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Gary DeVaul Writings


hen the going gets tough, the tough get going! And going is exactly what Mark is always doing! Keep checking here for articles about Mark's adventures. These articles are not necessarily written by Mark, but by friends along for the ride. Their insights are always a joy, some almost even as witty as the Master of Wit himself!

February 1, 2005

Mark had a wonderful week in sunny (most of the time) Honolulu, from January 20-27, and had a busy Sunday morning at Central Union Church there, a 2,500-member church with a 68-rank Aeolian Skinner organ. On Sunday the 23rd, before the 8:30 worship service in the main sanctuary, Mark played for the pre-service program, The Gift of Music (a long-standing weekly tradition at Central Union, featuring soloists, ensembles, etc., from the church, community and beyond). His program included: O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing (with selected measures from Prelude in G Major by J. S. Bach) - arr. by Mark Thallander; Invocation and Meditation (from Suite) - Charles Callahan; Amazing Grace - Frederick Swann; and Praise God! -- Fred Bock.

Mark's Offertory for the worship service was Toccata on "Hymn to Joy" (his arrangement), and he played an extended Postlude, due to the fact that a special congregational meeting that morning caused the cancellation of the usual 10 o'clock worship service. He invited the congregation to come forward to watch, as he played Fanfare of Hope (from Suite) - Charles Callahan.

An enthusastic throng rocked the sanctuary with appreciative applause after all three segments of Mark's wonderful contributions to the morning's worship experience! Mahalo, Mark, and come back soon!

Leigh Ann Braley
Secretary to the Senior Minister
Central Union Church

September 10, 2004

The Man, The Friends, and The Glass House

by Alicia Steinhaus

It was a hot night in a glass house in California, but it definitely was not quiet! Nor was it ordinary like most warm nights in California...

Like every other day of the week, the commute across Los Angeles from home to work and back again was belittled by a trek to Orange County over the supper hour. Anyone having traveled Interstate 5 from Los Angeles to Orange County at the supper hour on a Friday evening can testify every inch of the pavement is covered by a slow, yet very driven, maniacal herd of cars making their way to the feeding trough at the other end. Pleasant it is not, predictable it is, and on this particular day, necessary it was...

Upon arrival near our destination, we scrambled for some semblance of nourishment to avoid the growlies. We settled for the epitome of Southern California fast food - Carl's Jr. (Hey, it beats Krispy Kreme for supper...)

Finally, after what seemed an eternity of blacktop, tires, metal, and raging testosterone, the glass house was right before us in all its immense glory! Just the sight of it is amazing, never mind the aural delight that awaited. The structure of metal and glass reaches into the heavens as if to touch the face of God, and reflects the light therein for miles around. It's an awesome sight; certainly at the top of the list of places to see in Orange County!

No sooner had we joined friends on the plaza but the aural delights started with a recital on the Arvella Schuller Carillon audible to anyone in the near vicinity. This lasted for a good 45 minutes and evidenced not only impeccable musical and technical ability, but hordes of sheer endurance for the grueling workout of the Carillon! Julian Revie and Rick Breitenbecher will not soon forget their Carillon Olympics and the gold medal they won!

The Carillon perfectly set the stage for the opening work of the benefit concert, presented on the magnificent Hazel Wright Organ, Vierne's Carillon de Westminster most delightfully performed by J. Christopher Pardini, 'Master of Hazel', and none other than the wondrous Ken Medema improvising carillons on his synthesizer. In true Southern California regalia, the fountains of the Cathedral joined in on the final fanfare. It was truly extraordinary!

From that point on it was a veritable feast of delectable organ perfectly set off by extraordinary piano. The list of artists was most impressive. Joyce Jones was masterful with Sowerby's Pageant, demonstrating some of the most impressive foot work in existing organ literature! Peter Green escorted the listener into the lush sounds of Chopin's Ballade No. 4 in f minor. John West demonstrated the delicacies in 'Hazel's' range of capability with Saint-Saens' Andante Sostenuto from Symphonie 3. Jan Sanborn delighted us with three piano pieces on well-known hymns artfully scored by herself and Fred Bock. Once again, Joyce Jones treated us with an improvisation on Ada Tonbo, J. Christopher Pardini with none other than Diemer's Battle Hymn of the Republic, and John West with his Fanfare on "Sine Nomine". To each of these, 'Hazel' rose perfectly to the occasion even though the warm evening air was challenging.

