Michigan Sojourn

While growing up in northwest Ohio, I never thought much about Michigan. If pressed, I knew it was home to Detroit, Greenfield Village, and Michigan State.  My knowledge of Michigan expanded over time as I was introduced to the University of Michigan’s  wonderful research library and Ann Arbor’s bookstores. But it wasn’t until I started visiting friends in Kalamazoo and Petoskey that I realized why so many people have, over the years, summered in the Wolverine state.

Group at the Barn

This is the third summer we’ve gone to the Barn Theatre, in Augusta, which is Michigan’s oldest summer stock theater company.  This year we joined friends for a production of “Big, the Musical,” then stayed for the after show in the Shed. The young actors and actresses who put on these performances are passionate about theater, even though it means they must do everything, from staffing the parking lot to dipping the ice cream. Their energy is infectious, and we loved our time there.

On Saturday morning, outdoor Kalamazoo beckoned us with it’s fresh air and lush green grass and trees. What a great place to walk and ride. And, while in nearby Richland, my friend Yolande arranged for me to have a tour of the public library, which has its roots in the formation of a Ladies Library Association in 1880. Our guide’s enthusiasm matched the library’s obvious vitality and the woodwork was beautiful.

Thunderstorms and high winds kept us inside for the remainder of the day, but we had no problem occupying ourselves with spirited games of ping pong and music making.

From Kalamazoo we traveled on to Interlochen, home to the Interlochen Summer Arts Camp. Dorothy Kunkel, our band conductor when we are in Florida, spends her summers nearby, so she met us for a tour of the Camp and an evening concert.  Dorothy has a long history at Interlochen, first arriving there from Nebraska in the early 1950s. I believe she’s sitting in the second row back, second person from the right (with a big smile on her face).

Dorothys first season at Interlochen

Dorothy spent many years conducting there and at the Blue Lake Music Camp, and it was a treat to see the camp, with its practice huts, lesson cottages, and lakeside views through her eyes. She’s still wearing the same broad smile!

The evening concert of the World Youth Orchestra was delightful. The words stenciled on the wall behind the musicians remind us that music is indeed a powerful and beautiful language, one that plays an important role in our world.

World Youth Orchestra

We had beautiful weather for our next stop, Crooked Lake, a little north of Petoskey. It was fun spending time on the lake with our friend Margie, and learning about the area’s history.

And of course, we made time for knitting and making music with our friend Nancy.

Knitting with NancyWe enjoyed playing an impromptu concert for our friend Margie’s Mom, who has spent many summers on the lake. We loved it when she sang along to songs like “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and “You are My Sunshine.”


To top off our visit, we attended a lecture at the historic Bay View Association given by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, author of What the Eyes Don’t See. This crusading pediatrician shed a lot of light on the the Flint water crisis and the importance of caring about the quality of our drinking water.

Michigan has a lot to offer, but I would be remiss if I failed to mention the wonderful yarn shops I visited along the way, Knitology (Traverse City), the Dutch Oven Yarn Shop (Alanson), and as we neared home, a brief stop at Broad Ripple Knits in Indianapolis.  The fun thing about the Dutch Oven Yarn Shop is it’s proximity to a bakery–a knitter can browse to her heart’s content while friends enjoy coffee and pastry. Of course making these stops means that I have more projects to complete, so I’d better stop writing and pick up my needles!


Posted in Dulcimer music and groups, friendship, Interlochen, Knitting, Knitting Stores, Michigan, music, theater

Budapest and the not-so-blue Danube

Castle Hill-Deb and JO

Our Music Lovers tour included several days and nights in Budapest. To be honest, before this trip, I knew very little about Budapest and wasn’t too keen on going there. But I’m so glad we did!  Let me see if I can show you why.

Four of us traveled with our guide, David, by train to Budapest. Upon arriving at the train station, we went out to a line of cabs. The first refused to take us to the hotel because David told them he wanted to pay in Hungarian forints “on the meter” instead of the flat rate quote of 40 Euros.  Fortunately, a cheery driver at the back of the line stowed us and all our luggage in his SUV and away we went…on the meter.

