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Guest Comments 2013

Once upon a time a school musician and organist was battling a sleepless night. Frustrated, at last he reached for his copy of the American Guild of Organists magazine. An advertisement with a beautiful waterfall and the prospect of a week of uninterrupted organ practice caught his attention.

During a break the next day, he borrowed a cell phone from a fellow teacher and dialed the number. To his great delight, the dates he inquired about were available! After the dust settled in June and the classroom door shut for the summer, he set out for the East, taking with him his old friends Bach, Scarlatti, and Boëllmann.

He discovered that not only was there a lovely chapel with the best organ (and most in tune!) he had ever had exclusive use of, but there was a charming, well-appointed cottage just up the hill. By reading notes in the guest book he learned that it took vision, fortitude and help from many people to keep the chapel going, and he was grateful to all of them. In addition, he was grateful to Mr. Letchworth who so generously helped others and continues to benefit all who are blessed to visit the State Park.

He spent many happy hours (not that kind of happy hour) at the console, enjoyed singing the bass line without puzzled looks from passers-by, left his cell phone off, and even explored some of the hymn books on the shelf. (A chorale a day keeps the Doctor away.) He learned and relearned many valuable lessons, such as the value of slow practice, of using a metronome, and of being mindful of quality not quantity.

Most of the time he used 8-foot stops, but rumor has it that the " Battle Hymn of the Republic" was heard as far away as Chicago when his foot "mysteriously" hit the Sforzando . (The walls shook, too!)

So, thanks for everything. This is a real treasure, and I hope to return!

Jim Janossy 
Lincolnwood, IL 

This has been a wonderful trip. It was so nice to get away from the city for a while, change things up, slow down the pace. The chapel is indeed a wonderful practice facility, a true sanctuary for musical development. I can safely say that I learned the Franck Prière this week - and I can think of no better place to learn such a sublime piece. It definitely needs "atmosphere", and Portageville provides! Thanks for making this such a relaxing (yet productive) place to stay. I'll try to make it out here again soon.

Bryan Holten, Rochester, NY

A return to Portageville. Double rainbows at Middle Falls, mostly sunny days and warm weather, truly a blessing we shared this week! The music of many composers permeated the walls of the chapel into the streets of Portageville. From Bach to Gershwin, surely the residents heard the sounds of violin, piano and organ! Just as I remembered from last year, an amazing little chapel! My artistic friends filled the house, as I did the chapel. Canvas, paint, drawing and paper! They even showed me how and my project is almost complete. An extremely productive week for all! Here's to next year at Portageville Chapel! 


Christine Couch

All good things must come to an end... or do they? The week has gone too quickly for me! It was sunny when I arrived. Then it rained virtually all week. Now that I am leaving, it is sunny again! The rain did not dampen my spirits. I used this quiet week to compose a new setting of Psalm 84, "How Lovely is Thy Dwelling Place" and it doesn't sound anything like Brahams! I also brought music to read through, but I never got around to that. I was so charmed by the organ that I decided to make a recording of my set of 12 miniature pieces, "The Apostles: Twelve Sketches for Organ, based on 12 prints of Salvador Dali".

My approach to this area is different than most who come here. I'm from here - I grew up in Geneseo, New York, where my father was a professor at the college. My family made frequent trips to Letchworth State Park. Indeed we "lived" in our trailer for several weeks one summer in the campground while our new house was being finished! When I was 13, a friend and I rode our bicycles all the way from Geneseo to Portageville over the high railroad bridge! In later years we would take out-of-town guests to visit Letchworth Park - and wineries!

I read two books while here: "One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voscamp and "William P. Letchworth: A Man for Others" by Irene Beale. Time to finish packing up belongings - and newly made memories. Hopefully there will be more memories to create here in the future. Robert Green, Jr, Bristol, VA

A wonderful week of discovery and re-discovery! Discovery of new pieces I have wanted to learn - and having the time to truly delve into the structure of those pieces. Re-discovery - dusting off some of my "golden nuggets" of 25-30 years ago! (Yes, I can still play them!)

Being allowed to just concentrate on music and nothing else helped me gain my confidence back as a performer. Being allowed to slow practice without the ears of other people always surrounding me - making me feel self-conscious. Playing the piano in the cottage until late at night - finger exercises, Beethoven, Bach, Mendelssohn Scott Joplin!

Thank you to all who make this happen! Long may it prosper!


