So with today being The Ides of March, it was a?guaranteed sign?that something interesting would happen; and indeed it did. After another wonderful night with our host families, we gathered into our buses and headed back to Frankenmuth for a chance to explore both downtown and Bronner’s CHRISTtmas Wonderland for some last-minute shopping.
Frankenmuth was one of Michigan?s #1 tourist stops, and they certainly made an impact with their German decor. While going through the stores they had everything from German hats to live accordion music playing in the restaurants. Everyone was extremely friendly, and the food at our lunch stop was ?Just like ma used to make.? Walking around was pleasant due to the warm sun and non-frigid temperatures.
After our afternoon excursion, we drove a three-hour ride to St. Paul’s?Lutheran Church in?Stevensville to perform our last concert of the tour. For a handful of seniors, this was their last time to sing the ?Thank You Song” after eating a church-provided meal, their last ?Abide With Me? away from the Wisconsin Lutheran College campus, and the last time that they would stay with a host family.
I know that as we head back to campus tomorrow everyone will be reflecting on the memories and connections made on this tour; but I?m glad we are not done yet [the tour home concert was yet to come as of this writing]. It will be nice to make music with this group of people a few more times before we go our separate ways; and as we all continue on in our personal endeavors, I am reminded of what we sang in The Music of Living:
I want to move in rhythm with your plan.? Help me to follow your leading. To risk even falling, to rise and keep trying. For You are leading the dance.God has richly blessed this musical family with safe travels and memories we will cherish; but none of this could have been possible without the guidance of Dr. Nowack and his wife Dorothy (a.k.a. Mom). We are thankful for them each and every day in helping carry out the choir?s mission to glorify God through the music we have been graced to hear.Oh, that the Lord would guide my ways To keep His statutes still! Oh, that my God would grant me grace To know and do His will!
FOND DU LAC, Wisconsin, and ESCANABA, Michigan –
We went to bed at 1:00am. At 2:00am the clocks turned forward to 3:00am. In the wee hours of the morning at 6:30am, I woke up to Syd singing, ?You are so beautiful to me!? I thought about hitting her in the head with my pillow but I couldn?t muster up the strength to actually do so. The two of us finished getting ready and sat down to eat a wonderful breakfast with our host mom who was student tour manager Dan’s grandmother. She told us so many funny stories and laughed as we shared our own stories. I still to this day can honestly say I have always had wonderful host families on choir tours!
We then packed up our bags and headed for the church at 7:45am. When we got there we found out?that one of our motorcoaches?had broken down before it could even make it to the parking lot of the church. We were instructed to at least pack the bus that?had made it back to church?so that?we could quickly get going as soon as the new bus arrived. While we waited, Syd got a bright idea. ?Let?s go play on the swings!? she cried. So, excitedly, like little children, we hurried outside to the playground just next to the church. After we satisfied the children inside ourselves talking through the cup telephones, sliding across the bridge, and attempting but failing to climb the monkey bars we were once so talented at, we headed toward the bus to start finding a seat. Dorothy Nowack, our fearless tour manager, lovingly told us how crazy we were as she laughed at the silliness that was happening before her eyes. We were also instructed to gather up the waiting choir members?since the new bus was on its way. Away we leapt and danced into the church to convey the message. ?Assemble da minions!? Sydney called as we ran into the church. How we have this kind of energy in the morning is baffling not only to the rest of the choir but to me as well.
Soon enough we were on the bus and headed to Green Bay for brunch, our second meal in two and a half hours. We pulled up to the Old Country Buffet at approximately 10:00am, and were welcomed by the sight and smell of mac and cheese, fried chicken, tacos, ice cream, and slushies?and they called this brunch? While there, Jacob? discovered the secret to curing a brain freeze, and Lydia discovered that the whole plate of food she had eaten was the same color (you know what they say). Promptly at 10:50am, we loaded the bus and headed off to Salem Lutheran Church in Escanaba, a.k.a. “Enchilada” to Coltyn. Somewhere along the way, we crossed the time zone into Eastern time, ?We?re on home time now!? I, Syd,?exclaimed to Court. Though, at this point, I lost all recognition of how to tell time with the multiple time changes. So sometime between 1:00pm and 3:00pm, we arrived at Salem Lutheran welcomed by a delicious dinner and an ice cream bar following our concert, and a pink-adorned nursery room for the men?s changing room.
Between 5:00pm and 7:00pm, the choir had dispersed, either to host families or hotel rooms. Court and I dashed to our own room 205, feeling the slightest bit sorry for the poor souls who had to room us. ?Now what?? room 205 asked each other as we lay on our beds trying to get up. Thankfully, Amanda had peanut butter and jelly trail mix for rejuvenation, and with that we headed down to the apparently luxurious Jacuzzi and pool. As we neared the pool room, we heard evidence of a clan of people singing. What was supposed to be a relaxing ?night at the spa? turned into a Frozen-themed, lukewarm hot tub experience; not quite what we expected. Then again, spontaneity breeds memories.
At 7:40pm we noticed that the hotel clock said 6:40pm so we had no idea what the correct time was. Everyone?s phones read something different. Then Court turned to me and said, ?we just lost two hours of sleep?? We laughed about that for a good five minutes, ?better get to sleep now if I want to get 9 hours of sleep!? said Brittany. As our dear friend and fellow choir member, Abby, said as she worked her way through the crowded hall of the church to her spot in line, ?just keep swimming, just keep swimming.? That is what we do. We just keep swimming when things don’t go as planned?or are out of our control. We are a well-oiled machine, as Court always says. Constantly rolling with the punches and continuing to swim through tour and its challenges. It always makes for good memories. Just keep swimming!
