Door County’s Rock Island – A Concert Destination for Midsummer’s Music!

Jim Berkenstock, Photo by Bill Jacobs

“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.

Arriving at Rock Island

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.

Viking Hall

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 for reservations or more information.

A Good Time Was Had By All – Midsummer’s Music Adventure on Rock Island!

Rock Island's Viking Hall

A few clouds and reports of storms couldn’t keep Midsummer’s Music away from the event of the year as we cruised to Door County’s historic Rock Island.


The event, which sold out several weeks ago, was a huge success. With 120 people on board, including our outstanding ensemble, we departed from Gills Rock at 4:00 PM. Yes, there were clouds but they soon cleared as we made our way on the Island Clipper. In fact, the weather was nice enough that many people took advantage of sitting on the top deck. Captain Charlie Voight narrated as we cruised through Death’s Door. Drinks were served along with a choice of four wonderful entrees from Alexander’s of Fish Creek.

The audience was at full attention as we approached the historic boat house. This marvelous structure is constructed out of field stone and it was quite exciting for those who had never been to Rock Island. That’s an understatement – it was quite exciting for everyone!

Jean Berkenstock Flute Solo "Night Soliloquy"

Last night’s performance really stood out in the wonderful acoustics of Viking Hall. From the first note of Jean Berkenstock’s solo flute in Kennan’s “Night Soliloquoy” to the last note of David Perry’s violin solo in Svendsen’s “Romance,” it sounded like we had a full orchestra. Grieg’s “Holberg Suite” featured 11 strings which is the largest ensemble Midsummer’s has ever had. Imagine 11 strings sounding like an entire string orchestra – fantastic!

We were all surprised by the beautiful sunset which had many folks snapping picture after picture. The weather remained mild and we were greeted in Gills Rock by a few sprinkles. The timing was perfect and a few people stayed on the open, top deck until we docked.

David Perry solo in Svenden's "Romance"

All in all, it was a great evening. Our return to Rock Island was a success and according to the comments last night, a good time was had by all!

Our next program, Romantic Legacy, begins Thursday evening, July 7, at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in north Ephraim at 7:30 PM. This program features Doppler’s Nocture, Opus 19 for flute, horn, violin, and piano; Rabl’s Quartet in E-flat Major, Opus 1 for clarinet, violin, cello, and piano; and Brahms’ Quartet in G Minor. Opus 25 for violin, viola, cello, and piano. We’ll be presenting this program throughout the weekend. Visit for more details.

Sunset between Rock Island and Gills Rock




A Musical Journey through Door County for Midsummer’s Music Festival’s 21st Season

The Clearing - Photo by Bill Jacobs

Midsummer’s Music will perform 21 chamber music concerts between June 10th and July 17th as a part of its 2011 Festival Season. ‘A Musical Journey‘ is the way this season is being characterized, and that refers to both a musical exploration and the opportunity to investigate and enjoy some of Door County’s most beautiful sites. “Musically speaking, we are covering a lot of territory,” said Jim Berkenstock, Artistic Director of Midsummer’s Music. “Our performances will draw on some splendid examples of music from Norway, Russia, Spain, France, Germany, Austria, Denmark, and the U.S.

Rock Island's Viking Hall

However, while their ears are being treated to a virtual travelogue, concertgoers will experience some of Door County’s most glorious sites and vistas. “We have several concerts in elegant homes with breathtaking water views,” said Kathleen Pearson, Executive Director of Midsummer’s Music. “Our concerts cover much of the Peninsula from Sturgeon Bay to Gills Rock and even include DePere and Rock Island. And if you really want to get your passport stamped, join us on our dinner cruise to Rock Island with a concert in the Viking Hall,” she remarked.

“One of my favorite pieces that conjures up musical images of faraway places is ‘Souvenir of Florence’ by Tchaikovsky,” Berkenstock said. “Here you have a Russian composer putting down his musical reflections on a wonderful vacation to sunny Italy. It is so spirited and evocative.”  This concert will be performed in the Dresselhuys residence in Fish Creek, the Janning residence in Sturgeon Bay, Silver Poplar Studios in Ellison Bay, and the Woodwalk Gallery south of Egg Harbor.

