July 17 was our official last day together as a choir. After spending the previous several days working hard on our recording project, it was time for the last performance of 2022. The day dawned warm and humid. We had the morning off to worship at a venue of our choice. At noon, the choir assembled at Park View Mennonite Church, something of a home away from home for the past 12 days. All pre-tour rehearsal and post-tour recording took place in this excellent venue. We had grown accustomed to the generous and lively acoustic space and were pleased to be delivering our last concert there.
We devoured a quick lunch to provide strength for the afternoon’s activities and changed into our concert garb in preparation for a photo shoot. We gathered in the sanctuary and did our best to look attractive and agreeable, as Kyler Martin, our public relations manager, and photographer/friend of the choir Jotham Yoder arranged us in various configurations. We went straight into vocal warmups after the photography session concluded. Having spent several days recording, we were feeling secure with the repertoire, but were also four days removed from our last live performance. Wendell’s warm up session helped to prepare our voices and bodies, but also focus our minds on the upcoming performance. Our preparation time concluded with some appropriate devotional thoughts on the unchanging goodness of God, delivered by Ivan Godoy’s smooth bass voice.
We are grateful for a large audience that filled Park View’s sanctuary completely. Singing to a full room of engaged listeners is always an invigorating experience. The first several songs were supported by a pleasant ambient white noise in the form of a substantial downpour. As pleasant as it was, we were all grateful when it subsided, and the music could be more easily heard. The concert was a delightful and satisfying end to our time together. We enjoyed staying afterward and chatting with friends, family members, and strangers who had come to listen.
After the concert, the choir gathered for our traditional after party. Stephen and Rosalind Byler and Shandon and Katherine Mullet hosted us. The party featured an absolutely stunning spread of Mexican food, lively conversation, raucous laughter, coffee, and expressively-read children’s stories. Tour is a wonderful but intense experience, and the after party is always a nice time to unwind and relax after our singing duties have officially ended. Those choir members who remained in the vicinity gathered for a hearty breakfast at the local Cracker Barrel on Monday morning, before saying our final goodbyes.
Thank you for your kind support, and for following along on our choral escapades. Until next year!
Saturday was our third and final day of recording. The two previous days had gone surprisingly well. Basically, we were able to record more songs than we expected to in that time. By Saturday, we had only one more song to record, in addition to a few reruns. The outlined schedule for the day was far more relaxing than previous days had been.
By early afternoon, we had concluded our musical activities for the day. People spent the rest of the afternoon doing a variety of things: the less ambitious among us went out for coffee, the medium ambitious played disc golf, and the stupid ambitious played a hard-core game of ultimate frisbee in sauna-like conditions.
We ate supper together back at Park View church, where we had done our recording. In the evening, most of the group did a Taize worship service, following the traditions from a unique French community. To conclude the evening, several music majors in the group shared some of the pieces that they had learned.
This choir has displayed wonderful cooperation, focus, and energy in the recording process. Since we made good progress yesterday, Wendell moved the call time this morning from 8:30 to 9:00. None of us minded at all. We mostly arrived on time and began with a short period of time spent turning our focus heavenward with short songs, scripture reading, and prayer. It usually takes us a bit of time to “find our sound” for the day. Warm-ups and various exercises help us loosen up, engage the breath, shape vowels, maintain support, etc. All those things that conductors and vocal coaches are forever harping on.
Recording with this group is intense, but very enjoyable. Our fine conductor Wendell is particular, but never far beneath the surface is that quick wit, ready to make some snide or hilarious comment that sends the whole choir into an uproarious fit of laughter. I might mention that he is not the only one in this incredible group of people that is capable of such behavior. It really helps us stay relaxed as we endeavor to record flawless takes on each and every piece. Unfortunately, flawless takes are elusive, and today was no exception. However, we are able to pull off “lovely” or “solid” takes. Brandon Mullet is our recording coach and he along with our recording engineer Robert, give us lots of helpful feedback.
Lunchtime, long longed for, finally arrived and we enjoyed another scrumptious meal provided by our dedicated and amazing cooks. This lunch included naan bread, which is a particular favorite of mine. After lunch some choir members had naps before work resumed.
The afternoon was spent much the same as the morning. It involved lots of singing. We did our best to stay focused instead of sitting down and crying when we consistently ended a certain piece a half step higher than when we started. A wonderful diversion happened halfway through the afternoon when a birthday hat and balloon were presented to Brandon and we treated him with a flawless rendition of the timeless “Happy Birthday”. Various caffeinated beverages from Merge Coffee arrived at the same time to give us an extra boost for the rest of the afternoon. We fittingly finished today’s recording session with several takes of Wendell Glick’s “We’ve Come a Long Way.” Following that, we consumed another delicious meal.
After dinner, a number of choir members who are current or recent voice students, gave a recital for the rest of us to enjoy, with alto Regina Brubaker providing piano accompaniment. How delightful it was to watch fellow choir members perform pieces that they have worked hard to perfect. It was a long but very rewarding and fun day. I’m so happy that we still have two days left to make music.
It is not often that the entire choir is still together to see the first hour of the new day, but July 14th was the exception. Thursday morning found us traversing the final leg of our tour, heading to Harrisonburg, VA. We arrived at Park View Church in Harrisonburg around 1:15 a.m. and, after unloading the bus for the final time, parted ways for our sundry sleeping spots.
Sleep was lovely after such a late night. The choir was to reconvene at Park View to start recording at 12 noon on Thursday, and the morning off was kind to most. The average rising time of the choir was approximately 9:36 a.m., with the outliers arising at 7:20 and 11:00.
We arrived at Park View and were welcomed by Brandon Mullet, Kyler Martin, and our recording engineer, Robert. Each fills a specific role in the days of recording and we are blessed to have their skills.
In the 5½ hours of recording between 12:30 and 6 p.m. we recorded a total of six songs, surpassing the planned schedule by one song. Throughout the day the serious side of recording was balanced by periods of laughter, the work balanced by periods of relaxation. Our tour coordinator, Hilary Martin, kindly offered to make a coffee run for the choir members who were so inclined and so, in the middle of the afternoon, we were blessed with a pick-me-up to finish out the day.
At our snack break, I posed this question to my fellow snackers, Sarah Sommers, Jeanene Nisly, and Jacob Zimmerman: “What kind of mental space do you bring to a first day of recording?” Sarah brings an open attitude, striving for her best delivery and having a good time. Jacob mentioned feeling more free in concert because mistakes are not recorded. In recording he still strives for a sense of freedom, seeking to feel the life in the music even while working for precision. Jeanene explained that there is a different kind of alertness for her in recording than in a concert, due to the lack of audience. The focus turns more internal than external and is good for accuracy, though it does tend to become more academic as well.
Over supper, I had the chance to discuss the day with Kristin Nolt and Dan Yutzy, our alto and bass section leaders. Both felt good about the day overall, but recognized the hard work that went into the afternoon. Dan summarized his feeling with these words, “I just want to like veg out, eat junk food for a while and not focus on too much.” That’s relatable content.
Tuned chords, Boris Johnson, sweet bologna sandwiches—Oasis is a threefold chord of beautiful music-making, satisfying conversation, and delectable food. Today featured all three. After a morning of bus time, we arrived at the Windmill Bake Shop in South Boston, VA, for lunch. They fed all 50 of us in short order in the middle of their lunch rush.
We got to First Baptist Church (there are a lot of those) earlier than normal, giving us a good chunk of movement and music rehearsing time. A half-brownie and ice-cream dish at lunch time had sent our director into a unique mood; the rehearsal was seasoned with Wendellisms.
Before every concert, we spend time as a group in spiritual refreshment and preparation. Rosemary led us in a meditation/relaxation exercise on the theme of God’s lovingkindness. She encouraged us to let go of the shame we often carry and allow ourselves to feel the compassion of the Lord.
One of the gifts I have been enjoying this year is singing the song, “Be Still My Soul,” an arrangement by C. Rand Matheson. Tonight was no different. The luminous chords coupled with a timeless text is moving. “Be still my soul, the hour is hastening on, when we shall be forever with the Lord, When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone; Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.”
In his closing comments, Josh Good spoke of the fear all around us and within us. He reminded us that we don’t have to fear because Jesus Himself is our leader. My desire for the audience at First Baptist is that this music renewed their hope in Jesus and the peace that He brings.
We trekked the 3.5 hours back to Harrisonburg after the concert and arrived safely. Thanks be to God and to our faithful bus driver for the smooth travels we’ve had on our tour.
After breakfast at our Country Inn and Suites the choir embarked on various expeditions. About 25 of us meandered slowly from shade tree to covered porch to garden to air-conditioned building (it was 92*+ and sunny) in downtown Williamsburg. We tried out the lovely harpsichord in the cabinet maker’s shop and learned through song and show how a sheep, a rooster, and a duck assisted with hot air balloon experimentation. While touring the ballroom of the palace Matt and Jeron learned that, “Without money love falls apart.”
While dining at La Piazza I was startled into loud exclamations of wonder when I beheld one of my favorite families passing by on the street. (Upon hearing my outburst while looking through the window behind him, Jacob, whose name’s final phoneme shall never be pronounced /p/, thought perhaps I was viewing an accident or fight. Apparently I have not been surprised often enough to perfect my exclamatory skills.) It was special to have my sister and her family at our evening concert as part of their family vacation.
Untold numbers of choristers visited various coffee shops, an art museum and the Mellow Mushroom with its reportedly delectable bill of fare. A foursome explored a place which included “water and a bunch of boats”. More exact details of this venture remain unclear to this correspondent as the reporter seemed a bit uncertain himself.
Our candle light concert at the historic Bruton Parish church in Williamsburg, VA was abbreviated slightly to fit into a 1 hour time slot. Nonetheless, our time under the flickering wax candle chandelier was delightful as we shared our joy over God’s faithfulness to us with the audience of tourists, friends and family. One man remarked that it seems like all the choir members really love Jesus. We must be doing something right!
Can you tell the difference between Coke, Pepsi and Dr. Pepper? Over pizza back at our hotel this burning question arose. Dan and Jeron tracked some down and an intense soda pop tasting event ensued. Conclusion: Dr. Pepper is easy to identify and many beverage connoisseurs were able to correctly name Pepsi and Coke, but a few were mistaken. Kudos to them!
A day off. Space to breath. Space to sleep. An unhurried evening. Everything about it was really quite wonderful especially after a week of satisfying but intense work. The day was spent in Winston-Salem, NC. You might think that we stick together and all do the same thing on a day off, but actually we typically disintegrate into small groups and scatter throughout a city. I’m going to give you a small summary of things we did that I think you should consider if you ever visit this city.
My first stop for the day was Anchor Coffee Co. It was a five out of five star rating from me for atmosphere, good coffee, and plenty of space to sit and chill. Some OC groups found it to be an ideal spot to park for the forenoon and didn’t go much farther. Bettina, one of my fellow coffee mates, suggested renting scooters to see what else Winston-Salem might have to offer, so after consuming our beverages, we did just that. It was a little pricy but also exhilarating to go spinning around town, and it was great for covering a larger area in a short amount of time. Other small groups found different coffee shops, and some found a disc golf course called The Crossing to occupy their time. I was told that these were all great experiences. I ended up at Courtside Cafe for lunch and ordered a gyro that ended up being about as perfect as a gyro can be and paid under $10 for a complete meal. I was impressed. After lunch, my group scootered back to the bus and enjoyed a leisurely ride to our next concert destination.
Bus rides are the best environment for conversations to ebb and flow and sometimes ripple through the choir. The question that took off today was “Are you the same person on Oasis as you are at home?” A strong percentage of the members admitted that Oasis allows their weird and quirky side to shine just a bit more brightly than it does at home. I like that; I like being part of that environment, and I like that I still have a week left to enjoy it.
Greetings from your new potential favourite OC extrovert!
As a rather extreme extrovert, during the beginning of this tour I felt quite outnumbered by what seemed like a large crowd of introverts.
Several days into tour, I estimated the choir to be 80% introvert. Today, for the sake of personal interest and (hopefully) some great blog content, I decided to take a poll of the introvert/extrovert ratio of the OC members. During the process, I learned several things about my fellow choir members. Resident alto Laura Conley declined to answer, claiming she “doesn’t fit the labels”. Fortunately (or unfortunately?) for her, Kari Nolt informed Laura that she is indeed an extrovert. In jest, Sarah (sa-RAH) Miller described our beloved Wendell as an “introverted snob”. Jeron Mullet, a first year tenor, described himself as an “introvert with a healthy dose of FOMO”.
Most of my data collection happened during bus time, which is what much of our day consisted of. Other highlights from our time on the road included an encouraging conversation regarding fitting into the OC social atmosphere, observing a biker gang of dudes with long sleeved T-shirts and preppy shoes on Harleys, and hearing Sarah’s hide and seek on the bus story for the second time.
After arriving at Hebron Baptist Church, we had our usual rehearsal, supper, prep time, and concert. A highlight of the concert for me was having Steve and Rose Martin in the audience. Steve is an OC board member and a fellow Canadian who told me multiple times that I really should sing in Oasis. I guess his encouragement worked, because here I am!
In closing, I present to you the poll results you all have been waiting for with hopeful hearts and bated breath.
Oasis Chorale is 63% introvert, 37% extrovert! An unusually high percentage of introverts, although not as high as this extrovert once thought.
Today again involved some “real” bus time time, loading up at 7 am for a long day. We spent the better part of the morning and afternoon in the bus traveling from Roanoke VA to Etowah TN. I didn’t know how important bus time was to me until we didn’t have it for two years. Bus activities can include personal music practice, rook games, reading a book, sleeping, and also trying to concentrate on making it to the next rest stop. But the most important bus activity is good conversations with people who think well. These interactions are a invaluable part of the fabric of Oasis Chorale.
Another important routine for Oasis is eating. The bus often stops at an area of high restaurant concentration for lunch. Today was Chick-fil-A, Subway and Hardee’s. For supper, sponsoring churches make food for us to eat right before concert and they never disappoint!
Oasis’s bus transportation Seems sometimes too long in duration, But nothing is stronger To make it seem longer Than generous over-hydration.
The food that we get is the height Of culinary delight; Salads are spiffy, Dessert never iffy, And coffee goes well with each bite.
Oasis Chorale is on the road again! After a complete hiatus in 2020 and a modified tour that did not involve any bus time last year, we are especially grateful to be able to be on tour. At 8:30 Friday morning we met at Parkview Mennonite Church where we had spent the last three days rehearsing. There we loaded the bus and were soon on our way to Roanoke, Virginia.
We enjoyed the luxury of an unhurried schedule, since we did not have far to travel. Following a nice lunch stop in the town of Roanoke, we arrived at Bonsack Baptist Church in good time. Every venue has a different sound and different logistical challenges for risers and standing arrangements, so it is ideal to have several hours to prepare and rehearse. We worked through our repertoire, tuned our “instruments,” and did our best to be well-prepared for the evening. A half hour of quiet solitude after rehearsal was a refreshing way to recharge and to be mentally prepared.
The kind folks of Fincastle Mennonite Church provided supper for us, and before long we found ourselves standing in front of an audience for our first concert. After the many hours of personal preparation and the days of rehearsal right before tour, it is always delightful to have our work come together at last into a real live concert. Beyond the jittery nerves and stray notes that tend to be part of a first concert, shafts of glorious light shone through. Our audience was warm and effusive in their appreciation.
A choir tour is a place where we experience keenly both the wonders and the limits of our human physicality. While reveling in the beauty of this world, we long for a far better one. As Wendell reminded us on one of our rehearsal days, our pursuit of excellence in the art of music-making is “a work of imagination and resistance.” Even as we acknowledge the brokenness of the world, we push back against the shadows and become heralds of the new creation.
The day began with warm ups and meaningful words from Wendell. He talked about how people’s lives and choices shouldn’t affect our love for them. It’s been an intense few days of rehearsing for me. I’ve enjoyed it immensely and I’m excited about the concerts in the next week.
Here are a few things that I’ve learned about my fellow choir members.
If Wendi Martin was an animal, she’d be a tiger because they look really chill on the outside but on the inside they’re kind of wild.
Daniel Yutzy left his last job because he wanted to do other things. It was a great job. The pay was decent and he got to work with fun people. He chose a different life path because he didn’t want to be breaking his back at 60 still doing construction, and he enjoys music.
Cari Nolt is a moose! Who knew? I didn’t. Here is the short explanation. Her eye sight was failing and she needed contacts. While sitting in the optometrist’s office, she glanced over at herself in the mirror. “That’s a moose!” She exclaimed. So have a look in the mirror the next time you’re getting your eyes checked. You never know what you’ll see.
After missing an exceptionally low note, Jordan Drudge says, “We can’t all and some of us don’t”. (In his Winnie the Pooh voice)
Chad Beery’s not sure why, but he’d be a lion if he was an animal.
QOTD “I don’t want to do it because I’m lazy, but I can if you want me to.” – Ivan Godoy
That’s all for now . . . we hope to see you at one of our concerts.
It’s the end of Day 2 of rehearsal. Our singers are from across the U.S. and Canada, and we convene in a central location for several days of in-person rehearsal before our annual tour. Oasis Chorale is a unique non-profit in that it only exists “in-person” two weeks out of the year. It makes these days of music-making extra special for returning singers (who have sung with Oasis Chorale for years) and new singers alike. This year, our rehearsal days are in Harrisonburg, VA, and our singers are lodging with local choir members, or local Mennonite hosts. I am staying at fellow alto Gina’s house with several other singers. Last night several of the vocalists were collaboratively planning choreography for our South African piece. It was fun to watch the artists’ planning in progress.
Today I remembered that I started singing with Oasis Chorale in 2012, and that this is my ninth season with the choir! (I found an old picture: me, a fresh-faced college student, eating ice cream with Kristin Nolt at a mall during a lunch stop in Chicago.) I’m reflecting on the relationships I’ve built through choir over the years, how I’ve grown as a singer, and how choir has formed my spiritual imagination. I think, too, of the many churches and church communities we’ve collaborated with over the years. Singing with Oasis has been a gift.
For rehearsal, it’s suggested that we arrive to our 8:45 a.m. call time having done personal warm-up, and if possible, some light physical exercise. I chose the latter and ran two miles at 6:00 a.m.
In rehearsal, Wendell Nisly works several pieces with us individually, and then we run several songs together as a set, completely memorized. After lunch, we have vocal coaching with vocal coach Rosemary Eberly-Lebold, followed by sectional rehearsal. Kristin Nolt is our new alto section leader, and today she worked with us on our resonance in the Latin piece, “O Salutaris Hostia.” Mid-afternoon, we pick up where we left off in the morning.
One change we have made recently is adding an extra day of rehearsal before tour. In the past, we have had two eight-hour days of rehearsal, but this year we have an extra day of rehearsal on the front end of tour. How luxurious! It is especially helpful to give us extra runs on our memorized pieces, not to mention cleaning up rhythms, solidifying intonation, finding our sound, and exploring color.
Tonight after dinner, a small ensemble rehearsed their portion of Mendelssohn’s “Psalm 100,” while other choir members headed to a gym for some exercise to loosen up that “folder shoulder” tension.
We were sad to see a few members leave for this project, but this morning the rest of us gathered at Cornerstone Mennonite Church to record Christmas songs! Perhaps multiple people suffered from a short night of sleep after some after-concert lounging at McDonalds the night before. Wendell led out in bringing us to the present – to be present. Someone said they felt encouraged. Someone said contented. Someone said exhausted – yet satisfied. Speaking for myself, I had a lot of fun today. After our concerts last week, singing Christmas hymns – which were already familiar or easy to learn – was relaxing. We practiced songs, cleaning up diction and tuning needs, and then took recordings of a number of them. Brad Zabelski joined us with his recording equipment, as well as his didgeridoo instrument, which he played for us. (I had never heard such a thing before – quite interesting!) Faith and Fonda Showalter also joined us to shoot videos of the choir. I tried to remember not to raise my hand when I made a mistake. 🙂 Near the end of our day, a downpour of rain delayed further recording. Stanley Sensnig and his family from Lehman’s Street laid out a delicious and visually appealing lunch for us! At suppertime, many of us headed to a local high school to eat a savory supper from Velma Brubaker, mother of alto Regina, and some of her family. Meaningful conversations and volleyball followed. Lots of singing and figuring out beautiful sounds and chords awaits us tomorrow…
Sunday morning July 11th we assembled the troops for worship at 9 am with the Calvary Mennonite congregation. We have suffered a few vocal casualties and a couple directionally challenged casualties as well. Calvary welcomed us with open arms and we participated as best we could while wiping the weariness from our eyes. Those that could muster the energy then proceeded to sing a couple songs from our repertoire for the congregation. After the service the congregation was kind enough to have an amazing meal prepared for us.
Due to a time crunch we had to hurriedly eat and then race to Blue Ball Mennonite Church for our first of two engagements for the afternoon. We arrived at 12:30 pm and went straight into logistics and rehearsal. We were now once again at full strength and ready to forge ahead. Concert was scheduled to begin at 3:00 and the church was nearly full by 2:30, so by start time, they had people in the basement watching on a screen!
Another successful concert had concluded and we are able to interact with the audience for a few moments before we hurriedly moved out for our next and final concert which was scheduled for 7:30 pm at Cornerstone Mennonite Church. We arrived at Cornerstone at 5:00 and ate a quick supper before gathering for as much rehearsal as possible. The doors are opened to the long line formed outside, and the church fills rapidly. Another packed and rather warm concert is now in the books and I am left here thinking where has this week gone?
