2018 Season Upcoming Concerts

By Sam Rosenblatt - July 11, 2018

Every day our peaceful woods are filled with the sounds of the assembly. The faint rustle of leaves in the wind, the jaunty laughter of children at play, the sweet “thwack” of a ball and racket meeting in air, to all of us who have waited throughout the year to be here, these sounds are music to our ears. A few times a summer, though, a different kind of music dances from the Meeting House stage: the composed and dazzling notes of the artists who visit our little slice of paradise. This summer we are incredibly lucky to have some big names coming to perform in these hallowed woods. You can thank Ken Cox for this year’s amazing lineup of concerts. See you there.

The Dutton Concert: July 14 7:30pm - Meeting House

The annual Dutton concert will be a duo piano recital featuring Liza Wu and Susan Osborn playing music by Mozart, Ravel, Poulenc and more. 

DuttonOsbornOsborn holds degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, The New School for Music Study, and Smith College, including her D.M. in Piano Performance and Pedagogy. She continued her musical education post-grad by studying at the American Conservatory at Fontainebleau, France, and L’Ecole Normale de Musique, Paris, as a recipient of a Harriet Hale Woolley Scholarship. Osborn now sits as Keyboard Skills faculty of the Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University and teaches private and group piano at the Northwestern University Music Academy and Interlochen Arts Camp.


Osborn’s forte for group piano and connection to Interlochen bring her both to us and together with Liza Wu, who has served as a long-time affiliate with the Interlochen Arts Camp, Institutes, and College of Creative Arts. Currently a pianist in New York, Wu has also served as an affiliate at the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, the Big Brass 'Brothers on the Battlefield', Barnard College/Columbia University, New York University, the School for Strings, and the Westchester Conservatory of Music. Previously, she has served as faculty, musician, or director for a long list of distinguished organizations including: the National Chorale, the Church of St. Denis, the Bronx Opera, Chelsea Opera & Orchestra, the Diller-Quaile School of Music and as a sideline musician for NBC's music series “Smash.” Despite her vast experience with such large-scale music, Wu remains an avid lover of the serenity and beauty of plants and birds, so be sure to stop by and welcome her to our peaceful little refuge.

The Burrows-Getz Concert: July 28 7:30pm - Meeting House

This year’s Burrows-Getz artist is the internationally recognized Czech Pianist Karolina Syrovatkova, who aims to bring a fascinating twist to the concert series with her performance, “Clara.” As someone who uniquely combines theater and a classical music concert, Syrovatkova’s work is rooted in her belief that, “Art should be experienced on many levels and should be accessible to everyone.”

But that is not to say that this “drama concert” won’t please the classics buffs too. Her work has won both the North London International CompetitioBGConcertSyrovatkovan and the Sidney M. Wright Presidential Competition, echoes both the pianistic lineage of the European and American schools, and utilizes the well-established principles of the Alexander Technique which “…improve[s] the quality of the physical movements involved in playing an instrument or singing … [and] helps improve the quality of the music itself.” Syrovatkova’s performance at the Meeting House will be her original show, “Clara,” which is part of her “Living With the Great Composers” series. Called “transporting” by Charlotte McLain, Director of BRL Concert Series, “Clara” focuses on the music and lives of the three famous pianists, Johannes Brahms, his muse, Clara Schumann, and her husband Robert Schumann—using dramatic theater, including dialogue, to bring out the subtle and not-so-subtle influences that this complicated relationship had on the music of all three.

To find out more about Karolina Syrovatkova, this performance, or to hear a sample of her music, visit her website at

The Armstrong Concert: August 4th 7:30pm - Meeting House

Our Armstrong Concert will be also be performed by an artist with roots at Interlochen. Soprano Sage DeAgro-Ruopp’s studies began with the Interlochen Arts Academy where she quickly made a name for herself as a winner of the Interlochen concerto competition, and as a guest on “A Prairie Home Companion Show with Garrison Keillor.” Between academic years at Interlochen, she studied at the summer program “Oberlin in Italy” under the tutelage of Duane Mahy. She continued her studies with Mahy at the Oberlin Conservatory where she performed the roles of Corilla from Donizetti’s “Viva la mamma,” La Fee from Massenet’s “Cendrillon,” and Morgana from Handel’s “Alcina,” which we will get a sample of at the Meeting House, along with works from Mozart, Mendelssohn, Strauss, Rodrigo, Vitezslava Kapralova, and Bernstein.


