Sojourn of Spring: Traveling Mercies

Manitou Winds and guest soloist Thomas Bara will premiere a brand-new work for organ and wind quintet for their upcoming spring concert.

Traveling Mercies, written by Manitou Winds founder Jason McKinney, was completed in January 2018. Composing the work became both an adventure and a learning process.

To tell you more, here’s Jason in his own words:

The idea to write a chamber work for organ first came to me in May 2017 as I sat at Central United Methodist Church, Traverse City, listening to a spectacular organ recital by Bradley Hunter Welch. The organ was not a favorite instrument of mine. I CUMC organ 3had tremendous respect for it (and for organists!), but I had never had a chance to fully understand or experience the instrument.

During the recital, as we were given a tour of the newly renovated organ, I began to connect to the sound. The whole building became an instrument, and we were sitting inside it! I physically felt the raw power of chords, dissonances crashing into consonance, the dynamic contrast from roar to purr. I was amazed how an organist combines timbres as though an entire orchestra were crammed into a single console. Wind players have to come up for air, string players have to reverse their bows, percussionists have to re-strike or keep rolling. But the organ is like a singing mountain, inhaling as it exhales, sending its sound wafting over us like a mist through a forest or cascading down on us like a waterfall. fullsizeoutput_2c3b

The recital had a profound effect on me, musically. It was months before I told anyone, but I left knowing I would write a work for organ someday. Still, there were hurdles to face. For starters, I’d taken it upon myself to write a piece featuring an instrument I’d neither written for nor played before. Frankly, the instrument scares me. Hundreds and hundreds of pipes — some of them quite a bit taller than me!

Before I hoped to compose anything, I had to learn more about this singing mountain. Fortunately, I had the best organ Sherpa anyone could ask for: Thomas Bara! He loaned me reams of organ music and a copy of his album. He fullsizeoutput_2c39performed a personalized organ demonstration, explaining how various musical elements are performed and how all its manuals and stops come into play to create a unified sound. I also learned to speak its language — thumbing a glossary of strange words, discovering what the organ can and cannot do. As I pored over pages of organ repertoire, I realized I needed to understand what the individual organist brings to the music (yet more questions for Mr. Bara!).

The next hurdle was facing the blank page. My last original work was written in 2006 — more than a decade ago! When Manitou Winds came into being in 2014, I delved into my archives to dust off some of my older works, fashioning them into something better than the original. But it had been a long time since I’d faced a truly blank page.

I decided on a gradual approach by first facing smaller blank pages. I sketched musical ideas as they came to me, intuitively. Instead of forcing them into a specific context or direction, I let my mind wander, paying more attention to colors and textures. Once I’d fullsizeoutput_2c34amassed several ideas, I sat down at my piano to play through them, gradually adding harmonies but allowing even those to change whenever I felt them shifting.

Working in this freer style put my imagination into overdrive. Soon, a story about a long journey and a search for deeper meaning began to build itself into the piece taking shape. Before I knew it, I’d reached the final hurdle: sitting at the computer to orchestrate the piece for the entire ensemble (the big blank page)! By this point, I was now more eager than afraid.

The task was akin to inviting friends to a party. Composing and arranging for Manitou Winds, I’ve learned not only the fullsizeoutput_2c37unique qualities each instrument brings to the music, but also each musician’s boundaries. We do occasionally surprise one another, but I’ve come to know by heart what they love to play, what will challenge them, what they will begrudgingly play, and what they cannot play.

While orchestrating, I listened for each part to ring out. Whenever I couldn’t hear an instrument’s distinctive voice, I knew I was likely on the wrong track. I also made certain the organ was an equal part of the ensemble — neither a domineering presence nor merely accompaniment. I wanted it to seem as though Thomas was sitting in a chair next to us, taking part in the conversation rather than far away at a giant console.

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Once finished, I realized this is a tone poem about wanderlust. Hearing the call of adventure, our narrator seeks excitement and wisdom from faraway places, dismissing the concerns and well-meaning advice of loved ones. Life abroad proves to be inspiring and overwhelming, leading our narrator on an introspective journey to find himself. Eventually, the wanderer returns home to find he is forever changed.

The title, Traveling Mercies, came to me while I was still sketching in my notebook. The title has a double meaning: fullsizeoutput_2c35it evokes the special blessing travelers request as protection before embarking on a long journey, and it reminds me of a line from my favorite psalm, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” (Psalm 23:6). I’ve always taken comfort in the notion that mercy can be a traveling companion — following us if we allow it.