I am always so grateful for this awesome group of friends that can get together and pick up right where we left off while making music together. Such an incredible opportunity and blessing to be a part of such a unique group of friends. Until we meet again!
One theme Wendell has shared with us this week is “Trust the Story.” It has been encouraging to remember that God is writing a unique story through each of us, and that each of us is part of a story that’s much bigger than us.
Today began with the Oasis Chorale eating breakfast together at Shady Maple Smorgasbord. This was a place I had never been. I gathered some reactions from other choir members. “It is big,” said Chad Beery, a man of few words who had been to the restaurant two other times. It couldn’t have been said better as I was amazed at the enormous dining rooms and wide variety of food. “It’s the sheer magnitude that is so impressive,” said Jared Shetler, a tenor from Kansas.
Shetler also shared an experience that he described as “a little terrifying.” Apparently, he got lost after paying for the buffet. “All around me there were people that were very much on a mission. They seemed like they knew what they were doing. They were sitting at tables. They were going after food, and I didn’t know where I belonged.” Though he was unsettled for a moment, he soon found friends who pointed him in the right direction, and I think he and the choir very much enjoyed their visit.
Next, we were off to the Greenbank Church of Christ in northern Delaware to rehearse and give our third program. Our hosts and audience members helped make our time here extra enjoyable by their kindness and enthusiasm. I am full of gratitude and praise as I write this and reflect on the day. Remember—God is the author. In Him we are never lost or alone!
One of the healthy qualities of Oasis Chorale is the focus on development and the search to find new ways to improve. In music, as in life, there are always new things to find. Even after a solid first concert Thursday night, we could still find new things on Friday. A couple of us guys found a local disc golf course Friday morning. Unfortunately, the local water hazards had a healthy appetite for discs! It was good for the soul to shoot a round while shooting the breeze, even though I shot myself in the foot with my drive on hole 16. I miss the informal interactions with other choir members that come with a bus tour, so this was a welcome exploit. After finding our way to my hometown of Chambersburg for our second concert, we had a review of last night’s concert. Many things obviously went well but some not so well, whether obvious or not. Wendell continued his pursuit of finding new things. “Find the alveolar ridge,” “Find your default arrangement. No, I mean your default ZIP arrangement,” “Basses can you find the C flat on measure 21?” “Ok now find your windows,” “Find your sound!” After a delicious supper and a thoughtful and relevant prep time, we sang. We found the space quite toasty and the acoustic a bit spacious, but the audience was gracious and the fellowship warm. It can be fun singing to the home crowd but I found my focus was lacking; it was not a solid concert for me. There’s always tomorrow, and room for improvement. Who knows what we’ll find on Saturday?
Thursday (July 8) was concert day! Choir members had a few hours in the morning to brunch and relax before carpooling two hours to Wilkes-Barre. My carload discussed our high school music preferences. What an enlightening topic! Along the way, it was reported that Jared discovered Istanbul Grill where the chicken donor kebab dish stole his heart and moved him to rate the dish 4.5/5 stars. John showed impressive efficiency in finishing his plate in time to reach rehearsal. Rosalie Beiler, the only alto in this particular group of tenor and bass diners, recommends the falafel. Wilkes-Barre Mennonite Church welcomed us into their church which had beautiful stained glass windows and glorious acoustics. After rehearsing we dined on a refreshing salad bar with grilled chicken and a plethora of delectable desserts. What an exciting day for many of us who have not had the opportunity to sing a concert in many months. Despite a few missteps and mistakes typical to a first concert, we had a delightful time worshiping with the generous congregation of Wilkes-Barre. As we prepared to depart, the drivers of our caravan found final warnings for towing on their windshields. We had a rainy drive back to Terre Hill fraught with adventure but Wendi Martin our fearless driver navigated our scenic route safely home. And now, I bid you gracious readers farewell.
This is my first year singing with Oasis and it has already been an incredible experience. The veterans have been very welcoming, but one still has to find his place. Linda Stoltzfus has prepared several toothsome meals one of which has been a first for me (meatball subs). Thank you, Linda!
Yesterday was very mentally taxing for myself, this was also echoed by a few others. On the other hand, we have made huge progress on the rep and I find myself incapable of formulating how excited I am to be able to finally be singing to with real people with struggles, emotions, intelligence, and souls; which excepting my family the last while, has just been in the walls of my room or my car.
We spent the evening unwinding by playing several exerting games of volleyball and basketball. We all left Terre Hill Mennonite School exhausted with hopes to find some rest before our first program in Wilkes-Barre.
One of the refreshing things about participating with Oasis Chorale is the level of professionalism that singers show by being prompt. If rehearsal begins at 8:45 a.m., all singers arrive by 8:30 a.m., having already warmed up their “instrument,” and having engaged in some light physical exercise. In the 15 minutes before downbeat, singers greet their neighbors, hydrate, continue personal warmup (loudly), stretch, and quietly peruse music. This is a special part of Oasis culture; “meet and greet” is one of the best parts of the day!
On Tuesday we covered the rest of our repertoire in “start and stop mode,” where we work individual sections, fine-tuning dynamics, vowel, and consonant. Special attention was given to the rhythms in the three spirituals we are singing; the metronome was our constant companion! It’s understood that singers arrive at rehearsal with pitches and rhythms learned (and memorized!), and the first day or two of rehearsal is spent catching stray notes and solidifying rhythms, as we further explore text mechanics and musical interpretation.
In the afternoon, Rosemary Eberly-Lebold did a vocal coaching workshop where we played with vocal fry and discovered some really great finds with consonants (not to mention learning about how to relieve body tension!) We ended the day on stage, running rep from memory, and staging our standing arrangement for several pieces.
After dinner, singers relaxed with some exercise in the gym (we are rehearsing at a high school), while others remained in deep conversation, lingering over a meal.
We are immensely grateful for these two days of music-making, and we look forward to the week to come!
With great expectations and anticipation the 39 singers who comprise Oasis Chorale, along with Wendell their fearless leader, descended on Terre Hill Mennonite High School in eastern Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. After a chattery half hour of meet and greet time and some warm-ups our souls (and bodies) began rehearsing the “exalted lays” we have been practicing for a year and a half. After a delicious lunch that was so graciously provided for us by Linda Stoltzfus and crew, we began our afternoon routine which bore a marked resemblance to our morning activities. For supper we headed south to Gap to the farm of Oasis charter members Dwight and Brenda Stoltzfoos where we were fed another scrumptious meal. After supper a dozen of our multi-talented singers played a game of Ultimate Frisbee while a multi-tasking audience cheered them on and enjoyed the farm dog’s puppies. It’s been a wonderful start to an amazing week!
“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent. O Lord, my God, I will give thanks to You forever.” Psalm 30: 11, 12 NKJV
This year promised to be full of joy and hope. I planned to celebrate surviving a year of twin + toddler mom life and return to singing with Oasis Chorale. I anticipated connecting with my colleagues and friends throughout tour. I anticipated being stretched musically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. I anticipated returning home musically.
Then COVID-19. Lockdown. Nothing was certain other than that I needed to do the next thing. Change another diaper. Make another meal. Do more dishes. Fold more laundry. All without the normal social reprieves that helped to keep me afloat emotionally. I felt overwhelmed by grief from plans cancelled, music unsung, friends unseen.
That is where God met me. He reminded me of His faithfulness. I found companionship in the Psalms, connection through the gift of technology, and comfort at my keyboard, singing songs of lament, hope, and joy. I found an outlet in sharing these worship times online with a group of close friends. I learned new things about my personality and what I need most in life. I rediscovered the gift of solitude. I remembered that I have much to be grateful for. So I sang. Some days, all that I could muster was lament and grief with a shimmer of hope. “Come, Ye Disconsolate.” “Be Still My Soul.” “Be Still and Know.” Other days I sang with defiant joy. “J-O-Y.” (With Aria!) “The Joy of the Lord is my Strength.” “Joy Is Like the Rain.” And some days, the mourning was truly turned to dancing.
I celebrated a year of twin + toddler mom life in June. Now I soak in the beauty of Lake Huron when I get the chance. I celebrate playgrounds being opened to the public. I appreciate anew the chance to eat food that I didn’t have to prepare. I revel in the gift of spending time face to face with friends. I hope for the Canada/US border to open to non-essential travel so I can see family and friends again. I continue to sing when and where I can, and I dream of the day when we will again be able to gather and make music as a group.
I leave you with an old hymn that has been my friend these past months:
“Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father; There is no shadow of turning with Thee, Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not, As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be. “Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!” Morning by morning new mercies I see All I have needed Thy hand hath provided “Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord unto me! Summer and winter and springtime and harvest, Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above; Join with all nature in manifold witness, To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love. Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide; Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow Blessings all mine, with ten thousand besides
I am a music educator located in Ephrata PA, so my life was significantly altered when the country went into a state of emergency back in March. (Gracious! It’s hard to believe we have been living with this new and hopefully temporary normal for that long.) I headed south to be with my family as soon as the schools shut down and have been with them ever since.
I taught from home until school let out for the summer. My schedule was a little bit lighter than normal while teaching online, but for the most part, it kept me busy. Once summer hit, my schedule was very wide open. I am a goal setter so when I noticed some extra time in my schedule, I set out to fill it with some things I normally struggle to find time for. This included but was not limited to sifting through websites for classroom music resources, practicing my instruments, spending time outside, reading, sewing a few dresses, and – one of the more fun ones – taking percussion lessons. If you think percussion is as simple as striking a drum or shaking a bottle filled with rice, you would be correct. But, it is also as complex as making each of your four limbs play a different rhythm simultaneously while keeping a consistent pulse. Remember that exercise where you pat your head and rub your belly at the same time? It’s like that only you add a seperate motion for each of your feet as well.
Instead of the big trips I had planned for this summer, I’m doing small ones here and there to see friends and family. South Carolina has seen a sudden spike in Covid cases this month, giving me reason to be a bit more thoughtful about my travel plans, however, most of my trips have been able to proceed without too many changes as long as my trusty mask goes with me :).
I feel more ready to get back to my school routine than I have in past years. I think the fact that I’ve been back in the South since March combined with Oasis being canceled has made the summer feel extra long. I didn’t realize how much structure and routine Oasis brought to my summer! Having extra time is certainly not anything to complain about, but suddenly having a lot of it provided an extra awareness of what has been feeding my life with purpose and motivation and how I flounder when those sources are cut off. Here’s to 2020, the year of awareness. I hope it results in my developing a more consistent posture of empathy in the years ahead whatever they may hold.
2020 was already a strange year for me. I finished my late-onset undergraduate degree in December of 2019 and jumped right into a brand new teaching job in January. It was a time of many adjustments and a lot of learning on the fly. On March 12, I finished entering my third-quarter grades and went home for Spring Break, unsure what the rest of the semester would look like. In the next several days, I received word of the cancellation of in-person classes for the remainder of the semester. Shortly after that, Oasis spring rehearsal was canceled.
Having my daily schedule suddenly disrupted was rather disorienting at first, but I eventually became accustomed (perhaps too accustomed) to the forcibly-decelerated pace of quarantine life. Incidentally, much like my comrade in section leadership, Dan Yutzy (see July 2 blog post), I took up disc golf and developed a mild addiction. It’s been a nice way to get outside and avoid wasting away entirely. I’m still awaiting word from my district about what the return to school will look like this fall. I am excited to get back to teaching, but a bit apprehensive about the potential challenges of restarting school during a pandemic.
Along with the keen disappointment of all performance opportunities being canceled (Oasis and others), I’ve also had more time to simply enjoy music, free from any pressure to learn and perfect. One especially meaningful piece has been Jake Runestad’s setting of Wendell Berry’s poem “The Peace of Wild Things.” I hope it blesses you, too.
This summer of cancelled events has become a summer of rest and recreation for me. It has been an opportunity to live differently with more creative ventures, focused work on a long-term project, quietness, and lengthy times of reading the Word. It’s been a time to more frequently sit close with friends, to meditate, to hike in the nearby mountains; a time to see, to create, to be, to listen. Paul Mealor’s setting of “The Beatitudes” has brought beauty both in its quietness and its exuberant rejoicing – a reminder that “all that will be” is not yet.
It’s an unusual season. The words of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (KJV) come to mind and beg for a stream of consciousness response for our current context, so here goes…
3 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
This COVID thing…is a just for a season? When will things be normal? Since when is “what I perceive as normal” the ultimate reality? This poet is wiser than I…
2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
Life has gone on. People have been born and died. Some have planted garden and already harvested a fruitful abundance; some have planted seeds and there is no fruit yet. “What is the purpose of my life?” ask the philosophers among us.
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
If this virus could be captured once and for all, it would be killed. Instead, it runs unpredictably about touching some with death and others with a mere cough. Physical healing is not guaranteed, but healing balm comes to all who are poor in spirit and encounter the King.
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
Sorrow because we cannot be with friends, yet laughter shared with those in the same house. Weeping changed to joy, so writes the psalmist (Psalm 30:5). But then, James says: “Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep; let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness” (James 4:9).
What is what? Does this make sense? Who is right? (Where does the virus live? Is it only in the air?)
5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
Well, social distance, everyone! (but don’t neglect relationships)
6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
Gain a summer vacation. Lose a wonderful time of singing with Oasis Chorale. Gain extra time to be still before the Lord (if we turn off the news updates). So, open our hands to give and receive, O Lord.
These difficult times have actually not been that difficult for me in many ways, as I hailed from the great state of Arkansas (and a very rural part of it at that) until the last part of June. At that point we (my wife, Sheri; two children, and I) moved close to Canton, Ohio.
Just enough of my engagements were cancelled to allow me to slow down slightly. Throughout the spring and summer I was able to keep right on working at my job in construction. I was honestly a little disappointed that we didn’t have to shut down for a week or so, but won’t complain too loudly!
One of the worst things about the pandemic for me personally has been the music making opportunities that were lost, such as singing with Oasis Chorale. Also I am planning to attend Malone University in the fall pursuing a music degree, so I’m really hoping that I will be able to attend classes on campus.
I did pick up one new skill during quarantine-disc golf. It’s maddeningly hard to master and also strangely addictive.
Here’s to hoping that by next year thoughts of quarantine and distancing will be but distant memories. Wishing you all a healthy and God-blessed second half of 2020.
That King James turn of phrase from my childhood, “such and such a city,” has often rung in my mind’s ear in the past few months.
Come now, ye that say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a city and continue there a year, and buy and sell and get gain”; whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow.
The Apostle James is chiding his readers against improper certainty. Like those early readers, we too make plans for worthwhile and profitable ventures. Those plans depend on circumstances that are relatively predictable. And up until recently, all the societal cogs hummed along – with wobbles, to be sure, but yet with astonishing reliability.
But now, in a COVID-19 world, “whereas ye know not” has become us. We realize with new clarity what we often forget: we’re not as in control as we tend to think.
That’s where we are as a choir. Our plans for “such and such a city” included Lancaster and Leamington and Walnut Creek. Tour is cancelled, and we are disappointed.
It seems the Apostle James would encourage us not to shout invectives, nor even to posit yet again how this all really should have been handled, but rather to recognize that uncertainty and lack of control are a normal human experience. Perhaps he would encourage us less to fix the external problems (of which there are many), and to acknowledge and work on the internal problems (of which there are many). Specifically, he calls us to deep humility and to recognizing that there are other players in this game besides the obvious ones.
Instead ye ought to say, “If the Lord will, we shall live and do this or that.”
“If the Lord will” is more than a pious phrase. It acknowledges a larger Presence in the world. We are not the only ones with plans. Random forces and chance might in some inexplicable way be the glove worn by a mighty hand. The unpredictability of our time may not be something merely to be solved, but something to be noted; not something merely to live through but to live in. If we let it, our discomfort with this present uncertainty can point us to where we can find a true and proper certainty that cannot finally be rattled by the events that make the headlines.
On Sunday we all, with at least one eye open, joined the morning worship service at Bethel Mennonite. The service included OC singing 3 songs, Wendell’s talk on how singing is for every follower of Christ, and a talk by OC board member, Steve Martin. Steve inspired us to learn from those followers of Jesus who have suffered and been martyred for their faith. After an extravagant potluck, we headed for Sandy Ridge to rest and prepare for our last concert. At Sandy Ridge the house was filled to hear us. God enabled us to express the music and the beauty of His glory better than ever on many of the pieces, thanks largely to Wendell’s commitment to continue growing our musicianship to the very end. God touched many souls with His goodness and glory! The farewell party at the Millers was a perfect way to bring closure to the tour. Thanks to the Miller family for the comfortable, Christ-like atmosphere your lives create. With public formalities over, we were able to drink in the friendships, the laughter(thanks Chuck), the reminiscing, the goodness of God in each other’s lives, and talk about the possibilities of the next year. I praise God for the “oasis” this was in my life, this extremely rich experience provided by His infinite grace!
Saturday morning was reserved for retakes from our recording the last two days. However, we only had a few pieces to redo, so our call time was bumped back to 10:00. A group of us went out for a sit-down breakfast, while others opted for extra sleep. We convened at Sauder Hall at 10 and did retakes of “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name”, and “Bless the Lord, my Soul”. After another delicious lunch supplied by Kendra Miller, we ran through standing and movement for the concert. The opportunity to sing in this lovely hall was exciting for all of us, and especially so as we saw familiar faces filling the auditorium. This was the first concert we performed in our zipped arrangement (alternating SA and TB), so we experienced new sounds within the choir, in addition to the phenomenal acoustics of the space. After mingling with friends and relatives, we said goodbye to Sauder Hall and headed to our Sandy Ridge hosts for the night.
We spent the last two days recording our new album, The Glory of His Grace! What goes into recording an album? A lot! Over 2000 hours of singer practice, 38 voices, 16 composers and 16 songs, 4 section leaders and 4 section managers, several cooks (mainly Kendra), 1 choir manager, 1 recording engineer, 1 recording producer, and last but not certainly not least 1 conductor. Also many gallons of water and many bathroom visits, gotta stay hydrated!
We arrived at 8:30 and worked until 5:30 both days with an hour off for lunch and breaks between every song. All the singers arrived at least partially warmed up. Most of the singers will spend around 30 minutes warming up before we try to sing together. The talented Brad Zabelski of Traveling Tracks already had his recording equipment in place when we arrived, and remained unobtrusive throughout the recording process, other than to offer a suggestion once in a while. Brandon Mullet was also on hand to offer valuable insight as our producer.
Typically we will have three or four takes (recorded performances that we can use) on each song. Depending on how well we know a song, we may do the first take without working on anything, or we may work on a problem spot or two. Once we have a decent take, our conductor, Wendell, will listen to it.
Recording will always be exhausting work, with lots of do-overs. Many, many water bottles fall on the hardwood floor. People can try to hold in a cough or sneeze until they are red in the face, but won’t always succeed. Sometimes we get tired and are subject to uncontrollable giggle fits. If one person hits a noticeable wrong note, we have to start again. We have to learn to purify pitch and emotion in order to convey our message to people we aren’t present. Singing passionately to an empty hall takes incredible mental focus and energy.
It sounds intense, and it is; but at the end of the day, we all love each other and are so grateful that we get a chance to be a part of this process. Music like this is achingly beautiful and we catch glimpses of heaven by singing it as a well-tuned body. Each person works hard every day to become not only a better musician, but also a better person. One who reflects the Glory of His Grace. I hope you will enjoy listening to us as much as we enjoy singing for you. May God’s Glory shine!
The day dawned bright and early in the suburbs of Chicago for some of us. Our awesome host got us up to go to her friends place to have breakfast. We were even offered a pre-breakfast of coffee and pastries before heading out. After an adventurous ride and lots of laughter, as we enjoyed our host, we arrived back to meet the bus. From there we headed to downtown Chicago for several hours. I went with a group to the Art Institute of Chicago. Even though I don’t feel super artistic myself, I throughly enjoyed the experience. My favorite spot was the gallery with all the Monet pieces. We wandered to a coffee shop, making a stop at “The Bean” to take a quick selfie, then on to lunch and back to the bus. It was a rather warm day and I think a lot of us felt the effects of the heat as we traveled back to Sandy Ridge Church. We said goodbye to our bus driver and bus, and headed different ways for supper. I enjoyed relaxing at Main Street Roasters before heading to Goshen College for the evening. Some people responsibly went to bed and others spent some time outside playing games or just relaxing before calling it a night.
8:32 a.m. Choir leaves monastery where they were staying–Evan Byler, OC member from MN, tunes into conversation on the bus about child education
9:14 a.m. Byler stops socializing and takes a nap
10:40 a.m. Byler takes another nap after short rest stop
12:53 p.m. Byler looks over music after lunch stop at toll-road oasis
1:13 p.m. BREAKING NEWS Tour bus blows a tire and pulls into crash investigation site
1:23 p.m. Bus limps on
1:55 p.m. Byler takes another nap (it’s hard work taking three naps on three different bus rides–really!)
3:27 p.m. Choir arrives a little behind schedule at beautiful, A-frame venue–Church of the Holy Family
5:05 p.m. Ladies rehearse standing position on the risers while men eat and change
5:23 p.m. Unnamed choir member changes after supper because they still feel like a child that shouldn’t eat in their performance wear
6:44 p.m. Director, Wendell Nisly, tells choir to walk in briskly come concert time
6:51 p.m. Byler holds mini interview with Chuck Burkholder, 1st tenor from State College, PA, about the tire incident. “I thought possibly somebody hit us,” said Burkholder. “I had just woken up and was kind of foggy, and I wasn’t thinking straight.”