During her time at Oberlin DeAgro-Ruopp sang with several ensembles including as a soloist with the Contemporary Music Ensemble premiering “The Sandburg Songs” under the baton of conductor Timothy Weiss. DeAgro-Ruopp has performed in masterclasses with renowned musicians such as Mikael Eliasen, Danielle Orlando, Barbara Hannigan, Marilyn Horne, and composer Ben Moore. She now holds a performance diploma from Oberlin (’18) and is continuing her undergraduate and graduate studies at the Curtis Institute of Music under the tutelage of Marlena Malas. Her most recent roles at Curtis include Melisande from Debussy’s “Impressions de Pelleas,” Bessie from Kurt Weill’s “Mahagonney ein Songspiel” and Monica from Menotti’s “The Medium.”

For an article about DeAgro-Ruopp’s earlier years, see or listen to the “A Prairie Home Companion With Garrison Keillor” episode on which she performed at

Unsung Hero - Doug Fuller

By Beth Wolszon - July 7, 2018

Do you regularly interact with the CSA community on our Facebook page? Maybe you’re excited to see a cool CSA picture on Instagram. Or perhaps the calendar and white board photo on the CSA website, or the weekly “what’s happening” emails, help you plan your time at the lake. All of us who enjoy being able to engage digitally with our CSA community year-round owe a big thanks to Doug Fuller.

It’s been almost 15 summer seasons since Doug took leadership of what was initially the CSA Website Committee. Would you believe there was some controversy over the CSA even having a website in the 21st century? Doug provided balanced and thoughtful leadership to demonstrate that having a digital CSA presence would not diminish the traditions and enjoyment of being physically present at the CSA.

DougFullerDoug not only provided leadership for the committee, he did much of the technical work to create the initial site, with valuable assistance from Peter Buzzell. Doug did research to find the right platform to allow everyday users to create and manage a high-quality website without the experience of being a web developer. He toiled for countless months to give us a nice initial site, with very little investment.

Once the site was up, initial traffic was light due to the CSA’s requirement for a password to protect our privacy. But Doug was able to help CSA leaders get comfortable with fully opening the site, which put us on the path to where we are today, and where we can be tomorrow.

Doug worked diligently with our committees to get content onto the website and keep it current and up to date. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t perfect, because he was asking for more time from dedicated CSA volunteers with very busy lives. So, what to do?

He found a different path. He told the Board of Trustees we should focus our effort on the CSA Facebook page. He was right once again. Through Facebook, Doug was able to offer a forum for CSAers to interact year round. And the statistics he provided to the Board built confidence that the addition of digital media was good for our community. By then we were using YouTube and Twitter, with Instagram to come.

Just a few years ago, Doug recommended to the Board that we change our technical web platform from Word Press to Joomla, to give us more and better capabilities. Who did the bulk of the work to make the change? No surprise, it was Doug.

He demonstrated that he was a visionary leader when he recommended that the “Website” Committee be changed to the Communications Committee to better represent its evolved role. Doug understood that we needed to fit into the communication options being used every day by our community—both while here at Crystal Lake as well as wherever we are in the world.

With more parents working and busy families, fewer people can be here all summer. But they still want to feel a part of the community. They still want to engage with the community. And they want transparent communication about what is going on within our community and our governance.

Doug resigned from the Communications Committee when his wife, Sharon Elliott Fuller, was diagnosed with a serious illness. But he supported the successful trial of a communications intern in the summer of 2016. Holly Freeburg succeeded him as chair of the Communications Committee that summer. She was able to prove the value of the communications intern and expanded it in 2017 and 2018.

