This is the story of The Trees Community, a semi monastic Christian group that left NYC on a bus in 1971 on a journey of faith. When most of our money burned up the first night, we relied on God for all our needs and he provided! We traveled the United States growing in our new faith, finding a ministry in music and eventually becoming artists in residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Seven years, seven "stories" are woven into this amazing journey.

Winter Tour continued

Shipen playing Gamelon

Playing kotos from the University of Michigan's instrument collection

April 21, 1974 Leaving Gethsemani, we drove through pouring rain until we reached Ann Arbor, just in time for dinner with Jack and Margine Bailey. I felt like I was experiencing re-entry shock with the sudden shift in environment between the quiet, peaceful monks to these two raucous, explosive, hilarious individuals. Ahhhh, back to the real world. The following day we played at St. Clair Roman Catholic Church in Ann Arbor and in the audience were my parents, some old Leelanau friends like Steve Netherton and some of Shipen’s old friends. After the concert, I left to spend a few days with my family while the rest of the Trees were invited to see the University of Michigan’s unusual music collection. They were able to see and play some of the same instruments we had like pot gongs from a Gamelan orchestra, and were shown the proper way to play Japanese kotos and Chinese chengs and samisens, and all kinds of exotic instruments identical to our own. It was like Christmas!

Mary gets a lesson on the samisen.

April 22nd. I took a bus to Ann Arbor and met up with the rest of the group, then off we drove to Shipen’s home town, West Branch. There we gave a highly successful concert at the local catholic church to a packed crowd of 500 people. Wow! They had printed up tickets and the show had sold out days before. After the concert, we agreed it was probably the best performance of the entire tour! We packed up in record time (11 minutes flat) and zipped over to Shipen’s parents for a special dinner prepared by Dorothy Lebzelter. We shared a feast of standing rib roast, wine and all kinds of delicious food along with Dr. Tom, the priest and other old friends. We toasted our success and enjoyed the high that comes from an exceptional musical performance and a highly responsive audience. During dinner, we also toasted Shipen’s father Paul Lebzelter who, it turned out, had just been named Man of the Year for the State of Michigan (or something to that effect).

The day of the concert the headlines in the local paper declared: “Nationally acclaimed group plays at West Branch”. Truly a day to remember! We were farmed out to different families for the night and I fell asleep wrapped in the warm and delicious feeling of accomplishment and success. In the morning we would head to Roller Mills recording studio in Glen Arbor, Michigan to begin recording our second record.