top of page
Guest Comments 2014 

I'm writing on Monday afternoon. I feel great! This week dedicated to studying and practicing music has filled me with confidence and strength. I'm grateful to Helen, Tim and everyone involved in making The Portageville Chapel what it is. This part of New York is so amazing and inspiring.

It seems I may be the first guest of the summer. I played the National Anthem on the house piano to celebrate. Here is some advice for making the most out of your experience here.

  • Go to Letchworth State Park. I hiked every morning and I was able to concentrate for hours of practicing later in the day.

  • Explore. There is a lot to see and do around here. Read the black binder.

  • Browse the library in the chapel. Thanks so much to Thom Robertson for this legacy. There is a lot of wisdom in these books! I found myself renewing baroque articulation and looking at old method books.

  • Make time for silence and listen.

  • If you are driving near Buffalo, there are several grocery stores in Cheektowaga/Walden Ave.

Finally, I once went to a music education conference. At the final celebration dinner, the professor stood up and said grace. He prayed for all those who need to attend a future conference. I hope that anyone in need of an inspiring week like this may find their way here. Let's pray for them!

James Janossy, Lincolnwood, IL

As my week in Portageville comes to an end, I think back on the first time I saw an ad for The Portageville Chapel in The American Organist. Year after year I saw the ad and thought about what a terrific idea it was. I'm very glad I finally called and reserved this week at the chapel. I have a renewed sense of confidence in my playing and have gotten myself back into a regular practicing schedule. It's amazing how much one can accomplish without the distractions of other church-related things (i.e. the anthems that need to be filed away or the desk drawer that could use a good cleaning).

The chapel itself was not only beautifully restored, but the acoustics were spectacular, especially for a room so small. The organ, regardless of its modest size, was a joy to play. The range of tonal color it can produce is outstanding. A wealth of soft flutes and gemshorns, an excellent principal chorus, and a reed perfectly scaled for the room make it an organ suited for playing almost any repertoire! Truly outstanding.

The cottage was also very nice and gave my wife a chance to practice the piano and learn some new arias for an upcoming opera workshop. There was no lack of interesting activities in the time not spent at the organ. From hiking in the park to taking a ride on a train pulled by a steam locomotive, to eating outdoors at the Glen Iris Inn, it was a relaxing and productive retreat, which I hope to repeat for many years to come.

I am a "returnee". I found my week here went even faster than last year. I was sad when Monday rolled around knowing it would be my last full day of musical immersion. After I left last summer, I found I had regained a lot of my confidence in playing again, simply because my week spent here recharged me and re-encouraged me. It helped me get through another season. This year I also brought a lot of littler pieces to learn. Little gems that get overlooked. I tend to play these more often for services anyway.

Thank you so much for continuing this retreat center. I have told so many people about it and am trying to encourage my organist friends to try it. They are all jealous of me!

John Nowik, N. Plainfield, NJ (Seton Hall University Organist)

This has been my 3rd time to spend a week here, and it's now something that I count on for undistracted practice, reading, listening and planning. What a gift this place is!! I wasn't able to work it into my schedule last summer, and I felt the void all year - in my playing and in getting a handle on the coming season. Thank you, thank you, thank you for continuing this unique retreat!

Peter Dubois, Rochester, NY

The Rosenbergers came back for a second year and, once again, it was delightful to be here. I practiced hours and hours. Loved having time to read through all the new music I just bought at the Boston AGO convention. It's so fun to have time to plan service music and jot down ideas for the whole coming year. The chapel blesses me with such a clear head. It's so freeing to be away from my office and church folk - we all need a break from the usual!!

We highly recommend the train ride in Arcade with its steam, laughing children and the sing-a-long with the accordian player. Walking the grounds and having dinner at the Glen Iris Inn was memorable.

If you're from the Northeast, treasure your summers. We Texans love your climate. Eat well, drink wine, watch movies and revel in the sounds of the chapel organ. Cheers to all who follow!

P.S. We were also highly entertained by a three-day auction/estate sale up the street. What fun! Then Brian and Andrew spent one day in Toronto seeing the Hockey Hall of Fame and much more. Glad we remembered their passports.

Kyla Rosenberger, Brian and Andrew - Fort Worth AGO


Thank you for the opportunity to spend a week practicing in The Portageville Chapel. It seems that you have provided every convenience for one to practice (i.e. pencils, metronome, fans, and a tuned pipe organ). The cottage was appointed with nearly everything one could want from home. Also, the helpful information on local restaurants was much appreciated. My favorite is the Glen Iris Inn (the almond/cranberry bread pudding is "to die for"). I hope to return next year!

Ed Howell, Terry H. Wise, Bobby Sullivan, John Raupach - Canton, OH


Many thanks to Helen and all of those involved with The Portageville Chapel. Great work!

It is one of the great ironies of this life that the more successful you become in your career, the less time you spend doing the thing you love the most. Too often we lose track of our calling because the little things get in the way. Paperwork, meeting, planning meetings for when we are going to have the next meeting...