Rehearsing the new work has been tremendous fun for me. Hearing my friends learn their parts, gathering precision, weaving all the lines together… it’s not unlike watching loved ones open gifts and seeing their unfiltered reaction to what’s hidden beneath the wrappings. After weeks of rehearsing apart, finally getting to add Thomas and the organ to the full ensemble was simply magical.

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Without Thomas Bara and the members of Manitou Winds, this piece would never have been written, and so I’ve dedicated the work to them. I hope you’ll join us for the premiere.

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Don’t miss

Sojourn of Spring

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Saturday, May 12th, at 7:30pm

Central United Methodist Church
222 South Cass Street
Traverse City

____________

Admission is free.
Freewill offering will benefit scholarships for
Interlochen Arts Academy music students

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Sojourn of Spring: The Art of Collaboration

For our 2018 spring concert, Manitou Winds welcomes spring’s brief sojourn to Northern Michigan with music and poetry celebrating the wandering spirit.

Special guest organist Thomas Bara will join us onstage for two exciting works for organ and winds.

Despite its small size, the organ studio at Interlochen Arts Academy is thoroughly alive and continues to thrive thanks to the support and devoted Tom Baraservice of instructor Thomas Bara.

It’s true that organs are large, costly, and rarely found in the average home, but the reason organ students are a rare commodity is multifaceted. “For better or for worse, the organ is historically linked to the music of the church,” says Thomas. “Before the prevalence of amplified music, organ played a pivotal role in most congregational worship, so the pool of people exposed to the instrument was larger than it is today.”

With fewer people counting themselves as regular churchgoers, and some churches removing their organs or letting them fall into disrepair, the organ faces a shrinking opportunity to make an impression on budding musicians. Still, Thomas insists this is not an insurmountable challenge.

Thanks to the Internet and various forms of social media, it’s actually easier than ever for organists, composers, and would-be organ students to find one another. “Many of the young people attracted to organ, today, are drawn in by the dynamic body of work now posted online. They have instant access to the most dramatic organs and charismatic performers,” says Thomas. “I would say that finding dedicated students is still a challenge; I wouldn’t say the challenge is growing, but my students are coming from a different place than when I began teaching.”

Organists can sprout up almost anywhere, and Thomas is living proof of that! Although he came from a musical family where everyone loved singing, he grew up on a pick-your-own strawberry farm far away from his classically trained relatives. Life on the farm fostered a love of mechanical things and fed his penchant for problem-solving, as there was always something needing to be CUMC organ 1fixed. “Embarrassingly, my entry point into music was all of the organ’s gizmos and thing-a-ma-gigs,” admits Thomas. “I loved all of the keyboards and buttons… the ultimate mechanical marvel that also sounds cool!”

“The organ in the church I grew up in was in clear view of the congregation,” he remembers. “I always picked my seat so I could watch the organist during the service.” Not surprisingly, it was a church organist (John O’Brien) who eventually became Thomas’ first music teacher. Though he wanted to hop right on the organ bench, he was first required to learn piano.

He went on to study at Interlochen Arts Academy and then earned degrees from the University of Michigan and the Eastman School of Music, where he received the prestigious Performance Certificate and the first Harold Gleason Emerging Artist Award. Having performed as both an acclaimed soloist and accompanist in New York, Copenhagen, Cambridge, and IAC Organ Instruction 1London, Thomas has returned to Interlochen where he masterfully trains students, most of whom go on to attain impressive accolades and performance positions.

Asked if teaching organ might be different than teaching other instruments, Thomas says he believes all instruments require basically the same core values in both teachers and students. “The traits I work to model and champion for my students are passion and individuality,” he explains. “Passion drives us to work hard, to strive to learn as much as we can, and to do the dirty work even when we don’t feel like it. Passion motivates us to leave our comfort zones and to try again after we fail. Passion goes hand-in-hand with individuality, so I do not believe in doling out the ‘definitive’ interpretation of pieces. I want my students to invest themselves in the music and commit to IAC Organ Instruction 2their ideas.”

While the organ may not be as familiar to concert audiences (especially chamber music audiences) as it once was, organists know firsthand it is surprisingly versatile, adding color and richness no other instrument can provide. Thomas admits there are cringe-inducing misconceptions about the organ and what it’s like to play it. “Any guesses how many times I get asked to play ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ or ‘Come on Baby, Light My Fire’?” he laughs. “People often identify the organ with loud, spooky chords full of clamorous harmonics — that, or the Hammond B-3. Truth is, the organ is extremely versatile. It can cover everything from super-soft pianissimos to towering fortes. I love surprising people with how great the organ can be as a collaborative instrument.”