Midsummer’s season also includes music by Mozart, Fauré, Saint- Saëns, Brahms, Grieg, and many more. Tickets for most concerts are $25 with special prices for home concerts, a combination concert at the Fish Creek Village Hall and dinner at Whistling Swan, and the cruise to Rock Island.

For more information, to receive a brochure or order tickets, call Midsummer’s Music at 920-854-7088 or visit Many concerts sell out so early reservations are encouraged.




Midsummer’s Music Festival Announces 21st Chamber Season in Door County

The Door County arts scene jumps into full swing on June 10 as Midsummer’s Music Festival presents the 21st season of outstanding classical/chamber music in 16 intimate venues throughout the Door peninsula.

Pro Arte Quartet

The prelude and finales to our summer festival features one of the worlds’ distinguished string quartets, the Pro Arte Quartet on Wednesday, May 11 and Saturday, October 1 at the Ephraim Moravian Church. The Quartet violinist David Perry, violist Sally Chisholm (both part of Midsummer’s ensemble), violinist Suzanne Beia, and cellist Parry Karp. The quartet promotes an exciting balance of old and new repertoire, seeking opportunities to commission and premiere works of living composers in a variety of contemporary styles. For more information, visit their page on our website at: Pro Arte Quartet.

Opening night begins at Birch Creek Music Performance Center in Egg Harbor on Friday, June 10 with a Champagne Toast to celebrate our 21st season. You’ll enjoy the music of Hahn, Durufle, Karg-Elert, and Faure in the wonderful acoustics of Juniper Hall.

Midsummer’s Music has added two new venues to the festival this summer. The first is the Sister Bay Historical Society’s “Corner of the Past” on Saturday, June 18 at 7:30 PM. You’ll absolutely love this venue! Our musicians will be surrounded by antiques in the historic barn. Arrive early and tour the Old Anderson House Museum, granary, machine shop, two log cabins, migrant worker’s cabin, summer kitchen, and sawmill and blacksmith’s barn. Imagine hearing the music of Kennan, Hofmann, Grieg, and Svendsen in this historic setting!

Fish Creek‘s Whistling Swan Restaurant on June 30 is the second new addition to our festival. The evening begins at 6:00 PM with wine and hors d’oeuvres at the Whistling Swan. This is a great opportunity to meet and mix with fellow music lovers before a short stroll to the quaint Fish Creek Village Hall for the Midsummer’s concert at 7:00. After the concert we’ll head back to the Whistling Swan for an elegant dinner. For those who are unable to attend the reception and dinner at the Whistling Swan,  join us at the Fish Creek Village Hall for the concert only, starting at 7:00.

Viking Hall 2010 - Photo by Mark Kunstman

Ever since last summer we’ve had people asking us, “Are you going back to Rock Island? It was such a fun event!”  How could we say no? We couldn’t! Our return trip to Rock Island is on Tuesday, July 5. We’ll depart from Gills Rock at 4:00 on the Island Clipper and enjoy wine and a catered dinner by Alexander’s on the cruise to Rock Island. The concert will be held in majestic Viking Hall. The return cruise features desserts and champagne. Wow! The event sold out quickly last year so reserve early!

Of course, we are returning to our favorite venues such as Bjorklunden, the Hardy Gallery, the Woodwalk Gallery, Shepherd of the Bay, Ephraim Moravian Church, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, and The Clearing. We have three concerts in beautiful homes including the Burgess residence in Green Bay, the Janning residence in Sturgeon Bay, and the Dresselhuys residence in Fish Creek. In addition, there will be a concert in the barn at Maronek’s Silver Poplar Studios in Ellison Bay.

More details will follow about the wonderful programs. In the meantime, reservations can be made online at Midsummer’s Music or by calling 920-854-7088.