We lost both Doug and his wife Sharon in 2017, much too young and much too soon. It was a very difficult loss for their daughters Crissie and Kelsey, and their son Elliott. It was also a very real loss for our community. We honor his unsung service to help us maintain an energetic and engaged community far into the future.

There are any number of words to describe who Doug was: dedicated, hardworking, effective change leader, someone who thinks outside the box, friend, nature lover, nice guy. But he was also very much an unsung hero around the CSA and we could not think of a better person to kick off our new unsung heroes series than Doug, who will be missed terribly not only taking the stage during the operetta, but as someone who always had a kind word and advice.

If you would like to read more about Doug and his life, click on this link to his obituary.

And if you would like to write a piece about other unsung heroes at the CSA—both past and present—we would love to hear from you. Submit your story to the Communications Committee at . (It will be edited for content, spelling and grammar.)

History Night - August 4th from 7-9 pm

By Sam Buzzell July 2017

Every four years, large crowds gather in the Community Room to walk amongst their memories. They traverse a serpentine path through the complete history of the Congregational Summer Assembly, gazing in wonder at materials collected by archivists from Catherine Stebbins to Jane Cooper. This, of course, is History Night. Many use it to relive times past, some go to see their parents and grandparents as children, but all leave seeing the CSA in a new light, one of deeper understanding and appreciation.

The event’s creation was preceded by the appointment of Catherine Stebbins, then assistant to Ruth Nickels, as the CSA’s first archivist. She took the opportunity and ran with it, purchasing a filing cabinet and beginning to work to compile a complete history of the Assembly. With the scrapbook collection that she had begun as a child as a base, she created full chronological albums of the early days of the CSA which were later used as the primary sources of material in the first few History Nights.

HistoryNightIn the Community Room, a small crowd hunched over several dimly lit tables bearing the pages of Catherine’s archival scrapbooks. This was the night of August 19, 1983, the first History Night. Promoted only by a small blurb in the Sunday church bulletin and exclusively involving the photos from Catherine’s personal collection, the event had room to grow. The idea was presented again three years later, becoming a tradition every three years.

By 1993, Katy Gosnell was archivist. Her reign is responsible for the current format of the exhibition, constructed by arranging styrofoam boards on church pews and pinning photos onto the upright boards. Under Tammy Royle, the event was rescheduled to every four years, as the workload grew and setup became more complicated due to increasingly detailed exhibits. While some were disappointed by the change, it brought to light the reasoning behind the spacing of the events: History Night is an incredible undertaking for the archivist, and becomes at least a 14 hour day for the crew. In addition, the timing helps to create a more appreciative mindset when viewing the exhibition, as this is not something one sees every day.

The day itself now involves the movement of up to 16 church pews by the maintenance crew, followed by a complete movement of the contents of Pilgrim Place to the Assembly Building including not only hundreds of photos, but also ledgers, operetta scrapbooks, oral histories, cottage curios, old costumes, and more. When all of the materials are assembled, the photos are pinned to the boards. Due to the chronological nature of the items, they must be posted from oldest to most recent and must be handled carefully. When the room is ready, the archival crew leaves to get dinner and dressed for the event, and are replaced by ‘security guards’ in one-hour shifts - positions which they have no trouble filling as the recipients are allowed to peruse the exhibition at their leisure. Then, at 7pm, crowds begin to gather to see what there is to be seen - which is quite a lot, as it turns out. After the stragglers are gently nudged out of the place at close to 9:30pm, the archivist begins removing the items photo by photo, piece by piece, until the Community Room is bare once more.

Archives is one of the most important areas of the CSA. A huge portion of the history of our organization is very well reported on, and archivists have worked tirelessly for decades to continue that work. To have preserved documentation of the CSA from its beginnings in 1901 until now is an incredible feat; to save these items is to keep their contents alive, whether it is to learn from them, remember them fondly, or simply to appreciate them, and is invaluable to us today.

This year, the communications committee will be covering History Night from start to finish, filming the setup of the event and interviewing current archivist Jane Cooper and archivist emerita Tammy Royle. We will archive the archives at work, and capture the history of History Night. A complete version of the film will be posted on the CSA YouTube page shortly after the event!

