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Guest Comments 2016  

I had no idea what to expect when my organ teacher gifted me a week at The Portageville Chapel. I was nervous to spend a whole week learning new music by myself, but it was magical. I got lost in the music and the beauty of the sunlight coming through the windows of the chapel and was overwhelmed by the peacefulness that comes from putting in hard work for the joy and the beauty of your art. I was amazed at how quickly time passed when I’m not being asked to stop practicing so the 2nd graders can practice for their 1st communion, or to shoot the breeze with the maintenance, or to answer my cell phone, or to practice with a soloist or choir…. The list goes on. It is a miracle to get one hour of uninterrupted practice time in my church (we also have a Schantz). In two days, I far surpassed what I normally get to practice in a week. We cooked most of our meals at the cottage and had picnic lunches in Letchworth. We had absolutely gorgeous weather and hiked four of the trails in the park. Our favorite unadvertised waterfall was at Wolf Creek – just beautiful. Our little girls loved the cottage so much, they said they want to live here when they grow up! Thank you for this wonderful retreat!

-Libby, Ben, Susan, Sydney 

I knew I had read about the Chapel in TAO – and then I had the great privilege of getting to know Helen and Tim, and so here I am for the first time. What a wonderful place, full of beauty, inspiration and quiet (apart from the noisy music!) Thank you for the delight of knowing you both, and thanks to all who have made this possible.
-Marcia, West Chester, PA (Philadelphia AGO)

Thank you to everyone who makes this wonderful experience possible! I challenged myself this year and brought repertoire I’ve had for years but never had a chance to dive into. Grateful to have had a coaching session with Dr. Congdon – invaluable!

A few items of advice for fellow PVC fans:

  • Try the Parade grounds (do drive to the Castile entrance to Letchworth … but if you want a short excursion (free!) just drive over to the Parade grounds on a nice sunny day).

  • Play as much as you want, whenever you want. Like the binder says, obviously play softly after 11pm, but I’m sure the neighbors would much rather hear faint 8’ stops than the hair-raising storm alarm that sounded in the middle of last night!

  • Go to church on Sunday (if you are comfortable, obviously). There are so many country churches around here and very nice people.

  • Take time to learn some of this region’s history – read the displays in the park, the monuments. Find the books in the living room of the cottage.

Thanks so much and hope to return again next year!! (I will remember my organ shoes, I will remember my organ shoes, I will remember my organ shoes, I will remember my organ shoes……)


Jim, Lincolnwood, IL

What seemed like an endless week of peaceful practice has come to an end. This is an extraordinary place – so far removed from the frantic and sometimes chaotic life of suburban/urban music making. The cottage is a pleasant retreat of its own – offering quiet evenings, reading on the front porch. The chapel is wonderful with an organ that lends itself to careful, deliberate practice. I hope to return again soon.
-Paul, Boston

I have once again had a wonderful and entertaining time here. I take delight in reading everyone’s comments here, which echo my feelings exactly.

Jim, Boston

Thanks for a wonderful week to re-create. One could not ask for a more welcoming facility. It has been a joy to rework Clavieruburg III for a recital in October.



Another amazing week at The Portageville Chapel ( My 5th!) Got so much practicing accomplished – both learning new rep and resurrecting some pieces I’ve not had the time to touch in my daily routine. So grateful! The whole experience is restorative – from focused practice, to walks through Letchworth and the countryside, the evening reading on the porch, to soft serve custard as a reward for a 6 or 7-hour practice day! Endless thanks to all who make this possible.


Peter, Rochester

July 28, 2016
Another useful and enjoyable week. What a great place!

Thanks for a great week! The piano and organ are wonderful. Lots of practice time and hiking at Letchworth. May got some writing done at the cottage. Found some gems in the library. Peace to all who helped make this place a reality.
John and May, Fredericksburg, VA

Thank you, thank you for such thoughtful and intentional attention to detail at both the chapel and cottage. You have created an amazing oasis of hospitality and calm. Long walks, long drives, long hours of practice and much planning for the new choir season. I leave refreshed and having taken a big step in plotting out another year. Thank you again!

