Farewell to 2017

2017, it was good to know you.  But before you go, let’s sit down and remember all the good times we had together.  There were some not-so-good times too, but my blog audience doesn’t necessarily need to read all about them, do they? 


I had a relatively calm, quiet, at-home kind of winter last year, reading books, learning notes, with the exception of driving down to South Bend, Indiana in January for the inaugural concert by Craig Cramer on the new Notre Dame Fritts.  Georgous organ, stunning space, a school with money to burn, great player – what’s not to like? 

As often happens in the organ world, it’s a small world!  Happy to see Dan that night.

I also played a concert at Hope College with the jazz organ prof there, Tony Monaco, in the concert hall. 

It was like a Battle of the Bands (but with organs) – the Casavant pipe organ versus the Hammond B3.  Tony played jazz standards, and I played some classical pieces influenced by jazz music – it was a super fun evening.  My kids, afterwards, were only interested in spending time on one instrument – and it wasn’t the one they see Mommy play all the time. (boring!)


After my sleepy winter, March hit, and I was ready for some traveling.  


First, I flew out to New York state, where I was at Cornell University, hosted by the talented and charming Annette and David.

They were very gracious and interesting, and I also loved spending time on the Baroque organ in Anabel Taylor Chapel, built in 2010 by GoART/ Yokota, as well as wandering around campus and town, thinking – why can’t I live in a hip, progressive, funky university town (with big hills and ravines) like this?  Oh well, maybe in another lifetime…

Jeff Johannes

I also caught up with an old IU friend, mathematics prof at SUNY Gennesseo, Jeff, and we did what middle-aged people do when they see friends from their youth – talk and eat food.



Then I saw more old friends – Paige (who left us here in W MI, for the wiles of life in New York…) and her husband Justan hosted me, and we visited the most amazing movie theater – with real butter on the popcorn, hot tea you can buy at the concessions stand, and independent and artsy movies showing.  I also was so proud to get to see Paige up in the pulpit in her very own cute little country church!  Pastor Paige is setting all those crazy East coast folks straight.


Then, escaping town just before the snow storm of the year hit, I met up with yet another old friend, this one from Wheaton days, at West Point.  Krista and her buff Army husband now have a brood of blonde children, (who would have guessed, back in our undergrad days!) and they were happy to keep me longer than planned, during the blustery days of snow and travel uncertainties. 

A low point of 2017 was when I arrived at the airport, after many hours on hold trying to reschedule my ticket because of the snow, to find out my passport, expiring the next month, wasn’t eligible for travel to Germany until I’d visited the embassy in NYC and renewed it!  Hours of waiting there were a great time to make some serious progress on George Saunder’s amazing Lincoln in the Bardo, my new favorite book.  And then finally, I was off to Germany!

I’ve never gone in March before, and it’s of course not the most lovely month to visit Northern Europe, but it was great to see old friends (especially Margaret and Kate!), and play wonderful instruments.  My friend Barry hosted me at the Cathedral in Magdeburg, on their Lenten series in the winter church.

Always a joy to play the elegant Glatter-Götz (2011), spend time in the beautiful Magdeburger Dom, and trade stories with Barry about music and life over meals.

On my recital in Magdeburg, I was pleased to be able to perform a work Barry composed for me years ago, and I finally got around to learning.  Letters from Lambarene is based on excerpts from Albert Schweitzer’s letters, and a fascinating piece.  (Above is the G&G, below is Barry and I in front of the Italian organ in Hannover.)

I also enjoyed getting to know Moritz and Ulfert at the Marktkirche in Hannover, where a great crowd came out to hear me play a little Frescobaldi on the Italian Baroque organ, and a lot of American pieces on the big Goll organ from 2002.  The organs were very fun to play, and the musicians there were kind and gracious.

No sooner was I back from Germany and reacclimated, but I headed off on the train for Chicago, where I met up with trumpeter Brian Reichenbach, also from my Wheaton days. 

I visited him at Trinity university where he teaches, and played a concert with their band – the Dupre Piece Heroique sounded great with the wind ensemble.  Brian and I also played a concert for organ and trumpet at my old church job – First United Church of Oak Park, and it was so nice to see some familiar faces there again.

Stayed with some of my favorite Chicago folks – Gary and Lenora Rand.

In April, I joined the European AGO for their first ever Spring Meeting (aka organ tour) in the US.  They were in the DC area, where I’d never visited organs before. 

It was great speaking German with the German crowd, talking trash/exchanging gossip with Matthew Provost,

seeing old friends and getting to know new ones, and experiencing lots of spectacular spaces and some good organs. 


Also, my host for the week, Kathy Cooper, was fantastic, fun and funny. We all visited the Taylor and Boody workshop, where they even cast a few pipes while we were there – a fascinating process to watch.

After the meeting was over, I journeyed from DC back down to Virginia, to Taylor and Boody land, where I played my second concert on the incredible T&B at Trinity Episcopal in Staunton. 

