“A Musical Journey!” That’s what Midsummer’s Music Festival’s brochure proclaims, and the cover of our program book, too. And July 5th, it was a hellava trip! For the second time in as many years, we set sail from Door County’s Gills Rock aboard The Island Clipper – destination, Rock Island.
Fifteen musicians and just over a hundred audience members came aboard. We explored Scandinavia, thanks to the music on the program by Grieg and Svendsen, with a side trip to Germany and parts of the U.S. with music by Heinrich Hofmann and Kent Kennan, but we also toured Death’s Door Strait, rounded the impressive Boyer’s Bluff at the northwest end of Washington Island, and pressed on to Rock Island and the fabulous Viking Hall astride the famous Boat House that serves as its foundation.
Last year we had “diesel drama” that almost scuttled our trip. A serious problem in the Clipper’s engine had been eluding resolution for weeks. Only a miraculous last minute repair salvaged our first nautical tour beyond Washington Island. This year, it was the weather. From the 1st of July through the 4th, we had some of the best weather Door County can provide – and that’s saying something. The only problem was that our trip was scheduled for the 5th, and the weather service was predicting a good chance of thunderstorms. I start checking the long-range forecast a week ahead of time when we are planning one of these trips, knowing full well the accuracy of a weather prediction that far in advance is very suspect. However, this time, they got it right from the start.
The various forecast sources all seemed to agree that there would be wonderful weather before, and after, the 5th of July, but they insisted that a cold front coming in from the northwest would override warm humid air on our D-Day and produce scattered thunderstorms – some isolated ones possibly severe. I hoped that these early estimations would be downgraded. Instead, they were upgraded. “Spotter activation may be necessary,” they began to say. I don’t know about you, but I would just as soon stay home when spotter activation is necessary. About three days before our departure, I started going over to Charlie’s Smoke House in Gills Rock to see if I could catch our skipper, Charlie Voight, between his regular trips to Washington Island. If I was nervous, he was nonchalant. The weather forecast for the 6th of July, our alternate weather date, was just peachy. I thought we should consider delaying, but Charlie wasn’t as interested in clear skies as he was the wind. “If the wind is out of the northwest, we can’t tie up at the dock over there. It will bash the boat against the dock, and we won’t even be able to unload,” Charlie told me.
In the end, we decided to follow Charlie’s advice. He has years of experience traveling the waters of Death’s Door Strait and beyond. It was the right decision. Despite turbulent looking skies and some waves that made pouring wine on the boat pretty risky business, we had a beautiful trip over complete with delicious dinner. Grieg’s Holberg Suite never sounded so splendid. The rafters of the Viking Hall rang out in sympathetic resonance. David Perry’s violin sent shivers through the audience in Svendsen’s Romance for violin and strings as his glorious sound floated out over the waters. On the ride back, thunderstorms approached but parted to the north and south. We were like the Israelites led by Moses across the divided waters. I went into the wheelhouse. With a beautiful sunset amidst threatening clouds off to the northwest, Charlie said, “Looks like we’re doing okay.” “You don’t need to hurry home,” I said to Charlie. “We have dessert and quite a bit of Champagne to take care of.” He smiled and eased back on the throttle. As I was leaving the wheelhouse, I looked back at him and said, “Charlie, you’re a genius.” He gave me another smile.
Our journey this weekend takes us to Italy, compliments of Tchaikovsky ,with his string sextet called “Souvenir of Florence.” We won’t have to worry about the weather, but there will be plenty of excitement, passion, romance, and glorious sounds in three fantastic homes and the Woodwalk Gallery. Join us before July 17 as we bring this great journey called our 21st season back into port. Call 920.854.7088 or visit www.midsummerSmusic.com for reservations or more information.