Let me preface the rest of my comments with a caveat…while in Budapest we saw primarily tourist sites, and therefore I can’t give a full impression of the city.  For example, in the areas visited most frequently by tourists, the city looks clean and modern (or revitalized), but in other areas once-beautiful buildings look like they need a good powerwashing. Architecture from the glory days of the Austro-Hungarian empire is similar that that of Vienna, while buildings erected prior to the end of communist rule in 1989, are more utilitarian in style.  The view below on the left is from our hotel room, and the view on the right was taken out of a bus window as we passed people protesting the government’s recent crackdown on academic freedom and science/research institutes.

Early Sunday morning we left our hotel, which was on the Pest side of the river, for a walk. As we approached the Danube, we noticed a number of cruise ships and smaller tour boats.  Many cruises use Budapest as a point of departure or as a terminus. Sadly, a collision between a Danube tour boat and a cruise ship occurred shortly before our arrival in the city, with a number of fatalities.

Castle Hill-View of Pest 3

One cannot help but admire the Chain Bridge, built in 1849 to link Buda and Pest by spanning the Danube. We crossed it by bus and foot, enjoying the views in every direction.

Danube-Chain Bridge 1

Soon we approached the Parliament, which sits in Kossuth Square. Because it was early Sunday morning, the area was deserted except for guards. Neo-Gothic in style, the Hungarian Parliament is where the National Assembly meets, and it’s the third largest Parliament building in the world.

Parliament 5

Around it one finds many sculptures and memorials, among them, the Kossuth Memorial (pictured behind the poppies) featuring Lajos Kossuth (center), the leader of Hungary’s 1848 revolution. I’m seated by a statue of Hungarian poet Attila Jozsef (1905-37), overlooking the Danube, and the third picture is of a memorial to commemorate the people’s uprising in 1956.

The nearby Shoes on the Danube was the most moving memorial we saw on this trip. Sixty pairs of men’s, women’s, and children’s shoes, cast in iron and set in concrete along the embankment, look as though people just took them off. This memorial is for Hungarian Jews shot here in the winter of 1944-45 by members of the Arrow Cross Party. To read more about this horrific event, go to https://www.yadvashem.org/articles/general/shoes-on-the-danube-promenade.html.

While in Budapest, we took a guided minivan tour with Gregory, who possessed an excellent knowledge of world history. He took us to the standard sights, including Heroes Square, which was opened in 1896 to commemorate Hungary’s millenium, and across the Danube to Buda.

Buda was more crowded with tourists eager to see the Matthias Church, the statue of St. Stephen, Castle Hill, and the Fisherman’s Bastion. As you can see, we had a beautiful day for our touring, but there was rain in those clouds!

Gregory also took us to one of his favorite spots, the garden of philosophy, on Gellert Hill. Sculpted by Nandor Wagner, the garden depicts an inner circle of the founders of five world religions: Abraham, Jesus, Buddha, Laozi, and Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten. An outer circle consists of Mahatma Gandhi, Daruma Daishi (also known as Bodhidharma), and Saint Francis. What a peaceful and inspiring place away from hordes of tourists.

Once we became familiar with the city, we sampled its musical heritage by visiting two excellent museums. One morning we traveled by subway (which had the most beautiful woodwork and tile, a remnant of the 1896 millennial celebration) to the apartment where composer Ferenc (Franz) Liszt (1811-1886) spent the final years of his life.

When we walked in, it felt like he might be in the next room. I especially loved his composing desk–what a great idea!

Another excellent museum, one whose existence might be in jeopardy due to less support for research institutes under the current government, is the Museum of Music History. Our very knowledgeable guide gave us a thorough tour despite not knowing if he would have a job the next week. The collection is amazing–instruments of all kinds, displays of how instruments are made, and much more.

Naturally, we also enjoyed Hungarian musical performances, including an evening of Hungarian folk music and dance. I learned about a Hungarian instrument known as the cimbalom, which reminds me a lot of a Hammer dulcimer. The seated man in the center is playing one.

We also enjoyed a fantastic performance by the Hungarian State Opera of Puccini’s Il Trittico. Since it was near the end of our tour, we agreed that if any one of us was too tired, we would leave after the first act…but the opera was so good we remained for all three.

I can’t leave Budapest without mentioning that I loved the food, especially the cabbage rolls. For our final evening, we dined along the Danube, where we were serenaded by musicians…a lovely ending to a very memorable trip!

Food-Restaurant Musician

Posted in Budapest, museums, music, Travel and Tourism

More to see in Vienna

Cemetery-Central-Jo and Deb at flower stand 2

We found Vienna easy to navigate, thanks to tips from our guide, a good map, and an excellent public transportation system. Whether traveling by U-Bahn or Tram, the system proved efficient and comfortable.