8:35 p.m. OC receives standing ovation and sings an unrehearsed encore!
8:48 p.m. Nevin Mast, OC sales associate, trips and scatters a pile of CDs all over the church foyer (this is fake news–it didn’t actually happen!)
9:53 p.m. 87-year-old, male host feeds five hungry choir members salsa and chips in his Chicago suburb home
10:57 p.m. Byler finishes blog report and shoots it over to Jason Martin, Superman of OC, aka General Manager
One enriching experience that Oasis Chorale enjoys every year on tour is participating in a workshop with a choral clinician. These workshops shape our choir and conductor in important ways, as we learn to hear our music with another set of ears, and take our cues, if only for a moment, from another set of hands. This year we enjoyed working with Dr. Rene Clausen, whose gentle feedback was affirming, gracious, and incredibly helpful. Many choir members enjoyed experiencing brief moments of Clausen’s conducting, especially on Clausen’s composition “Prayer,” which is featured in this year’s repertoire.
Beyond that, he entreated us: “Altos, you are to be like chocolate. Not Hershey’s chocolate, but Dove chocolate. That was left in the microwave. And which you put in your mouth, right before you slip into hot tub.” “Billow! You must billow like a cloud on a summer’s day.” “Bloom like a flower!” “Brahms is always over the bar. So lean over the bar.” Our conductor Wendell also sought conducting feedback from Dr. Clausen, which provided insights even for choir members who conduct their own choirs in their home communities. Our session wrapped up with Clausen telling a few stories from Concordia and reminding us (like he reminded his own choir), “If you work to be impressive, that’s all you’ll ever be. If you work to be expressive, that’s a whole other thing.” One last entreaty from Dr. Clausen was his comment that “we are the carriers of music tradition.” In this way, we were encouraged to continue sharing and performing a broad repertoire of choral literature. We left Minnesota, heading back to Sparta, Wisconsin, at one point hopping off the bus to take a ramble through the woods to an abandoned train tunnel. It was the perfect spot to sing – surrounded by aged stone, candles, and dear friends. Back in Sparta, the hosting congregation treated us to brisket and other delicacies, before we returned to our rooms at the monestary. Next stop: Chicago!
Sunday morning we fellowshipped with a local congregation in Sparta, WI, Wendell gave us a great exhortation about why singing, worshiping, and making music is an important aspect of our Christian lives and may be too often glossed over or put on the sideline. Leonard preached and motivated us to make the choice to walk the journey that God has called us to and how our path is unique to each one of us. He reminded us that God has chosen and equipped each one of us for the path that God has us on. We were fed a top-notch lunch of Homemade Chipotle!! Sadly, we had to rush out quickly and get on the bus to head off to our afternoon concert in Rochester, MN. The space at the Rochester Seventh-Day Adventist Church was absolutely lovely and a joy to sing in. We then “packed” into a Motel 6 ready for whatever tomorrow might hold.
After meeting at Iowa Mennonite School, we got on the bus and headed toward Sparta, Wisconsin. On our way, we had a leisurely rest stop at a lovely park in the town of Manchester, Iowa. Before we stopped for our lunch break, our tour manager, Jason Martin conducted a competition quiz asking us to guess the year the French-town Prairie du Chein (our lunch destination) was founded. John Strickler’s guess of 1671 was the closest to the actual year– 1673. He was rewarded with a scrumptious-looking cupcake for his effort. In Sparta, we had a little over an hour to rehearse before the Midwest Festival Choir joined us to go over our collaboration pieces, “You Are Mine”, “Hosanna”, and our audience participation number “Bless the Lord”. Getting to know other singers and working together on such gorgeous music was very special. The concert went well, with our focus incredibly tuned on some of our more intense pieces. The collaboration pieces were rewarding and the overall atmosphere warm and receptive. After concert, we loaded up the bus and drive east to the Sparrow’s Nest at the Abbey, a former Cistercian monastery, where after finding our rooms, we ate a lovely snack provided by the Sparta Mennonite community.
Speeding along the straight, mile-square roads of Illinios, we all made it back to Linn Mennonite Church by or around call time. A fairly uneventful drive to Iowa commenced with a highlight during lunch when we sang a couple songs at the Encounter Cafe. Then we started on our (supposed to be) short drive to Iowa Mennonite School in Kalona, but hit a major snag. You guessed it, it was the bus! We had a massive coolant leak, and eight miles from the school, with the sun fiercely blazing, we had to shut it down, pour in all our extra coolant and try to fix it. Many prayers and some expertise from Titus later, we got back on the road and made it IMS. We enjoyed an extended rehearsal, working especially on our Brahms and Part pieces. The venue was lovely and it was refreshing to have plenty of space to change, eat, and have prep time before concert. The concert was well received and we retired to our hosts homes among the cornfields.
We arrived at Sandy Ridge after two days of rehearsal, and promptly loaded the bus, and headed to Illinois. It was a relaxing day of travel filled with conversation, games, and books. We coasted into Linn Mennonite Church, practiced a little, and gave our first concert! After two days of rehearsal, it was wonderful to sing for people, not empty benches. After the concert, some of us went with our hosts and watched fireworks.
“Singing is a full-body exercise.” We shouted out this well-known reminder to each other during practice. Rehearsal days require an astonishing amount of physical exertion. Nevertheless, the results are rewarding, and the collaboration and fellowship of rehearsal times are part of the delight of being a chorale member. We spent our second rehearsal day working through more tricky spots in the music, pounding out rhythms, and reveling in delicious harmony. We took the “full-body exercise” part quite literally when Wendell had us push all the chairs aside and jog around the room to help us internalize the timing and phrasing of “God Be with You.” This ended in a chorus of hearty laughter. In the afternoon we sang through our entire repertoire by memory. We made it through successfully, but this showed each of us the parts that we still need to memorize better. With our day’s work ended, we enjoyed a lovely supper topped off with strawberry pie and comradely conversation. The choir members with enough energy left then engaged in a few rousing games of basketball and volleyball.
We assembled from our various hosts for an 8:30 meet and greet with the friends old and new with whom we will share the next two weeks. After vocal warmups, we dove into the first half of our concert rep. It is so much more satisfying to sing as a group than to plod and plink along individually with the electronic Midi files! Wendell suggested a symbolic burial of those files to purge them from our minds. Along the way, we were admonished to “put our vowels in the consonant house” rather than the other way around, and to approach “Duo Seraphim” more as volleying back and forth than as a barn dance with our mud boots on. After a hard day of rehearsal under our belts, it feels more like giving concerts in a few days will be a good option.Kendra and family fed us delicious garnaches for lunch, and brats and the works for supper. Then we trekked back to our hosts to relax and prepare to repeat in the morning.
Is there any congregation more welcoming than Eastminster Presbyterian? From the moment we entered this lovely Wichita church, we were greeted with unending smiles and warmth. Participation in Sunday morning’s second service included a few pieces of our choral repertoire along with “Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah,” accompanied by Eastminster’s lively organ.
Graciously hosted by the congregation, the Eastminster choir, (including a former professor of Wendell) joined us for lunch! It was lovely to make conversation with these musical connections. An afternoon of warm-up and rehearsal prepared us for our final concert beneath the sanctuary’s stunning jewel-toned stained glass windows. Family, friends, and curious visitors joined Eastminster members in the audience. It was a wonderful end to tour, after which the choir made a trip back to Hutchinson for the annual post-concert party, featuring delicious snacks, espresso, and, not surprisingly, a little singing (except there may have been a few barbershop tags thrown in).
The schedule allowed us to sleep in Saturday morning! We then gathered at the Pleasantview Activity Center for lunch and rehearsal. Our new composition we sang this year by Douglas Byler, “The Spirit of the Lord” was commissioned in honor of Wendell’s sister, Dr. Jana Nisly, and the clinic she founded and served at in El Salvador for 25 years. She (along with her mother) sat with us and talked about the clinic and answered questions. It was a deeply meaningful time for us.
After a couple hours of our own rehearsal, we were joined by Hutchinson area singers for our collaboration pieces. Clausen’s “Prayer” was sung with an ensemble, and “Give to Our God” and “O Happy Day” were sung with children and other adults. It is so much fun to make music with others!
Concert went well with the collaboration pieces probably being the highlight for most people. The acoustic in the almost completed activity center was surprisingly strong, thanks in part to Nelson Martin’s ingenious sound shells made from tables and 2×4’s, and the crowd was our largest on tour. The singers retired happy and ready for one more day of singing.
Yesterday the chorale spent time at the Kansas Choral Director’s Conference in Topeka. We were invited by the president to give a partial concert on Thursday night. It felt like things really came together for the concert and it was gratifying to go into Friday knowing we had given our best effort the night before. I think it was the softest, the sweetest, the warmest, the most beautiful program yet.
The accommodations were conveniently in the same building as the conference and we only had a short walk to the conference events. As an inexperienced conductor, I enjoyed the opportunity to sit under the instruction of experienced conductors. One presenter shared helpful tips gleaned from his extensive conducting career, including, “Not every choir can sing my favorite piece.”
There was also time for various relaxing activities like visits to a nearby coffee shop to sample their home-made-caramel lattes and the appropriately delectable Affogato.
Dr. Blackstone had a workshop on the male voice that was well-attended by Oasis people. One could tell that he was a very experienced choral director and it was impressive to see a master at work. He stressed the importance of drama in the phrase. “[The last note of a phrase] should be the softest, the sweetest, the warmest, the most beautiful” note in the entire phrase.
We had multiple chances for reading sessions, which means sight-reading through choral music with a bunch of conductors to get an idea of what the pieces sound like to hopefully get some ideas for repertoire. It was definitely good sight-reading practice, if nothing else.
After a pizza supper and a last (quite warm…) bus ride home to Hutchinson, we settled in for a restful night with a forecast of the softest, sweetest, warmest, most beautiful call time of 11:45 AM Saturday.
Today started out much like every other day on tour, with a hearty breakfast made by lovely hosts in Fulton, MO. We as a choir have been served so well that sometimes I feel a little overwhelmed by it. Today that care was felt as well at the First United Methodist Church in Topeka, KS, sponsored by the Kansas Choral Director’s Association. The space they provided for us to sing in was magnificent. We spent the afternoon rehearsing and then performed for and sang with (under the wonderful Dr. Derrick Fox) a wonderfully diverse audience in the evening. They expressed so much delight in our offering of music and in doing so, filled us with gratitude once again for the opportunity we have to sing and be together as a choir.
Following our most mennonitized (is that a word?) concert last evening, we spent the night with the gracious Seymour folks. A good night of rest, some good breakfast and coffee, and we were back on the bus at 8:15 and ready to hit the road to Fulton, MO. For what it’s worth, the entire bass section is wearing matching blue button-down shirts that have the “Bass Pro Shops” logo on them….. Some sort of pun from previous years that this rookie has yet to discover. On the bus today, there was an in-depth conversation between John Strickler, Ryan Kimberlin, Lee Weaver, and myself in regards to the joys and sorrows of coffee. From roasting, to white espressos, to tasting technics! The church we sang at in Fulton was pretty cool! The sanctuary had a dome and made the sounds pretty nice! The Fulton Mennonites who hosted us were very gracious and gave us a wonderful lunch soon after we arrived and then a good supper in the evening. The sanctuary was pretty full during the concert and it went great and was probably our best overall concert yet!
The sights and sounds of St. Louis greeted us once again this morning. Some who prefer finer coffee and something other than a hotel breakfast meandered to a local coffee shop. Before leaving the city, most of the choir members walked to the courthouse and sang “Not One Sparrow” under the rotunda. Then it was to the bus and off to Seymour, MO. A lunch stop was made in which we had to choose between various fast food restaurants and enjoyed conversation over burgers, salads and sandwiches. We arrived at the First Baptist Church at 2:30 pm and were given 45 minutes to rest before we were required to begin warmups. The afternoon was spent rehearsing and then breaking up into 4 part sections to work on trouble spots. We were fed a fantastic supper by the incredibly gracious people of Seymour before giving our concert to a warm and appreciative audience.
The streets of St. Louis were a welcome change from the rigors of choir life. Towards noon, we threw our luggage upon the hospitality of the City Place Hotel and invaded the city in search of recreation and repose. Zoos were explored, beds were napped upon, and many eager noses were pressed against the windows lining the pinnacle of the Gateway Arch. To culminate our day, we dined at the Three Sixty Restaurant crowning a Hilton Inn near our hotel. There we savored birds-eye views of the Saint Louis cityscape alongside a sumptuous dinner. The morrow will find a deeply refreshed Oasis Chorale ready to hit its final week in full stride. Psalm 23:3 “He restoreth my soul…”
We worshiped with the Pleasant View Mennonite Congregation in Arthur, Illinois. We shared a few songs from our hymns and choral repertoire and took in a sermon on Phil. 1:1-11 by Matt Bontrager. After enjoying a scrumptious meal at Pleasant View, we spent the hours before our 4:30 concert rehearsing and getting standing arrangements. We also prepared two pieces, “Give to Our God” and “O Happy Day”, with a local community choir. The venue at Penn Station was quite different structurally and acoustically than Central Christian Church in Decatur. However, our audiences were similar in that they came to receive our message and by God’s grace and for His glory, we gave it. We at supper after the concert at the home of Vernon and Christina Kuhns. The evening was cool and we chatted and relaxed before heading back to our hosts for a long night.
This morning we loaded the bus and headed east toward Illinois. Our wonderful hosts provided a delicious breakfast, to go. Soon we were rolling past the many corn and bean fields on our way to a lunch stop in Hannibal, Missouri, the boyhood city of Mark Twain. We then continued our journey to Central Christian Church in Decatur, Illinois, for dinner and the evening concert. During rehearsal we enjoyed hearing from Douglas Byler about his composition of “The Spirit of the Lord.” The evening concert was well-attended and choir members were glad to see family and friends there. Afterwards, we traveled to our hosts in Arthur, Illinois, and turned in tired and happy after a long day.
This morning we met back at First Presbyterian and began the day with a recap of the concert last night. Then Dr. Mark Bartel from Friends University came and conducted a two-hour choral workshop with us. We worked through a few of our new pieces, and he gave us feedback and suggested areas where we could improve our interpretation of the music. It was a great time, and we came away with a lot of helpful ideas which we will continue to incorporate into our music. After lunch, we loaded the bus and headed for Lamonte, Missouri! In the late afternoon, we stopped in Overland Park to take in a concert at Atonement Lutheran Church; then we hit the road again. The gracious folks at Lamonte Mennonite church provided us with a wonderful dinner and lodging.
We started our day by recording the final five songs on our hymns album. The whole recording process went very smoothly, and as always, we are grateful to our expert recording engineer, Brad Zabelski, for his fine work. As soon as the recording was finished, we were eager to get back to our choral repertoire after neglecting it in favor of hymns for the previous one and a half days. We spent the remainder of the morning and afternoon working to solidify our concert repertoire and sorting out standing arrangements and concert flow. We paused for a delicious lunch of tacos, enhanced by a couple lovely folk songs performed by our masterful cooks/local coordinators, Nelson and Hannah Martin. In the evening, First Presbyterian’s sanctuary was filled nearly to the brim with smiling, gracious, and appreciative Hutchinson folks. It was a very enjoyable concert, despite coming at the end of a long and exhausting three day-span of hard work. It felt particularly meaningful for those of us in the choir with Kansas roots and connections, including our director, Wendell. A highlight of the evening was the premiere of a commissioned piece by Douglas Byler, entitled “The Spirit of the Lord.” It was commissioned in honor of Wendell’s sister Jana, and the clinic in El Salvador – La Clinica de las Buenas Nevas – where she has served for much of her adult life as a physician. Jana was in attendance. It was a long and exhausting day, but we enjoyed the reward of finally presenting our music to real live humans.
Today we reconvened at First Presbyterian Church to begin recording Hymns of the Church Volume 3. Count singing, sight reading, and pondering hymn texts all contributed to our experience of recording hymns. We paused for a lunch of pulled pork and other delectable dishes provided by our gracious Kansas hosts. In the afternoon we continued recording until our song count reached 13 hymns. We spent the evening relaxing at a local park. Some took leisurely strolls, others played a vigorous game of ultimate frisbee, while some simply relaxed on the grass. It was a refreshing ending to a vigorous day of recording.
By 8:00 am Tuesday morning we started to arrive at First Presbyterian Church, excited at the prospect kicking off another tour! After warming up our voices and reflecting on the theme of “Loving our neighbor as ourselves, we dove straight into the music. The magnificent building offered a refuge from the intense Kansas heat, and rehearsal was very productive. Before dinner, the choir sang some of the pieces we were working on through the day by memory (with occasional glances at our folders). After an incredible meal, we figured out our standing arrangements so that for Wednesday, we can record HOTC III! Please pray for the health and inspiration of the choir as we seek to create music that stands the test of time.
After an exhilarating concert on Saturday night, the singers headed to their lodging places, grabbed a few winks, and then met Stan and the Melard bus at 8 AM. We had a short ride to Myerstown Mennonite Church, which graciously offered us an enriching Sunday School class and sermon followed by a sumptuous feast. We in turn sang them four songs from our repertiore! By, 12:30 or so, we were headed for Chambersburg. Our concert was at 4:00, and owing to some unsuitable traffic, we didn’t get to St. Paul United Methodist Church until 2:30. This gave us very little time to setup and have a brief run-through. Meanwhile, out in the lobby, an ardent avalanche of Oasis admirers awaited immediate entrance! After scrambling for some chairs, we managed to find a seat for our estimated crowd of 575. The chapel had a marvelous acoustic, and the concert was bathed throughout with the golden rays of afternoon sunlight streaming in. We as a choir felt very, very blessed to be part of something like this. The bus ride back to Lancaster turned raucous at times as choir members destressed with folksy singing and jokes. We finally finished up the day at long-awaited after-party at John Strickler’s study room with wonderful food and fellowship. It was another successful tour and we thank God and also our many supporters for enabling us. May all our spirits loudly sing!
“Everybody smile!” Getting forty-one people into position for pictures is no small feat, but our photographer team was so capable and efficient that we were posed, shot, and finished before our smiles fell too flat. Our next task was to record “Children of the Heavenly Father” and do a re-take of “Not One Sparrow is Forgotten”. While the choir members enjoyed lunch and a short snooze, Wendell and Brandon listened to some of the previous day’s recordings to decide if we needed another take of any of them. We were happy to be informed that only one song required another take! This allowed for a fairly long afternoon break. We were joined in the afternoon by some of Jeff Swanson’s music students from Shalom Mennonite School to rehearse “Give to Our God Immortal Praise”. They were quite an impressive bunch of little singers! The excitement level was high for the evening’s fundraiser concert at the Barshinger Center. We loved the opportunity to sing in such a lovely space, and, because it was a ticketed event,we knew in advance that every seat would be filled. It was a wonderful evening of sharing the gift of song. It took the combined efforts of choir members, coordinators, volunteers, and the attendance of our guests to make it happen, and we are grateful!
It’s hard to believe we are almost done. The day started with the song, “Come, Let’s Rejoice”. It was accompanied by jack hammers from the construction work going on outside and thunderstorms which rumbled for the first few hours. Recording is both fun and exhausting so one of the discussion points around the dinner table is often the highs and lows of recording. My low is always the hour before lunch when my growling stomach is adding to the background noise. My high is the moment a song has reached its completion and the echo can still be heard ringing out into the hall. All in all it is a very rewarding experience and I’m looking forward to the fall when my CD will come in the mail. We ended our day with pizza and a philosophical discussion about art, the people who make it, and the God who creates and gives us joy in it.
The day dawned with promise. Thankfully most of us were able to get somewhere near a full night’s rest after getting into the Lancaster region on the bus the night before. We all made our separate ways to the the beautiful Barshinger Center on the Franklin & Marshall College campus. There was a joyful meeting with Brad Zebalski, our recording engineer and Brandon Mullet, our producer for this album. At 9 AM, we got started with some familiar warm ups led by Rosemary, then gathered in small groups to pray for the day and the whole recording process. Finally we jumped right in! “Not One Sparrow” was the first song tackled then on to “Psalm 67”. The recording process can actually be fun when there are such a talented and witty group of management. We usually do a few takes, with Brandon adding helpful hints and commentary from his perspective. Occasionally we had to to stop and wait for dump trucks, lawn mowers, etc. to move on, but mostly, the space stayed quiet and of course wonderfully resonant. For lunch and dinner we made a 5 minute walk to a nearby church that kindly offered us their dining hall where Brandon’s wife Marie ,with help from Laura’s relatives, fed us scrumptious repasts. We ended up recording about half of our repertiore with the other half to be done today, leaving Saturday for any retakes that need cleaning up. Please remember us in your prayers as we seek to create an “oasis” (;) of God-glorifying beauty for His kingdom.