Great musicians can often discover new insights even within familiar repertoire as they return to those pieces over the years. When Thomas joins Manitou Winds next month, CUMC organ 2however, he’ll be premiering a brand-new work for organ and wind quintet written by Manitou Winds founder, Jason McKinney. There will be more on this collaboration in a future article.

Interpreting a piece of music with absolutely no performance history demands a creative spirit and an adventurous musicality. “More and more, I want to feel like I’m presenting a piece as a fellow composer — someone who understands intimately how a piece is put together,” he says. “With any music, new or old, I want to find the inherent genius in it and find a way to move the audience to experience it as I do.”

We’re confident the concert and premiere will be a splendid event thanks to Thomas’ masterful interpretation and his sensitive collaboration with the musicians of Manitou Winds. We hope you’ll join us to experience this celebration of spring and the wandering spirit.

___________________________________________________________

Don’t miss

Sojourn of Spring

______________________________________

Saturday, May 12th, at 7:30pm

Central United Methodist Church
222 South Cass Street
Traverse City

____________

Admission is free.
Freewill offering will benefit scholarships for
Interlochen Arts Academy music students

Winter Songs & Carols: Our 2017 Concert Program

Thank you to everyone who came to hear Manitou Winds’ 2017 Winter Songs & Carols program. Each year, we put together a unique collection of songs in various styles performed on many different instruments to inspire you to embrace the entire season of winter.

2017 Winter Songs & Carols

2017 Winter Songs & Carols

This year, our theme examined winter as a gateway to hope and renewal. We incorporated music and the spoken word to present an emotional but uplifting program — a message of hope to those who may be having trouble feeling jolly this season.

Our concert was performed Saturday, December 2nd, at Grace Episcopal Church, Traverse City and Friday, December 8th, at The Leelanau School, Glen Arbor. For both performances of this extra special program, we were honored to be joined by three very talented guests: Jan Ross, reader; Christy Burich, soprano; and Emily Curtin Culler, soprano.

To make the concert feel more intimate and personal, we chose not to list the musical selections in the program. Now that our performances are completed, we’re delighted to share all the details with you.

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE PROGRAM LISTING

We’re so very excited to announce our December 2nd performance will be broadcast on Interlochen Public Radio on Christmas Day at 4:00pm (Eastern Standard Time). Follow this link to listen to the broadcast. Just follow the link on Christmas Day, and click the button at the top to listen live!

If you have any questions about this or any of the programs we present, please contact us or send us a message on Facebook. Or, just come up and talk to us after a performance! We hope to see you in one of our concerts in 2018!

 

Winter Songs & Carols: There’s Still My Joy

fullsizeoutput_dbe“One tiny child can save the world
One shining light can show the way
Beyond these tears for what I’ve lost
There’s still my joy for Christmas Day.”

— from There’s Still My Joy by Beth Nielsen Chapman

If you’ve attended a recent musical production at Traverse City’s Old Town Playhouse, or if you attended 2016’s Winter Songs & Carols concert, Christy Burich is probably already a familiar face and unmistakable voice. She puts so much energy and feeling behind her voice and Christy Burichonto the stage, it’s hard to forget the experience.

While working with Christy in rehearsals for last year’s concert, she mentioned she’d always wanted to create a concert or an album to help those who may be suffering through grief — a program about hope, healing, and renewal.

My eyes widened as I quickly told her it was a theme I’d considered for our 2017 Winter Songs & Carols concert. I’d been afraid to mention my idea to anyone because I had serious doubts about putting together such a program. I reasoned our audience expects a reflective but generally light-hearted evening of music. How would we explain a holiday concert that touches on grief and loss? Thankfully, after our chance conversation, I began a collaboration with Christy over the following year in which I learned about her journey through grief and healing. Eventually, I realized my fears about this project were very short-sighted.

In 2013, Christy’s husband Larry passed away after a year-long battle with a very rare form of cancer. “From the very night Larry passed, I began a conversation with him on paper,” Christy says. “I was emptying my heart of all the pain and sadness — my longing to see him, my Larry & Christypleading for forgiveness for my anger at his leaving. I would pause, listen, and just wait for words and answers to come.”

Christy says a lot of her healing came through journaling and painting. “Some say my life is an open book — I’ve never been able to contain my feelings,” she says. “But, I believe that’s what makes me an artist: the desire, the need to express my feelings through art, song, or monologue. For me, art is a way to fully acknowledge, honor, and release my emotions. When I’m vulnerable with an audience — big or small — I feel a sense of Oneness, that our souls are deeply connected.”

