‘Jingle bell chorus show’ at Fernwood

Published 10:14 pm Wednesday, December 8, 2010

John Tolhuizen performs at Fernwood Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve in Niles. (Photo submitted)

John Tolhuizen has played more than 3,000 shows in his musical career. He has performed at nearly every venue in the southwest Michigan and northwest Indiana area.

But one venue the Benton Township resident has consistently played is Fernwood Botanical Garden during the holiday season.

Tolhuizen will lead a jingle bell chorus at Fernwood Sunday at 2 p.m. as part of its Christmas activities.

“I go around with a Christmas bag full of jingle bells and song lyrics and pass them out and do Christmas songs. We encourage the kids to ring along,” he said. “It’s a great tradition that’s gone on.”

But Christmas tunes are just the tip of the iceberg in Tolhuizen’s musical repertoire. The 30-plus-year musician, who began his musical career as a child in elementary school in a traveling singing group, plays everything from traditional folk to pop, rock, alternative, Irish and bluegrass.

An accomplished finger-style guitarist with a strong tenor voice, Tolhuizen is a member of Mockingbird, “The Genre Busting Band,” which is set to disband in the coming months. The group has played more than 160 gigs.

“The motto for the band was ‘now for something totally different,'” he said. “Because no matter your preconceived notions of the show, the next song will be totally different.”

Tolhuizen’s musical range is so great that when he is asked to perform a medley of 1960s songs, he asks: “The 1960s or the 1860s?”

The traveling musician, who runs a real estate investment company as well, is a founding member of the Riversong Music Society and has hosted long-standing open mic nights at locations throughout southwest Michigan.

Although he has cut down on his number of shows, he doesn’t plan to quit performing any time soon.

“We’re lucky to have such a vibrant music scene in all genres around here,” he said.