From Gwinn to the world
My recording experiences began with a request from W.F.U.R. radio, the Christian radio station serving Grand Rapids, Michigan. I was a music student at Grand Rapids Junior College, and a part-time organist, (one of several) in the Netherlands Reformed Church where my dad was the pastor.
W.F.U.R. contacted me and asked if I would be interested in producing a series of fifteen minute organ improvisations, on tape, of familiar hymns and Dutch Psalms. These recordings would be used “on air” at the close of the Sunday broadcast day. Many stations in those days only operated from dawn to dusk.
Needless to say, I was very happy. Suddenly, my music would be heard in hundreds, maybe even thousands of homes. One of our church members had purchased the latest tape recording equipment and he was anxious to be part of the recording experience. Together, we produced a number of recordings that were soon heard throughout the W.F.U.R. listening audience.
I was thrilled!
While attending Western Michigan University, I was also giving private organ and piano lessons. One of my students was an amazing, blind chiropractor. He had lost his eyesight in an explosion while doing archeology work in Egypt. In addition, he was also a fairly accomplished organist and had a complete recording studio in his home, which he, in spite of his handicap, was able to operate. He offered to record some of my playing with the help of an area recording studio, which then became a record that was for sale in Christian book stores.
As part of my senior year graduation requirement, I recorded an album of Dutch Psalms and hymns on the Western Michigan University Chapel organ. It was sold both in the U.S. and Canada.
Next, I recorded my first high school choir at Forest Hills High School.
It went very well, I thought. Of course, looking back at the production and finished product now, it left a lot to be desired; but what the heck, it was my first choir recording attempt.
That recording was followed over the years by numerous choir appearances on local television stations and four recordings with the Creston High School Choir and Madrigal groups. I was also contacted by the Dutch Immigrant Society in Grand Rapids. They had a choir and wanted to produce a record as a fundraiser, but they lacked the expertise to make it happen.
What to do? Of course, contact a fellow Dutchman who had at least some of the expertise that they needed. Enter Gerrit Lamain. The record was made and they were very happy. Now, after all those years, I am still proud of that recording; especially the jacket design. It still looks beautiful, very Dutch.
By the time I reached Gwinn High School in Gwinn, Michigan (U.P), I brought along a wealth of knowledge regarding the production of records and the recording process in general. The first, and most important lesson that I learned, was “always listen to the experts!” The second was, “Have the very best audio engineers and audio equipment for the recording.”
By this time, I had dabbled in the recording field enough to at least know what I was looking for. I knew that there was a recording studio in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with the name, “Sound 80.” I had researched them and knew that their recordings included the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Bob Dylan, Dave Brubeck, Cat Stevens, Prince, and many other big names.
If they were good enough for those folks, they were certainly good enough for us. One of the other things that I had learned was to “always start on the top.” It is much easier to come down than to go up.
It was a truism that I had to repeat to myself a few times before I picked up the phone and dialed the number for “Sound 80.” A very friendly lady answered the phone and somehow my intuition told me that I was on the right track. I explained to her that I was calling from this little town in the U.P., that we were going to make a recording and that we were looking for a recording studio. I knew that some “big” recording studio receptionists would probably break out in laughter as they told me that, “They did not do high schools.”
This lady was different. She wanted to know all about “where Gwinn was” and somehow she understood my enthusiasm.
She said, “I’ll connect you with someone here who, I know, will be happy to talk with you.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Gerrit Lamain is a former Copper Country resident who served as a music professor at Suomi College. He has published a book, “Gerrit’s Notes: A compilation of essays,” which can be found on Amazon. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.