No concert was scheduled today. The main achievement of the day was making our way from Russell, MA to Lancaster County, PA. Our wonderful hosts from Pioneer Valley Mennonite Fellowship fed us breakfast in their homes, then shuttled us to the church where the bus awaited us. We departed around 8:15. Various forms of social activity took place on the bus, including but not limited to one-on-one interaction with books and phones, dreaming, Rook games, and frequent outbursts of conversation with other occupants of the bus. By all appearances, everyone had a pleasant and relaxing day, with the exception of Stan and Lavelle, who took turns navigating the busy roads of New England and the Greater New York City Area. (Whether this term is an official designation or not, the writer believes that it could include an area upwards of 150 square miles and may contain a greater number of vehicles than the entire state of Montana.) The boredom associated with the slow progress was punctuated at times with nice views of the NYC skyline. We had a half-hour rest stop in Milford, CT, where Dunkin Donuts proved popular. Lunch break was enjoyed at a plaza in the Bronx, NY. Many of us flocked to Panera Bread and Applebee’s; several checked out the Dallas BBQ joint. The heavy traffic slowed us down enough that Joe straitly charged us to make our afternoon rest stop a snappy one. We accomplished the on/off procedure in a shade less than 10 minutes. Roll call on the bus reached a new level of intensity with the assistance of a metronome – there were mixed feelings on the effectiveness of this method. We arrived at Springwood Farm for a picnic supper of tasty haystacks, served by Dwight & Brenda on their front lawn. Several lively games of volleyball then ensued in the back yard. As darkness fell over Lancaster County, a troop of sweaty people boarded the bus for the ride back to Ephrata Mennonite School, where tour had begun 6 days earlier. The bus was unloaded and given a quick cleaning, and OC members went off to their local lodges, anticipating a rigorous first day of recording on the morrow. Per conductor’s orders: “Downbeat at 9:00.” We thank the Father for His mercies on this tour!
We started out bright and early from Rockland, ME with a 7:00 call time. Our hosts fed us well, several even sending food for the road as well. We bade farewell to this beautiful waterside church where the pastor’s study featured a view out over the bay and lighthouse. Quite a few of us bedded down to rest on the first stretch. After an early rest stop near Panera Bread for refreshment and bathrooms, we resumed our southward journey. Lunch break found the majority of us at Olive Garden, TGIFridays, or Chipotle’. We arrived at the beautifully restored, historic White Church of Blandford, MA for rehearsal and standing arrangement time. As singers doing our best to stay well hydrated in advance to maintain vocal health throughout the rigors of tour, our enjoyment of this lovely visual and acoustic space was tempered somewhat by fervent anticipation of our turns in one of only two bathroom stalls. Supper was served by our hosts at Pioneer Valley Mennonite Church; Joe assured us before arrival that accommodations there would be more commodious. This brings to mind my winning entry in the Oasis limerick contest on Ireland Tour ’14:
There once was a choir named Oasis, “Sing wet and pee pale” was their basis. To each venue they’d go, Water bottles in tow– “Hope it’s not one of those ‘single loo’ places!”
In spite of weariness among the group, the concert was solid, connecting with the hosting church and community folk alike. Bed was a welcome sight after a long day and anticipation of an even bigger travel day tomorrow.
After an early call time, the bus wound its way through the eastern wooden highways to the coastal town of Rockland, Maine. We enjoyed a leisure morning, strolling streets, docks, and coastal walkways. The more adventurous ones of us tried fresh lobster for the first time! Delicious! Arriving at Littlefield Memorial Baptist Church in the afternoon, we soon were reviewing pitches, phrasing, and breathing. The congregation warmly received us, and after our 7:00 p.m. concert, we closed with our traditional “God Be With You.” Maine hospitality is hard to beat! Despite our 7 a.m. call time this morning, many of us enjoyed fellowshipping with our generous hosts. Thank you, Littlefield Memorial Baptist!
No concert today! This morning we were treated to a lovely continental breakfast by our Emanuel Lutheran Church friends in Hartford, and loaded up for our next stop, Hampton Beach in New Hampshire. The Atlantic did not disappoint, and although the water was quite chilly, we couldn’t resist getting our toes wet! Several threw a Frisbee, some meditated on rocks (a few got soaked with waves they didn’t see coming!), while others simply enjoyed the sun. For the more adventurous, there was a pier made of large boulders, which was fun to navigate. From there we went to a fun outdoor seaside café, called Beach Plum, where we ate lots of lobster, crab, and clam chowder. Bidding the ocean goodbye for now, we left for Lincoln, Maine, where we were greeted by our hosts at Community Evangel Temple. They fed us supper, and the choir spent time rehearsing in sectionals, figuring out standing arrangements, and going over a few songs.Then we headed off with our hosts to spend the night, some having the privilege of seeing a full moon over a clear Maine lake That completed our day!
By morning, the sanguine mosquitoes had calmed down a bit, and the outside air was refreshing and cool, lacking humidity. Gathering from a sauna, the moonlit lake, and conversation with a parrot, the choir members arrived at the church around 8:00 for a scrumptious breakfast.
Following breakfast we rehearsed standings and movement in the auditorium. Rosemary helped us find our breath and supported tone with a few warmups. We began several pieces to test the space and to get our morning voices in gear.
Prep time was in the basement and Johnny shared a few thoughts on worship, inviting our scattered thoughts to unite in common purpose. He then turned us loose for solitary prayers.
We processed shortly after 10:00 and enjoyed singing for such a receptive audience. They did not hesitate to show their appreciation through applause, raised hands, smiles, and nods. Together we worshipped our Lord and Savior.
Lunch was served following the service and pleasant memories of pesto sandwiches and whoopie pies still flit through our consciousness. Maybe I should say unconsciousness, as numerous choir members are now taking advantage of the afternoon bus ride, and nodding off in slumber.
We plan to arrive in Stetson, ME, by 3:00 this afternoon which will give us plenty of time for warm-ups and dinner before the evening concert.
It is a joy to see what God is doing in these communities in Maine. We are looking forward to meeting our hosts, the folks of Beacon of Light Christian Fellowship, at the Stetson Meeting House this evening.
It was a dark and stormy…morning, and we began it by dragging ourselves and our luggage through the pouring rain. We met at the school, got colored-coded tape for our luggage and uniforms, and loaded the bus. Most of the day was spent on the road, stopping for occasional breaks. A good time was had by all. After a few unwanted detours, we arrived at Emanuel Lutheran Church – a beautiful old church in downtown Hartford, Connecticut. We practiced for a bit before gleefully consuming a delicious meal of lasagna, garlic bread, and salad. The evening concert was, well, quite warm…understandable since the church builders of the 1800’s weren’t installing air conditioning yet. The audience was warm as well, but in a delightful, hospitable way. We were very warmly received by the kind, welcoming music director and church people. After the concert, the church served desserts and drinks, and we were able to interact with the people and get to know them a bit before heading to various homes for the night.
The day is dreary; our voices are weary, and yet the show must go on. We have now officially practiced all of our songs and are now anticipating our first concert this evening. All of the hard work we as a choir have put into the music individually and as a choir will now come to fruition in the form of a concert. It’s hard to believe that the time is here and yet we look forward to it. It seems we’ve been so busy rehearsing the last three days that we haven’t had a whole lot of time to get nervous; yet I’m sure there will be some jitters as we begin. We’ve been focusing a lot the last couple days on opening our throats and allowing the sound to flow and the breath to move. We’ve also been encouraged to sing from the heart without the fear of messing up(knock on wood) and that thought has really helped me overcome the mental aspect part of singing. During rehearsal Wendell asked if the thought of messing up in concert was our greatest nightmare and a certain someone said, “No”. His greatest nightmare is getting up there and not having any pants on. I think most people can identify in some way with that sentiment. We finally have a break to literally rest our bodies so Til We Meet Again. Johnny
Today the bass section surprised us all with their new matching shirts. Rehearsal began with stretching, back rubbings, and warming up our voices. We then worked on our first two pieces, “Alleluia Incantation” and “Come, Let’s Rejoice”. After working on a new standing arrangement and processional, we spent the rest of the day preparing pieces for the upcoming concerts and tour. In the afternoon the ladies worked on the interpretation for “When He Is Silent” while the men rehearsed “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go” during our sectional period. The Moser family prepared us a delicious bar-be-cue dinner and even decorated the tables with flowers and red and white checkered table cloths. After dinner several choir members lingered at the tables for in-depth discussions while others played basketball, volleyball or held short sectionals. We then departed to our hosts’ homes for a good night’s rest in preparation for another rehearsal in the morning followed by our first concert Thursday evening.
Rehearsal for the Oasis Chorale 2017 tour started today. Friends old and new met at Ephrata Mennonite School at around 8:30 AM and a happy roar of conversation soon filled the classroom that we used to rehearse. At 9:00, Wendell got things started formally with some vocal warm-ups and a short meditation on the importance of accomplishing our objectives from a place of deep “centeredness”. After a morning of intense rehearsal, we enjoyed a wonderful lunch brought in by choir members Kristin and Cari’s parents. The afternoon then sped by as we all focused on a few songs together, split up into sectionals, and also rehearsed our men’s and ladies’ songs. Supper was some fantastic pulled pork with a some great fixin’s served choir member Jaden’s wife Jewel and some other wonderful volunteers. Finally, some of us finished out the day with some very competitive games of “Knockout”, basketball, and volleyball. Tomorrow we go at it again, but now it is time to rest our tired voices and bodies!
There are people who really get into the groove of Williamsburg, and quite easily it seems. I’m not one of them.
I do realize that the “groove” of Williamsburg for each person is colored by which particular artificer, architecture or argument one experiences on those colonial streets. For me, the enjoyment of Williamsburg came not from the engagingly presented history, the colorful recreations of colonial life or the amazing handicrafts. I’d rather sit in Starbuck (yes, even Starbucks) and sip iced coffee the entire day with a group of fun people than walk through 1775 by myself.
For me, the highlight of the cabinetmaker’s shop was not the fellow using a regular handsaw to slice an 1/8 by inch slice off at the flat side of a 5 inch wide board for use as a veneer, (although that was really amazing). The highlight was hearing Cam play the handcrafted harpsichord in the anteroom.
Other highlights were along a similar grain. The King’s Arms Tavern had some good food, but listening to the Bach discussion with the young mandolin player in the next room was even better. The guy playing a hurdy gurdy was fun but it was even much more funner to see Gina trying to learn the baroque guitar to accompany him on the fly. If you have some time, google the instrument called a serpent, there was this guy who was vibrant on his antique serpent.
So if you get a chance, visit the Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg. It’s an architectural standout, designed by a common American, and has an interesting history. But if you really want an experience, sing in that church with a bunch of fun people called Oasis Chorale. Trust me, it’s worth repeating.
On Saturday we traveled to Wagener, SC. When we arrived a the New Holland Mennonite Church in Wagener their children’s choir was already there to rehearse with us and we jumped right in unloading the risers then headed straight into rehearsal. The children had been very well prepared for their part of the song and they interacted with the choir comfortably and joyfully. To hear their young voices blending with the more mature voices of the choir was a beautiful experience!
We then went to Wendi Martin’s home where her family had prepared a meal for us. It was an evening full of good food, games, and fulfilling conversation. The Martin family welcomed us so graciously, making it easy to find some much needed relaxation.
Sunday morning we attended the New Holland Mennonite Church where we sang three hymns between Sunday School and Church. Later in the day we had a concert there and were blessed with a full church. The children’s choir joined us for Give To Our God Immortal Praise. These are unique moments that we treasure as a choir.
We continue our journey’s through South Carolina going to Abbeville for a concert on Monday evening.
Tour! After a profitable morning practice and a lunch of delicious homemade pizza, we loaded the bus and embarked on our 2016 tour.
We arrived in Hillsville, Virginia, set up the risers, and had a delightful practice with the children’s choir from Island Creek Mennonite Church, whose director Debbie Miller is one of our own altos. Together we sang Lyle Stutzman’s lovely arrangement of “Give to Our God, Immortal Praise”, and both groups thoroughly enjoyed the interaction.
The concert was accented by a tumultuous thunderstorm, but that did not dampen the choir or the audience. We visited with friends old and new after the concert, then departed with our hosts for the evening. This morning finds us on the road again headed for Batesburg, South Carolina.
There is a sense of camaraderie and reconnecting as we assemble on the first morning of our summer tour. Greeting old friends is a great way to start our 2 week time together. It doesn’t take long to settle down and get to work though!
It was a long day of rehearsing the songs we will be singing in our concerts later this week and next week. Since we plan to record Hymns of the Church #2 tomorrow, we needed to pack a lot of rehearsing into today!
We are rehearsing in the lovely Parkview Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg, VA. It is beautiful with large windows and skylights letting in plentiful sunlight. As always gracious people have been preparing our meals for us, making our day of focusing on music much less stressful.
It was a good first day and tomorrow promises to follow suit. For now it is time to rest.
At 6:45 Saturday morning we found ourselves releasing “light sighs on ‘ooo'” on the risers of the convention center stage, glimpsing thousands of soon-to-be filled seats spread before us. Our anticipation promoted focused preparation for what we have affectionately named the “Maine” event. Warm ups and hydration complete, we convened backstage for our final line up and the Why Jesus 2016 opening comments. Our first set received a warm welcome.
The two morning apologetics addresses were followed by Oasis’s breakout session, attended by a few conference go-ers, in which Wendell Nisly sculpted a creative and revealing vision of the chorale’s history, current context, and future plans. (We are blessed with our director’s vision of the arts and the Biblical framework from which he leads us.)
Chorale members report greatly enjoying the physically relaxing yet mentally stimulating day. Highlights include David Randy Newman’s engaging address and his idea of answering questions with questions, hearing Dr. Ravi Zacharias live for the first time, attending a panel discussion of leading apologists, and, of course, singing!
Preceding Ravi Zacharias’s evening address, we premiered “Psalm 67,” a choral work specially commissioned for Why Jesus 2016 and composed by Wendell Glick. (A note: we will be performing this piece on our 2016 summer tour to Virginia and the Carolinas!)
The apologetics conference culminated quite appropriately with Wendell Nisly leading the conference congregation in the Doxology hymn.
We are humbled and blessed at the kind reception we received. Audience members commented on the “unexpected style,” thanked us for sharing our “gift,” and called the musicality “pure and worshipful.” On these notes, we ended the day with warm hearts. For surely, it is not unto us, but unto the Lord’s name be glory and honor.
Last night we held the fundraising event that we have been talking about. Thank you to each of you who who attended and helped to make this event successful!
The choir practiced hard and sang beautifully! I especially loved when they asked anyone who had been a part of the choir in the past to join them for the last song, God Be With You. It was a beautiful moment as moms carrying babies and people who have been very influential in the choir joined the 2016 choir to sing!
There were fun times, like when anyone who wanted to could go to the front and lead the choir. And there were uplifting moments like when the audience joined in singing Lift Your Glad Voices. There were special moments, like when the choir sang a song of thanks and made sure the servers were there to hear it.
Thank you, thank you to those who came and supported us! A special thank you to Curtis and Emily Martin and Durrell and Janell Nolt for all they did in helping to plan and to prepare for the event!
The echoes of this evening will live on in our hearts!
This morning Oasis arrived at New Haven Mennonite Church in Lititz once again to practice and prepare for our trip to Maine. Bass John Strickler led us in a strange airplane-like stretch which we all accomplished while standing on one leg. No injuries were sustained by any chorale members.
Ater running through the rest of our repertoire for the summer tour, we enjoyed a delicious lunch provided by the Nolt family and former OC alto Phoebe Beiler. Then we headed back to the sanctuary to put a few final touches on Wendell Glick’s “Psalm 67” which will be premiered at the “Why Jesus?” conference this weekend.
In a flurry of activity after the bus arrived, risers were taken down and rolled out, uniforms and luggage were loaded, carpets were vacuumed, and good-byes were said. We were soon stuck in a traffic jam and redeemed the time by running through the congregational hymns we will be singing at the conference.
We are currently on the bus (sleeping, conversing, or practicing) on our way to Massachusetts where we will spend the night with our hosts from Pioneer Valley Mennonite Fellowship in Russell. We look forward to arriving in Maine tomorrow.
We look forward to spending a pleasant evening with you; enjoying excellent food, friendly visiting, and enriching choral music.
You will hear from our director, Wendell Nisly, and other chorale members.
The chorale will also sing several pieces which they are preparing to present at the Why Jesus? 2016 Conference in Bangor, Maine on May 7, 2016.
You are welcome to bring your family and your friends!
We are a volunteer choir. Your contribution will help us with travel costs, reserving recording venues, commissioning new compositions, recording production, and many more projects as opportunities arise and funding permits.
Thank-you for helping to advance the mission of Oasis Chorale.
Punch bowl Hors d’oeuvres
Buttered Rolls Tossed Salad Chicken Cordon Bleu Red Skin Parsley Potatoes Green Beans
Here we are in the final hours of 2015. As we reflect back over the year we recognize the many blessings that we have been given!
In March we attended the REACH Conference where we presented a workshop on music, worship, and our mission.
March also found the 2015 choir assembling in Virginia for a weekend of rehearsal. A lot of work had already been done by the individual members in learning the music, but this was when we brought it all together. It was a fun, inspiring weekend and we made a lot of progress! The choir went their individual ways eager to continue working on and memorizing the music.
Our tour was in July and started and ended in Indiana. The first few days were spent rehearsing, bringing the texts and the tunes to life! Then we headed for Canada. We had uneventful traveling and border crossings, for the most part. Over the next week we traveled and had concerts throughout southern Ontario. So many people came together to make this tour a success! Host families welcomed us into their homes. Volunteers provided meals. People came to concerts, gave in the offerings, and prayed for us all along the way! Special thanks to each of you who were involved!
Oasis produces a recording every other year. This year we recorded the album Healing River in the gorgeous Sauder Hall of Goshen College. We released the album in September and have sold well over a thousand copies so far!
We have sold more than 3,000 albums total this year! We have considered the many applications we received and have our 2016 choir members chosen. We so appreciate your support and love!
As we look forward to 2016 we invite you to partner with us. We keep our tour costs low for choir members thanks to your donations and the churches and individuals who host us on our tours. This is very important to many of our members since we are a volunteer choir.
We also invite you to join us in prayer for a few specific needs:
1. Our director, Wendell Nisly, as he is finishing the repertoire selection for 2016. 2. The final plans for the Why Jesus? 2016 Conference we plan to be involved in in May. 3. The audiences we will reach at the Why Jesus? Conference and on our summer tour. Our desire is that they would perceive God in their lives in fresh ways.
Every so often our family gets a new music CD. The first time we put the CD in the player is a moment charged with eagerness. Will this music be rich and multi-layered , or will it be just popcorn? Both kinds of music are on our CD rack, but only the former gets played and played and replayed. And only the former gets better and better, and speaks deeper into our hearts, each time it is played!
Three weeks ago our copy of “Healing River” arrived in the mail. That evening, after the day’s work and play were finished, the family gathered in the living room for the evening. We dimmed the lights and calmed our souls and listened to the new CD.
“Healing River” did not disappoint. True to the precedent that Oasis Chorale has set, this CD delivered the majestic reverence that my wife and I want our children to learn to love and give a high place in their music repertoire. We love the blend of traditional hymns, pathos-filled Spirituals, and worshipful contemporary choral pieces on this CD. This is definitely not going to be a neglected CD on our rack. Our whole family will be discovering new meaning and depth in both the words and the music on this one for a long time to come.
The message of the song “O Healing River” is especially meaningful to us here in western Texas because we’ve just come through a several-year-long drought that rivaled the historic “dust bowl”. We’ve recently experienced the despair of the parched, burning, barren land and accompanying emotions… and now this past year we experienced the healing waters that bring new life and healing. As we listen to this song, we rejoice in the reality of hope, healing and verdant abundance in both our land and in our spirits.
Here are some thoughts from director Wendell Nisley about how he chooses repertoire.
How do you choose your repertoire?
A brief response is fairly simple, but the process of actually choosing a program repertoire can be almost excruciating. I often begin with a theme in mind. This year, however I didn’t so much choose the theme–I had decided that I would program less thematically for a change. In the end, it seems, the theme chose me.
There were a number of songs that, when I asked for volunteers to be programmed, just stood up and started waving insistently. The theme of healing emerged (and continued to develop as we interacted last year with our Irish audiences). It’s not tightly consistent throughout, but it is all loosely connected. The program begins with recognizing God, which is of course where all of our healing must begin. It also looks at the difficulties that we live in, which is tough for us to look at, because we like to be happy and we have so many things to buy and experience to help keep us happy. But unless we acknowledge and examine the brokenness in our lives, we will never get to a place where we are able to receive healing.
In a lot of ways, this program is simply about life. Thus, each text should speak of life in a way that expands our understanding of it. Whenever we look closely at life, what we find (if we look long and truly) is simply amazing. Our art ought to reflect that–there should be something in it that opens our eyes, a “wow factor” that engages our imaginations, that turns our hearts upward in gratitude. But all of this has to be with texts that are theologically sound, that line up with a deep and careful reading of Scripture.
What effect does your singing group have on your choice of songs?
I am a teacher, and so I want to choose music that will be educational and challenging for the singers. That doesn’t mean that it all has have a Bach-ian complexity–just that it needs to nudge the singers toward growth musically, vocally, and spiritually. I try to find a place that challenges the singers with more training and experience, yet doesn’t overwhelm those with less.
What about the audience–how do you program for them?
In concert there is at times this lovely dance between audience and choir, where we are not two separate groups doing two separate activities, but a unified whole engaged deeply in exploring and experiencing life through the sounds and the thoughts of the song. It requires a surrender to the sound. But for that to work, the songs must find some balancing point between accessible and challenging for the audience. I try to program enough well-known sounds (eg. hymn arrangements and predictable choral pieces) to give some comfortable familiarity, but enough new sounds to keep it challenging and fresh.
Are there other factors you consider?