Dogs of the CSA

Our Intern, Sam, caught up with some of our 4 legged friends and they told him what they love most about the CSA! Just like us they like to talk and have their picture taken!


Left to right: Duncan McCormick, Crystal and Blackjack Congbalay (Pringle)

Duncan, Crystal, and Blackjack hail from the East Coast and Midwest respectively, but Northern Michigan is their home. Every year as they pass through the Frankfort archway, their ears perk up and they sniff the air with building excitement. Duncan loves Lake Michigan, taking every chance he gets to play on the beach. When he goes missing, that is where you will find him. Every time. Touring the CSA with their cousin dog Duncan is a favorite past-time of Crystal and Blackjack. They share his love of the beach, and love playing in the water.



Aero Miller is a CSA native. She lives in the area year-round, from the cold, snowy winters to the lazily warm summers. She considers it her duty to guard the Miller house, but will take any opportunity she gets to take a car ride (preferably to the beach). Swimming is not her favorite summer activity, but she loves to take long walks on the CSA Lake Michigan beach. 




Nico Schmidt is the fourth Schmidt family dachshund. He is from Santa Rosa, California, and was the product of a long and strenuous search for a successor to the legendary Boris. After a traumatic first day on the job, he was bonded for life with human Bob Schmidt. He enjoys lounging in the sun on the patio and loves to take walks on the beach and around the CSA.




Gladys Belknap is the namesake of David and Sarah Belknap’s grandmother who decreed that no dog should ever bear her name. They took note of that, but after a family dog was named after their other grandmother, they decided to make a pair. Gladys (the dog) loves to swim in Lake Michigan, and plays fetch there most every evening. In the mornings she can be found lounging by the fire, and under the table during mealtimes (but not for food, that would be silly).




Mason Murmann doesn’t like to say that he came all the way from Columbia, MO for the treats in the Assembly Building, but he would be lying if he said otherwise. He also enjoys walking around the CSA forests.





Chessie Brown is a very loving dog, but may or may not have been spotted trudging the grounds of the CSA in the Cone of Shame (for reasons undisclosed). He loves to take walks in the woods, and enjoys our many beaches.




The adult “teen” dance

By Ginanne Brownell Mitic July 2017

The Tuesday night teen dance memories of my youth have congealed together in my head. I can’t remember one specific night per se but I remember certain distinct moments. Like, I can recall Tim Royle, wearing a green and white Benetton rugby, getting really excited when the opening beats of a Police song—maybe it was the remixed version of “Don't Stand So Close to Me” or maybe it was “King of Pain”—blasted through the speakers. I also remember, years later, grabbing his sister, Megan (Carrella), and our friends Martha Errthum (Evans) Sarah Brown, Molly Bazzani (Campbell) and other friends as we headed for the middle of the dance floor when Moby Disc (aka Bill Howard), popped on a song like Erasure's "A Little Respect."

After my freshman year of college, when I should have had one foot vaguely planted into adulthood, I still went to the teen dances partly because my younger friends were still going and also because it still remained the place to get the best gossip for who was dating who and what was going to be happening after the dance. Each week the teen dance was social Mecca for my generation—and for many generations before and after me. “When you're a teen up north for the summer, you have the occasional bonfire, maybe you're lucky enough to stay out late and go to the drive in, or tell your parents you're going to the drive-in just to stay out later, but those Tuesday nights were a great excuse for everyone to be out between 9-11,” recalled Andy Campbell. “And you got to get down too. If you like music and enjoy dancing, which I do, having a once a week venue to do that? Pretty sweet.”

Dance GrapicJudy Stewart Rodes recalled that as a 12-year-old, she could not wait to be 13 so she could attend the teen dances back in the early and mid-1960s. “It was super crowded,” she told me in an email, “and I remember it being very hot and swimming in the lake after.” She says the songs she most looked forward to—which were played by local bands—were ones by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, especially “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.” Judy, like many teen girls and boys from all generations who attended teen dances, also said she remembered taking time deciding what to wear. That was especially important if you had a crush that you knew would also be attending the dance.