John Nowik, North Plainfield, NJ

Worshiping rhythm and tone in a living white space

Reveling in emerald green focus, in cobalt blue concentration

Embracing the deep quiet of nature

Tasting the sweetness of simplicity

Drinking in mesmerizing cascades of liquid music

Contemplating the universe in a humble white flower

Consuming skeins of sound wrapped in a blanket of silence

Appreciating a fragrant beam of sunlight

Loving a smoky gray purrr

Savoring the succulent gift of time.

...Not to mention eating a lot of fresh corn! If anything, our second visit was even more enriching, magical and restorative than our first. Vielen, vielen dank!

Mike Rocha and Brian Jones, Boston, MA

Thank you for your vision to provide a retreat facility and cottage for organists. May Portageville Chapel continue to exist for years to come. I spent a productive week at the bench, working on some new pieces and re-learning several pieces to play for church later this year. My sister was glad to see a friendly cat.

We enjoyed spending time at Letchworth State Park and hiking to the waterfalls. Practice breaks also included trips to seven quilt stores in the area. We also enjoyed eating at the Black-Eyed Susan Cafe in Angelica. 

Gina Simpson, Omaha, NE

Our fifth summer at Portageville and once again we enjoyed a wonderful week of music, rest, relaxation and much fun and fellowship with our dear friends, Cindy and Al. As an added bonus, this year we enjoyed a day trip to Niagara Falls, Canada. As always, the week went too fast! We continue to thank the Portageville Board for continuing this wonderful place of musical retreat for church musicians. ..."Our hope for years to come".

P.S. The remodeling work in the laundry and back bedroom looks great!

Gary Raish and Bob Riday, Stroudsburg, PA

Adding to the above, we also traveled for the second year to Christ Church in Rochester for the Sunday 11:00 am service. In addition to hearing the Craighead-Saunders instrument in the balcony, we heard for the first time the Hark and Hastings organ in the chancel. We have become very familiar with this area of New York State and are more adventurous in finding new places to eat and visit. The concept of this retreat is fantastic. Hopefully, people will come forward over time so that the Portageville experience can be sustainable beyond the efforts of the founders. 
Al and Cindy Adcock, Columbus, OH

I don't want to leave! The chapel organ has become a friend and I feel like I have to come back to visit. A huge thank you to all who are responsible for making this retreat center possible. I was able to play through a large amount of music and reconnect with my love of practicing. (I'm determined to take this sense of peace and focus to my sanctuary rehearsing back home.)

Having never been to this part of NY State added to my enjoyment. My husband, son and I found lots of places to explore. The park is beyond beautiful and so well kept. We even added to our adventure with an expedition to Niagara Falls and Toronto - all in one day!

Good luck to all who come after me. Remember we organists have been blessed. Take care of the gray cat and this lovely cottage. Peace.

Kyla Rosenberger, Fort Worth, TX

Had a lovely time, as usual! More piano stuff than organ this year, due to approaching deadlines, but still managed to brush up on some Bach and Mendelssohn for upcoming preludes/postludes and learned a few new things of the easier variety. Coming here is a great instruction on how focused you can actually be when you don't have all the distractions and obligations of home. I'm glad to be reminded that I am still capable of staying on task for more than 20 minutes!

Thanks for another delightful week here and the opportunity to play a recital at the end of it! What a beautiful place!

P.S. For next inhabitant - we are leaving some dry cat food behind. You will learn pretty quickly who it is for.


Andrew Gordon, Redding, CT

The magic of the chapel and the area of Portageville continues to inspire! This being our fourth time, I am once again sad to leave but renewed and refreshed for the new church year of music! This was a year of many little moments that were quite special: the beauty of silence at night at the cottage, practicing uninterrupted for hours which resulted in learning Bach's Fantasy and Fugue in C Minor and discovering and learning the music of a composer I had not known before - Renè Becher, a day trip to explore Warsaw and dine at Silver Lake Restaurant, an exploratory "scavenger hunt" of yard sales in the area, hiking with my family at Letchworth Park, eating sweet corn every night, my 3-year-old son distributing hymnals in all of the empty pews throughout the chapel while I was practicing (maybe one day he'll be an usher!), playing the piano at the cottage and exploring the books of music there and Sadie, the cat. Truly, this is an experience my whole family cherishes and enjoys each year. We look forward to returning to this beautiful place and sincerely thank Tim, Helen and the Portageville Board that make all of this possible.

Robert Morehead family, Pittsburgh, PA

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