Many. A variety of difficulty levels is one of the primary factors. But I also look for a variety of styles–lush and spare, slow and fast, major and minor and modal, hymns and spirituals, folksy and classical, new and old. Some should wash over you like a delicious shower, other songs should require the thoughtful attention of a beautiful physics equation unfolding step by step. And there should be a variety of keys; it would be tough on the choir to sing a concert mostly in F and G. One lesson I learned this year was to make sure that it is memorizable. Our test case was “I Want Jesus To Walk With Me,” and we found that memorization was extremely difficult. It hindered singing the song effectively. Finally, it has to be a piece that I can tap into and live with for two years. I’ve put a number of perfectly fine pieces back on the shelf because, for some reason, they just didn’t meet me at the moment.
Where do you find your pieces, and how much time does it take?
I figure that if I find one strong candidate in an hour of researching, I am doing well. I am eliminating songs as I go, but I’ll probably end up with a list of 20-25, and then start the final grueling process of eliminating and replacing. I find song candidates in my files, listed on programs from concerts I’ve attended, on CD’s, on YouTube and Spotify. I look at concert programs online, music retailers online, and publishers’ websites. We have commissioned a number of songs, in which case I work with the composer to come up with a text.
With so much media already available, why does one group among hundreds and thousands bother to record? Some of these songs are already recorded by other groups. The CD will reach a comparatively small group of people. Even in our attempts to promote music participation, we are contributing to music consumerism.
As a child, Oasis recordings, among many others, exposed me to choral music and deepened my interest in singing. And so even though the efforts seemed paltry, I recorded with Oasis Chorale to in turn influence others and help to build musical interest in community and church.
So what was recording like? Sauder Hall is a lovely space, and Wendell a superb director. But recording was a fine opportunity to rely on something deeper than surroundings and other people for energy. The differences between concert and recording quickly showed themselves. There was no smiling audience, only rows and rows of empty seats. Singing a note incorrectly in concert, while not optimal, happens quickly and disappears into the hole of live music forgivability. But nobody wants to be the one who does a wrong note and has to listen to it over and over on the recording. So not only did we record, we rehearsed. Wendell and our producer, David Seitz, did an excellent job of setting high standards for us and encouraging us simultaneously. It was so fun to fine tune and perfect things that we had never quite mastered in concert.
Being with Oasis Chorale 2015 and making this recording has been truly a privilege. May God be glorified!
Oasis Chorale’s Summer 2015 tour came… and went. Memories, both profound and simple, return to gladden our mind.
The sculpting of the soul during the community effort of singing.
Audience responses during concert: Tears. Smiles of connection to the music. Gratitude.
The moments of silence after our benedictory song in concert.
Rehearsals—counting, solfeging through tricky spots, achieving coveted success.
Growing acquaintance with the formation of consonants.
God’s gift of safety through the many miles traveled by choir members and the bus.
Rich hospitality from host families.
Unexpected gifts—i.e. someone in Ontario filled the bus with fuel, free of charge.
Coping with illness: the uncomplaining sick ones, as well as the creative solutions from others.
Comfortable conversational connections within the choir.
Successful, satisfying recording days.
‘Those who know’ say no sound is ever lost, that sounds continue to travel into eternity. This means our concerts are still traveling, too. They remain ever-present before the great I AM as our offering of praise to Him. This, too, brings gladness to our mind.
“In thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11
The singers awoke this morning to the sound of rain pounding on the roof. They slowly trickled into the meeting place by 8:00 where they boarded the bus to travel to Wilfrid Laurier University for a morning workshop with Dr. Lee Willinghem. Dr. Willinghem founded and directs the Laurier Center for music at Wilfrid Laurier University. After a quick bathroom break, introductions, and warm-ups, the singers worked on a few interpretative areas in several different pieces. They learned more about word painting and different dynamics to shape their songs. Some very lovely sounds could be heard floating down the halls. After a mad dash and short drive through the pouring rain, the bus dropped off the hungry singers at the Conestoga Mall food court for a quick lunch before heading back to their original meeting place for a short rehearsal.
At 4:45, the singers once again boarded the bus which took them to Zion Mennonite Church in Brussels, Ontario for their 7:30 concert. The 101 year old stone church is surrounded by cornfields and boasts a lively acoustic. The audience began to arrive a full hour before concert time. The seating was very limited in the small un-air conditioned church but a cool summer breeze made it bearable. At intermission, the standing-room-only audience was given a chance to get a closer seat thanks to the willing sacrifice of those who had seats inside the church. It was a very full, warm concert but well received. After a 30 minute bus ride back to the meeting place, the singers grabbed their belongings and sauntered off to their hosts places for their final night in Canada.
We began the day at Sauder Concert hall once again, recording a couple of songs and then taking photographs of the 2015 choir. The photographer asked for a song, so we broke into “Guide My Feet” and he happily clicked away.
Next we left Sauder for the last time, loaded into our cars and headed out for Fairhaven Amish Mennonite church. They served us a delicious meal of haystacks, and for dessert we enjoyed brownies and ice cream with homemade caramel and hot fudge.
The concert was live streamed so that many of our friends and family far away could enjoy it as well. An audience member requested an encore of “Guide My Feet”, so we sang it for the third time that day, enjoying it more because it was a special request.
After the concert we visited for awhile with friends then retired for the evening back to our gracious host families from Sandy Ridge Mennonite Church.
Sunday morning found us at Sandy Ridge Mennonite Church, listening to an encouraging sermon on how we are pilgrims and strangers on the earth. With all the traveling we’ve been doing the message had even more meaning. After the service we sang four songs with the Sandy Ridge Choir and then enjoyed a bountiful, scrumptious fellowship meal.
The afternoon found us back at Sandy Ridge working out our blocking, entrances and exits. The basses “surprised” us one last time (we have almost come to expect unusualness from them) by wearing swan hats from Stratford while we practiced our exits. The concert began at 4:00 and was so full that several rows of chairs were filled in the fellowship hall as well. The Sandy Ridge Choir joined us and we enjoyed singing with them again. At the end of the concert we were asked to introduce ourselves, tell where we were from and what jobs we held. Then we were asked to sing an encore of “Whispering Hope”. We joyfully obliged, happy to have the chance to sing just one more song together.
For dinner we were again invited to the home of choir members Kenda and Sarah Miller where we enjoyed dinner, dessert, and fellowship. We stayed until after midnight discussing music, art, culture, Rosie and Phil’s engagement stories, and just relishing each other’s company. After breakfast at a restaurant in the morning, we will each go our separate ways, back to “real life” as we sometimes call it. We truly cherish these special days together singing, laughing, pondering, and praying together.
Goodbye Oasis 2015! God be with you ’till we meet again.
This evening finds us happily settled into our wonderful Comfort Inn after our second day of recording. We began again at 9 this morning with warm-ups and then launched into where we left off yesterday. ‘Twas a wonderful recording day with good energy and Wendell’s ever kind, patient leadership to guide our pitches, rhythms, etc. into straight paths.
We ate lunch which was provided by some kind, wonderful people from a nearby church. We finished our last recording session around 5:30 and relaxed while Joe picked up some pizza for a ravenously hungry group of happy musicians. After supper, some slightly unhappy souls were forced by various, unfortunate, but very legitimate circumstances to do some research on “closest laundromat options”. The excursion that followed was widely successful which meant that various people ended up with piles of clean laundry and perhaps a deeper appreciation for and a desire to go back home to our dear mothers! The rest of the group stayed at the college and enjoyed a few impromptu recitals by different pianists and vocalists from the choir, which resulted in many good times and much happy laughter to unwind after a slightly tiring but wonderful day. And now this little OC musician is gonna relax and eventually go to bed so as not to be low on energy to wrap up our final recording session tomorrow. Thanks for your prayers. Cheers!
Our day began with everyone meeting at Faith Mennonite at 7a.m. to begin our trip back to Indiana. It felt really early, and seems like every morning the grogginess is deepening…a result of many late nights. Soon after departure, most of the choir began descending into sleep mode. 🙂 This lasted most of the morning till we arrived at the U.S. Border, and all needed to disembark to go through customs. We were grateful for a very fast and smooth entry. A rest stop was in high demand by this point, and so we did a quick stop. While we were there, one of the staff asked us to sing a song, so we graced them with “Where He Leads Me. “ They thoroughly enjoyed it!
Life on the bus the rest of the day consisted of more sleeping, a few games, music study, reading, and many varied topics of conversation between individuals and groups. At one point Cynthia and some others were sharing snacks, and the group broke into a spontaneously obedient rendition of our thanks song that we sing for our hosts after meals. I think they’ve been taught well. 🙂 We stopped for lunch at a mall along the way, and enjoyed some delicious food and a little shopping for some.
We arrived back at Sandy Ridge around 4:30, and quickly cleared out the bus, and sang one last rendition of “Guide My Feet” for our beloved bus driver and his wife, after which Wendell worked on some standing arrangement things, in preparation for recording. Sandy Ridge folks then served us a very delicious supper, before we collaborated with their church choir for an evening rehearsal. They were delightful folks to sing with, and we had a great time preparing a small rep to give in their Sunday morning service. We enjoyed some dessert with them before heading for our hotel in Goshen. Everyone is looking forward to a good night of sleep before recording tomorrow.
Today began with breakfast in the lobby of the hotel. Then we all jumped into our cars and drove to Goshen College. After a long warm up we began our first recording session in Sauder Concert Hall, enjoying the amazing acoustics and our recording engineer, Brad Zabelski.
We successfully recorded “Where He Leads Me, I Will Follow”, “Healing River”, “Shout for Joy”, “Candle of the Lord”, “Praise to the Lord”, “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah”, “Soon Ah Will Be Done”, “Whispering Hope”, and “Hard Times Come Again No More”. The remaining songs will be recorded tomorrow.
After a delicious dinner of carnitas with an abundance of avocados and homemade salsa, we were eager to enjoy each others’ company in a more relaxed setting, so we headed out to a nearby park and spent several hours playing ultimate Frisbee and sitting and talking on the lawn. Because we are trying to keep our voices and bodies in good health, most of us retired early to the hotel to get a good night’s sleep before our second recording session tomorrow. We are also anxiously awaiting our last two concerts in Indiana on Saturday and Sunday.
After two enjoyable concerts on Sunday, we were all ready for a day off, and what a delightful day we had.
We began with a scrumptious breakfast at Schmidtsville, a lovely restaurant owned by the cousin of one of our choir members, Darcy Jantzi. Back on the bus, we headed for Stratford, a Canadian version of the European city abounding with art, music, and of course, Shakespeare.
Oasis embarked on our journey of the city at the Rheo Thompson Chocolate Factory. The kind owner requested a song after our tour of the establishment, so we sang “Whispering Hope”, which has been an audience favorite, for the employees.
Next, choir members took boat tours, rented canoes, spent time perusing book stores, fed swans, wandered in the peaceful Shakespearean gardens, and made up a new frisbee game in which two people release a frisbee simultaneously and try to catch it in the same manner as well. This does not happen when one of the two nails the photographer in the shin as she is working on her blog post.
This delightful day ended at choir member Darcy Jantzi’s farm where we relaxed on the lawn and played Kan Jam and Koob.
We are looking forward to our last Canadian concert tomorrow night at Zion Mennonite Fellowship in Brussels, Ontario, and then returning to the states for recording and a concert in Indiana.
Being able to stay with the same hosts for several nights is a luxury we are all thoroughly enjoying! In fact, it’s so agreeable at my host’s that I lingered over breakfast too long this morning and nearly missed the bus. They nicely let this straggler on board so that the blog didn’t have to mention a hitch-hiking choir member roaming the roadsides!
We joined the congregation of Heritage Mennonite Church for worship, filling their small church more than it’s accustomed to on an average Sunday. Jeff, Deana, and Phoebe added a little drama to the service with an object lesson for the children about right and wrong thoughts. No one present will ever look at a head of cabbage the same again!
The good people of Heritage fed us on the church lawn before we again loaded up and headed for Calvary United. The morning was so tranquil and relaxed that we had to consciously prepare ourselves for the challenge of sharing two concerts with only a small interval of rest between.
We are being well cared for by the people of Ontario!
The morning was spent at St. Jacob’s Farmer’s Market, enjoying the multi-cultural food, music, and goods. Sensory stimuli was at an all time high as we wound through the crowds amidst rows of vibrant produce, food booths, and all manner of authentic trinkets and gadgets. Above the din of business and chatter, we caught strains of a whining bagpipe, the resonating strings of a small Chinese player, as well as other street musicians. Lunch cuisine choices among choir members ranged from pizza and kabobs to Moroccan mahajeb and roasted red pepper hummus, Brie cheese and salami with sourdough Artisan bread to traditional club sandwiches.
We returned to Faith Mennonite Church early afternoon and enjoyed about an hour of quiet reprieve before again rehearsing and attending to vocal technique under Wendell and Rosemary’s guidance.
The audience for this second concert was large, warm, and responsive. It was our pleasure to meet and fellowship here!
At 8:15 our hosts kindly returned us to the Leamington United Mennonite Church to meet our coach. We motored along the edge of Lake Erie for a while until we found a good place to stop and explore the lakeshore. Blue skies and balmy breezes provided the perfect backdrop for discovering many pretty pebbles, sea glass and a Kan Jam game in the shade.
Our next stop was the John Klassen residence where we delightedly consumed a scrumptious Mexican disco (dee-sko) lunch which was topped off with a fruit trifle and fresh strawberry tarts, which are not to be mistaken for pies. After lunch entertainment included a lively game of croquet, more Kan Jam, fly swatting, and much conversation. We serenaded our hosts with a few choice songs before piling onto the coach for the two hour ride to Faith Mennonite Church.
Upon arrival we partook of yet another wonderful meal of grilled chicken, salads, wonderful rolls, and ice cream provided by the Lebold family. Afterwards we spent a few hours of lively rehearsal before our hosts arrived to take us to our beds. This is Janice’s church; she’s doing a great job of helping to host us.
After 2 full days of rehearsal, we shifted gears today, going on the road for the first time this tour and preparing for our first concert. We met at Sandy Ridge at 8:00 on a drizzly morning, meeting our driver Marvin Martin and his wife Verna. After the luggage committee got a system in place and loaded everything, we hit the road for Ontario! The air was abuzz as old friends caught up, new friendships were deepened, and some put in personal rehearsal time.
We had not planned to stop till lunch, but the effects of adequate hydration facilitated a rest stop mid-morning. We stopped for lunch at Briarwood Mall in Ann Arbor, MI, with Chipotle being a popular choice. Then a short drive brought us to the Canadian border. Short staffing required us to go in to have our passports checked, but it may have worked in our favor, as we were through in less than 15 minutes!
Bill Bergen, a former OC member, met us at Leamington United Mennonite mid-afternoon. Further fine-tuning of our rep and working on changes for the standings throughout the program preceded a delicious meal of sloppy joes, salad, and bars for dessert. After preparing ourselves for the evening musically and physically, James read us various poems to stimulate us spiritually. An especially powerful one spoke of the author remembering only one incident where a little boy was unforgivably rude out of his numerous months spent in that city. It reminded us of the tremendous power for good or evil in the smallest exchanges.
Then on to our first concert! Though far from perfect, it was a solid program, both ministering to us and well received by a diverse audience. We were then taken into the homes of our generous hosts, fed and trundled off to bed after a full but rewarding day.
A side note: The Bass 2 section at times shows their solidarity by elevating their right hands with little finger extended, in support of the one of us who doesn’t get to choose whether or not he uses this position. 🙂 The new bass fist bump involves left hands held up in this position, bumping the back of the hand rather than knuckles.
Special thanks to those who have prayed for my hand. It has been primarily unhandy (!) rather than painful.
The first day of the Oasis tour is behind us. We rehearsed all day long! I think that we are all tired and I think that we all feel blessed! We spent the day at Sandy Ridge Mennonite Church. The church is well equipped with a nice kitchen for the cooks to prepare the food. In the large open dining area we arranged the chairs in a semi-circle with Wendell, our conductor, seated on his tall stool in the front. We began the day with warm up exercises and then launched into our repertoire. Today we especially focused on immersing ourselves deeply into the text so that we can accurately communicate the meaning to our audience. I think that we were all impressed with the power of music when it is sung expressively. In addition we focused on diction and on the quality of our sound. We had some breakout sessions in which our section leaders could lead us in focus on specific areas that each part needs help in. Now we’ve all dispersed to the homes of the people who are graciously hosting us. Tomorrow we look forward to another day of rehearsal! And then on to Ontario!
Friday the 11th of July, we travelled to Comeragh Wilderness Camp, a therapeutic camp for lads. (http://wilderness.ie) We travelled in the bus to the closest drop point to the camp. We set off on foot, taking turns as the shuttle vehicles came to meet us. This opportunity to get acquainted with the project, the lads, and the staff was a boost for all. They prepared a delicious meal for us, talked about their daily schedule and sang their favorite songs. Their music was hearty and robust. We joined them and filled out the harmony as best we knew how.
After our camp visit we drove the winding roads to Dunmore East. The cliff walk was not for the faint of heart. It included steep trails, wading through water, and scrambling over rocks. Once these feats were accomplished we were rewarded with breathtaking vistas of the ocean and the cliffs. We found ourselves frequently drawn to bounce on the soft grass and peat. The sun and breezes whispered soul-filling murmurs, soothing our schedule-weary bodies.
The following day was spent in Waterford, learning about it’s history, looking at dazzling crystal dishes and figurines. We sang to an eager and responsive audience at Christ Church Cathedral. The tour of the building offered a series of shocking and disturbing facts. For instance, the first cathedral built on that plot of land was condemned for mercenary interests, but the demolition crew found that it was built too strongly for their tools. Eventually they resorted to the use of gunpowder to break it down. Another “saint” had his decayed and worm-eaten corpse sculpted on the top of his tomb in the church to serve as a “gospel” message to the living about how to conduct a holy life while considering the end of man.
Sunday morning found us preparing for a musical worship service with the believers at East Dunmore Christian Fellowship. This is the congregation where the Jonathan and Joyce Yoder family are members. Jonathan was our tour director for all the stops in England and Ireland. Saturday before, Franklin Miller, and Rosemary Eberly conducted workshops for the children, youth and adults. The worship service called from us nearly 40 minutes hearty congregational singing with selections taken form The Mennonite Hymnal. Following that session, Wendell Nisly presented a lecture covering the mission of Oasis Chorale, challenging us to take Jesus beatitudes and kingdom commands seriously, and salt the earth through a Christo-centric use of our talents and skills. After that, the workshop students presented their prepared pieces, followed by several pieces sung by our choir.
Sunday afternoon we drove to Kilkenny Presbyterian Church. It was difficult to sing our final concert with so many mixed sensations. The audience enthusiastically received the program and offered repeated expressions of blessing and farewell. The retired Dean of Cashel came to this concert and entertained us with a story about his missing belt and meeting the Queen.
The choir drove to Dublin for the night and checked into the hotel. Most of the choir stayed up late reminiscing about the tour, sharing memorable moments and exchanging lame jokes.
Monday July 14 finds us in the Dublin airport, snaking our way through the security lines, and preparing for our flight to New York.
In all of this tour, God has been with us, keeping us healthy, showing us connection opportunities, helping us live together with grace and friendship. Our music has matured us, enriched our souls, and knitted our hearts with a strong sense of ensemble. Our audiences were the warmest we’ve experienced thus far, offering their thanks and support profusely. So in farewell, we give God our deepest thanks. To our friends we are grateful for your hospitality and listening ears.
In Drogheda the choir was warmly welcomed by the Presbyterian community. Their space was the newest Presbyterian Church building in Ireland. They had to build it because their community of faith is rapidly expanding. In a country where churches are being abandoned because of shallow ideas being taught in the collages and the influx of cultural decay this growth can be attributed to the people of God returning to the Truth. What a testament to the work of the Spirit in a community of faith!
In sharp contrast to that memorable event, we sang at St. John’s Theatre and Centre for the Arts, in Listowel, on Wednesday evening. The Listowel Christian Fellowship hosted our choir in that space as a creative way to bring “Church” back to a space that had become an entertainment center due to neglect of the Faith. Only God can take the beauty of music and work this miracle in the hearts. The shining eyes, the standing ovation, and the 2 encores helped to rebuild that sanctuary for the listeners. For the night we enjoyed the liberal hospitality of the church families, who insisted on showing us their lovely and wild shoreline. Ballybunion is the region of John Bunyan fame. Unforgettable.
Today we travelled to west Ireland and checked into our hostel in Cork. On the way we stopped in Killarny to sing in St. Mary’s Cathedral and explore the small pubs and shops. Transcendence all over again!
We are at long last among the rugged emerald hills that are the signature of Ireland’s scenery. Tonight we simply relax.
This morning we left our secluded Knockree Hostel by the Wicklow Way. The Wicklow Way is a narrow paved road, sufficient for 1 car width with passing places few and far between. We had an adventure navigating the bus around the turns slowly. We met a few vehicles, had to reverse and get off the pavement to pass. This is all a delicate driver situation when there is limited shoulder to begin with.
We sat down to cafe lunches on our own in Drogheda town. Various of the singers enjoyed the small and brilliantly colored red pub, “The Mariner”. Others of the group enjoyed excellent food at the “Bia Cafe”. On our walk back to the bus, the singers took a quiet moment to see the powerfully inspirational art and decoration of the St. Mary’s R.C. Church. We left for our concert venue to begin our mid-tour rehearsal.