One of our destinations was the Vienna Central Cemetery, which was far from the city center when it opened in 1874. After stopping at a flower stand, we followed a path to the graves of Ludwig van Beethoven and Franz Schubert (both originally buried elsewhere and moved here in 1888), Johannes Brahms, Johann Strauss, and Arnold Schoenberg, among others. Each stone captures the essence of its composer’s personality. For example, Beethoven’s is bold with dark lettering, Brahms is portrayed looking very scholarly, and Schoenberg’s is a unique cube standing on one corner.

Vienna Central Cemetery did not exist when Mozart died in December 1791. Instead, after a hasty funeral, his body was transported to St. Marx Cemetery and buried in an unmarked grave, a common practice at the time.  As a result, no one knows the exact location of Mozart’s grave, however, there is a very nice monument. People were interred in this cemetery from 1784-1874, and on the day we visited it felt quite peaceful, as if one was visiting a forest, not a well-manicured garden.

Cemetery-Marx-Mozart grave with flowers

With all of our walking, we worked up quite an appetite, which we often satisfied with some Viennese sweet treats. We discovered that the Viennese love ice cream as well as apple strudel. It all was delicious!

When I travel, I always try to visit yarn shops. The shopkeeper in this wool store told me my German was “besser” than her English. Somehow we managed a transaction. Before we left home, our flute and piano teacher told us about a wonderful music store in Vienna, so we visited Doblinger’s and were not disappointed (see the look on Deb’s face as she examines books in the flute music section).

Near the end of our time in Vienna, we took the U-Bahn to Schoenbrunn Palace with our friend Barbara. The tickets for viewing the palace were sold out, but we had a great time walking the gardens and admiring the views.

We all climbed uphill to the Gloriette plaza for lovely views, but Deb went all the way to the top of the building for even more breathtaking (and windy) scenery. The first picture is the path to the Gloriette, and the other two are views taken from the top of the building.

We loved our time in Vienna, but now it’s time to board another train…this time to Budapest!

A-on the way to Budapest



Posted in music, Travel, Vienna

On to Vienna

St Stephens A

Soon after our arrival in Vienna, we followed our tour leader to the U-Bahn (underground railroad) and rode to the center of Vienna.  St. Stephens Platz was quite busy when we emerged at street level, but our eyes immediately went to St. Stephens Cathedral, completed in the 12th century. The workmanship, especially the stone carving, is stunning. Unfortunately, the cathedral’s roof suffered significant damage in April 1945 when it was hit by 22-ton bombs. This is memorialized today by paper mache rocks hanging from the ceiling (middle picture).

The next morning we returned to central Vienna in light rain for a behind-the-scenes tour of the Vienna State Opera. The building was completed in 1869, and also suffered massive bombing damage in the spring of 1945. Restoration in the ensuing years led to its reopening in 1955. Today the building is resplendant, and the Vienna State Opera is one of the leading opera companies in the world.

Workers were busy setting up for the evening’s premier of the Richard Strauss opera, Die Frau Ohne Schatten (The Woman Without a Shadow), which was sold out. Fortunately for us, it was simulcast on a large outdoor screen. We returned that evening and sat outside with several hundred others to watch the opera, sung in German with German subtitles.I enjoyed seeing how much college German I remembered. Not enough!

While in Vienna we heard a number of wonderful performances, including a pianist performing Bach’s Goldberg Variations, violinist Joshua Bell accompanied by the Salzberg Camarata Orchestra, Orchestra 1756 performing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in St. Charles Church, a performance of Die Fledermaus at the Volksoper Vienna, and the Vienna Mozart Orchestra, which concluded its performance with a lovely rendition of The Blue Danube Waltz, and the rousing Radetzky March, to which we all clapped along. Every aspect of each performance was excellent, from the musicians to the setting to the music!

We also strolled Karntner Strasser, the most famous shopping street in central Vienna, where we saw many tourists, the Black Plague monument, and the famous Demel’s, where diners sat enjoying sachertorte.

I loved being in Vienna for the better part of a week so we could spend lots of time exploring the city by foot. We grew familiar with the buildings of the Hofburg Palace complex (the former imperial palace of the Hapsburg dynasty), which we passed by daily.

Across the way stood the Volksgarten, with beautiful roses in full bloom.

