An Asian-inspired melody wafts into the crowd from a violin and piano combo as Richard Hatch, Logan magician -- or "deceptionist," the term he prefers -- manipulates a magical device to help him tell a story of a Japanese fisherman.
During his tale, precisely choreographed to the live music of his wife, violinist Rosemary Kimura Hatch, and pianist son Jonathan, Hatch silkily maneuvers a simple reed mat, a little larger than your typical welcome mat.
In Hatch's hands, this simple bundle of reeds and twine becomes 3-D sculptures of characters and places. As the story unfolds, the images change from instant to instant to illustrate his tale. Appearing before your eyes are a simple country boy, a giant exotic fish, an oceangoing vessel. Sometimes the pictures seem much larger, sometimes much smaller, than would seem possible when looking at the raw-material magical mat that Hatch uses to illustrate his tale.
Hatch used to study the laws of physics. Now, with the likes of his simple reed mat, an ordinary deck of cards or a flash of silver coin, he seems to defy those very same laws.
There was a time when Hatch thought he'd spend his life with his mind turned to the mysteries in cutting-edge math and theory.
Much like his own father, who taught physics at several colleges and closed his career as a tenured professor in physics at Utah State University, Hatch saw the highly theoretical science as the path in his future.
"The truth is, my brother and I both took this class for non-majors -- physics for the poet, if you will. Really, we just wanted to know something about what Dad does. But then I got really intrigued, especially by relativity, and had taken a bunch of classes, so I figured I'd major in it."
By the time his education was said and done, Hatch ended up with a master's of science and a master's of philosophy in physics, from no less than Yale University.
But by then, he'd also found a circle of friends who were actually making their living with magic. When the budding scientist realized he might be welcome, and even successful, in their colorful clan, there was no turning back.
Now, decades after his college years, Hatch and family run the Hatch Academy of Music and Magic in Logan, out of the historic Thatcher-Young Mansion.
There, you can both learn how to fiddle with a fiddle and/or pull a rabbit out of your hat. The Hatches also regularly perform a show at the mansion the second Saturday of the month.
"There is mystery and beauty in both physics and magic that really intrigues me," Hatch noted. "But I came to the realization that while I had some talent, physics was not going to be the guy who would be able to solve these riddles of the universe. When I left physics for magic, I thought, 'Well, I can always go back to physics if this does not pan out.'" He laughed. "Of course, now I couldn't possibly. String theory? I have no idea!
"But the good thing about studying physics is it gave me my standard line -- I want to violate the laws of nature, not discover them."
Hatch first became interested in magic as a boy in Logan. He started out doing what is known as apparatus magic. His grandfather would take him to a little magic store in Salt Lake City, where he could buy illusion kits -- disappearing coins devices and the like.
Then came a family trip to Germany in 1970. Hatch ended up staying there to attend high school for a time after his parents came back to the United States. The family fostering him saw his fascination with magic and, through a local television station, they were able to contact Fredo Raxon, a professional magician, to school Hatch.
"I hadn't seen that kind of real magic before. It was life-changing. He was so skillful. He took pride in the fact he could use ordinary objects -- decks of cards, coins, and, combined with his great skill, sleight-of-hand, dexterity, practice and talents, and the understanding of psychology and how we react to things that seem totally impossible -- and wow the crowd. Plus, he was extremely charismatic. I just wanted to be that guy."
Hatch eventually became "that guy" -- a full-time magic pro, in 1983. For a long while, he based out of Houston, where he became not only a working magician, but for a time, a purveyor of a respected bookstore called H&R Magic Books.
He is renowned in magic circles for his tenacious research on a mysterious magician by the name of S.W. Erdnase, who wrote a famous and still-useful tome about the art form at the turn of the last century.
Almost a year ago, the Hatches returned to the Cache Valley, where they set up shop in the Thatcher-Young Mansion.
"I want to have a place where young magicians, especially, can feel like they have a place to go and trade ideas and feel a part of a brotherhood," said Hatch. "It is better with the Internet these days, people can find each other better. But I just remember how it felt to not know of anyone else doing magic when I moved back here. It was pretty lonely."
Adding the music
The Hatches wanted to combine their love of music and magic in a different way in their show.
Of course, both had been used together in the past -- think of the "Ta-DA!" moment -- but their idea was to truly make the music accent the illusions on stage, and vice versa.
Hatch tries to give himself, his wife and his son all a solo, or at least highlighted moments in the production. But he enjoys most when their ensemble effect clicks.
"That is a tough challenge for us, because I am simply not musically trained. So for a time, it was rough on my wife -- 'Do this on the beat -- do you even hear the beat?' Well, now I do, but it took me a while."
In the 75-minute act in the elegance of the historical mansion, Hatch intrigues with card tricks, magical hoops, mental displays of dexterity, all performed to live accompaniment of classical and folk pieces by such maestros as Bartok, J.S. Bach and Kreisler. And he tries to keep it fresh to keep people coming back.
"One of the challenges to doing a show of this kind, for a relatively small audience, is keeping in favorites, while offering something new at the next show to bring them back," said Hatch. "It's not like a big touring show where you can do the same tricks night after night to new people. We will have some overlap in this size community, and I want to keep it fun for them. I'm always working to add something new."
Jonathan Hatch, the Hatches' 20-year-old son, is at present a part of his folks' act. An accomplished pianist, he left for a time to study in Austin, Texas, and hopes soon to return to Houston, where he was raised, and continue his studies.
But for now, he is definitely part of the family business -- at least the musical side of it.
"I like playing piano, and this really is kind of an interesting challenge, to make the music and the magic go together seamlessly," said Jonathan Hatch. "But I think I'll stick to the music part of the act for now. I never really got into the magic so much. That's really more my dad's thing."