This year’s program was created by pairing writings from Christy’s personal journals with a carefully-curated program of music. Though the holiday season often asks those who are grieving to hide their feelings of emptiness and uncertainty, we’re hoping our unique program will invite everyone to the holiday table to explore the season of winter as a time of peace, healing, and renewal. I talked with Christy, recently, about her collaboration with Manitou Winds, for our 2017 Winter Songs & Carols program.

Being an artist and a vocalist, it makes sense you’d feel drawn to music as a means of expression and a way to explore your grief journey. Do you remember the moment when the idea of a concert like this started to take shape for you?

Not too long after Larry’s passing, I realized I had two choices: either live a full and vibrant IMG_2751life, or be swallowed up by grief simply waiting to die. I eventually chose to live fully. In part, my decision was inspired by my stepson who was just 13 years old when his father died. I realized if he could honor his father’s memory by consistently rising up, giving life his very best, then I could too! His determination to create something good from our loss is what inspired me.

In the deepest struggles of my journey, I was comforted by the writings of wise and inspired authors, and also through the personal stories of others who were taking part in grief support groups. Grateful for their support, I knew even early on I’d want to someday be that support for others. That’s when I began to have a vision of a healing concert.

I’ll never forget the moment when we were talking after rehearsal, last year, and we realized we’d both had this same idea about a concert to comfort and heal. Did it surprise you when I told you I’d been creating a holiday-themed concert?

I never imagined it would be during the holidays, but it all seems to be Divine timing! Larry and I were married just two days after Christmas — it was our favorite season! Since his passing, the holidays, our anniversary, and Larry’s birthday following New Year’s Day have always been hard to endure. The whole season of winter can be especially hard for those missing a loved one. While I hadn’t pictured it, I think that’s why this concert is happening during winter and the holidays.

IMG_2490Part of the program we’ve put together is a monologue taking you and the audience all the way back to the beginning of your grief journey: the night Larry passed away. When we discussed using these particular pieces of writing, I remember asking you if you’d be able to get through the performance.

I’ve still got friends and family wondering the same thing! I feel like rejoicing when I tell them my strength is coming from the lasting and loving connection I still have with Larry. I don’t feel alone in this; I am so grateful to God and the Angels for this very auspicious opportunity to perform and share.

You’ll be reliving a very personal, painful time in front of an audience — entering into that vulnerability you’ve mentioned earlier. What sort of message are you hoping will stick with those who attend?

For all of us, I want this concert be a time of remembrance and unity with our loved ones. I also want to show there is healing beyond grief and give assurance that Love Never Dies! I’ve learned through my journey that our relationships continue in spirit. The connections we share are still real although they have changed. Perhaps, in some ways, we become more intimately connected than before. Our loved ones are only a thought away. Wherever we go, they are there guiding, loving, and protecting us. Always.

Without giving any spoilers, what do you think will be your favorite part of the program?

There’s a song toward the end of the program that happens to be Larry’s favorite song. It carries a beautiful and encouraging message. I sang it to him many times when he was ill, and over the years it has shown up in my own life at different times, bringing fullsizeoutput_e0aan unexpected smile. I know I’m going to enjoy singing those words to him, again, and to our audience.

Collaborating with Christy for this year’s special program has been an honor and a treasured experience. We admire her bravery and strength in sharing this difficult journey with our audience, and we’re grateful our music can be a part of that experience. It has been a memorable experience for each of us. Along the way, there have been many moments during rehearsal when one or all of us have been choking back tears. Thankfully, just moments later we’ve also been brought to tears of laughter while gathered around the table sharing (embarrassing) stories and comfort foods.

As musicians, we are sometimes handed the burden and privilege of sharing music during difficult moments in people’s lives. Emotionally, that strain can be difficult to bear, but having music in those moments as a tangible means of expression can embolden us, strengthening us when words alone might fail. The message of our concert this December is one of hope and healing. We hope you can join us.

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Don’t miss

Winter Songs & Carols

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Saturday, December 2nd, at 7:30pm

Grace Episcopal Church
341 Washington St.
Traverse City

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Friday, December 8th, at 7:30pm

The Leelanau School
1 Old Homestead Rd.
Glen Arbor

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Admission is free for both performances
A freewill offering will be taken

Autumn Colors: Touring & Tasting Itinerary

Sunday, October 22 at 4pm, the Manitou Winds NEO Trio will unveil their first concert-length program with “Autumn Colors”, an afternoon of soothing autumnal music and poetry to usher in our most colorful season in Northern Michigan.

