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Justin Smith, above, serves as the organist at St. John’s Episcopal Church and as the dean of the local chapter of the American Guild of Organists. He holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of North Carolina Wilmington and works as a business analyst at the school. “There’s not a shortage of organists my age, but full-time jobs are declining,” he says. “That’s one reason I decided on a dual career.” The length and diameter of the pipes in organs like the one at First Presbyterian, opposite, give the instrument its sound. Every pipe organ is unique and, like a classical composition, given an opus number by the manufacturer. First Presbyterian downtown will feature a series of organ recitals for the Advent season on Tuesdays. Grace United Methodist will hold the traditional service of lessons and carols. The Temple of Israel will have special music for Hanukkah. All the services will include dedi-cated musicians playing what Mozart dubbed the “king of instruments,” the pipe organ. “I don’t think there’s any instru-ment out there that has quite the range or sonority of sound that it can produce,” says John Tabler, who plays the famous James Sprunt Memorial Organ, a fully restored 1928 E.M. Skinner organ, at First Presbyterian. “It can be a solo accompanied by an orchestra, it can be soft as a whisper, or it can be loud and roar like a lion. It really has the whole gamut of color and sound. It’s versatile, quiet enough to accompany an ensemble, a soloist, a choir, or 700 people singing on Christmas Eve or Easter Sunday. It has the ability to do all of those things very well.” The pipe organ has been a staple in churches for hundreds of years, especially in traditional Protestant denominations. But as member-ship in those churches continues to decline — only 15 percent of U.S. adults claim affiliation with congre-gations in the mainline Protestant tradition, the Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study reports, and the number of adults attending those churches is 60 per-cent lower than it was in 1970 — so does the number of organs and organists. 49 www.wrightsvillebeachmagazine.com WBM


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