Upon arriving at the Drogheda Presbyterian Church, our directors, Wendell and Franklin, rearranged the choir for a new standing order. The sound is more mixed and the singers are hearing harmony more vertically than ever before.
We drove to Newgrange Lodge, taking a scenic route passing by the mysterious Newgrange Monument. The valley here has stunning scenery, gently rolling hills, more narrow roads, under blue and clouded skies. After checking in at the lodge, we relaxed for 45 minutes, did laundry, and prepared for the concert at the Drogheda Presbyterian Church. The Weavers had BBQ’ed hamburgers on the grill and laid out a delicious spread of condiments to build our sandwiches. The frozen Oreo cookies were the perfect touch for a cooling dessert.
Drogheda Presbyterian is a sleek modern church building with spacious accommodations and big acoustics. The congregation is a singing church and they told us they had intentionally added a few extra feet of height to help with the sound of their worship. This was the first time they had listened to a concert in their space without amplification. It was a fine evening of music-making with a full house of neighbors and congregants. They insisted on stuffing us we tea, cakes and pies afterwards. The people were generous with contributions and eagerly purchased our recorded albums. Evidently God is communicating to our audiences.
Tomorrow is a long drive to Kerry. We will need quiet time, a bit of recap discussion, a bus activity along with forbearance to endure the close quarters of the bus during the trek.
Last night’s YMCA concert was west of Dublin city. A large poster outside the youth center had been announcing the arrival of our “American Gospel Choir” for several weeks. A rather informal evening, we sang to an audience of local youth, families, and church goers. The venue and the audience allowed us to collaborate with audience members for a more informal evening. We began our concert with first soprano Wendi leading the audience in a few Oasis warm up exercises. At intermission, Wendell met Maureen, who sings with a Gospel choir in Dublin, and she collaborated with us on an impromptu “There is a Balm in Gilead.” A young boy in the front row asked if we knew “O Happy Day” (he apparently had seen the movie “Sister Act”), and, led by Janice, we fulfilled his request. It was a happy night of music making, finished off by tea and buns, and many happy conversations with our friendly audience. We continue to be enchanted by the warmth and friendliness of the Irish people and the beauty of their island country.
A Sunday morning spent on a bus is not to be compared to attending worship in the house of the Lord. The similarities stop somewhere soon after you consider the fact that you are assembled with others.
Our accommodations for Saturday night after the concert at Aylesbury were at Holiday Inn near Dunstable. A sleek modernized hotel with comfortable beds, clean warm showers and fresh linens.
After a full breakfast we began our travel to Sandiway Gospel Church in Northwich. After rehearsing for a short while in the small church, we had delightful refreshments from a large selection of sandwiches, custards, tea and coffee. Our choir made up 1/3 of the persons who attended the concert at 3PM. The audience was an enthusiastic and attentive crowd of retirees. A few friends from the Fellowship Church also came and enjoyed the music.
After more tea, sandwiches and fruit we changed into our travel clothes and were on our way to Wales. We intended to sit on the sand by the Colwyn bay in order to watch the sun set. Upon arrival, we discovered the beach was under construction for reshaping. However, after a bit of a walk we found a short section of sand and rocks that were open to the public. Some singers skipped stones, others enjoyed building a castle in the sand, others threw frisbee. Various large white jelly fish were found as the outgoing tide left them stranded. Curt Weaver ordered in pizza that was delivered to our space on the shore at 10 PM. Good times were had by all long into the evening.
Tonight we have an overnight trip on the ferry back to Dublin. It is not conducive to finding sanctuary and rest from the activity and noise, but we shall do our best to be bright and happy in the morning.
We boarded the ferry at 1:45 am., invading the quiet, empty bench areas like swarms of bees. Stuffing our ears with ear plugs and donning eye patches left over from the airplane, we sought sleep with an organized viciousness. God blessed us with a calm crossing! We stumbled below deck to board our bus around 5:30, some of us mumbling gratefulness for the hours of sleep we got, others lamenting the laughing passengers near their make shift beds.
We enjoyed a bus side breakfast next to a grocery store, our cooks providing us with pastries, scones, biscuits, juice, and citrus fruit. We are grateful for the Weavers’ flexibility and creativity!
We spent the morning enjoying the breathtaking Powerscourt Estate, the third ranked garden in the world! The fresh air soothed our weary spirits, as did the Japanese and Italian gardens, and the walled garden, featuring stunning roses, larger than your hand in size! This was a proper reintroduction to the Irish countryside, to which we were very happy to return.
Currently checked into the Knockree hostel, we are enjoying pasta, a delicious salad, and baguettes, a meal prepared by our cooks. We look forward to an afternoon of rest before our informal concert this evening at the YMCA. The rain is gently falling as we gaze out the the glass walls at the quiet grounds and far off fields. We thank God for peace and rest.
Off like a shot! Alarms buzzing in the fourth hour, clearing of beds, furious stuffing and zipping, and filling our water bottles (singers must stay hydrated)… It was a groggy choir busing on the winding roads to Rosslaire Ferry Port. After waiting in the bus queue, we exited Stenaline’s Green Deck 5 to decks 7 and 8, where we availed ourselves to breakfast and hot drinks. We endured the fairly calm crossing by napping, playing Rook, enjoying the breezy views above deck, and checking antisocial media below.
Land ho! The patchwork countryside of Fishguard, Wales appeared in the mist, and soon we were on the carriageway again. The upside to all our bus time is that it invariably leads to many fascinating discussions of music, texts, poetry, and books. You might say that Oasis Chorale bus is a sort of dropbox for the Anabaptist artist’s opinions, questions, and suggestions. With all our traveling, we have decided that we are officially tourists today (which we are comfortable with) but many of us are looking forward to getting into a normal routine!
At 5:30, we checked into the Ibis and YHA Bristol. Those of us at the hostel found it to be quite accommodating. (Its riverfront views were especially invigorating at night!)
Jonathan Yoder’s long-time friend, Michael, graciously scheduled a two-hour double-decker bus tour of bustling Bristol. Gerry, our tour guide, offered us a voluminous historical context for the city.
The choir was delighted to visit St. Thomas the Martyr Church, now no longer used for regular services, yet a location where Handel himself composed music and played the organ! We entered the empty church, situated adjacent to Bristol’s most famous night club, and sang a few pieces. The sounds and smells of the club’s overflow wafted through the stained glass, yet it did not drown out our song. The irony was not lost on us.
Friday morning we bused from Bristol to Oxford, arriving in time for an excellent two-hour walking tour. Dazzled by the architecture and history, we comfortably moved about the city, visiting several of the hundreds of Oxford colleges, the Radcliffe Camera (a repository of over 11 million books), and even Lucy’s lamppost from the Chronicles of Narnia!
In the afternoon, we checked into gorgeous Keble College.
Today began with a short walk under cloudy skies and drizzle to an excellent British breakfast buffet served in the Great Hall at Keble College. What a room in which to begin a day. What we first saw when we stepped into the room were three tables stretching into shadowy distance at the other end of the long room. The tables were set with silver and goblets, lit by electric candelabra every few place settings. After breakfast, several singers stepped over to the Chapel and took a few quiet minutes to contemplate the mosaics on the walls. Of particular interest was the famous painting ‘Jesus the Light of the World’. We explored the magnificent acoustic with chant melodies, and rediscovered the harmony that arises in such a space. By the time we boarded the bus, the moisture was lifting though patchy clouds continued to shade us from the summer sun.
Our excursion today took us to Warwick Castle. It was a singular experience to walk up the Mound in the footsteps of William the Conquerer. Inside the castle we found a great many displays spanning the lives of the Royalty that used and adapted the Castle to their liking: knights in full armor astride full-sized horses in the Great Hall; a massive sideboard from a single oak carved with elaborate scenes of Queen Elizabeth I’s life; the luxurious bedroom prepared for Queen Anne (who didn’t come after all); the first running baths. Set aside from most of the bustle, the Chapel was filled with beautiful light and music. A reflective spot.
Mid-afternoon found us rehearsing and going through pre-concert arrangements at St. Mary’s Church of Aylesbury. The small and hospitable crowd enthusiastically welcomed us. The concert was received with happy and emotive faces. Some wept for joy during the encore of our benediction “God Be With You”.
Tomorrow starts another marathon run of travel, concert, and ferry ride back to Dublin. Pray for safe travels and transformative musical connections.
By now some of our friends and family have seen our Facebook updates and Photos posted by the choir members. We have arrived safely in Dublin at 9:30 AM July 1. The people on our flight were quite weary while disembarking the plane. After we caught our first breeze of Irish air as we walked out from the terminal we suddenly got a new energy and a sense to stay awake and try to overcome the jet lag. We walked to the bus lot and met Thomas, our skilled and cheerful bus driver. He is knowledgable about our route and is happy to answer questions as we drive. Jonathan Yoder, our hosting tour director, changed our currency to Euros and soon we were off to tour Dublin’s fair city.
The choir spent time looking at the Book of Kells, and the library at Trinity College. There is an immense amount of Irish and Christian writing stored on those shelves. After the organized tour we scattered across the city to find ourselves various places to stimulate and satisfy our curiosity.
On our way to our gracious hostel in Glendalough we past through lush green hills, and wound our way (gingerly) with the big bus on the narrow roadways. Our coach is a spacious new Volvo with 55 seats. All 48 of us are enjoying the high seats as we tour the countryside.
Wednesday we slept until 9 AM to help relieve the time shift, ate a continental breakfast, and did our choir warm-ups on the lawn. After an outdoor lunch at the bistro just down the road, we walked to the Glendalough Visitor’s Center to get info about the St. Kevin’s Monastery, the valley, trails, and lakes. For three hours our singers walked on the various trails and climbed the hills, inhaled the clear air, taking in all the scenic landscapes, and smelling the forest scents. A few hiked to the peak of the nearby hill and caught the vista from above. Others chilled their walk-weary feet in the cooling water of the upper lake. After a dinner of chili and cornbread that was prepared by the Curt and Tresa Weaver family, we walked another 2.5 Km to St. Kevin’s Catholic Church to experimentally blend a few of our concert pieces with it’s 4.5 second reverb. It was an interesting aural experience.
Tomorrow we rise early and “catch the ferry” to England. Have you ever caught the ferry? what does one do on a ferry for 3 hours? …we’re about find out.
“Rise up, follow Me, Come away, is the call, With My love in your heart as the only song…” Michael Dennis Browne
He is calling us away, and filling our hearts with His love.
Tonight we are overwhelmed with the incredible outpouring of support from our Lebanon Co. audience. The nave at St. Luke’s was filled beyond capacity, chairs were placed and the aisles had eager listeners standing in rapt attention.
From the opening fanfare of “Shout for Joy” through the tender longings of “I Sing of Your Mercies” to the robust and celebratory encore “Ride On! King Jesus” singers and listeners were lifted to the presence of God. Even though the summer evening was warm, and our audience had many families in it, the babies were still, the children attentive, and folks were reading the program notes to discover details about our beloved craft. Again, we can only give praise to God for our supportive Mennonite brothers and the hospitality from the Episcopalian Church for this singular worship experience.
Ice cream cake is becoming a tradition for celebrating birthdays of the choir members. Today we celebrated Franklin Miller’s 30th birthday. In the course of the day we sang for him twice. These chorale people sure know how to make life events epic. What a joyful community of friends!!
Tomorrow we will gather at St. Luke’s once more, to pack up our belongings, organize and prepare for flight to Dublin, Ireland. At the current level of interest, we are comforted by your prayers and monetary support for the work. Pray for Oasis Chorale as you are moved by the Spirit and have opportunity. Some things that we are mindful of are traveling safety, Logistical details, Luggage arriving at the proper places and not being lost, meaningful connections with audiences in Ireland, Wales and UK. Our focus remains in lifting God’s Holy Name higher than ever before while we sing and serve the music.
This morning we enjoyed a late call time while we engaged in last minute packing. We reconvened at St. Luke’s for a time of rehearsal and tour debriefing. We met our bus in the afternoon and traveled several hours to New York City, winding through Chinatown and Williamsburg. Our driver safely deposited us at JFK around 6:00. We board in 5 minutes!
Saturday was another good day of rehearsing our pieces for the Ireland tour. At noon we had several moments of refocusing and quiet time. By 3 PM we were on the road from Lebanon to Lititz. Neffsville Mennonite Church is an acoustically live space to sing in. That changed significantly in the evening, when the pews filled up with our families and friends. It was really special to have folks come from Wisconsin, Ontario, Ohio and Virginia. It is a sacred trust to be given the time and the stage to sing for eager men, women and children, especially when they travel so far for the chance to hear the concert. Thank-you for coming and supporting the craft of live sacred chorale singing.
Technical difficulties made the live streaming fail. We regret the inconvenience of that. In the future we hope to resolve these issues.
This first concert was a strong and stirring presentation. Energy was high in the opening number. So much joy to be multiplied with the audience leaning in to hear Lyle Stutzman’s new setting of Psalm 33, “Shout for Joy!” Many bridges are being built with our repertoire featuring several hymn arrangements. It seem’s that Derrick Johnson’s setting of “Whispering Hope” connects well through nostalgia and it’s reassuring message for future reconciliation in our broken world.
With so many things to live with in this life, it is vital that a singer keeps a sense of grounding in the realities and the joy of our faith journey. For in singing of joy, peace, hope, and the struggle we begin to harmonize with God’s beautiful works of grace. Please join us in our creative pilgrimage again tomorrow night at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Lebanon PA at 7 PM.
“It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to Your name, O Most High.” Psalm 92:1
Today began with choir members assembling at 9 AM. After warming-up body and voice, we started with practicing and recording Samuel Webbe’s setting of “Praise, My Soul, The King of Heaven.” It was a wonderful text for the beginning of the day. In all the work and the joy, the King of Heaven tends, spares, knows, bears, rescues, and mercifully deals with us as children.
After singing the final four songs and recording them, we were ready to return to our repertoire for our Ireland tour at 10:45 AM. All in all the hymn singing was beneficial for helping us attend to text and unify the ensemble.
The meals for us are provided by the generous and skilled cooks from the Lehman Street Mennonite Church. We have been well-fed and nourished with a variety of delicious food.
Tomorrow is Saturday, a day of more Ireland repertoire rehearsal at St. Luke’s and then our first State-side concert in the evening. That event will be hosted by Neffsvilie Mennonite Church in Lititiz and begins at 7 PM. We would love to sing for you, if you can attend.
Good evening! And what a good evening it is after a vigorous day of recording. St. Luke’s Episcopal Nave is a lovely acoustic space. Brad is doing a fine job of capturing the sound of the choir. We were blessed with recording success in 13 songs today. Tomorrow we look forward to finishing the last 4 pieces. “Send Forth Thy Spirit” will be a highlight in tomorrow’s work.
Brad brought his mandolin and serenaded the choir with a few lovely Irish tunes. It was a wonderful space to hear the fine details of his playing.
We celebrated Darcy Jantzi’s birthday today with ice cream cake and two singings of the birthday song. Darcy is such a star in our tenor section, and we all are frequent willing witnesses to his wit and wisdom.
After a pork BBQ dinner, several of the singers travelled north to the Jonestown School for a few games of volleyball. By 9:30 we finished and returned to our hosts.
Hello Family, Friends, and Supporters of Oasis Chorale!
Can we say we’re excited? Can you tell? After nearly two years of planning and budgeting for this choral tour, we have finally come together as a complete group and started implementing the plans. Our first day at rehearsal was blessed with renewed friendships, warm introductions and very gracious hosting by the staff at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Lebanon.
We worked the entire repertoire and unified the sounds. Tonight we started studying the texts more intentionally. This set of songs has a variety of praises and promises, nearly everyone who attends and hears will encounter God through these messages.
Tomorrow we plan to record the Hymns project for Benchmark Press. Please take a moment to visit our donation page and share of your abundance for this project.
As always, this work is hard; the disciplined effort feeds the soul, convicts the heart and refreshes our spirits. Please continue to pray for us and the hearers in our audiences. Most of all that God would transcend the music and visit us all with His loving favor.
About 70 Oasis Chorale singers have gathered here in Hartville OH and spent the last few days rehearsing. We are joined each evening by about 60 singers from Minerva Community Choir led by Franklin Miller. Needless to say we can “raise the roof” with some beautiful music and the 130 voices! If you cannot join us in person tomorrow for the 3:00pm concert you can join us virtually by going to http://www.ustream.tv/channel/oasis-chorale-anniversary-festival.
10 YEARS! It is true! Oasis Chorale is actually celebrating it’s 10 year anniversary this very weekend!
Many and hurried are the preparations of numerous alumni and current members for this event. The 2014 international touring choir is gathering in the morning to spend one day prepping a few songs for the festival concert on Sunday. An added benefit is their ability to hear each other in person much further in advance than most years.
The rest of the alumni that can make the trip to Hartville OH will be doing so tomorrow in preparation for rehearsal and reunion activities planned for all day Friday and Saturday. We anticipate numerous music moments and good memories!
We hope to see you Sunday afternoon at the festival concert set to begin at 3:00!
Oasis Chorale Tour 2012 is history. We’re trying to smile because it happened and not weep because it’s over. It’s a bit of a let down to start the day knowing that we won’t see any of those cheery faces we’ve been accustomed to seeing every day for the past 2 weeks. But we return to our respective duties feeling richer for the friendships we’ve strengthened or begun and with phrases from our songs stamped deep into our hearts. Our tour ended with many of us battling a friendly little stomach bug, but we didn’t let that stop us! Our final concert was given to an overflow crowd at Sandy Ridge Mennonite Church in Bourbon, IN. They graciously allowed us to use their building for rehearsal at the beginning of tour and housed us for many nights both at the beginning and the end. They also fed us more food than we could measure. Thank You, Sandy Ridge friends! We closed out our Sunday with one Last Supper and sitting around talking and enjoying each other’s stories. Monday morning found most of us enjoying our final time together over breakfast at Maria’s House of Pancakes before heading in every direction toward our homes and the real world. We remember that no matter where our varied paths take us, there is One who is with us and who said: “I will not leave you comfortless…I will come again to you…and your heart shall rejoice!”
We’ve spent the past two days recording at Goshen College in the Sauder Concert Hall, which has been dubbed “a leading performance venue in the Midwest.” The warm acoustic is delightful. Our comfortable schedule leaves us time for more tracks and retakes tomorrow. We are privileged once again to work with recording engineer Brad Zabelski. He is so laid-back and keeps things running so smoothly! We had a short break from choir music this evening as the choir came together to put on an impromptu recital. Choir members shared German love songs, piano and violin pieces, compositions, and interactive folk songs. Brad even played Bach for us on his mandolin!
Yesterday we made the quick trip from Ohio to Indiana. We arrived at Fair Haven Church in the afternoon. After a short rest, we all gathered in the sanctuary for a timely rehearsal, followed by sectional practice. We enjoyed a delicious meal provided by the congregation before the concert. It is fascinating that as we make music together, we continue to shape and mold our sound, and we are excited that our music continues to grow as we more fully understand it. After the concert, we filled our beloved bus and were transported to Goshen College where we will be staying during our recording weekend.
Monday was a much-needed day of vocal rest which we spent traveling from Illinois to Ohio. We arrived in a Midwestern meltdown in the town of Plain City, Ohio around 6:00 in the evening. We enjoyed pizza and some exercise in a local gym. On Tuesday, United Bethel Mennonite Church hosted our clinic day with Dr. Jay White (a professor of voice at Kent State University and a former member of Chanticleer!) What a fantastic day! Dr. White gave us professional advice while maintaining a low-key environment, and he gave us great tips on how to improve when our sound gets “wonky.” His insight will definitely be beneficial as we move into recording mode. We ended the day with a Q&A session. A special thank you to the United Bethel food committee for providing meals for us! Our evening concert was very special after our full day rehearsal. Tomorrow? Back to Indiana!
We enjoyed sharing in worship with Cynthia’s church, Living Word Fellowship in Arthur, Illinois this morning. We gave an abbreviated concert before hearing a challenging sermon on “Keep your hearts with all diligence…” Following church, we worked our way through two very generous lines of food; one contained gourmet potatoes and scrumptious salads while the other offered a delectable array of delicious desserts. After a relaxing Sunday afternoon we made our way to Sunnyside Mennonite Church, Arcola, Illinois. We were warmly welcomed with a “light” supper before singing to a packed church of eager listeners. We enjoyed singing parts of several of our songs with them. What a joyful noise such a crowd made! After sufficient post program chat time we headed to Cynthia’s house. Once more we were blessed with mounds of lovely food and gallons of drink which we consumed amidst much laughter and camaraderie. We’re looking forward to a chance to relax our voices a bit today after giving four concerts in three days.
We were privileged to be with the Bethany Church congregation in the greater Chicago area last evening. After a necessary afternoon rehearsal, we had our first taste of the exquisite Romanian hospitality at dinner. We relaxed as we prepared for our second concert, which was broadcasted live due to the technical proficiency of the congregation. The pastor at Bethany Church graciously welcomed us after the youth band opened the service with music. We were encouraged by the spirit of our fellow believers there. Franklin Miller shared a message in Romanian, which was an extra special connection for the congregation. After the concert, we were blessed with more food and fellowship. We all enjoyed our host families immensely! Thank you for your love and care! God bless you!
Now after lunch eaten at various and sundry restaurants, we dashed through the rain to the bus and are nearly ready to disembark at the First United Methodist Church in Champaign, Illinois.