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We invite you to turn October 22nd into a memorable fall color tour complete with wine tastings and nibbles from the heart of Leelanau County. Our trio (Sam Clark, Anne Bara, & Jason McKinney) has gathered up some of their favorite Suttons Bay area destinations to give you tons of options for soaking in a beautiful autumn day in Leelanau County and then topping it all off with an inspiring concert.

 

EATERIES:
Fig’s Breakfast & Lunch (Lake Leelanau)
Hearth & Vine Café (Suttons Bay)
Martha’s Leelanau Table (Suttons Bay)

Please click the restaurant links to check restaurant hours
and see sample menus.

WINERIES:
45 North Vineyard & Winery (Lake Leelanau)
Black Star Farms (Suttons Bay)
Laurentide Winery (Lake Leelanau) – Jason’s pick
L Mawby Vineyards (Suttons Bay) – Sam’s pick
Willow Vineyard & Winery (Suttons Bay) – Anne’s pick

Fall season hours for most of the wineries include
Sundays 12-5 according to their websites.
Click the links for specific tasting room information and prices.

CIDERS & SPIRITS:
Northern Latitudes Distillery (Lake Leelanau)
Tandem Ciders (Suttons Bay)

Fall season hours include Sundays 12-5 according to their websites.
Click the links for contact info.

SCENIC TOURS:
Clay Cliffs Natural Area (Lake Leelanau)
Whaleback Natural Area (Leland)

Admission to all Leelanau Conservancy natural areas is free.
Click the links for directions and trail information.

Autumn Colors Tasting & Touring Itinerary

Copy the URL to create your own customizeable map to plan your adventure: https://goo.gl/maps/cpRySpVyDQF2

Depending on when you set out and your appetite for adventure, you can visit as many or as few of the destinations as you’d like — maybe even discover a few of your own along the way!

Start with breakfast or brunch at Fig’s in Lake Leelanau or Martha’s Leelanau Table in Suttons Bay. Then go for a color tour through the heart of the county to see sweeping views of Lake Michigan and Lake Leelanau from two of the Leelanau Conservancy’s most popular preserves.

Even if the weather turns damp and dreary, you can still make the best of it. If you’ve worked up a thirst, you can visit one of the excellent wineries or distilleries in the area. One of Jason’s Photo Jul 29, 8 08 47 PM (1)favorite ways to unwind after a performance is a single glass of Riesling from Laurentide Winery. They have a full selection of whites and a few reds for you to try. Sam says her favorite Leelanau County winery is L Mawby Vineyards for all their sparkling varieties. Anne says the wine (especially the Rosé) and the setting are beautiful at Willow Vineyard & Winery.

We hope you’ll join us at Sunday, October 22nd, at 4pm, at Suttons Bay Congregational Church for an inspiring concert — colorful music interwoven with poetry and prose to set your fall aglow. Admission is free. A freewill offering will be taken to benefit ShareCare of Leelanau, providing much needed care for seniors in Leelanau County.

Variety: It’s the Spice!

Our September 24th concert was an experiment: a test to see just how much variety could be crammed into a single concert program performed by a single ensemble. To up the ante, we also added an element of chance; allowing the audience to play a game to randomly select the concert order.

Twelve different instruments and one guest musician later (Eric Olson, alto & tenor saxophone), we wound up with a concert that ran the gamut from Handel and Mozart to Hoagy Carmichael and Stevie Wonder! Here’s a list of the selections in the order they were performed:

Overture from “The Barber of Seville”           G. Rossini/arr. B. Holcombe
flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, & bassoon

Playground           H.A. Curtis
piano solo

Contradanza from “Three Pieces for Clarinet & Piano”           P. D’Rivera
tenor saxophone

I. Allegro from “Horn Quintet in E-flat Major”, K. 407           W.A. Mozart/arr. B. Holcombe
flute, english horn, clarinet, horn, & bassoon

Royal Garden Blues           C. Williams & S. Williams/arr. Ken Abeling
flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, & bassoon

Sir Duke           S. Wonder/arr. J.T. McKinney
flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, & bassoon

The Nearness of You           H. Carmichael
tenor saxophone & piano

III. Brazileira from “Scaramouche”           D. Milhaud/arr. D. Stewart
piccolo, flute, oboe, clarinet, alto saxophone, horn, & bassoon

Ancient Pines           L. McKennitt/arr. J.T. McKinney
flute, clarinet, & lever harp

I. Natalie Fraser (hornpipe) from “A Suite of Cape Breton Tunes”           J.T. McKinney
flute, clarinet, & lever harp

Summer Waltz           L. Hood
flute, clarinet, guitar, & lever harp

Cranberry Island           D. Tolk
piano solo

Overture from “Music for the Royal Fireworks”           G.F. Handel/arr. T. Cramer
flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, & bassoon

To facilitate this colorful program based purely on variety and fun, we enlisted the aid of Jan Ross (aka Janice B.), voice-over artist, and our production manager, James Deaton (aka. J.D), to co-host the concert as a game show. Janice B. and J.D. selected audience members at random to come forward and randomly select the concert order. Those audience members were then entered into a special prize pool for a chance to win one of three prizes.

