churches or places of worship. This week the pipe organs will be in full force because it is Holy Week.

Hammond quickly became a big seller because you could now get this unique sound anywhere concealed in a manageable box on stage or even in your home.  The Organ was used by amateurs, small churches and radio soap operas. Countless pop musicians still use the organs in their bands. A famous song was Whiter Shade of Pale by Procol Harum, or the keyboard talent of Keith Emerson of Emerson Lake and Palmer or the soulful sounds of Bob Marley’s No Woman No Cry. All made famous by the sounds of the unique Hammond Organ.

Lawrence Hammond died in 1973 at the age of 78 with more than 100 Patents to his credit. Hammond organs continue to be sold to this day but now by using up to date digital technology. Not a bad legacy for a musical pioneer who couldn’t play a note.  So in this week set aside each year for religious reflection. Maybe we should be thinking more about the organ than religious stories from the past. These days there is too much strife over religious wars and division than any kind of peace. Unfortunately we still live in fear of brutality, force, persecution and malice for there to be any time for peace and prosperity. I think I will listen to some organ music.

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