A true revelry of music at the Crystal Cathedral would not be complete without the Cathedral Organist Emeritus, Frederick Swann! We were all delighted with his Meditation on "Amazing Grace" and Festival Toccata on "St. Anne"! No sooner had the thunderous applause quieted but it started up again as Mark Thallander and Jeremy McElroy took a seat at 'Hazel' for Callahan's Evensong.

If the evening was not sufficiently emotionally charged, it quickly heated up as Mark played for us the world premiere of Fanfare of Hope by Callahan, taken from a Suite for One Hand and Two Feet, composed specifically for Mark. If there is any organist on the planet that could recover from a full arm amputation and continue to play as wonderfully as before, it is Mark Thallander! We had a glimpse of this truth in March at the Choral Benefit, but this performance cemented it beautifully.

In a grand tribute to his friend, the 'master of improvisation', Ken Medema, sang about his dear friend, the accident, and how the Lord has used him so mightily in the midst of a seeming tragedy. What the world sees as tragedy, God has proven through Mark to be glorious triumph to His glory. Graciously sung by Ken, it was testimony to the great faithfulness of a loving God.

All good things must come to an end, and what better way to finish our glorious evening in a glass house in California with a man and his friends than to hear four pianists, Peter Green, Jan Sanborn, Kemp Smeal, and Julian Revie; one organist, Fran Johnston; and a host of revelers exclaim:

"Great is Thy faithfulness, O God My Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not;
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided-
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

August 25, 2004

Hello Friends!

Welcome to the Mark Thallander Summer Summary! I'm pleased to share with you some of Mark's moving moments from recent weeks. Remember the calendar section of this website can keep you in the loop of his whereabouts. Perhaps he is even coming to a church near you soon.

No summer would be complete without quality time spent in Ogunquit, Maine. Mark was able to be with our friend Gary for several weeks, using his time to relax, minister, and reflect on the last year. Gary is making a very nice recovery from his cancer treatments earlier in the summer and Mark was able to give to Gary that which Gary gave to Mark: unending support, love and encouragement. Musical moments were plentiful, as they usually are, and many lives in southern Maine and elsewhere were touched by the story of Mark Thallander. Here are some snippets of those moments.

I arrived in Ogunquit only 2 days before our time of service playing and an evening concert at the Ogunquit Baptist Church in late July. It was a Friday afternoon and by Saturday night, we had rehearsed together 5 times already! As Gary wrote above, it was a feast of celebration and exuberance. Recall that on year prior, Mark and I had shared a nearly identical day with the people of OBC. This year though, we had more music, more musicians, more attendees and of course one important thing: more work for Mark's right hand! We were very pleased to offer some of the same music as we had last year, all dished up for 3 hands and 4 feet. Amazingly, not one piece has suffered musically. The Lord continues to play through Mark in powerful ways, filling in newly created spaces in the music seamlessly. This year, we also had the pleasure of ministering with the OBC choir. We were joined by some terrific brass players for some very nicely done organ and brass works. There were organ solos, brass ensemble works, organ duos, piano and organ duets, and of course, a piano solo as well! Standing room only was all to be found nearly 20 full minutes before the concert even began on that beautiful Sunday evening. We may never know how many people were touched by God's music making. The windows were full open not only to let out the heat, but to broadcast to the passersby that the Lord can continue to work through any circumstance at the never ceasing job of encouraging others through music.

Monday was a well deserved day of R&R for all involved. The weather was excellent, the beach relaxing, and down time much needed. Of course by Tuesday, we knew we were in New England again by the overcast sky, drizzle, and yucky 60 degree weather. What better to do than go the church and practice! We had another big service coming up for the following Sunday and we wanted to be fully prepared.