We also passed by the “Lest We Forget” Holocaust survivors exhibition, which was vandalized during our time in Vienna. We were impressed by the many young guardians who turned out to repair the portraits and stand vigil with them in the evenings and overnight.

Vienna has many fine museums, of which we visited the Secession Building to see the work of Gustav Klimt, the Leopold Museum for an excellent exhibit on Vienna in 1900, and the Haydn House, composer Joseph Haydn’s home during his final years.

But my favorite was the Beethoven museum in Heiligenstadt. Residents of Vienna used to leave the city in the summer to avoid the heat,  and some of them, including Beethoven, sought refuge in Heiligenstadt. We could picture Beethoven walking in nature, drawing inspiration for his symphonies.

Beethoven Statue-Heiligenstadt 1

The museum is located in one of the buildings where Beethoven resided. It was peaceful, quiet, and if you stood alone in the interior courtyard, you could imagine him inside one of the apartments.

Heiligenstadt 21

The exhibits do an excellent job of portraying the composer’s despair over his increasing deafness even as he continued to compose masterful music. We especially appreciated the interactive nature of the museum, which gave us an even deeper appreciation for Beethoven’s hearing loss.

There’s more to tell about Vienna, in my next blog entry.

Posted in music, Travel and Tourism, Vienna

In Mozart’s…and Beethoven’s…and Haydn’s…and Liszt’s Footsteps

Mozart Statue Deb 4

In keeping with our recent interest in musical tourism, we traveled to Austria and Hungary as part of a tour called “In Mozart’s Footsteps,” led by Professor David Nelson, of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. It was a great experience, and along the way we encountered a number of other greats in music history.

The trip started in Salzburg, birthplace to composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-91). What a charming place with historic sites everywhere you look along with stunning views.  We could imagine Mozart running through the streets, music in his hands, or sitting in one of his family’s two homes (we toured both) playing music or accompanying his sister Nannerl as she sang.

Mozart was born in a small apartment on the third floor of this bright yellow building at 9 Getreidestrasse. Eventually, the family moved into the center building, today a museum known as the Mozart Wohnhaus (residence). When touring it, we learned that Mozart’s father, Leopold, also was an amazing composer. The third photo is of a historical marker indicating where Mozart’s sister lived.

Naturally, we couldn’t visit Salzburg without stopping by a few cemeteries. At one, we saw the grave of Michael Haydn and Nannerl (Mozart’s sister), and at the other, we saw the graves of Mozart’s wife, Constanze, and his father, Leopold.

Getreidestrasse was filled with tourists, but lots of fun to walk because of the narrow streets and signs suspended overhead advertising goods for sale. We saw lots of delicious pastries, as well as chocolates.

Old Town-Getreidegasse-Sign and Church

One day we took the funicular up to the massive Hohensalzburg Fortress, built in the 11th century to demonstrate the political authority and power of the prince bishops. From the Fortress, one looks down on the Salzburg Cathedral, built in the 17th century.

We had the pleasure of attending the Long Night of the Churches, where we walked a candlelit labyrinth, as well as a Sunday morning mass, where we enjoyed hearing the organ and a boys/men’s choir singing 14th century music. Mozart played one of these organs when he lived in Salzburg.

One cannot think of Salzburg without thinking of the Sound of Music. One afternoon we took a fun tour of sites related to the real Maria, as well as the movie version of her life.

While in Salzburg, we also saw a performance of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” at the Salzburg Marionette Theater, established in 1913 (the oldest Marionette Theater in continuous operation). We also saw a delightful Mozart dinner theater, where we heard selections of his work. Mozart wrote about a magic flute, but on this trip we took a special plastic flute, which made it possible for a very diligent student to practice her music each day.

I’ll leave you with a few pictures from the lovely Mirabelle Gardens, with the story to be continued in Vienna…next time!


Posted in Mozart, music, Salzburg, Austria, Travel and Tourism

Wandering the Wabash

This past Tuesday we set out on another trip to northern Indiana, this time to hear La Petite Brise, a baroque ensemble, perform at the Honeywell House in Wabash, Indiana.  It was a beautiful spring day and traffic was light as we drove north along peaceful state highways.

Honeywell House

After checking in at Honeywell House, site of the concert and also our lodging for the night, we went for a walk. My knowledge of Wabash, a city of about 11,000 people, was somewhat limited prior to this visit. I’ve long associated this area with the Wabash and Erie Canal, but I was unaware of Wabash’s claim to be the first electrically lighted city in the world (1880).