Tim, Buffalo, NY

My week here in Portageville was a gift from my congregation for the occasion of my 25th anniversary with them. Barb Hunt, who is on the Chapel Board, is a member of my church, and made the arrangements for this opportunity for me.

I did not have specific repertoire pieces I wanted to work on, but brought stacks of music to read through. Some went in the, “Let’s work on this” pile, and some went in the “Oh, I remember why I haven’t played this in 30 years” pile. After doing some recycling, there will be more room in my file cabinet.

Unfortunately, I think I picked the hottest, most humid week of the summer. I was very grateful for all of the fans. Per everyone’s advice, I had lunch at the Glen Iris Inn, which is lovely. I enjoyed driving around the area (in my air-conditioned car!), enjoying the scenery and towns. The most interesting stop I made was at the Jell-O museum in LeRoy!

Thank you to all those who had the vision for this place, and who put in so much hard work to make it a reality.

Lucille, Dublin, OH

After quite a busy year with many challenges, our 7th visit to Portageville Chapel did not disappoint. Yet again this place provided the refreshment and relaxation I desperately needed as a church musician for the upcoming church year of music. At the chapel, I discovered some new tips and tricks as a choir director from the library and now can add Bach’s Pastorale, Gigot’s Toccata and a Buxtehude Prelude and Fugue to my repertoire. This year I focused more on the softer sounds of the organ and was thrilled by how well they spoke in the space. (Yes, even in the 7th year, I am still enthralled!). Another highlight was a hymn sing with my wife and 6-week old daughter, Lauryn – her smile as we were singing and I was playing the organ will be something I won’t forget.

This area continues to have many treasures. If you have a chance, visit St. Taco on State Street in Nunda for affordable and excellent food. Saturday, we also visited the Farmer’s Market in Perry and the Day of Yard Sales. I never thought I would have so much fun walking around the community. The people here are friendly and dedicated – it was a delight to meet them. We look forward to returning and thank everyone, especially Tim and Helen, who have made this possible.

P.S. I will miss the countryside and sweet corn as we travel back to the Metro area.


Robert, Miranda, and family, Fairfax, VA

What a delightful week we had! It was such a joy to have the chapel and practice time – as already mentioned, you have thought of everything we could possibly need.

I was able to review (and relearn) some of the J. S. Bach repertoire (how easily I forget when my mind is in so many places – but this week I was in a place where concentration was automatic – thank you!).

I was worried my husband might not have enough to do – but he is an avid reader and was also looking at the books here, as well as the ones he brought. My husband organized our exercise – hikes in the morning at Letchworth State Park. What a marvel that place is!

Of course, we loved the Glen Iris Inn; Hole in the Wall Restaurant was also very good. We got our wi-fi at Letchworth Pines and experienced beef on weck for the first time. Bully Hill Vineyards was also a treat!

Thank you for the work and love that you put into this wonderful idea!

Joyce & Doug, Naples, Florida

Refreshed, restored, inspired. Thanks for another great year!
Wilber, Asheville, NC

Around 10 or 12 years ago a friend told me that this was being prepared as a retreat center for organists. It wasn’t quite ready at the time, but it came to mind this winter as I was looking to take some study leave. It is truly a gift and a blessing! I was not expecting the organ to be as versatile as it proved to be. I had Messien scores sent overnight mail and it was thrilling to hear/play it! Thank you all for this gift of beauty and caring. The cottage is wonderful – thanks for equipping it with a nice microwave! Blessings to you all – nice to meet you, Helen.


Glen, New Jersey

Such a joy to be here! The charm and local flavors definitely met my expectations, but even more so the time to decompress from the regular grind of ministry and life. I leave with a smile on my face, a song in my heart, and inspired to listen, learn and lead others in music. For this I am most grateful! My suggestion to future retreatants would be to take time to drive the 70 miles to the Corning Glass Museum in Corning, NY – It will keep the inspiration and creativity flowing from your hands and feet, AND you can get your Christmas shopping taken care of too!

The BEST grocery store is in Geneseo – Wegmans. And if you need help decompressing to focus your week, my recommendation is to stop in at the Trappist Abbey of the Geneseo, a couple miles north of Geneseo, and experience the monks at prayer in the stone chapel.


John, Kansas City, MO

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