On Friday, we drove to Worcester, MA to the home of Mark' s longtime friend Pastor Judith Hanlon. Her church is presently rebuilding their sanctuary, so three different congregations joined together for a time of Worship on Sunday, August 1. Several musicians gave of their talent to encourage each other and touch the lives of those in the congregations. The service saw a time of communion, a wonderful sermon from Pastor Judy, congregational singing to organ, organ & piano, and guitar. Nearly every genre of music was found in the church that morning. Solo Saxophone, solo organ, solo piano, organ & piano, organ duos, vocal duet, and one terrific highlight of the morning, a fabulous choral introit written by one Mark A. Thallander! Three different choirs joined together to sing Marks' creation: a new musical setting to the text of "Come, Christians Join to Sing," for organ and choir. Earlier in the week, Mark had written the piece in his head, sang it over the phone to a friend in Oklahoma, who then transcribed it into Finalé, and faxed the scores to Ogunquit. They were then sent to the choirs in Worcester mere hours before our arrival for their rehearsal! Technology is indeed our friend.

Three pastors, three choirs, one sax player, 2 solo vocalists, 2 pianists, FOUR organists (including our friend Julian Revie!), 2 videographers, several ushers, hundreds of congregants made the 2 hour service profoundly fulfilling. It is a day we will all cherish having been a part of.

One significant event for later that day, after the sweaty suits & ties were changed and the afternoon BBQ gathering wound to a close, was Mark's drive back to Ogunquit. Again, nearly one year to the day, Mark would drive the same route, at the same time of day, from the same location to the same location, for the same purpose, after seeing the same people as he did on August 3, 2003. He was even in Gary's car without Gary! But Mark had not one second thought of it. The drive was a special time for Mark to be so grateful for all the God has done in his life in the last year. To reflect on how we really don't need all we think we need for God to do what needs to be done. To thank God over and over for being such wonderful care giver and life giver.

Indeed, Mark's drive to Maine that day was completely uneventful. He arrived at Gary's safely, full of content and peace. Later that week Paul Bandy, who you may recall is Mark's apartment manager AND singer extraordinaire in the Lake Avenue Choir, was able to visit Maine for the first time. Mark also played for a service in Portland Maine the following Sunday, ministering to many who were with him one year ago at the Maine Medical Center. Further travels have taken Mark to Virginia for yet even more music making! He then arrived safely back in CA this week and is glad to be home. Of course, he didn't stay long. Mom needed him in Stockton. It has been just over a year, as well, since Mark lost his father. He is having a very peaceful time with his mother and family and will be returning to CA very soon.

Don't forget about the Keyboard Extravaganza at the Crystal Cathedral on September 10! See the calendar for more details. We will look forward to seeing you there!


July 29, 2004

Well, it was the first full fledged concert for Mark since the accident. It was the Ogunquit Baptist Church of Ogunquit, Maine. And it was an historic evening! It was one year from Mark's previous appearance at a summer concert in the village church – now entering its 175th year! The building was packed to standing room only and not much of that to brag about. An interview with Mark and Gary, taped at the church, appeared over and over on Portland's ABC television station! What a celebration!

All the old favorites of Ogunquit's community church (now the only one in town with a year round ministry) from stanzas of "Like a River Glorious" sung by the choir, to great anthems built on praise hymns of every stripe, with brass, organ and piano. The applause rang out over and over again and indeed when it was all over the congregation bought lots of CD's, plus organ books, and copies of Champions and stayed and talked for ever and a day! Yep, they all had a great time as did Mark and Jeremy who knocked them all "dead in their tracks." The boys were at their best, proving once again that great hearts are more important than great instruments or fancy halls.

Just to let you all know that Mark is working hard, even on his vacation.


March 25, 2004

Hello friends!

As we near the end of this week, I know many of us are still basking in the marvel of last weekend's celebration for Mark: Affirmation of Faith and Life. A splendid evening was had by all as we were taken back to the side of a highway on the dark evening of August 3, 2003. Literally thousands of people gathered at Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena to celebrate the remarkable recovery and dedicated perseverance of our friend Mark Thallander. Here is a recap of that incredible evening of music-making and talent-sharing.