I remember my college instructor telling me, "You'd better learn those big pieces now! You will never have time when you get out in the REAL world!" Of course, as a student, I was like "whatever"....but, of course, he was right!

Portageville Chapel gives you a chance to reframe things, focus, and get back to basics. Hopefully in the process you will discover why you became a musician in the first place!

Random thoughts:

  • Every sanctuary should have a Carlyle Corner in the back!

  • What a piano! My first thought was, oh what a clunker, but then I played it and WOW, what a rich bass. Great for Brahms!


  • Perfect organ for the space! Every day I found a different sound that I liked.

  • 91.5 WXXI Best Classy Radio ever!

P.S. My hobby is fly fishing and I had a great time fishing around Letchworth - 16"

small-mouthed bass. Yippee!

Mark Loring - Grand Rapids, Michigan

Portageville Chapel remains a great blessing! This week went way too fast and this retreat has become something my family depends on each year. After a busy year home at my church, I used this week primarily to "clear my mind/head " and get back to what is important: my faith, family, the basics, and of course practicing the organ! I am happy to add Bach's Toccata, Adagio & Fugue to my repertoire - I finally finished this piece after leaving it unfinished in 2001 (I guess I needed uninterrupted practice time!) I was excited to explore the new library in the chapel and enjoyed sampling music of Pachelbel, Howells and Brubeck and reading books on choral technique. (I was intrigued by the Gregorian chant ones, but I'll save those for next time!)


The silence in the chapel allowed me to work on my phrasing, particularly German Romantic works. I also managed to teach my son (now 4) a few organ lessons - it was great to see and hear him play the organ.

Other than the chapel and the "daily" yard sale, we decided to make this a year to explore Perry. I recommend all of the following: The farmer's market on Saturday, The Nearly New Shop at the Episcopal Church, Burlingham Book Store (interesting used books) the mini golf at Charcoal Corral (my brother won a free game) and The Hole in the Wall Restaurant. And, of course, the week was not complete without a visit to Letchworth. Thank you again to everyone that has made this possible. Portageville is the highlight of my family's summer and after this, our fifth year, I cannot wait to return for a 6th year!

To those who follow - Take a chance and enjoy the organ (AND piano) and do RELAX!

Robert, Mirande, Vieren, and Graham Morehead - Pittsburg, PA

Wow, wow, wow! This is my first trip to The Portageville Chapel and what a real find this place is. Many thanks to Helen Smith and Co. for making this retreat center available. The chapel is a gem - uninterrupted practice time was a real joy. For the first time in years, I felt I made real progress learning new pieces, re-visiting old gems, and planning for the next season. I enjoyed walks in Letchworth State Park and sitting on the front porch of the Glen Iris listening to the falls. And, the food at the Inn is outstanding. Thank you again for a wonderful week. I look forward to many returns in the future.

P.S. The music library is a real treasure!

J. Riggs - Shaker Hts., OH

Thank you for a fantastic week here at Portageville Retreat/Chapel! It has been a great opportunity to prepare heart and repertoire for the upcoming season at the churches we serve. Uninterrupted practice time is such a gift - and in a beautiful place with an excellent organ too! Tim really enjoyed "Carlyle Corner" during my evening practices.


The library was fascinating. Thanks to all for the warm hospitality and little touches (like a metronome left at the console) that made the week so enjoyable. The "Grand Canyon of the East" also provided a great opportunity for some hiking and photos. We'll certainly recommend Portageville Chapel to organist friends and hope to return, too.

Andrea and Tim McGahan - Montgomery, NJ

I have heard it said that true "genius" ideas are not complicated, but simple ideas brought to life in a meaningful way. This is truly a genius idea in all its simplicity. Yet, the confluence of factors - cottage, scenery, solitude - make this truly a unique place. I have grown fond both of the little chapel and cute cottage. I will sorely miss them! The cottage and chapel have been lovingly prepared, and it is clearly evident. I feel renewed as a musician after my time here. I will spread the word about Portageville to the organists in Texas, and I hope more people will avail themselves of this wonderful place.

Benjamin Kotachziej - Dallas, TX

Our visit this year falls on Columbus Day weekend... something totally different being that we have always come during the summer. Although only a short visit, we were still able to spend time in the chapel playing the wonderful instruments, visiting Letchworth State Park and poking around the cute towns and villages nearby. We certainly missed being here with our dear friends, Cindy and Al Adcock but we know the four of us will spend more time together here in Portageville. Continued thanks to Tim and Helen for this wonderful "retreat" for church musicians. It was a refreshing get-away for us. (We missed seeing gray kitty.)

P.S. The renovation work that was done in the back room of the chapel looks great!

Gary Raish - Stroudsburg, PA

A short visit over Columbus Day weekend. Did just a little organ/piano playing. This was more of an escape from the world than a retreat to something. It was nice to just PLAY the organ rather than PRACTICE it. And it was terrific to hear and FEEL those bass octaves on the big old pie-ano. And... being a SUNY/Fredonia graduate ('79) it was great to experience Letchworth in the fall again!

Bob Riday - Stroudsburg, PA

bottom of page