Spring into Summer in Holland

Spring into Summer in Holland, MI: tulips, berries, the beach, and organ conventions

May in Holland, Michigan means Tulip Time, the festival of all things Dutch – Pigs in a Blanket, traditional Dutch dancing in costumes and wooden shoes, and many, many Tulips. The kids and I checked out all three parades this year during the festival, and they wore their costumes. Maybe I should get a costume for next year…

Dutch kids

The organ concert for kids that I presented this spring went really well. My son Isaac (age 6) drew the picture for our posters.  They turned out very nicely, especially after I told him he didn’t have to draw a wolf.


We had a huge and enthusiastic crowd, full of kids, and my amazing assistant, Eileen Jenkins, who is practically a local rock star (aka Miss Eileen from Herrick library), did a great job narrating Peter and the Wolf and leading our sing-along “The Pipes on the Organ go Toot-Toot-Toot”, sung to the tune of “The Wheels on the Bus”.


 – Eileen is narrating here, and I can be seen on the right hand screen.

We did a special showing for Isaaac’s kindergarten class.  40 6-year olds is a pretty tough crowd!  Here we are practicing the various ways you can show a performer that you liked what you heard.



Holland has a rocking farmer’s market. Arriving back in the US from 7 years in Germany, and the unparalleled markets there, we were naturally a bit reserved in our praise for it, but it’s really grown on us. There is live music, amazing local vendors, and a great vibe. This spring, we loved buying rhubarb, asparagus, and strawberries.

Speaking of berries, Western Michigan may have it’s flaws, but a lack of berry farms are not among them. The kids and I were strawberry picking at a local farm this spring, and cherry picking later, followed by blueberry picking, each in it’s season. Strawberry picking is perhaps the most rewarding – it’s like a vast treasure hunt, pulling back and pushing aside those green leaves, seeking the ripe, red berries while avoiding thistles and bees. Cherry picking involves trees, ladders, and is easier if you bring a tall friend. Blueberry picking is perhaps the easiest of the three, with the open, waist-level bushes, though it also comes in July at the height of summer, so it’s usually hot by then!


– strawberry picking-

May brought my debut as a Suzuki violin class accompanist – Isaac’s first year of violin lessons has been a learning experience for us all! Following those young players is not for the faint of heart, but we all survived the recital, students and accompanist alike. Best comment, overheard from a dad, in response to congratulations over his son’s practice award, said very dryly, “I tell you, all it takes is a lot of yelling.”

Isaac violin 


The other great thing about living in Western Michigan is the lake. Incidentally, we saw a nice bumper sticker the other day – “4 out of 5 great lakes prefer Michigan”. Our family rode our bikes out to the beach for Father’s Day, and a week later, took a day trip to Silver Beach in St. Joseph, where in addition to a great beach front, they have a really spectacular carousel, complete with a real street organ for music and some fantastical animals – when have you last ridden on a praying mantis?

carousel at StJoe


I caught a glimpse of Lake Michigan (the other side of it), on my latest trip, through Chicago to Burlington, Vermont for the Organ Historical Society National Convention, followed by Kalamazoo, Michigan, for the American Guild of Organists Regional Convention. I readily admit that this is kind of a nerdy way to spend a summer week, but it’s fun for me.

In Vermont we mostly spent our time in little villages, visiting small country churches usually having small organs that their congregations have cherished for generations. In many ways, it reminded me of the country villages and small organs I would visit in Ostfriesland, the rural region of North Germany where my Fulbright time was spent. The organs in both places are a living piece of history, surrounded by a small group of people who are proud to have inherited this treasure, and value their role as caretakers of it.

OHS heater

– the old heaters are still in the back of this church, between the pews.

In contrast, in Kalamazoo and Battle Creek we saw beautiful and ornate city churches with much bigger and newer instruments, obviously the products of a rich industrial heritage.  I enjoyed concerts at both conventions, and got all my favorite recitalists to agree to a picture with me!

 Chris and Me

– really enjoyed Chris’s creative canon concert (and my amazing alliteration) at OHS – here are Chris Marks and I  the day before his concert, outside a local church.

Renee and I

– Renee Anne Louprette’s AGO concert was brilliant.

Yun and I

-and Yun’s AGO concert was exciting, especially that transcription of Prokofiev’s Toccata in D minor!



– there was a bit of open console time at the end of the Kalamazoo AGO convention, and I found my way to two lovely Dobson organs in Battle Creek – here I am in the chapel at the Congregational church, playing some Bach and Mendelssohn, and below, I’m enjoying Durufle at the Presbyterian church. 




We’re off now for some family vacation time, and then it will be August already, with the start of the school year for us all, and new concerts on the horizon for me in September. I’m looking forward to playing at the Bravo Bach Festival in Sacramento, my first time to see and play the important Beckerath organ in Pittsburgh’s St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the organ rededication at my parents’ church in New Cumberland, as well as my first collaboration concerts with my new partner group, the trombone quartet, Guidonian Hand.


AGO Esther

– and finally, Esther, posing as a geeky organ convention attender.  Yes, we all walk around wearing name badges and carrying those bags.