Adding even more flair to the event, we were joined by guest artist, Lori Feldpausch, who brought a dazzling array of paintings from her home studio to create an elaborate exhibit in the church’s narthex.

We were honored to be a part of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church’s “Concert on the Hill” series, and we’re delighted to have played a part in raising funds for Habitat for Humanity of Benzie County and Northwest Michigan Supportive Housing.

Theme & Variations: Dolce e Delizioso III

Dolce e DeliziosoIn our final recipe collection in the Theme & Variations series, we’ll play sweetly in the kitchen; calling upon a single versatile cake recipe to deliver an array of tempting treats fit for finishing a meal or rounding out a special occasion.

Dolce e Delizioso

I really hope you’ve enjoyed following along as we’ve taken the Classical form of “Theme & Variations” into the kitchen — making simple changes to recipes to create exciting new dishes. Marrying food and music — two of my most favorite things — is something of a passion of mine.

To demonstrate the Classical form that inspired this series, here’s probably one of the finest examples of Theme & Variation form: Mozart’s 12 Variations in C major on Ah! vous dirai-je, Maman, K.265. The theme you’ll immediately recognize; in America, we know this tune as “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” Listen to all the ways Mozart turned this simple tune on its ear. By the end, it’s barely recognizable!

As you can see, performing a piece in Theme & Variations form — while exhilarating — can be quite demanding for a musician. Fortunately, our culinary spin on this form has been both fun and delicious for both the chef (the musician) and the tasters (the audience).

In today’s final variation in our Dolce e Delizioso collection, we take one more layer of that easy-to-make butter cake and turn it into a decadent layered dessert marrying its buttery flavors with toffee and coffee to make a fancy treat that can be made into elegant individual servings or an impressive presentation in a trifle dish.

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Toffee-Coffee Trifle
Serves 8
Trifles make an exciting dessert because their layered presentation and variety of textures offer a different experience in every bite. With ample chilling time, the toffee pieces maintain a bit of crunch, but yield a caramel-odius counterpoint to the coffee and buttery flavors in the rest of the dessert!

Vanilla Custard:
Toffee-Coffee Trifle2 1/4 cups milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 large egg
3 tablespoons corn starch
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Layer Ingredients:
1 8-inch layer of Golden Butter Cake
(recipe here)
1/2 cup Kahlúa (coffee liqueur)
1 cup crushed toffee pieces (e.g. Skor or Heath)

To make the vanilla custard: heat the milk, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stirring to dissolve sugar, heat until milk is scalded but not boiling. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the egg and corn starch until thoroughly combined. While whisking, slowly add the hot milk mixture; whisk until completely incorporated. Return entire mixture to the saucepan and heat over medium heat until thickened and just beginning to boil; remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap placed on surface to prevent skin from forming. Allow to reach room temperature, then refrigerate 1-2 hours.

To make the whipped cream: pour the cream into a medium bowl. Beat at medium speed until frothy; add confectioners’ sugar, Toffee-Coffee Trifleincrease speed, and whip until stiff peaks form. Cover and chill until needed.

To assemble, slice cake layer into bite-size pieces. In individual containers or in a trifle dish, alternate layers of cake pieces, drizzle cake with Kahlúa, sprinkle with toffee pieces, top with vanilla custard, then whipped cream. You can make as many or as few layers as you like. Chill for about two hours before serving.

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Don’t miss

Variety: It’s the Spice!

,

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Sunday, September 24th, at 4:00pm

St. Andrews Presbyterian Church
1890 Lincoln Road
Beulah

____________

Admission is free.
Freewill offering for Northwest Michigan Supportive Housing &
Habitat For Humanity of Benzie County .

Theme & Variations: Dolce e Delizioso II

Dolce e DeliziosoIn our final recipe collection in the Theme & Variations series, we’ll play sweetly in the kitchen; calling upon a single versatile cake recipe to deliver an array of tempting treats fit for finishing a meal or rounding out a special occasion.

 

Dolce e Delizioso

When you start with a cake that’s super-easy to make and tastes great, it takes only a little more embellishment to send it way over the top. Today’s variation turns one cake layer into a simple but decadent layer cake sure to please any fans of the classic Moon Pie sandwich cookie: buttery cake layers separated by fluffy marshmallow creme, all enclosed in a shell made of rich chocolate.

