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How many of you ham radio operators are also classical musicians? (I’m using “classical” loosely here, the way NPR does — not merely referring to the classical period per se, but broadly referring to all music of higher artistic expression.) I’ve always been intrigued by this kind of simultaneous development of artistic ability and scientific/technical ability. I’ve long heard that the two complement one another nicely, e.g. I’ve heard that musicians make better programmers.

Rehearsal of Exultate Festival Choir and Orchestra (Kristi Brackett, Photographer)

Right now I’m working hard with the Exultate Festival Choir and Orchestra to get ready for an upcoming performance of The Messiah by George Frideric Handel. Ham Radio has taken a back seat in my life during this seven-week project (as well it should, if we have our priorities straight). Yesterday’s rehearsal in the Twin Cities was exhilarating, and once again proved that the 2 1/2 hour drive to get there is definitely worth it. Dr. Tom Rossin is an outstanding conductor, and the choir is so good I have to pinch myself sometimes to see if my place there in the bass section isn’t just a dream. (If any of you happen to be in the Twin Cities on the weekend of March 9-11 and would like to hear The Messiah in its entirety, send me an email and I’ll email you a coupon that will get you two tickets for the price of one.)

Music was part of my life as a boy before I became a ham, but it didn’t blossom until 13 years ago at the age of 31. That was when my brother Tom (NØBSY) got me involved in a cappella shape-note singing from The Sacred Harp. This taught me how to sing parts; without it I could never have gotten into choral singing the way I have. My first choral work was with Exultate, singing Bach’s Mass in B-Minor, followed by Brahms’ German Requiem (in Rutter’s English translation). Since then I’ve been involved in a small choir here in the church, too. All of this has been a huge surprise to me. Up until I was 31 years old I was afraid to sing in front of other people, and I couldn’t sing parts if my life depended on it! So if any of you think you can’t sing, think twice — you might be surprised at what has been lying dormant in those vocal chords of yours, just waiting for the proper nudge to burst forth into beautiful song.

I see Tyler Pattison, N7TFP, is not only an accomplished ham radio operator but an accomplished musician. Along with his excellent tutorials for ham radio operators, Tyler has also posted a video of his performance of Charles-Marie Widor’s Toccata in F from Symphony No. 5. In this video you can see the organ from Tyler’s perspective, not only as a musician but as an electrical engineer. He is bringing both sides of his brain to bear upon the magnificent task of rebuilding and upgrading this organ — and then making beautiful music on it.

How many others like Tyler and myself are out there? If you are a musician and an amateur radio operator, what do you think? Has one influenced the other in your life? How?



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Support Your Local Radio Shack

For five months now my friend Keith (ACØVW) and I have been planning to get together and build Ham-Can kits together. Finally the day arrived when we could fit it in! Last Thursday Keith made the 2 1/2 hour drive from the Twin Cities to my house in Granite Falls for a kit-building session.

The first thing we did was to inventory the parts in each of our kits. All were present and accounted for except one — a 1000 pF capacitor was missing from Keith’s kit. So naturally I picked up the phone and called Radio Shack in Montevideo, MN. Where else are you going to find a part like this at a moment’s notice out in the sticks?

What I didn’t know when I called was that the store had already been closed for a half hour! But still the owner answered the phone, and without saying anything about being closed he went to see if he had the capacitor we needed. When he came back he said that he couldn’t find one, but that it was a bit hard for him to search all of his stock because he had to use a flashlight — that’s when he explained that the store was closed. After thanking him for going to the trouble I started lamenting our state, explaining how my friend had driven all the way out here only to find that he didn’t have all of his parts.

The fellow at Radio Shack told me to hold on while he went to search for the capacitor again. Next time he got back on the phone he told me he had found one! And not only that, he told me that he would deliver it to me since he and his wife happened to be heading our way in a few minutes. By now I’m really thanking him! But it gets better. He told me, “The only catch is that you can’t pay for it. We get paid by the smile.”

We met this gentleman and his charming wife at Subway, where he gave us the capacitor we needed along with a handful of others just for fun. All of this added up to way more than mere marketing. This was heart-warming small-town kindness, and yes, it did instantly make me a loyal customer.

Of course Keith and I insisted on purchasing their dinner. They showed us what had brought them our way. In the back of their pickup-truck was an antique mill they had just purchased. They were planning on grinding up a whole bunch of wheat that they had at home so they could make their own bread with flour they’d ground themselves. I gave them my card and told them to call me when they had a loaf of that bread, and we’d have them over for supper.

Whatever you think of Radio Shack, it’s still the only game in town for most of us when we need electronic components at a moment’s notice. Maybe we should think twice before going to Wal-Mart or ordering stuff online that we could otherwise get at the local Radio Shack. It may cost a few dollars more, but it might be worth it. If we don’t support our local Radio Shack, it may not be around for long (see here).

I for one am sure glad this Radio Shack is still around, and that the owner is such a fine fellow. I’d like to keep him in business so that the next time I come up short when building something, he’s still there to sell it to me.


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