Tuba, Flutes, and Marimba, oh my!

Spring in Holland, Michigan?  Tulip Time! 

There was of course, more to the spring 2015 than just Tulips, wooden shoes, and Dutch dancing, but this seems a good place to start.



 This past spring I had a number of fun musical opportunities nearer to home.  I was asked at the last minute to fill in for an event the Grand Rapids American Guild of Organists chapter was organizing – a performance with orchestra by four local organists (seen below), playing some of the instrumental movements from Bach’s cantatas with obligato organ. 


With players from the Grand Rapids Symphony (including the best continuo player in town, Greg Crowell) and a capacity crowd at this event, as well as the rare chance to play some incredible music with orchestra, it was a great event with which to be involved.


Also in March, I performed two pieces for organ and flute orchestra with the West Michigan Flute Orchestra, directed by my friend Julie Sooy.  The orchestra is made up of 50 flute players, playing everything from piccolos to crazy-looking bass flutes.


 Barry Jordan, cathedral organist in Magdeburg, Germany (and a very nice guy) wrote a piece for this occasion which was a big hit with the performers, and very effective.  Watch it here!


Before I knew all this would be happening, I’d planned my annual Hope Church spring recital for March as well, so the month ended up being full of rehearsals, since this year my concept was organ plus instruments.  I’d dreamt up a program of all chamber music, featuring the world premiere of a piece written by friend and local colleague Steve Jenkins for organ and marimba.  Also included were collaborations with other musician friends and colleagues, on tuba, flute, violin, and oboe/ English horn.  The variety of sounds and composers made for a colorful and interesting program, if I say so myself… 


A last minute personnel issue left me scrambling for a marimba player, and ending up with David Hall, principal perecussionist with the Grand Rapids Symphony, a great player, and a super nice guy.

Steve’s piece is a fascinating blending of his many varied musical influences – including jazz, rock, minimalism, chant, liturgical organ literature – and audience members responded very favorably.  Dave and I liked playing it too.


In April, our local AGO chapter held a concert at Western Seminary, where I’m the seminary organist (of sorts…)  A nice cross-section of the guild played – from students to retired folks – and we had a full house for the recital.  I’m so glad we took the chance to honor long-time chapter member Joy Huttar, organist for many years at Grace Episcopal in Holland, as a member of our League of Distinguished Service.  Over the summer, Joy had a massive stroke and died – I’ll miss her faithful presence at our chapter events, with her husband Chuck. 



Stories like Joy’s are an inspiration to me – after her children were in school, she went back to college for a degree in organ, after being asked to step in as organist at her home church.

April also included my official debut at the local series Free @ Three, with my pal and frequent local collaborator (and jaw-droppingly good horn player) Greg Bassett.  We played a whole program of music for organ and french horn.  Thanks to Kallie Spidahl for the super photo!