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Mezzaluna Cake
Serves 6-8
Who knew one cake layer could reach such celestial heights? With a little time in the freezer to anchor the layers into place and align the straight side of the cake, you’ll find the Mezzaluna Layer Cakechocolate coating will cover a multitude of imperfections (not that anyone will notice once they have a taste!).

1 8-inch layer of Golden Butter Cake (recipe here)
1 1/2 cups marshmallow creme
1 cup semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Using a long serrated knife, split the cake layer into two rounds; leave stacked atop one another. Split the two round layers down the middle to form four semi-circle layers. Place the layers (still arranged as a single round layer) into the freezer for about 10 minutes to firm them up.

Place one of the bottom semi-circles on a cake plate or cardboard round. Stir the marshmallow creme only until it reaches a Mezzaluna Layer Cakefairly spreadable consistency. Spread about a third of the cream onto the cake layer, leaving about 1/4 border all the way around to avoid seeping. Lining up the straight sides as evenly as possible, place a top semi-circle layer over the filling; spread with another third of the marshmallow creme. Continue with remaining cake layers and marshmallow creme. Carefully turn the assembled cake onto its straight side (see photo) and place in the freezer for 15 minutes to firm up the filling and align the layers.

Meanwhile, combine the chocolate chips and butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 20 seconds, stir, and continue Mezzaluna Layer Cakemicrowaving in 10-20 second intervals, stirring between each heating, until mixture is smooth. Remove the cake from the freezer and place it upright. Spread the chocolate glaze over the top and then sides to completely cover (the chocolate will harden and help keep layers and filling in place. Serve slices chilled or at room temperature.

___________________________________________________________

Don’t miss

Variety: It’s the Spice!

,

______________________________________

Sunday, September 24th, at 4:00pm

St. Andrews Presbyterian Church
1890 Lincoln Road
Beulah

____________

Admission is free.
Freewill offering for Northwest Michigan Supportive Housing &
Habitat For Humanity of Benzie County .

Theme & Variations: Dolce e Delizioso I

Variety Poster

Our September concert (Variety: It’s the Spice!) is a celebration of musical variety — a daring departure from organization and the expected! The program is a secret, but you may get a few clues from our website and Facebook page in the weeks leading up to the performance. In the meantime, we hope you’ll enjoy a new series of recipes from the Woodwind Gourmet enticing you to embrace variety in the kitchen.

Dolce e Delizioso

Dolce e Delizioso

Even with the myriad elements of musical notation available, composers often add descriptive words to help musicians read between the lines. How each musician interprets these words is as unique and personal as their choice of instrument. One of my favorite words to find in a musical score is dolce which simply asks you to play “sweetly”.

In this final collection of recipes, we’ll play sweetly in the kitchen; calling upon a single versatile cake recipe to deliver an array of tempting treats fit for finishing a meal or rounding out a special occasion.

We’ll start with a golden, buttery theme: butter cake! My first memories of butter cake are thanks to my paternal grandmother who taught me the fine art of adding butter to things! My grandmother always made her cakes from boxed mixes (perish the thought), but I think my simplified recipe would be one that she would have loved to try. There is such a thing as too much butter, of course, and there’s also such a thing as a complicated recipe with too many steps or ingredients. Thankfully, this recipe is the perfect balance of both!

Key ingredientKEY TECHNIQUE: Cutting in Butter — Sadly, many homemade cakes are doomed from the start because the butter was either too soft or too hard (cold) to be creamed with the sugar. In most cake recipes, the softness of the butter affects the entire texture and rise of the cake to follow (not to mention you can also over-mix and cause problems). How soft is too soft?! For this recipe, we soften the butter to room temperature and simply cut it into the dry ingredients, skipping that whole “creaming” step. You won’t miss the extra drama and your cake will turn out perfectly!

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Golden Butter Cake
Serves 12-16
If you have room for only one cake recipe in your recipe box, this one deserves the spot: it’s easily made and versatile. With its rich, buttery taste and moist texture, it can serve as the center attraction or take on myriad toppings, fillings, and frostings.

2 cups all-purpose flour (8.5 ounces)Butter Cake
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (11.5 ounces)
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature (plus more for pans)
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans, line bottoms with parchment rounds, butter parchment lightly; dust pans with flour, tapping out excess.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl, Working in the butterwhisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the softened butter and cut the butter into the dry ingredients at low speed using the paddle attachment or a handheld mixer (mixture will be uniform and sandy). Add eggs and beat well, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary; add milk and vanilla, beat until just combined.

