Senior staff writer
The sounds of pipe organs from England, Poland, the United States and virtually from around the world will fill the sanctuary at Greenwood United Methodist Church as Drew Worthen has taken his love of the pipe organ to a new level.
The church's fifth-year music director is close to finishing up an organ based on the Hauptwerk Virtual Pipe Organ platform, which utilizes the most modern digital technology to incorporate the sounds of the world’s great pipe organs.
“The difficulty always has been in the attempt to play music from one period in time on a pipe organ that is not from that same period,” Worthen said. “We are at a point in history that we can do that digitally now.”
By recording each pipe of a specific pipe organ, Worthen explained, the exact sound of each pipe in stereo or surround sound is replicated with the virtual organ. Each sound is recorded then entered digitally into a computer and distributed to 50 speakers.
At Greenwood UMC, the organist eventually will use a console built in 1965 that Worthen bought two years ago from the former Olive Branch Christian Church. He added a fourth keyboard and refinished the console. Three rectangle “windows” in the new front will house small LCD screens that will give a real-time read out of various aspects of the organ.
Three screens can display information on expression pedal positions, loaded registrations, static text, tunings, etc. It will have a “setter” board. Worthen, who earned a master’s degree in music theory and composition at Butler University, has put his building skills, music knowledge and audio/visual technology skills to work from his full-time employment at Sensory Technologies.
“The sounds are loaded into a custom-built computer and fed into an organ like we are planning to have here; it can play that exact pipe sound,” Worthen said. “So instead of building an expensive pipe organ, we can digitally combine all the different sounds and pipes with its uniqueness and some eccentricities into one instrument”
“It is the most realistic way imaginable to repeat the pipe organ sound in the digital world. It takes tens of thousands of sound strikes (original pipes) to be reassembled by the software in real time while playing the virtual organ.”
He said it takes about five minutes for the computer to pull up a specific pipe organ. The organist then can select from an array of pipe organs, for example, from St. Bartholomeus Church in Austria; Salisbury Cathedral in England, and St. John Cantius Church in Poland. The organist can pull up French pipe organs or switch to popular theater ones like the vintage Paramount organ.
A $25,000 fundraising drive for the virtual organ - the first of its kind in Indiana - continues Saturday with a dinner and a talent show beginning at 6 p.m. at the church, 525 N. Madison Ave. Greenwood’s Eric Kincaid, who performed in "Cats on Broadway," is among the performers. Tickets are $20 and can be ordered by Thursday by calling 317-8811653.
More information is available at www.greenwoodumcmusic.org. Worthen said there is no timetable to complete the project, mostly due to installing the computerization and downloads. Networking through Hauptwerk, Worthen has been able to connect worldwide with a few other craftsmen, musicians and pipe organ hobbyists.