Jennifer Puhl has found an appreciative audience for her synthesized electronic music in an unlikely setting--University United Methodist Church in Irvine.
"I could feel my audience was listening and listening in a different way, wondering what was going to happen next," said Puhl, 44, who recently performed a concert on the three-keyboard organ in the church, which had been electronically modified for the occasion.
The church was packed.
To dramatize her performance, the organ was successfully tied in to three interconnected synthesizers that took orders from a computer to produce the sound of a full orchestra. It is controlled from the organ keyboard.
"This will lead to a lot more exciting music in concerts and in church," she said. "It's just now opening up."
It was the work of Puhl's electronic engineer husband, Stephen, 47, who spent months putting the contraption together with some special software that is new to the field.
"It's a new dimension," Puhl said. "When you do something special all the time, it's not special any more."
But it is special now and ministers and the congregation seem to like it.
In fact, congregants have requested special songs to be played in the electronic style.
"People really do not pay attention to the organ in church," said Puhl, who has been the church organist for seven years and also plays the piano, harpsichord, recorder and flute. "It is largely ignored. The congregation would rather visit with each other when the organ is playing."
Not so when the musical electronic wizardry is tied in to some of her organ playing.
"I like (the sound) and they like it," she said. "They all pay attention. When you combine and layer the synthesizers, it makes richer and deeper sounds."
Puhl has attended seminars and conventions that demonstrated the use of electronic music for organs.
"It's starting to be used more, but not in the depth I did at the concert," she said.
Because of its newness, Puhl needed months of practice to perform the music.
She said it was not a matter of learning the music but learning the synthesizer to get the music right. Puhl said the introduction of electronic organ music in church will add a new dimension to religious music.
"Contemporary Christian music is using more of gospel rock, and it's a style people like," she said. "People loved it at the concert and they rose to their feet. They really responded."
Besides performing more on her electronic organ, Puhl said her other goals include writing and arranging music for the organ in addition to teaching piano and organ to private students.
The electronic part of the lessons also fascinate the students, she said, making them more interested in practicing.
"How exciting it would be to write music for that medium," she said.
Her music is also in demand by couples. Last year she played for 50 weddings.
Students at Sycamore Elementary School in Orange were asked to create some anti-drug messages,
These are some of them:
\o7 Here lies Joe.
He's laid low.
He drank beer,
for many a year.
Now he's down below.
\f7 Juan Orosco, fourth grade
\o7 Here lies Jack.
He liked crack.
He liked to steal.
Got into a big deal.
He was shot in the back.
\f7 Suzette Barrientos, fifth grade
\o7 Here lies Jack who's 25.
I'm sorry he's not alive.
He liked to smoke.
A lot of coke.
\f7 Juanita Herrera, fourth grade.
\o7 Here lies my son.
His life is done.
His name was Jack. He smoked crack.
Now he's gone.
\f7 Veronica Flores, fourth grade