Downtown Wabash is well-maintained, and I was quite happy to find the Carnegie Library building still in use. I love libraries, and visit them whenever I have a chance. The original part of the building, pictured below, was constructed in 1903 from Indiana limestone with a $20,000 gift from Andrew Carnegie. The 1972 addition (on the right) does not detract from the building’s original Neo-Classical design.  After seeing so many Carnegie Library buildings now used as medical or law offices, or even apartment buildings, it was refreshing to see the Wabash Carnegie Public Library still filling a vital role in the community.

Wabash Public Library

The original central entrance is no longer used, so we entered through a door near the flag pole. As we climbed the stairs to the main floor, we found this lovely quilt hanging in the stairwell. What a delight! Check out the fabric used to create the Encyclopedia Britannica on the lower right shelf!

Wabash Liby Book Quilt

The doors pictured below brought back fond memories of similar doors in the Upper Sandusky, Ohio, Carnegie Public Library, where I spent many happy hours as a child. In the Wabash Public Library, however, one also finds a beautiful stained glass dome.

Women played a major role in establishing and running many late-nineteenth and early twentieth-century public libraries. In Wabash, the Women’s Library Association, working in conjunction with the school board, convinced the Carnegie Corporation to fund construction of a building.  On my way downstairs, I saw a marker memorializing their role, and this framed picture of Della Tilman, who served as head librarian from 1923 to 1969.

As I ventured down the street, I couldn’t help but notice the sculpture of an elephant. According to the historical marker, the Great American Circus was going to perform at Wabash High School on November 11, 1942. It was to be the final performance since many of the circus performers were going off to war. The circus featured three elephants, who bolted loose when dogs barked.  Two remained nearby, but Modoc (who weighted 1900 pounds) charged downtown and picked up the scent of peanuts roasting in a drug store. She was on the loose for five days before a trainer lured her back to the circus with loaves of bread. We bought a cup of coffee at Modoc’s Market Coffee Shop, named in memory of the adventurous pachyderm.

We took a quick walk through the Paradise Spring Treaty Ground, and would have enjoyed spending more time on trails near the Wabash River, but it was time to return to the Honeywell House for our dinner concert. The setting was perfect for Leighann Daihl Ragusa, Stephanie Hunt, and Jeffrey Noonan’s performance of late seventeenth and early eighteenth-century chamber music. We enjoyed it immensely, before adjourning to

La Petite Brise

Honeywell executive chef David Ericsson’s delicious meal of Bib wedge salad with Roquefort dressing, roast rack of lamb with red wine reduction, white cheddar risotto with roasted asparagus, and cheesecake tarts with raspberry coulis and honey whipped cream. Tables were set in three different rooms, and a musician joined each group for a very enjoyable dining experience.

I highly recommend musical tourism!


Posted in Indiana, music, Travel and Tourism

Here Comes the Parade

Second Time Arounders bannerLast year a good friend of ours joined the Greater St. Petersburg Area Awesome Original Second Time Arounders Marching Band. Perhaps you’ve seen it before, marching in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  After hearing about the band, we wanted to see it in action, which we did on March 30 in New Port Richey, Florida. It was a beautiful day for a parade, mild temperature, blue skies, and sunshine. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people lined the parade route, sitting in folding chairs perched on curbs, or leaning back against trees. Children raced along the parade route in advance of the floats and bands, and vendors hawked balloons on overloaded carts.

The parade featured high school bands in colorful uniforms, people on horseback, floats, decorated cars, costumed people, and more than I could ever capture with photographs.

But in my opinion, the best part of the parade was the Second-Time Arounders Band. When I saw them marching down the street, I realized that many of today’s bands no longer have all the extras that make a band special. This is not the case with the Second-Time Arounders. Flag bearers and the rifle drill team marched at the front of the band.

Next, there were majorettes and women with pom-poms. A requirement for participation in the Second-Time-Arounders is that you must have been in a high school marching band at some point in your life.  For some, high school was only a few years ago, but for others, it might be a few decades earlier.

You could hear the band coming from way down the street. Several hundred musicians strong, it has a powerful sound.

I do love a parade, and definitely will watch for them in the Macy’s Day parade this fall!






Posted in Florida, music