The Boody’s were generous hosts yet again, and Gen Boleana was a fabulous stop puller. 

And I love this instrument.      

Then, it was musical whiplash, with Tulip Time arriving here in Holland, Michigan, and my first ever concert for the Tulip Time festival, of Dutch organ music at Hope Church.  I played Sweelinck to Ad Wammes, with a few things in between, and it was a treat being part of this local festival – aside from what I usually do, which is eating elephant ears while watching parades, of course. 

Over Memorial Day weekend, I played the rededication concert of the organ at my parents’ church in New Cumberland, PA, Trinity United Methodist.  One unique aspect of this was that Timothy Botts, the internationally know calligrapher, who attended the church as a child, agreed to created original works to a few of the pieces.  So up on a board, in front of the audience, he created his work, along with the music being played.  It was pretty neat to put this togther with a visual artist (I’d love to do this kind of thing again in the future…), and there was a full church for the joyful celebration of the return of their beloved organ.  Here is a video of one of the pieces Tim and I did together.

In June, I took my first ever trip to Nebraska, to Omaha, where the Musforum conference was taking place.  Marie  hosted me at the Cathedral of St. Cecilia, where I was thrilled to be playing the beautiful Martin Pasi organ there, from 2003.  This is dual-temperament instrument, which is particularly unusual, and exciting!  As well as a grand space, an amazing program, and a talented and kind musician.  It was again fun to hang out with a bunch of women in church music and talk shop (as well as food, clothes, and whatnot).


I left a bit early for a slightly-crazy non-organ related activity – hiking a portion of the Appalachian Trail, with a group from church.  Luckily, none of my limbs were damanged during this week, though I was pretty glad to have survived.  I would not really refer to the experience as “fun”, though I’m told the passing of time does tend to sweeten the memories somewhat.  It was amazing, though, and I’m pretty proud of myself for having made it!  And no, I’m not going again this year.  But maybe sometime again…

July was the AGO regional convention, in Youngstown, Ohio, a town I’d never been to before – but I’ve past it on the turnpike! (that was what I kept hearing…) The city of Youngstown has seen better days, that’s for sure.

  But it also has a stunning pipe organ in an amazing space downtown, Stambaugh Auditorium.  Hoping to be back in Youngstown sometime, and get my hands on those keys!  There is also a fabulous public park, where I wandered around my last morning in town. 

And there are lots of great people, who in spite of everything, make this their home and do good work there.  That’s always inspiring to me.  I played my concert of solo organ works and chamber music at St. Christine Catholic church with two wonderful players from Youngstown State – Stacey Mickens and Kathleen Umble.  The musician at St. Christine, Ron Gould, was gracious and incredibly helpful, and a lot of fun.  He has this sign by his office.  hahaha!

August found me in the Twin Cities for the first time, for the OHS convention, where I also played.  Michael Barone, the host for the convention, was kind enough to offer me the duties of bus captain, in exchange for free registration. 

I took him up on this, though some of my friends and colleagues didn’t seem to agree that it was a good deal.  I however, enjoyed the chance to regal a captive audience with my unique brand of silliness, helpfulness, patience in trying situations (just using my mom skills) – as well as my theories on introverts and conventions.  I was declared by more than one person to be “The best bus captain”.  Just saying… Oh, I also played a concert, on a sweet and elegant Jardine pipe organ from 1864 at First Baptist church in Hudson, WI.  It went very well.

 The Twin Cities are also a great place to visit.  Or live?  Michael – if I show up on your doorstep with a trailor behind my car, you know what this means.  (Michael likes old organs, and old cars.)


In September, in Grand Rapids, I did a repeat of the Youngstown concert, with two local musicians and friends, Julie Sooy and Greg Bassett.  This took place at Trinity Lutheran in GR, which is a wonderful space to make music, where the horn and flute sounded amazing.  Thanks to Larry for hosting us here.

And with the school year starting, my life calmed down again.  It was a fall full of staying home, trying to get my kids to do their homework, and the other more mundane duties of life.  I also have been practicing like crazy, getting some new programs ready, working on writing (words, not music), oh, and a little trip to Japan.  There’s a separate blog entry for that one. 


December was full with my annual Advent recital at Hope Church, this year with Julie Sooy on flute and Anna Cormier, soprano – we did the Frank Martin Chants de Noel, a lovely Christmas chamber piece.

and the grueling complete Messiah, with chorus, soloists, and organ accompaniment.  And now it’s time to hibernate a bit, for a Michigan winter.  See you all come spring…

One more interesting thing that happened in 2017 – the Solar Eclipse!  

We took a family road trip to Kentucky, which was memorable in many ways, and it was great to be in the path of totality with whole piles of others (though not as fun on the drive back home, piled up on the highway and all the smaller roads between Kentucky and Chicago, with thousands of others…)  Stories to tell at family gatherings for years, I tell you!