The choir will be streaming live tonight from Bethany Romanian Pentacostal Church in the greater Chicago metro area. To access the live feed, go to www.bethany.cc. In the upper right hand corner of the page there is an English option (it has a flag next to it). Then click the “live” button on the front page, and choose the appropriate option for you.
The service will begin at 7:00 Central time, with 20-30 minutes of singing & prayer, and then Oasis will begin their portion of the evening around 7:30 (+/-10 mins).
Today, as with yesterday, the rehearsal is progressing. Wendell is really urging the choir to excellence through precise rhythms, beautiful vowels, and slender consonants. God has been really good to us by surrounding the choir with many people of sacrificial mind and hands. We have been sleeping well and enjoying very healthy meals. The work of rehearsal goes on joyfully and smoothly when there is this sense of care between each member and the community. Travel fatigue is being felt a bit yet the urgency of tomorrow’s concert helps us keep focus on the work of crafting fine music for ministering and worship. We hope to see and sing for you at one or more of our up coming concerts.
The Oasis Chorale will be streaming live on Friday evening from Bethany Romanian Pentacostal Church in the greater Chicago metro area. To access the live feed, go to www.bethany.cc. In the upper right hand corner of the page there is an English option (it has a flag next to it). Then click the “live” button on the front page, and choose the appropriate option for you. I’ve included a screen shot for your convenience.
The service will begin at 7:00 Central time, with 20-30 minutes of singing & prayer, and then Oasis will begin their portion of the evening around 7:30 (+/-10 mins).
You may also feel free to distribute this information to anyone who wants it.
Tour 2012 is nearly upon us! The singers are hard at work moving their songs to 99% memorized and the administrative committee is hard at work tying up loose ends. For me that is getting the sales table stuff ready for the trip to Indiana besides paying some bills and etc. All that stuffed in between an already busy life makes this a challenge for me and I know the singers find it similar but for all it is rewarding. I am very excited about this years program and the opportunities presented to the choir. I’m sorry that I won’t be privileged to hear any concerts myself this year! Keep checking back as the plan is to have regular (daily?) updates from the choir posted here. You can also see shorter posts on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/OasisChorale
May God’s Kingdom be expanded and His beauty portrayed by the ministry of Oasis Chorale!
We roused ourselves a bit earlier than usual on Sunday morning and headed to the tent meetings in Whitehorse, across from the Salisbury Township Fire hall. We sang six songs on the slanting stage under the big tent. After a sermon by Pablo Yoder from Nicaragua, we lunched along with a thousand or so others and were shortly on our way to our final concert in Philadelphia.
Stan pulled off some amazing feats with the bus in narrow city streets and under bridges! We warmed up (thoroughly) in the lovely large St. John the Baptist Catholic Church before our 4:00 concert. It was fun but challenging to sing with the reverb the building gave us.
Afterwards we partook of ample refreshments in the building next door and chatted with the locals and not-so-locals who had come to hear us. Last concerts have a way of bringing out many friends and family members! We also enjoyed exploring the many nooks and crannies of the church and were thrilled to experience music from the huge organ that took up the balcony.
The last order of business was a photo session, after which we loaded up the bus one last time and headed “home”. After giving the bus a rigorous cleaning we settled into the basement of Curt Weaver’s home (bless their hearts) for the final hours of OC 2011. Food, memories, laughter, songs and joy abounded. The final stragglers wrapped up the evening with a from-memory rendition of Handel’s HallelujahChorus before taking their final leave.
It’s been a great tour. Such a great combination of people is hard to compile; we’re all blessed to be included with such a “gang”. When 2 or 3 are blessed by gathering together in Jesus’name, imagine what it’s like with 33! Thank you for caring enough about us to read this, pray for us and listen to us.
Friday was a day off from programs, which we spent in Washington D. C. We took in bits and pieces of the National Art Gallery and including two guided tours besides what we managed to see in between. We spent time “standing under” the art work in order to be able to understand it. From there we walked through the 105 degree air to The Old Post Office where we ate a meal and went up the glass elevator to see what D.C. looks like from the bell tower. We then rushed across town as fast as a bus in rush hour in D.C. and hustled into the National Cathedral for the Evensong service. After another meal stop we arrived “home” to the Lancaster area quite ready for our beds.
We met at Faith Mennonite School at the blissfully late hour of 11:00 a.m. on Saturday for brunch, a bit of discussion and some rehearsal time. By 2:30 we were on the road to the Church of the Good Samaritan in Paoli, PA. We practiced our bus roll call in rhythm until we finally got it under 9.75 seconds! Why is this significant? you wonder. Stanley Kauffman, our First Rate Bus Driver, assured us that if we could manage such a feat, he’d buy us all ice cream. Our fried chicken meal at the church was well worth the wait! We had our “prep time” in the beautiful old chapel before moving into the wide open spaces of the current church sanctuary for our almost-last-concert. The crowd was a reverent and receptive one; a real pleasure to sing to.
“I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!” The first McDonalds we pulled into quickly locked their doors when they saw the bus pull in, so we called ahead to the Gap McD’s to give them a fair warning. Shortly thereafter, what to their wondering eyes should appear but a crowd of dressed up Mennonites, all ordering ice cream. Stan, you’re the Best!
Our destination on Thursday was the little town of Laytonsville, Maryland. The church in which we sang is the third building on its site, the first one apparently appearing in 1791, according to a plaque on it’s front. It was formerly a Methodist Church but is currently Goshen Mennonite Church. The balcony was for use by blacks during the Segregation Era. When bathroom facilities were added 10 years ago, the addition was built against the church without being attached, since it’s a historic site and may not be altered.
The outdoor temperature has receded to a point where we were willing to eat our supper (or dinner, if you prefer) outdoors, a definite improvement over last week’s Sauna Weather. This was our smallest crowd of the tour (perhaps because it was the smallest building) and the one with the “warmest” welcome, as it were.
We drove to Williamsburg on Monday and spent the rest of the day and Tuesday exploring it at our leisure. It was quite warm and quite a few of us found ourselves cooling off in the William and Mary Bookstore enjoying some Starbucks and each other’s company. A rain storm came through so our trusty bus driver kindly came and drove us back to the motel. There we happily devoured 12 pizzas and some well read/told stories before retiring.
Various people we met assumed we were in costume just like the rest of the Williamsburg workers and we were able to help a few people with directions, along with the help of their maps, even if we weren’t being paid for it.
Some of our highlights included the Governor’s Palace, the hospital/insane asylum, the Coffee House, the Capitol building, playing Skittles in the toy shop, The College of William and Mary, The Cheese Shop food, the fifes and drums and most of all, the candlelight concert in the Bruton Parish Church at which we sang on Tuesday evening. It was well attended and heartily enjoyed. Our listeners included a wide variety of characters, including some of our friends who didn’t seem bored with hearing us a second or third time.
Most of Wednesday was spent traveling from Williamsburg to Gladys, VA. After our usual warm ups and standing orientation, we supped and became appropriately attired for the evening.
Bethel Mennonite Church was packed to the gills with standing room only for our concert this evening. It was an awesome evening! We made the old rafters ring. The people were so responsive and appreciative. It is always an honor to sing for such people. While the atmosphere was quite different than last evening, it is amazing how people are the same. God comes to us in many ways.
10:00 Saturday found us gathered back with the Oak Grove Church people ready to listen to Wayne Yoder’s second topic: Worshiping God in Truth. Wendell then guided us through some thoughts on allowing the text of songs to speak well, after which we lunched.
The afternoon began with some workshops: New Hymns, Sight Singing, Song Leading, Understanding the Text and a children’s choir. We had a rehearsal with our temporary OC’ers before enjoying yet another scrumptious meal.
The weather continues to be a hot topic of conversation…
At 7:30 we began another “instructional hymn sing” led by Joe Miller from South Boston, VA. John Strickler gave us a sample of an earlier workshop on understanding the text, including a River Brethren song leading demonstration.
We are enjoying the enthusiasm exhibited by people of all ages. One is never too old to learn. We OC folks find our Oak Grove brothers and sisters to be a genuinely hospitable and Christ-like group of believers and a joy with whom to interact. We’re glad we’re here!
Our Sunday began with some large Sunday school classes followed by a message by Steve Byler entitled Theology – Philosophy of Music.
In the afternoon we enjoyed a visit to Mountain View Nursing Home where we sang the fascinating residents. It made such a good impression that some of us want to go there when we get old. We were given a tour of the facilities and felt happy for them that the renovations are all over because it sounds like it must’ve been a harrowing 3 years.
Our evening concert differed a bit from the norm. We demonstrated the polyphony in some of the songs before singing them to aide the audience in understanding what was happening. At intermission Eric Hershberger led the children’s choir from yesterday in a smashing medley of some “spirituals”. The evening ended with a mass choir consisting of OC and the folks from Aroda who chose to join us for 3 songs. The grand finale was the entire congregation standing together and singing 606 (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow).
We began Friday morning with a warm tour of Faith Mission Home. As we began our tour at 9:00 it was 87* in the shade of the front porch and when we left at 10:00 it was 92*.
Stan, our trusty bus driver skillfully took us over hill, over dale and past vast horse farms to Charlottesville. There we found some lunch and enjoyed a relaxing afternoon going in and out of the air conditioned shops so as to be able to endure the sauna-like streets. Most of us partook of some refreshingly cool substance such as gelato or iced coffee. Or maybe it was two iced coffees.
We arrived at Oak Grove Mennonite Church around 4:00. While some of us attempted to rest in the sanctuary, some others rid themselves of pent up energy during a soccer game in the basement after the wheeled suitcase they were using for leap frog was forbidden them.
In the evening we had a hymn sing led by Nathan Good, followed by a message on Worshiping God in Spirit by Wayne Yoder. Afterwards we had a choir rehearsal including those from the area who chose to join us for 3 songs in our repertoire. By the time that was over, it was high time to head to our comfortable lodgings for a good night’s rest.
On Thursday we met at Calvary Church at the relaxed meeting time of 10:30 and headed to Golden Corral for an ample brunch. It was perhaps the first time those two waitresses had a thank you song sung to them.
From there we headed to Faith Mission Home where the air conditioned church was a welcome relief from the humid Virginia July Weather. The switch between AC and Outside these days is rather startling but so far we’ve all survived.
We shared supper with the staff and residents at FMH and sang to a church house filled to the balcony with eager recipients. This was the first time Oasis has returned to FMH since it’s inception there in 2003. About time, eh? Five of our choir members are former FMHers and six of us participated in the first OC tour in Ireland.
This extremely warm Tuesday morning found us heading to Harrisonburg, VA by 9:00. Wendell and Stan each told us a story as a reward for our speedy roll calls. We experienced a variety of lunches over our leisurely noon hour. Our program at Parkview Mennonite Church was well attended and we were blessed by the benediction the audience sang for us. The locals were delighted to go home to their very own beds to sleep. The rest of us were also happy to be given local beds in which to rest our singing souls and bodies.
Wednesday morning found us at Calvary Mennonite Fellowship where were given much food for thought by Steve Byler. The subject of our “food” was Beauty and specifically The Arts. Why Beauty? We discovered quite a few questions and maybe even several answers. After some sectional music practice we relaxed our brains with some play time, which included everything from building blocks and Memory to coloring books and Taboo. We were then served a Fabulous chicken barbecue meal followed by multiple desserts.
To finish off the day we warmly fellow-shipped in the gym over some volleyball. We are truly experiencing “Warm” southern hospitality!
We sang to a full house of over 500 attentive listeners at Neffsville Mennonite on Sunday evening. The acoustics were lovely. Many of us had friends in the area who came to hear us, which enhanced our joy.
We met at Faith Mennonite School again on Monday morning for a last rehearsal before heading to Cedars Church of Christ in Wilmington, Delaware for our Monday evening program.
We were interested to discover that most churches of this denomination use only acapella music in their services, as do the churches which we represent. The crowd was considerably smaller than last night, but just as welcoming and appreciative. We were divvied out among them for a good night’s sleep and returned to the church in great condition to begin our jaunt to Harrisonburg.
Wendell warmly admonished us to take care of our voices before they need extra attention. Nurse Phil did a Hand Sanitizer Dispensing Sweep followed by a Vitamin C Distribution Trip through the bus.
Our first program on Saturday evening at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church was well received and an encouraging start to our tour despite a few spots we discovered that still need some work.
Sunday morning found us at Weavertown Amish Mennonite Church where we sang for about a half hour between Sunday School and the message on Trust. We were then served a scrumptious meal, during which we enjoyed our conversation with both locals and some visiting Muslim and Catholic students from Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Egypt.
Neffsville Mennonite Church is our Sunday evening concert location after which we will again return to our Lancaster lodgings.
From choral warm ups and back rubs in the morning to volleyball in the evening was the first day of rehearsal, and it was good. We are met at Faith Mennonite High School for these 2 1/2 days of bringing our 32 voices together in preparation for the next two weeks of concerts. We are sometimes pleasantly surprised and sometimes otherwise surprised by what we produce.
The highlight of our second day came after our evening text study. Anna King played some hymns for us on 21 crystal goblets. We soaked up every minute of it.
We are enjoying excellent meals; one choir member suggest they’re trying to fatten us up with all these choice desserts.
On this our third day we are attempting to put finishing touches on everything so as to be able to give the best we can give at our first concert this evening.
Sunday, August 1, 2010. Morning breaks gently over the lush Lancasterian landscape. Birds being their morning song, the cattle are rousing from their slumber with gentle lowing, and, somewhere in the distance, a rooster is heard. …And what’s that other sound? …It’s the many Oasis Chorale members, beginning their morning routine. Humming, chewing, brushing, flossing, lip trills, sighing – all this and much more. It’s early, and they must arrive at the church all warmed up, ready to sing. This morning’s program was at Mine Road Mennonite Church – not a complete program, only about 30 minutes or so. It was enjoyable to see many friends, and refreshing to sit back and take in a worship service. After lunch, we headed over to Weaverland Mennonite Church for our final program. How should we feel about our last program? We weren’t quite sure. But we did know that most of these people would be hearing us for the first time. We wanted to be able to adequately convey the message, and to do this, we had to keep it fresh on our minds and in our hearts. God blessed us in this program, as with the others. Lives were touched, hearts were inspired, and God’s presence was felt. After the afternoon program, we went to Roman Stolzfus’s home to have supper and time to hang out and relax. This was splendidly accomplished by a taco salad, peach cobbler, coffee, bread, water, and other tasty treats. The relaxation time was amusing and satisfactory on a variety of levels – We discussed future plans for Oasis Chorale, congratulated some fellow choir members on their recently changed status (from “single” to “dating”) and enjoyed some rousing games of Chug-a-Lug and Ultimate Frisbee. This last activity, however, actually ended very badly for 2 of our star players; they crashed, in a head-to-shoulder type of way, causing the officials to call the game, and the festivities to be stopped. Well, while the physically demanding activities stopped, the chatting continued on, far into the night. We bade each other goodbye, and went our separate ways, looking forward to 2011. Looking back, we were blessed with a great tour, safe travelling, no major sickness, inspired, communicative audiences, and new insights into life. Thanks for your support of Oasis, and please keep in contact. We’d love to hear from you.
Saturday, July 31 We Are recording at The Church of The Good Samaritan in Paoli,Pennsylvania. The acoustics are splendid for a live; the ceiling is high, and the sanctuary has a stone floor. We have enjoyed recording here for the last 2 days, but are looking forward to finishing the project. While recording isn’t usually “fun”, this one has seemed to go exceedingly well. Today we have just 4 songs to record in the morning, and then we’re done! We do have a program there tonight, and then our final program in Lancaster tomorrow afternoon.
The last day of the bus tour has arrived. There will be more bus time, to and from the recording studio, but we’ll be basing that all from Faith Mennonite High School. We met at Dayton Mennonite Church, Dayton, Virginia, at 9 AM, and commenced down the road. With the exception of some traffic around Washington D.C. And Baltimore, Maryland, we had an uneventful trip. The ride around Baltimore port provided some interest and variation from the mountains with its ships and cranes. Arriving at Conowingo, Maryland, we were delighted to find another small church. Typifying “the country church”, the Conowingo church is a small white church, with simple designs inside and out. The congregation there is small, even for the building, but they were welcoming and accommodating. After the program, we drove back to Faith Mennonite High School, and then on to our places of abode.
The drive from South Boston, Virginia to Dayton, Virginia was very pleasant. We again had an hour long quiet time, which was helpful in reflecting, sleeping, studying, and reading. The landscape was gorgeous – much of the drive was on smaller roads, in and around the Blue Ridge Mountains – they are splendidly beautiful.
At Dayton Mennonite, we had plenty of time to rest and work on our music. There were several hours of extra time, but it seemed to go so quickly! The program, which was jointly hosted by Calvary Mennonite Fellowship and Dayton Mennonite Church, was well attended by many folks from many areas. This is generally the hometown of several choir members, and the previous hometown of several others.
Tonight we did some experimental audio and video recording, in the hope of being able to put together some videos to post online, and extend our ministry. If that was a success, you’ll be notified when they’re available.
Monday, July 26 The drive from Abbeville, South Carolina to South Boston, Virgina was our longest bus ride. Quiet time on the bus this morning was an hour, instead of the usual half hour. Most of us welcomed the extra time to slepep, read, have our personal devotions, or jus thave some quiet chill-time. There was plenty of time for bus activities – Rook, Black 13, Indiana Jones, some for seemingly made-up rhythm game that sounded more like a primitive tribal ritual than a group game. 🙂 It was interesting to watch, though. Some people played with and entertained the children (or was it the other way around?), some had discussions of varying depths and intensities, and others contented themselves with simply watching and listening from the sidelines. Arriving in South Boston, we were thrilled to see our evening program location – The Prizery. The building was a tobacco processing facility, which has recently been repurposed as a community center, with a banquet hall, an art gallery, and a performing arts theater. Ebeneezer Mennonite Church, our hosting congregation, was too small, so The Prizery generously donated the use of their facility. The building is gorgeous, and the theater very nice. We weren’t accustomed to the acoustic type, but were thrilled with the opportunity to sing there. We were also very happy to be able to sing in the community – the local church is very involved in reaching out to their community, especially wih music. The program was well attended, with people from the local Mennonite churches, as well as the community at large. We were very blessed to be able to converse with them, and hopefully bless their lives with the music.
Sunday, July 25 The day began earlier than normal. This morning we met at 7:45 at the Foothills Christian Fellowship in Landrum, South Carolina, and began purr morning warm-up exercises – humming and chewing, stretching, back rubs, range-builders, and vowel practice. Morning programs require a bit more warmup time than do evening programs, so we were at it for a while. We were welcomed to the church by a very friendly crowd. In the middle of the service we were priveledged to sing an impromptu song with the local choir; an enjoyable experience for all of us. It’s always enjoyable to interact with other choirs, and to be able to connect on another level.
After an extended lunch and while preparing to leave, we were informed that the bus wouldn’t start. There were several “mechanic-types” present, and were soon able to diagnose the problem, and identify a solution. I think that there was a bad switch, obviously something very integral to the ignition. We were able to depart on time, and I think that the problem is fixed. We’ve been very thankful for safe traveling, and no other problems. The drive to Abbeville was relatively short; we arrived in the mid-afternoon, and had time to rest, eat supper, and warmup before the program. Again, we met family and friends from afar – Indiana, Ohio, Iowa, Georgia, and perhaps a few other places, in addition to the locals. Familiar faces in foreign places are always a welcome sight!
Saturday, July 24 When we arrived at the bus his morning, we noticed that it was bedecked with streamers and signs. Someone was apparently having a birthday! Yes, today is Martha’s birthday. There were gifts and presentations, singing both fun (the choir’s “most original efforts” – per Rosie), and cute (the bus driver’s 4 year old daughter. The birthday activities were definitely enjoyed throughout the day! When we opened the bus doors into South Carolina, we were greeted by a wall of heat – it was 100+ degrees! It is times like these, especially, when we are thankful for air conditioning. After a brief rest period, we dug into our music, and spent several hours practicing. The music is beginning to lock in, but there are trouble spots that need some attention. There were also several hours scheduled for “recreational activities”. This included, but was not limited to, volleyball, email, facebook, personal music practice, sleeping, walking, playing with the bus driver’s children, and playing piano. It was very nice to relax – we hadn’t had very much extended relaxation time.
The program tonight was hosted by the Island Creek congregation, but we held the program in The First Baptist Church of Hillsville, Virginia. Before the programs we typically have about a half hour to meet the congregation, and tonight we were honored to meet folks from a variety of churches in the area. We enjoy the meet & greet time as a way to become acquainted with them, and to break the ice. I enjoy it as a way to create rapport, and to break down the barrier between “us” (the choir) and “them” (the congregation). It feels less like a performance, and more like a time of sharing.
Today we met at Faith Mennonite High School, near Lancaster Pennsylvania, and spent most of the day rehearsing for the 2010 tour. In addition to the music practice, we spent some time studying the song texts. The day was full, but we made a lot of progress. Thanks for your prayers and support!
We sang to a very large audience at Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. It was a highlight for us to be able to sing with them – their congregational singing is delightful! We were blessed by singing to them and with them.
We gave a program at Blandon Mennonite Church in Blandon, Pennsylvania. The ride there was interesting; we narrowly avoided a head-on collision with a car traveling the wrong way down the highway. With the help of God, our bus driver was able to swerve out of the way without hitting anyone. I do hope that the little old lady was ok. The congregation there was very warm and receptive. We felt welcome, and were treated with utmost kindness.