Back in the earlier days of the teen dances (post-record players and pre-DJs), it was all about local bands that would come and play. “The teen dances I attended were 1965-1969, and were absolutely mobbed,” recalled Jep Gruman. “Young people from as far as Glen Lake, Torch Lake and Petoskey would come down for them, have picnics on the Crystal beach or in the woods by the ball field. Glenn Schulz would try to discourage beer, but usually to no avail. The State Police parked their cars at the Crystal View. The ball field was filled with cars. The music was VERY loud and kids were dancing out among the cars.” He says he remembers cover songs being played like “Light My Fire” by The Doors, “Summer in the City” by Lovin Spoonful and “Wild Thing” by the Troggs.

Dean Rusch, who owns the Freeland-based Rusch Entertainment (the company that Bill Howard still works for) asked me in an email: “Do you remember Jim Buzzell? He started hiring my band CEYX in the summer of 1971 and we played through the early 1980s, then switched to the DJ format.” It was likely CEYX who would play songs like Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” that Holly Freeburg recalls almost literally bringing the Assembly building down back in the early-1970s. “Everyone was stomping on the floor so hard that there was talk of having to shore it up,” she said. “I can’t hear that song today without smiling and thinking about going to the teen dance.”

Jim Buzzell was a fixture at the teen dances for generations, stamping people’s hands when they came in and he somehow had a sixth sense if people were getting up to something they weren’t supposed to be getting up to. He had some sort of internal honing device and could miraculously track where to find what was not supposed to be happening. In the 1980s and 1990s admission was $2, but often people, if they knew the right people, could sneak in—a teenage version of getting on a VIP list at a popular club. “When I was on the CSA staff I worked at the door to collect the cover charge,” recalls Beth Congbalay. “Two friends (who will remain nameless), always got in for free. I felt a little bad about that but they were CSA kids too and we were very loyal to our friends.”

Over the last few years, some CSA friends and I would joke about setting up an adult “teen” dance, with the two major components being it had to be held when most of our friends be up and finding Bill Howard, who seemingly had his finger on the pulse of 1980s and 1990s music. Molly Bazzani recalled his name and Megan Carrella remembered he was based in Bay City. A few searches on Google later and I found Rusch Entertainment. When contacted, Dean Rusch told me that Bill, when he found out the CSA wanted to hold a nostalgic “teen” dance on Friday July 28, he cancelled the wedding he was booked to DJ that Saturday in Detroit so he could come spin the tunes for us.

Though the dances petered off in the early 2000s when young people wanted to hang out more in the parking lot and chat, the teen dances still had some solid years in the mid and late 1990s as well. “Songs like ‘Feels Good’ by Toni, Toni, Toni, the “Humpty Dance” by Digital Underground, and “Poison” by Bel Biv Devo were mainstays,” recalled Andy Campbell. “Super Sonic" by Salt 'N Peppa always got Sarah Brown going. In 1993 “Daisy Dukes” was a big jam, and anything by Naughty by Nature was in the mix. 'Rump Shaker' by Wreck'n Effect always put me in a good mood. As always Moby Disc would finish with 'You Spin me Round' by Dead or Alive. Lots of folks at the CSA don't like change and somehow he understood that and closed every dance with that song regardless of year.”

Jep recalled that the fun of the dances did not stop when the bands packed up their equipment: "After the dances a bunch of us would go up onto the knoll above the Crystal View and play music (guitars), or go down to the CSA Michigan beach for a bonfire for more guitars and singing and star gazing...we would sing Donovan or Bob Dylan, Peter Paul & Mary, Tom Rush, Joni Mitchell, not the pop music we'd just been dancing to. Not so much pairing off but rather as a large pile of puppies. Then wandering back to the cottage, darkly, without flashlights because it was not cool to have a flashlight. Somehow we were supposed to find our way without them... lots of stubbed toes!” The songs may have changed over the generations but the fun times that have been had, and the memories made are one of those great continuities of the CSA. Here’s to more memories being made on the 28th!