Saturday, April 16, 2011

Acoustic music finds a churchly home during Saginaw on Stage

by Janet I. Martineau
Normally, the White Crow Conservatory of Music is located on Mackinaw, near Davenport -- where, in the course of a year, upwards of 100 acoustic concerts take place.
But on Saturday, April 23, it moves itself to Freeland’s Apple Mountain Conference Center when its two founders, Siusan O’Rourke and Zig Zeitler,  and a contingent of White Crow regulars take part in Saginaw on Stage -- a 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. mega-concert featuring 28 bands playing on five stages.
Siusan O'Rourke and Zig Zeitler
“Three years ago, when we volunteered to perform at this event, Zig went out to Apple Mountain to check it out,” says O’Rourke. “When he saw the chapel out there, which they had not planned on using, he told them that is where White Crow wanted to set up.”
It is fitting, perhaps. The White Crow building on Mackinaw is a former church. And the chapel at Apple Mountain is, indeed, a small, historic chapel which was transplanted on the property -- across the parking lot from the main conference center.
From 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., White Crow will showcase four acts there as well as as an open mic session. And O’Rourke and Zeitler also will play in two of the other five showrooms during the evening.
“Zig and I will close the night at the Chapel, starting at 10,  and a 8:30 p.m. we will play our Irish and Americana music, most of it originals, in the Stevens Room in the main building,” says O’Rourke. “And Zig will play Cajun, roots and blues with Oz Oswald at 5:30 p.m. in the Ziba Ski Lodge Clubhouse.”
In years past, the chapel has tended toward the chilly side with unpredictable spring weather during Saginaw on Stage, a benefit concert sponsored by the Rotary Club of Saginaw. O’Rourke promises no such problem this year as White Crow has a high-performance heater in tow.
“We love the chapel because it is a beautiful, intimate space just perfect for some great acoustical moments away from the louder music played at Saginaw on Stage,” says O’Rourke. “Perfect for people who just want to sit and quietly listen to music. 
“I ring the bell before each set. There is room to dance is the aisles.”
And, promises Zeitler, “The performers include Saginaw’s best kept secret -- folk singer Bob Buchanan. He performed with the New Christy Minstrels, and co-wrote ‘Hickory Wind’ with Gram Parsons. He lives in Saginaw now -- and he actually played ‘Hickory Wind’ for the fist time in 46 years at The Crow.”
Buchanan is set for an 8 p.m. set. The legendary “Hickory Wind” has been recorded by countless singers since the Byrds in 1968, among them Joan Baez and Emmylou Harris.
Also playing in the Chapel, at 6 p.m., is singer/songwriter Bob Hausler, who Zeitler  says is the founder of the Mid-Michigan Songwriters Guild and a former Nashville sessions guitarist. Now living in Freeland, he has opened for Diamond Rio, the Mavericks, Sawyer Brown and Tracy Lawrence.
The open mic set, starting at 9, is a mixed bag of White Crow students and  Siusan’s daughter, among others.
“The music for that will be all over the place,” says Zeitler, a native of Hemlock. “Jazz mandolin, played by architect Fred Eurich, who studies with me. Contemporary. Maybe a little Italian opera. Each act will play two songs and then rotate, filling the hour.”
As for O’Rourke and Zeitler together, they tour the nation with their Irish/Americana music -- she is a singer and guitar player and he singing and playing too many instruments to list but among them guitar, mandolin, harmonica, banjo, Indian flute, fiddle, bouzouki, Cajun accordion. Both also write music.
They’re just back from a New York City/New York State tour, and earlier this year played in Memphis. And in 2006, the year White Crow opened, they survived 17 concerts in 14 days in Ireland -- often playing into the wee hours.
“My voice is my instrument, and I consider myself as an Irish singer,” says O’Rourke.
Says he, of his instruments, “I decide how to make an instrument work for the song -- how do I get it to create the sound I need.”
O’Rourke, a native of Brooklyn, New York,  and Zeitler say they volunteer their  time each year to Saginaw on Stage, as do all the performing groups, “because it is for a good cause that benefits things locally. So many times people are asked to donate to causes nationally and internationally. But we need to help right at home too.”
Saginaw on Stage proceeds will benefit the Covenant HealthCare sleepsack project, which sends every newborn home with a wearable blanket which helps prevent SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
The evening also includes a silent auction featuring more than 60 items. White Crow, says O’Rourke. also donates a gift basket to that featuring at least 10 CDs and tickets to White Crow concerts.
Tickets to Saginaw on Stage are $20 for adults and $5 for students in advance; $25 and $10 at the door. White Crow, 3736 Mackinaw, has them on sale in advance as well as West Side Decorating, 3505 State,  and Flagstar Bank, 4975 Bay Road. Or all (989) 776-9425 and use a credit card.
For more information on the other bands performing, and a performance schedule, log on to
Among the sponsors of Saginaw on Stage are Covenant HealthCare, Bierlein Companies, Stevens Worldwide Vanlines, Ziba Medical Spa, Merrill Lynch, and Hausbeck Pickles & Peppers.


  1. Thankyou for the Great write up and Your Help in Promoting such a wonderful Event.. WE WILL SEE there!
    Siusan and Zig

  2. My thanks also for the wonderful article on a great event. Thanks to Siusan and Zig for there never ending support for the local musical community.

  3. what the job of conservatory of music?