Imagine arriving in Pasadena to attend this benefit concert on the perfect evening: mild temperatures (it's California of course!), clear skies, and eager anticipation of what was to come. You know that it will be crowded and you are prepared to park several blocks away and take the free shuttle bus to the church. Surely there will be a lot of people. You step off the bus and your field of vision is assaulted with a sea black and white. "What is that massive creature?" you are wondering. Why, it's the Festival Choir! Nearly 800 of them, representing 19 churches, colleges, and communities from California, Canada, New York and my personal favorite, Pittsburgh, PA. "How will they fit on the stage?" you wonder.

After your obligatory blinks of awe and wow, you proceed inside to the lobby. It is here that you observe, and perhaps discover for the first time, the many areas of ministry that Mark uses to share his love of our Lord. His newest book of hymn arrangements, Organ Hymns of Faith, Vol. III is nicely displayed with two other editions of like material. Several CDs of solo organ, solo piano, collaborative keyboard concerts and choral ensembles are being offered. An exciting new entrant is the very recently published book Champions by the Rev. Gary DeVaul. A collection of meditative and devotional writings surrounding the accident and ensuing journey that follows, this book is cause for great excitement, as well as a bit of temporary nerve-racking unease for some of us, for you see, the books arrived only the night before!

Proceeding into the sanctuary, you are again in struck by wonderment. There are nearly 3,300 other attendees that have come to show their support for Mark. All these people have come to participate in probably the largest group affirmation of musical encouragement Mark has ever experienced. Can you imagine entering a room and there were nearly 4,000 singers and guests gathered to show how much they love you? I dare say Mark has probably never been touched quite like he was last Sunday evening.

Some highlights of the evening were two Max Reger organ solos performed by long-time friend Fred Swann. Readings from the gospel and participatory prayers of St. Francis of Assisi and the Lord's Prayer with the congregation afforded each the opportunity to contribute to the service. Some spectacular choral works were the thrust of the evening including the magnificent "Sanctus" from Requiem, Op. 9 by Maurice Duruflé and "Antiphon" from Five Mystical Songs by Ralph Vaughan Williams, as well as arrangements of two very comforting hymn texts: My Song in the Night and My Shepherd Will Supply My Need. We were honored to have the very gifted Jubilant Sykes sing A City Called Heaven. Some powerful moments occurred with the congregational singing of hymns arranged into works for choir, organ, and brass, including All Creatures of Our God and King, O God Our Help In Ages Past, and Dan Bird's arrangement of Great is Thy Faithfulness, conducted by Dan himself.

The concept of the evening was created by another long-time friend of Mark's, Maestro Eric Dale Knapp, who conducted nearly all of the choral works. John West, Julian Revie, and Christian Elliott accompanied on the organ and Peter Green accompanied on the piano. Linda White, Rebecca Sloat, and Amy Barnhart offered their talents on flute, oboe, and voice respectively. The Westminster Brass was spectacular in their ensemble playing. Hanan Yaqub led the Chancel Choir of Trinity United Presbyterian Church, and Jeremy Langill conducted the Master's Ringers of Lake Avenue Church. The whole evening was led by two wonderful people: The Rev. Gary DeVaul and Ms. Stephanie Edwards, whose motivational and inspired words seamlessly connected each event and compelled us to worship.

Without question, though, everyone will agree the pinnacle of the evening was a performance of Mark Thallander's Toccata on Hymn to Joy, arranged for 2 feet, 1 human right hand, and 1 prosthetic left hand. Mark was the arranger. And Mark was the performer. And we were mesmerized. Not once did the piece sound lacking in any way. It was full, powerful, assertive, and glorious. Mark had reworked the piece shortly after returning to California last Fall, and it was quite spectacular with just 1 hand and 2 feet. However, since he recently debuted the newest addition to his home and body (the prosthetic arm, of course), it was only fitting that he teach it to play the organ! So, Mark made some changes to the end of the piece and utilized his keyboard hand. (He actually will have three different hands for different functions). The fingers are in the position of a fifth on the keyboard and when he leaned his shoulder, the sound grew and every soul was moved. God can use ANYTHING to His glory, even plastic hands. The piece ended and the voices of 4,000 changed people erupted in a roar of applause and emotional outpouring.

Mark could not have been more humbled and touched and I could not have been more in awe.

Jeremy McElroy


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