One of the more unique local holiday traditions returns this week when the Stoddard family fires up the pipe organ in the Hoopernacle.
Each December for roughly the past 25 years, Hooper residents Hal and Joyce Stoddard have hosted a series of concerts and talks in their Hoopernacle Organ Barn. The “barn” — which is not an actual repurposed agricultural building but a specially built structure to house the pipe organ that Hal Stoddard has spent decades constructing — features a homemade organ with about 2,000 pipes and a keyboard console that is a hand-me-down from the Lincoln Center in New York City.
“We’ve done it every Christmas, and I’m telling you, it’s quite a project,” Joyce Stoddard said. “But Hal loves it — this is his favorite part of Christmas.”
This year’s programs begin Thursday, Dec. 19, and continue nightly through Monday, Dec. 23. Performances kick off at 7 p.m. in the Hoopernacle, 5539 W. 4200 South, Hooper.
“We usually start with a prayer,” Joyce Stoddard said. “Hall plays a couple of numbers on the organ, then I tell people about the organ — where it came from, things like that — then we have a speaker for about 20 minutes. Then we sing Christmas carols.”
About 50 people can fit in the Hoopernacle, according to Joyce Stoddard. The barn is heated — it has to be for the organ pipes — so there’s no need for blankets in the audience. However, she warns that there are no restrooms.
The lineup of speakers for the five nights of programs will include:
• Thursday, Dec. 19 — Mike and Kris Poulos, formerly with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
• Friday, Dec. 20 — Red and Shirley Chambers, talking about their 18 months at the U.S. Naval Academy.
• Saturday, Dec. 21 — Brent Hoggan, the 1952 Weber High School student-body president.
• Sunday, Dec. 22 — Reed Richards, an Ogden attorney.
• Monday, Dec. 23 — Quinn McKay, who will speak on the anniversary of LDS prophet Joseph Smith’s birth.
The Stoddards don’t charge for the Hoopernacle concert series, but Joyce Stoddard said they do gratefully accept donations.
“As you can imagine, it’s a pretty expensive hobby,” she said. “A lot of it is in need of repair.”
Joyce Stoddard said the Lincoln Center organ console came to them in a rather roundabout way. It and a number of other organ parts were being stored in the town of Big Water, Utah.
“A guy had bought a bunch of organ stuff and was going to build his own organ — like Hal,” she said. “But his wife said, ‘It’s me or the organ.’ So he sold it all to a Methodist church in Ogden.”
The church told Hal Stoddard if he’d haul up the parts from Southern Utah, he could have whatever they didn’t use. The console was one of the parts the church didn’t use.
“I think it was too big for them,” Joyce Stoddard said.
The Hoopernacle has been a labor of love for this couple. They’re getting up there in age — he’s 84, she’s 80 — but Joyce Stoddard says her husband has no intention of giving up their Hoopernacle Christmas tradition anytime soon.
“Hal says when he’s so old he can’t do anything else, I can strap him to the organ bench and he’ll play it until he expires,” she said.