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Logan • The best magic tricks, according to Richard Hatch, control perceptions and, indeed, entire situations in just such a way that they become misinterpreted.
Fact, in a sense, becomes fiction, and then back again.
And what better way to prove it than with an April 9 front-page story about UFOs in The Salt Lake Tribune.
"Some illusions are earthly," Hatch told an audience of about 55 people last month at the Hatch Academy of Magic and Music. At the same time, he was folding the newspaper to rip it into fourths. He then ripped it into eighths.
The audience had packed the modest reception hall at the Thatcher-Young Mansion to watch Hatch, his wife and violinist Rosemary, plus son and pianist Jonathan revive a French tradition that combines classical music with magic tricks.
When Hatch at last unfolded the seemingly ripped newspaper to a whole page once more, the audience laughed in astonishment, while the music accompaniment of Rosemary and Jonathan kept everything in balance.
Not a magician, but a deceptionist • Performances combining magic with classical music were pioneered by renowned 19th-century French magician Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin, who called them "Soirées Fantastiques." Robert-Houdin's evening salons translated magic from the smoke-and-mirrors of the big stage to parlors and drawing rooms. The tradition's sleight-of-hand performances made magic tricks more thrilling as they were performed in a more intimate setting, with all the trappings of a musical theater performance as a bonus. The Hatch family tradition dubbed them "Matinées Enchantées," in homage to Robert-Houdin, but with a slight name change to mark the afternoon performance time.
"Magic teaches a lot about how the minds works," Hatch explained after the show. "It explores gaps in people's logic and thinking. The best audience in the world is a room full of doctorates and people with advanced educations. It's often children who are hardest to impress because they don't have the same patterns of accepted understanding. I love not knowing; I hate the word 'fooled.' "
Hence Hatch's preference for the term "deceptionist," as opposed to magician. It's a more honest label for what magicians do, he says. And while the Hatch team always aims for a good trick, they'd much rather enchant and bewilder a roomful of eyes.
What led to the magic • There's plenty on the magic menu. Hatch delivers standard repertoire tricks with Chinese rings and ball-and-cups, but also illusions that mix spectacle and allegory such as the German "Das Gläserne Herz" (heart of glass) that puts a knife through glass.
Also on the program: the Indian "Miracle of the Jadoo-Wallah" that likens a string made whole to the spirit of life, plus the Japanese "Taro-San and the Weeping Willow Tree," which casts a bamboo curtain into a dizzying array of images in service of a story.
Hatch, 56, credits his big-picture view of magic to his early interest as a boy as well as a wide course of travel. His mother gave him a copy of The Great Merlini's The Golden Book of Magic when he was home sick from school. His nuclear-physicist father, Eastman Hatch, took the family from Pasadena, Calif., to Brookhaven, New York, Frankfurt and Heidelberg in Germany, Ames, Iowa and, finally in 1969, a professor's post at Utah State University.
In between, the young Hatch read magic books and met famed German magicians Fredo Raxon and Alexander Adrion.
He fell under the spell of hypnotism for a while, said older brother and former Salt Lake County Councilman Joe Hatch, but mostly he kept to his bedroom where he practiced, practiced and practiced. "You could hear Chinese rings fall on the floor or the throw of dice," Joe Hatch said.
Richard Hatch moved his family back to Logan to be closer to his aged parents, but his career in magic isn't taking a back seat. In addition to regular installments of "Matinées Enchantées," early this year, Hatch opened the magic academy, offering lessons in the attic of the Thatcher-Young Mansion, not far from where wife Rosemary also teaches violin.
Before they begin studying magic, students are asked to sign a "magician's oath" promising not to expose the magic secrets.
"It's not so much to protect the secrets of the magic," Hatch said, "but to protect the audience's enjoyment of the magic."
O Saturday, May 14, 2 p.m., and June 11, 2 p.m.
Where • Hatch Academy of Magic and Music, Thatcher-Young Mansion, 35 W. 100 South, Logan
Info • $7-$10. Call 435-932-0017 or visit http://www.HatchAcademy.com.