The first few weekdays in Colorado were spent rehearsing, which was mostly very delightful and enjoyable! Our dear director did a wonderful job of planning interesting rehearsal time. Pueblo Youth Center was our first prison program, and our audience was a long row of rough looking teens. As the evening progressed, we could see them warming up to us and seeming to enjoy the presentation, which had a few extras such as a skit and impromptu hymns. Afterwards we enjoyed some interaction with them. Denver Women’s prison was our second prison, and also a very rewarding experience! The women were very responsive, and especially loved the hymn “Amazing Grace.” Afterwards we had a short time to interact, and we were delighted to convince a few of the African-American ladies to sing for us.
This morning’s program was at Calvary Chapel in Sturgis Michigan. We were blessed to be able to share our complete program this morning after Sunday School. Only 1 more concert left: Sandy Ridge Mennonite Church in Nappanee Indiana. It’s a bit of a bittersweet moment. Tour is fulfilling, enjoyable, and uplifting, but it is also good to go home. We’re almost there. Coming back to Sandy Ridge to give our final program was very enjoyable. We rehearsed here before tour started, and we feel some affinity and connection with the church. We enjoyed a good tour without any major problems. God blessed us with safe travelling, speedy border crossings, receptive audiences, and a deeper understanding of who He is through these songs.
Another day to relax and see some sights! St. Jacobs is a quaint little town with cute little shops – quilts, antiques, local crafts, and boutiques. We hiked some scenic trails and enjoyed some local beauty. We were also able to sing “Goin’ Home” on a real front porch. We sang this song in concert as if we were actually on a front porch, and this was an enjoyable moment with an appreciative audience of those passing by. Our last program in Ontario was at Zion Mennonite Church – a small historic building bedecked with ornate woodwork, panel ceilings, and stained glass. The concert was simply exhilarating! It seemed that the building could scarcely contain the sound! Both the congregational and choral singing were wonderful experiences.
Leaving Guys Mills, PA, we traveled to Ontario, via Niagara Falls. The falls are breathtaking! As I was looking at the falls, and taking in their splendour, I couldn’t help but praise God for His beauty and majesty. While at the falls, we were given the opportunity to talk with many different people about who we are and what we were doing.It is always interesting to interact with strangers and share the goodness of God. We traveled to Faith Mennonite Church, which was to act as our “home” for our time in Ontario. Their facilities were quite accommodating for our rehearsal and recreational needs.
Today we rehearsed and relaxed. It’s good to get in some laid back rehearsal time, and to relax for a day without traveling. We enjoyed volleyball, naps, and general refreshment, before heading to Countryside for an evening program.
Northwest PA is beautiful! While en route to Guys Mills, we spent some time relaxing at a scenic overlook. It was nice to get out and stretch, take a walk, throw Frisbee, or enjoy quiet reflection. A warm and receptive crowd at Faith Builders Education Programs welcomed us, and fed us a nice meal after the program. A common theme among the audiences so far is that Lux strikes a chord. God’s creation of beauty in music is completely awe-inspiring! The harmonies in Lux are breath taking, and listening to them really is like being bathed in a warm light. We do serve a wonderful God!
We travelled to Lewisburg, PA today, and were served a wonderful supper by Duane Troyer’s family. The chicken enchilada casserole and fresh squeezed lemonade were delightful! Our evening program was special in that we had some lighting effects with “Goin’ Home”. The dimmed lights fit our final two songs perfectly. The audience also seemed to especially enjoy “O Come All Ye Faithful”.
This morning we gave our program at United Bethel in Plain City, Ohio. Also in the morning service, we heard from a Gideon’s representative who shared fascinating stories about the work they are doing around the world. The evening program was sponsored by the Hartville Conservative congregation and hosted by Bethany Mennonite Church. They have a lovely building that was filled with around 500 people.
We met at the convention and gave a short program in the morning session, and conducted our workshop on congregational worship. This was a learning experience, both for us, and the workshop attendees. In the evening we departed from Sandy Ridge, and headed for Ohio.
Practice today wasn’t just for the tour programs, but also for a workshop in which we were asked to participate at the BMA Convention. In the evening we went to the convention and presented a few songs. We enjoyed sharing God’s message with such a large audience.
We rehearsed again in the morning, and gave our first program at Christina Mission Fellowship in Berne, IN. We were welcomed by a warm group of people in a small building. Practice is good, but singing with an audience helps to stabilize our music, and gives meaning to the work. It’s a wonderful thing to revel in the beauty of music, and, through that, the Person of Jesus Christ.
We met at Sandy Ridge Mennonite Church in Nappanee to rehearse for a 12 day bus tour of the eastern US & southern Ontario. By this time, we had our songs memorized and the texts studied. Our 2 1/2 days here were spent on interpretation and internalizing the texts. Today we took specific texts and performed them as skits, giving us both light moments, and a chance to reflect on some core thoughts in the text.
Sunday included two programs in Hutchinson, Kansas. Our audiences were very responsive and we felt priveledged to be God’s vessels, in sharing His light and truth through song! All praise to the Lord! Sunday evening, after some final words and songs of farewell, we parted. A large part of the chorale traveled to their homes on a bus from Lancaster, and so we had many stops along the way to drop off members at various meeting places. And so ended Oasis Tour 2008. A big thank you to family and friends who supported us through prayer, words of encouragement, or by your presence. We couldn’t do this without you!
Saturday found us traveling back to Kansas and enjoying many good bus times as we visited, sang, played games, and got involved in various stimulating discussions. In a group this size there are always many opinions and personalities, so a trip like this entails many interesting times.
Then for preparation to sing for our biggest audience… Thursday and Friday we traveled to the Sacred Heart Cathredal, where we were to record. The beauty, immensity, and acoustics of this cathredal made you want to preserve a holy hush…and to sing in it was totally delightful! We spent the afternoons rehearsing, then later in the evenings, after spending some time praying together, we started recording and recorded until quite late, since those hours lent to more quietness on the streets outside. It was an amazing priveledge to record in this enviroment! Each song was committed to God before recording, and we pray that these songs would truly be a blessing and healing balm to our listeners.
Wednesday we had different choices for recreaction. A big part of us chose to go rafting and brave the fierce white water of the Arkansas River, so until the end of the day we had experienced much exciting adventure! Some others enjoyed the breathtaking sights of the Royal Gorge, while still others chose to do a few work projects for the New Horizon’s Mission before taking an afternoon hike. In the evening we gave a program at Colorada Territorial Correctional Facility.
Our Sunday evening activity was a big highlight of the trip. A committee was appointed to plan an evening of text studies from our repertoire. It turned out to be a very meaningful evening and was very beneficial to understanding the song texts, and allowing God to speak to us through the rich words of these songs that we had so long poured over. We spent time praying, sharing insights, and discussing the text, then had time alone and with our eight voice parts, sharing insights with each other. For some, this time with our voice parts was a time of connecting on a deep level, sharing our hearts, and drawing closer to God and each other as we prepared to sing together.
We met in Kansas on June 20th, and after a day and a half of rehearsing, we boarded the bus to travel west to Colorado, where we were hosted at the New Horizon’s Mission in Canon City. It was Oasis Chorale’s third tour to Colorado under NHM, a ministry that provides foster care for babies of incarcerated mothers. Through NHM we were able to obtain entrance into the prisons. Sunday we gave our first program at the NHM home church. We were also blessed to have a few ladies along to cook for us during our week in Colorado. They took their job seriously, and we ate delicious meals!
Another tour…another time of blessing and opportunity to enjoy the richness of God’s gifts! Preparations for Oasis Tour ’08 started long before the tour began. Our first time together as a Oasis 2008 group was in April, when we met in Harrisonburg, Virginia for a weekend rehearsal. Rehearsal was intense, rewarding, and stretching. It was also very much fun to sing under Wendell’s directing, and with each other. We left with many hours of preparation ahead, and with anticipation for the tour that lay before us!
Doreen Berry – Kirksville, MO Regina Brubaker – Harrisonburg, VA Rosemary Eberly – Harrisonburg,VA Lana Martin – Orrstown, PA Caroline Mast – Linn Grove, IN (AR) Kendra Miller – Bourbon,IN Jeanene Nisly – Harrisonburg,VA Charlene Stoltzfoos – Kinzers,PA
Rebecca Brenneman – Linwood, ON Mollie Cassidy – Perkins,OK Martha Lapp – NewHolland, PA Audrey Kuhns – Arcola,IL Brenda Kuhns – Arcola, IL (PA) Jenelle Miller – Kalona, IA Sarah Sommers – Dalton, OH Rose Stoltzfus – Oxford, PA Bethany Troyer – QuakerCity, OH
Bill Bergen – Staples,ON Laverne Glick – Gap,PA Nathan Hobbs – Potwin,KS Mannie King – Kinzers, PA Nolan Martin – Narvon, PA Leonard Mast – Linn Grove, IN (AR) Franklin Miller – Minerva, OH James Swartz – Harrisonburg, VA
Tony Beachy – PlainCity, OH Lavelle Beiler – Smoketown, PA Daniel Brubaker – Olar, SC Jonathan Fisher – Kinzers, PA (AR) Vernon Kuhns – Lovington, IL Philip Lebold – Millbank,ON Gene Miller- Partridge, KS Jotham Yoder – Stanardsville, VA Michael Yoder – Blufton,IN
Then there was the unforgettable chorale Director and his sometimes motley tribe. Discussions. Games like Sudoku, Ghost, and Scum. Parody songfests. Ticklish Reuben. Gene’s legacy of travel woes. The Hood. You never knew what you were going to see or hear next. This was a group with a strange mixture of maturity and hilarity, neither trait being mutually exclusive in anyone! What a joy to travel with them.
Jonathan and Joyce Yoder, also members of Dunmore East Fellowship, established the contacts and put together our itinerary. We were blessed to have them travel with us to most of our concerts. They also planned a number of memorable sightseeing stops, which we thoroughly enjoyed. One highlight for everyone was a hike to a mountain lake, a lake nestled between crags of one of Ireland’s “mountain” peaks. Other memorables included Waterford Crystal, the Dean and Rock of Cashel, London (and the Tower Bridge at night, and the red telephone booths, for some), Bunratty Castle, and the Dunbrody famine ship.
Even more important than the sights, though, were the people we met. Our hosts were always generous and kind. They also paid a price to make this a delightful tour. We were frequently served a meal before and a tea after a concert. Along with the unforgettable Dean of Cashel, we could mention the brothers and sisters at Dunmore East, our tour guide in London and his family, the family at Sandiway Gospel in Norwich, the couple stranded at JFK due to lost passports, our bus driver Shawn, and the many dear Christian people we spoke with before and after concerts. Listening to the stories of their lives just confirmed that God is at work in the hearts of people all over the world, wherever anyone is listening. We also had a number of opportunities to share our faith and history. Many people recognized us as Amish but that is about all they knew. So, we were sharpened and encouraged as we answered various questions.
Here we were also served many delicious meals, cooked by the local ladies and by two of our chorale members whose primary responsibility was food management and preparation.These two did such a good job that we let them travel around with us and attend each concert. We also took in some fine Irish and English cuisine in homes and restaurants. However, sometimes the food readily available was out of our preferred price range, so we patronized local grocery stores.
After we arrived in Ireland on July 16, we spent several more days rehearsing and re-memorizing our music. This took place at Dunmore East Christian Fellowship where Brother Dan Yoder is the Senior Pastor. This Amish Mennonite congregation graciously allowed us to use their church building for our rehearsals. This place functioned as our home base. From here we went on several one day trips, a three day trip through northern Ireland, and a four day trip to England and Wales. Most of the male choir members also lodged here, while the ladies stayed in the homes of various members of this congregation.
In July 2007, Oasis Chorale completed their second tour to Ireland and England. A core group of Chorale members had also been on the 2003 tour, but for many of us, a singing tour in a foreign country was brand new. We were not disappointed. The highlight was, of course, singing! We sang in many beautiful churches but also in some rather ordinary churches. More importantly, our audiences were very appreciative and communicative, which helped our tour to feel like a ministry rather than just a series of performances.
Like usual, nothing good comes unless a price has been paid by someone. We as a chorale met in May for a weekend rehearsal in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. During this time, we penciled our music scores with all manner of coded scratches at the direction of our beloved director. Then we headed home, took a deep breath, and commenced to memorize everything. Many intense hours were spent, which proved to be a worthy investment.
Friday, July 20 8:00 @ Kilkenny Presbyterian Church, Kilkenny City Saturday, July 21 7:30 @ Dunmore East Christian Fellowship, Co. Waterford Sunday, July 22 7:00 @ Clon Beg Church (short 1/2 hr. service) 8:30 @ Church of Ireland Cathedral – Cashel, Co Tipperary Monday, July 23 8:30 @Clogher Presbyterian Church, Co. Tyrone Tuesday, July 24 7:00 @ Newbridge Bible Fellowship Church, Co. Kildare Friday, July 27 7:00 @ The Finnish Church in London, England Saturday, July 28 7:00 @ St. Mary’s Church, Aylesbury, England Sunday, July 29 6:00 @ Sandiway Gospel Church, Northwich, England Tuesday, July 31 8:00 @ Good Shepherd Convent, Waterford City Wednesday, August 1 8:00 @ Listowel Christian Fellowship, County Kerry Friday, August 3 7:30 @ Bank Mennonite Church, Harrisonburg VA Saturday, August 4 6:30 @ Shippensburg Christian Fellowship, Shippensburg PA Sunday, August 5 2:30 @ Weaverland Mennonite Church, Blue Ball, PA
Monday, July 16 Depart for JFK International Airport – 2:30 pm Tuesday, July 17 Arrive at Shannon International Airport- 8.55AM Tour Bunratty Castle & Folk Park Travel to Dunmore East Overnight at Dunmore East Christian Fellowship Wednesday, July 18 Rehearsal Cliff Walk Overnight at Dunmore East Thursday, July 19 Rehearsal Beach Walk Overnight at Dunmore East Friday, July 20 Morning rehearsal (if needed) Tour Nicholas Mosse Pottery Kilkenny City CONCERT: 8:00 @ Kilkenny Presbyterian Church, Kilkenny City Overnight at Dunmore East Saturday, July 21 Tour Dunbrody Famine Ship Tour Hook Head Lighthouse CONCERT: 7:30 @ Dunmore East Christian Fellowship, Co. Waterford Overnight at Dunmore East
Sunday, July 22 Church at Dunmore East Christian Fellowship Travel to Cashel CONCERT: 7:00 @ Clon Beg Church (short 1/2 hr. service) CONCERT: 8:30 @ Church of Ireland Cathedral – Cashel, Co Tipperary Overnight with hosts in Cashel Monday, July 23 Tour Rock of Cashel Travel to Tyrone CONCERT: 8:30 @ Clogher Presbyterian Church, Co. Tyrone Overnight with hosts in Tyrone Tuesday, July 24 Tour Ulster-American Folk Park CONCERT: 7:00 @ Newbridge Bible Fellowship Church, Co. Kildare Overnight at Newgrange Lodge Wednesday, July 25 Tour Dublin Travel to Dunmore East Rest, Rehearse, and Relax Thursday, July 26 Morning sailing from Rosslare, Ireland to Fishguard, Wales Travel across Wales and England to London Overnight at Thameside Hostel Friday, July 27 Tour London CONCERT: 7:00 @ The Finnish Church in London, England Overnight at Thameside Hostel Saturday, July 28 Travel from London to Oxford CONCERT: 7:00 @ St. Mary’s Church, Aylesbury, England Overnight at Oxford Hostel
Sunday, July 29 Attend a morning service at a local cathedral Travel to Cheshire CONCERT: 6:00 @ Sandiway Gospel Church, Northwich, England Overnight on bus and ferry en route to Dunmore Monday, July 30 Return to Dublin on night ferry Travel to Dunmore East Rest Overnight at Dunmore East Tuesday, July 31 Tour Waterford Crystal Hike and Picnic at Mahon Falls CONCERT: 8:00 @ Good Shepherd Convent – Waterford City Overnight at Dunmore East Wednesday, August 1 Travel along southern Ireland coast CONCERT: 8:00 @ Listowel Christian Fellowship, County Kerry Overnight at Jamaica Inn near Shannon Thursday, August 2 Leave from Shannon International Airport – 9:30 am Arrive at JFK at 11:40 A.M. Arrive in Lancaster, PA between 4:00 and 5:00 pm Friday, August 3 Travel to Harrisonburg, VA CONCERT: 7:30 @ Bank Mennonite Church, Harrisonburg VA Saturday, August 4 Travel to Shippensburg, PA CONCERT: 6:30 @ Shippensburg Christian Fellowship, Shippensburg PA
Sunday, August 5 Sunday School at SCF Travel to Lancaster, PA CONCERT: 2:30 @ Weaverland Mennonite Church – Blue Ball, PA
A highlight of tour was being able to record our second album, In Endless Light, in the Sacred Heart Cathedral of Pueblo, CO. Besides being a beautiful old cathedral with an awesome atmosphere, the acoustics were flattering! All of our recording was done in two late evenings, since outside traffic was at a minimum then. We wrapped up tour with a program in Hutchinson, KS, on Saturday, followed by Sunday programs in Arcola, IL, and Kokomo, IN. A very tired but blessed Chorale dispersed to their various homes the next day.
White water rafting on the Arkansas River provided an exciting twist of adventure! To say that our group of rookie rafters enjoyed the day is to put it mildly! Some of us settled for a 10 mile ride, while others opted to keep on rafting right through the Royal Gorge for an extra thrill.
It was exciting to be back in Colorado, with all it’s rugged beauty and wonderful climate! Loren Miller with New Horizons Ministries made arrangements for us to sing in several of the prisons we had in 2004, along with some we had never sang in. Once more we were encouraged by the inmates who lived with free hearts in spite of being in prison. Many other inmates, especially the young offenders, brought sadness to our hearts as we saw them living without hope in Jesus.
In July of 2005, Oasis Chorale headed west to sing in the prisons of Colorado, working through New Horizons Ministries, a ministry that provides foster childcare for children of incarcerated mothers. The Chorale met in Kokomo, IN for 2 1/2 days of intense rehearsal before beginning the long bus ride to Colorado. A short stop in Leon, IA, for an evening program and overnight stay broke up our journey.
The privilege of singing in the huge, resounding cathedrals of Ireland was a highlight of the trip! We enjoyed the opportunity to connect with our audiences through music, along with the interaction we had as we met people personally.
A few day trips, touring the West, must not be left un-chronicled. We rode to the top of Pike’s Peak and to the bottom of the Royal Gorge, took the plunge and swung out over the Royal Gorge, climbed rocks in the Garden of the Gods, and toured Focus on the Family’s headquarters.
We concluded the tour with two Sunday programs in Hutchinson, Kansas. It was a fitting end to a wonderful tour. We are grateful to God for letting us minister in this way to the prisoners of Colorado and other people who crossed our paths.
The chorale met in Kansas, which was in the thick of harvest. After rehearsing for a grueling day and a half, we drove to Colorado, but not before Wendell arranged for combine rides for the chorale members. The stark beauty of Colorado’s deserts and mountains greeted us in Westcliffe, where we shared a program with the Mennonite church.
Our evenings and some afternoons were given to sharing in song with the inmates at different prisons, we spent our mornings in workshops conducted by Wendell Nisly (conductor), Lyle Stutzman (assistant conductor), and Joe Miller. The subjects included: Philosophy of Music, Sight Singing, Pitch, Vocal Production, Rhythm, and Choral Conducting. All of these proved to be beneficial to the chorale, but perhaps the most controversial and thought-provoking workshop was Philosophy of Music. The concerts in prisons were eye-opening for many of the chorale members. It was saddening to see people, young and old, who had been incarcerated for years on end. Even more sad to witness were their countenances, worn by years of suffering, pain, and sin. What a privilege to bring the Good News to these souls, and to meet the Christians who also were behind bars!
In the summer of 2004, Oasis Chorale headed west to sing in the prisons of Colorado, working through New Horizons Ministries, a ministry that provides foster childcare for children of incarcerated mothers. Through NHM, we were able to gain access to prisons in and around Canon City that otherwise may not have been open to the Chorale.
In July of 2003, Oasis Chorale took their very first tour; to Ireland, England, and Wales! Dan Yoders and the Dunmore East Christian Fellowship served as our base in Ireland, and from there we traveled to various places for evening programs. Several times our journeys took us away overnight, nd we were privileged to stay in Irish homes and even patronized youth hostels several times.
We were awed at the beauty of Ireland! A winding cliff walk hugged the rugged coastline overlooking the Irish sea near the Yoder’s, where heather, gorse, and wildflowers grew. The thick, soft grass made a perfect mattress to fall into! We reveled in the beauty as our schedule allowed, taking the cliff walk all the way into the little town of Dunmore East. While most of our evenings were given to singing, we did quite a bit of sightseeing as we traveled to various churches. Some of the highlights included Waterford Crystal, the Rock of Cashel, the Cliffs of Mohr, and the city of Dublin. The charming Irish accent and friendly faces, coupled with the beauty and incredible history, made our stay in Ireland a memorable one!
The Chorale arrived on July 31, groggy and tired after a long night time flight, preceded by two grueling days of rehearsal in Lancaster, PA. After a bit of sight seeing and a chance to catch a good night’s rest, we commenced to an all day rehearsal. That evening we gave our first program at the Dunmore East Christian Fellowship.