Divide batter between pans; smooth tops with an offset spatula. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean, 33-35 minutes. Cool in pans on wire racks 15 minutes. Turn out cakes onto racks to cool completely. Serve with one of the berry toppings below or as desired.

*Blueberry-Maple Compote
Serves 6-8

2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozenButter Cake with Blueberry-Maple Compote
1 teaspoon corn starch
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Combine first five ingredients (blueberries through salt) in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until some of the blueberries burst and mixture thickens slightly. Remove from heat; add vanilla and lemon juice to taste. Serve warm or chilled.

*Macerated Strawberries
Serves 4-6

1 pound hulled strawberries, whole or sliced, fresh or frozenButter Cake with Macerated Strawberries
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
pinch of salt

If using fresh berries: combine all ingredients in a non-reactive bowl and allow to sit at room temperature for about an hour. If using frozen berries: combine all ingredients in a non-reactive bowl and allow to sit at room temperature until berries have softened (about 4 hours).

___________________________________________________________

Don’t miss

Variety: It’s the Spice!

,

______________________________________

Sunday, September 24th, at 4:00pm

St. Andrews Presbyterian Church
1890 Lincoln Road
Beulah

____________

Admission is free.
Freewill offering for Northwest Michigan Supportive Housing &
Habitat For Humanity of Benzie County .

Theme & Variations: Lines & Spaces III

Lines and SpacesIn our second recipe collection in the Theme & Variations series, I decided we should explore the lines and spaces of the musical staff to uncover what savory surprises we can experience when we use simple ingredients to create a masterpiece.

Lines & Spaces

For the final variation in our Lines & Spaces series, we’ll stick with our vegetarian motif, but throw a few new twists into the taste. Swapping out the greens with some colorful beans and aromatic veggies, next we’ll take out the familiar ricotta cheese and replace it with nutty, creamy fontina for a lasagna like no other.

Key ingredientKEY INGREDIENT: Fontina Cheese — Noted for its nutty, earthy, slightly mushroomy taste, this creamy cow’s milk cheese originally from Italy is right at home in a homespun vegetarian lasagna. You can find it in the fine cheeses case in your supermarket. The best Fontina is Fontina Val D’Aosta (the original fontina), but there are many makers of good fontina, so feel free to use what you like best and is easiest to find. Can’t find Fontina? Try shredding Raclette or thinly sliced Brie or Camembert for an equally cheesy experience.

 

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Lasagna con Fagioli
Serves 4
Not quite as tomato-y or as saucy as the typical lasagna, the earthy flavors of the beans and fontina cheese are what really stand out to make this a vegetarian lasagna worth coming back to over and over again! Feel free to mix varieties of beans together for a more colorful presentation.

1 15-ounce can cannellini beans or red kidney beans, drained and rinsedLasagna con fagioli
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3/4 cup finely chopped carrots (app. 2 medium)
1/3 cup finely chopped celery (app. 1 large rib)
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 cup white wine (try sauvignon blanc)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes with juices
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Salt & Pepper to taste
6 ounces Fontina cheese, shredded
8 no-boil lasagna noodles

Preheat oven to 375-degrees. In a medium bowl, mash half beans together to form a thick paste. Reserve the mashed beans separately from the whole beans.

Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery; cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the minced garlic, bay leaf, and thyme; cooking, stirring constantly, until fragrant (about a minute). Pour in the wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze; cook until wine has nearly evaporated. Stir in the tomatoes (including juices), bring to a simmer; lower heat, cover and cook 7-10 minutes until carrots are tender. Stir in the mashed beans and 1/3 cup water; stirring to dissolve thicken the sauce. Remove from the heat, discard bay leaf; stir in parsley, reserved whole beans, and salt and pepper to taste.

Spread 1/2 cup bean sauce in the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish. Top with 2 lasagna noodles, a fourth of the sauce, and a fourth of the shredded fontina. Repeat layering with remaining noodles, sauce, and cheese. Loosely cover with parchment-lined foil (keeps the cheese from sticking to the foil!). Bake 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until bubbly and delightfully browned, about 15 minutes. Let cool 20 minutes, then slice and serve.

___________________________________________________________

Don’t miss

Variety: It’s the Spice!

,

______________________________________

Sunday, September 24th, at 4:00pm

St. Andrews Presbyterian Church
1890 Lincoln Road
Beulah

____________

Admission is free.
Freewill offering for Northwest Michigan Supportive Housing &
Habitat For Humanity of Benzie County .