Northwest Indiana – more than meets the eye!

Last week, I took an eagerly awaited trip down to Northwest Indiana, to visit two organs I’d heard about from like-minded organ friends. Craig Craimer is the organ prof at the University of Notre Dame, in South Bend, and right around the time I left the country, in 2004, they built a beautiful new performing arts center, and in the organ hall, had the American organ builder Paul Fritts build a large, mechanical-action instrument that is definitely influenced by Northern European organ building ideals. As I planned this trip, I realized that Goshen, Indiana wouldn’t be far away, and knowing there was a Taylor and Boody organ there at the College, I figured I could combine these two organs for a day full of it-almost-feels-like-I’m-in-Bremen-again fun! What I hadn’t anticipated at first was that Notre Dame now also has a newly restored 17th Century Italian organ in the rear of their organ hall, restored really nicely by another organ builder I like, Martin Pasi. So, awake early that day, I packed up all the organ music I wanted to play while there (Bach, Buxtehude, Frescobaldi, and some Ritter for good measure), got a big stack of CD’s and my camera, and headed off with my Map Quest directions.

I made it to Notre Dame in good time, and enjoyed a morning of playing on the two instruments there. Craig really has an envieably good set-up for his students (and himself!) at Notre Dame. The building, hall, and instruments are just great. The Fritts was wonderful.

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I’d also forgotten how incredible 17th century Italian music can be on the appropriate instrument. Intending just to whip through a few pieces I’d played in years past, I became totally enamored with the sound and feel and wished I had all day just to play in Notre Dame.

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As a side note, Craig Craimer and I both grew up in the same very small town in central Pennsylvania, Dillsburg. Craig’s dad was my dad’s barber, and the church Craig attended as a youth, where his parents still attend, was where my parents were the church musicians a few years back. So, let’s hear it for Dillsburg and funny small towns – we all have to come from somewhere.

The drive over to Goshen was warm (no AC in our car…) and very Indiana-looking. Goshen struck me as a weird town, full of juxtapositions. I passed the city hall, in the center of the town square , which reminded me of my years living in Bloomington, IN, in what must be a very Indiana or Midwest kind of 19th century town planning. I passed a very cute, very vintage looking dinner.

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I drove passed lots of things that looked to my East Coast-Chicago-European eyes like… Indiana. No better explanation comes to mind. And this being Goshen, I passed by an Amish horse and buggy, a German grocery store (called Himmel Haus), and outside of town on the highway, a sign for the town of Bremen!  (Bremen was the city in Germany where we lived for 7 years.)

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Goshen College also has a beautiful new music building, with a really great hall too. Both halls I saw this day had wonderful organ acoustics. The Taylor and Boody there was a feast for the eyes and ears, and another couple hours flew by, as Bach and Buxtehude started making much more sense than they had been making to me on the organ where I usually practice.

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The drive down to Indiana was full of organ music – on the way back, though, I was organ-ed out, and sang along to Willie Nelson, U2, and a bunch of other old CD’s I’d recently pulled out of boxes that hadn’t seen the light of day for 8 years. It was a happy reunion, I must add. I suppose Willie Nelson and Indiana went well together, as well.

Arriving home, a colleague of mine here in Holland, and my newest organ pal, Steve Jenkins and his great wife Eileen, had just arrived for dinner with my family and I – we ordered out for pizza, made a salad with veggies from our local CSA, and enjoyed hanging out together. What a day!