(Almost) All the excitement of 2016 in one blog post


While the weather was looking like this I was happy to have the opportunity to jump on a plane and go somewhere a bit more temperate.

This time was the Pacific Northwest.

Not only did I have the invitation to play a recital on a beautiful organ built by Martin Pasi, I got to see old college friends who I wish I spent more time with, play incredible organs, AND visit the shops where some of them are made. Hardly gets better than that! This is where the recital was – at Trinity Lutheran, in Lynnwood, WA. The amazing Penny Lorenz arranged my trip, and manages this concert series quite capably, on the beautiful organ by Martin Pasi.


My trip started in Tacoma, WA, where my friends Christoph and Wendy live, with their creative and fun kids. It was great to hang out with them and see how and where they live. Also, very convenient that they happen to live quite close to all kinds of fabulous organs! I was at Pacific Lutheran University, with a wonderful instrument by Paul Fritts.

Tacoma is also the home of world-famous glass-blowing artists Dale Chihuly, in case you are into that sort of thing, and this was hanging right in the lobby of the arts building.

And, someone is making sure their instrument stays safe from meddling hands!


Then I could zip right over to the shop of Paul Fritts, housed in a beautiful wooden building

Inside, they had the new organ for the Basilica at Notre Dame University set up – fun to see!


especially since I’ve been to Notre Dame and seen the space where this will go. I enjoyed talking with Paul and his fellow craftsmen, and seeing the insides of their shop. Every time I visit a small shop like this, I’m just amazed at all that these folks know and do.

I also met Mark Brombough for tea and conversation. He plays a wonderful organ in downtown Tacoma, built by his brother, the iconic American organ builder John Brombough, at Christ Episcopal Church. Not only is the room an amazing architectural space, the organ is really lovely.

with all kinds of color and subtlety.

The next day, I met another old friend, Tobin, and we saw the sights in Seattle

including eating seafood, and seeing the aquarium. We also checked out St. Mark’s Episcopal, which I fondly remember from my first AGO national organ convention.

Christa Rackich played that concert, and I was so amazed by the whole experience, I even bought the poster.

This time, I got to play the organ! 

This is such a great place, I just love all the space and light

We also had a fun group field trip to Martin Pasi’s workshop – both Toby, Christoph, and Christoph’s daughter and parents were along for the fun!

Martin was away, but his capable and welcoming fellow builders showed us everything. We really enjoyed hearing from them and seeing all around the shop.


Martin is building the organ for my friend and colleague here in Holland, MI, Steve Jenkins at Grace Episcopal, and I got to see a few of the parts of their organ, which I photographed and sent to them! This is not entirely magnanimous of me – I’m going to be making myself a nuisance over at Grace once this amazing instrument arrives…

In May, I was excited to be playing on the concert series at Goshen College in Indiana, where they have a lovely Taylor and Boody in their beautiful small recital hall.

I love T&B’s work, so clean and clear, lovely sounds, and my program included some new pieces for me, but it all worked so well. Also, I was super excited to see my name on the same sign as someone I love listening to on NPR. I texted a couple friends with a photo – “I’ve hit the big time – my name on the same sign as Ira Glass!!”

In June, I was honored to be asked by my friend and colleague Marilyn Ossentjuk to put together a recital for her church, Fountain Street Church in Grand Rapids. She had a great idea for a concert- a Summer Solstice recital. It was held in the evening, we played fun music, and they had a fabulous poster made for the event as well.


I love Fountain street because it’s such a grand space, built in an obviously different time. Also, the green room has these amazing posters from the past – all kinds of dignitaries and famous folks have spoken and played here, from Frank Zappa to Ella Fitzgerald and Amelia Erhardt to Eleanor Roosevelt. So it’s fun to imagine those folks hanging out in the same green room where I’m kicking up my feet!

The other exciting musical event of the summer was teaching at a POE+ which was held in Central PA at Messiah College. I had never taught at a POE+, and it was such an inspiration to me.

POE stands for Pipe Organ Encounter, and the plus means that all the students are over 18 years old. The students who arrived that week were all musicians who have ended up playing organ for their churches, often because they were the most likely candidate from the congregation, but often didn’t have much organ instruction or experience before they were thrown in at the deep end. It was inspiring seeing some folks well into retirement, excited to learn new things, and challenging themselves. Others were interested in gaining new skills and improving what they already knew, and no matter what their level, hearing and seeing them all perform up on stage during the concert on our final night was certainly an inspiration to all of their teachers.

As I write this, summer is just a fond memory, as we slog through a usual January in West Michigan – ice, snow, thawing, slush, freezing, and not nearly enough sunshine. Luckily, I have a trip to North Germany in March planned (haha! – when will I start organizing organ concerts in February in Southern Spain?)

The musical highlight of my fall was the opportunity to perform Durufle’s beautiful Requiem twice here in West Michigan, with Nick Palmer and his recently formed Mystical Voices ensemble.  This is a piece I’ve always wanted to  learn and peform, and it was a wonderful experience with great musicians.  Our mutual friend John was to thank for putting us all in touch with one another, and here are John and I after the concert at the St. Adalbert in Grand Rapids.