Syd and Court]]>
Waking up early always seems to be easier when you know you have a fun day ahead of you, and today was one of those days. The bustling breakfast got the day going, and my group set out for Niagara Falls. Traveling is a new activity for me, and going anywhere really gets me excited to see the new things. After a quick nap on the bus I woke up in?Niagara Falls, Ontario, where you could smell the tourism in the air. The cold hit us hard as we walked out of the warm bus, but thankfully I had bought an insulated baseball cap with ear covers the day before (great impulse buy, I know). Immediately, the cameras and phones were pulled out and pictures were snapped of friends, the river, the hill and city, and, of course, the falls. Tons and tons of water poured over the edge and shot up in the air and created large hills of snow on the ice below the falls. After a bit, the frigid air forced most of us into the visitor’s center?and the restaurants and gift shops inside,?and forced a few people to do a bit of impulse buying.
The way back to Toronto was slowed down by quite the big city traffic, but the time was filled with card games, naps, and same antsy moving around waiting to get out on the town. On arrival a few of us had no idea what we planned on doing, and I was completely okay with that. Some groups went on a big walk to the mall, some went to a show at a theater, and a few of my friends and I walked around with almost no aim at all. Most times this would bother me, but the pure size of Toronto was enough to keep this kid from Green Bay, Wisconsin entertained. Being with a group of girls, we were?kept busy by all the stores on the few main streets around our hotel. We went to a highly recommended bar and grill and enjoyed some delicious food. My meal was the new glimpse of Canadian heaven, ?poutine,? [fries covered with gravy and cheese curds] which I had never heard of before, but I am going to miss it even more than hearing people telling me to ?Have a nice day, eh.? (That is saying a lot.)
After our meal, we wanted to possibly get on the subway and head over to the mall for a little bit. We walked downstairs, but?the throng of the busy people, the confusing signs, and the issue of not having the exact change scared us away from the subway and back to the hotel where we relaxed for a bit. The rest of the night was filled with a few card games, a movie, and a late night trip to the convenient store across the way to get some cookies and snacks. There was also an awesome jazz/rock band in the bar connected to the hotel where we got to listen to some fantastic live music, and watch some elderly people get their groove on out on the dance floor.
This full free day was wonderful. Spending time with friends, getting closer to new friends, and discovering more about this amazing world are just a few of the things that came from this amazing opportunity. I loved being able to tell the waitress that we were from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and we were in town as part of the Wisconsin Lutheran Choir’s performance tour. We were just bringing a little more diversity to the spectacular city of Toronto, and I have a feeling most of us will be bringing some great stories back home, eh?
I am a junior transfer student from Martin Luther College, and this is my first Wisconsin Lutheran Choir tour. I would say that my favorite part about our concert is joining hands to sing Abide with Me. This song is powerful because of the lyrics and the music surrounding them. I find great joy sharing this fine text and emotion with our audience. It is safe to say that this song means a lot to our choir. I would be lying if I did not say that the last verse did not make me tear up. And with that I would love for you to ponder this and know that we are sharing the Gospel and God?s word with many in Michigan and soon Canada.
Abide With Me: I fear no foe with thee at hand to bless, ills have to weight and tears no bitterness. Where is death?s sting? O grave thy victory? I triumph still if though abide with me.?
Even though I?m not a morning person, God is. As Lamentations 3:22-23 says, ?Because of the Lord?s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.? Maybe instead of focusing on my inability to function in the morning, I could appreciate the fact that I woke up in a hotel room sponsored by Salem Lutheran?s congregation members. I?ve only been awake for five hours, and already I?ve had the opportunity to see a beautiful sunrise?over Lake Michigan, cross the Mackinac Bridge, and take part in an impromptu performance of ?Abide With Me? at our lunchtime restaurant. As our entire group attempted a jumping photo op in front of the Mackinac Bridge, I realized just how blessed I am to have such a fantastic family of believers around me, all striving towards a common goal (even if, at the moment, it was to coordinate a leap on three).
It hard to believe that it?s already the third day of tour – the days have flown by as we make our way to Canada. The Lord has blessed us in so many ways thus far (even in the mornings when some of us might not deserve it), and I can?t wait to see what else He has in store for our choir family.
The Lord has blessed the Wisconsin Lutheran Choir with another wonderful tour opportunity. Today we headed out for Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, and received a sunny sendoff from family and friends. I think everyone is excited for the academic break and a chance to see new things off campus. Our first stop was lunch and Bublitz?s, a family restaurant buffet-style, followed by a 13-eam bowling tournament. Several photos have been taken and will be posted soon.
Our first concert stop was at Faith Lutheran Church, and we were fortunate to be able to attend a Saturday night church service that talked about Jesus being tempted in the wilderness. It just goes to show that we can praise and serve God anywhere at any time and in any way. The concert was a wonderful success and attended by many. Eric Whitacre?s?Alleluia?and?Abide With Me?were especially memorable.
Afterward, we spent the evening with our host families and had the opportunity to grow further in fellowship with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. With night one done and feeling on top of the world, I?m glad to share this experience with so many wonderful people and cannot wait to see what tomorrow and the rest of tour brings.
“And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
I love this Bible passage because it is a constant reminder that God is the author of our lives, and he has a plan and purpose for everything that happens in our lives. We don’t need to worry, because no matter what happens, God is in control.?It also is a great reminder of how God calls us to certain vocations in life based on the?individual skills and talents he has blessed us with. It is such a great?opportunity to be?part of a choir that is composed of such a diverse group of students that are blessed in?different areas of study. We all have uniquely beautiful ways of serving him through our vocations, but we are also all united in one mission to glorify him through song. Soli Deo Gloria.
I also wanted to take a minute to share a few works that I finished over this past semester. I will be graduating in May with a BA in art and hope to enter graduate school in the fall to receive my Master of Fine Arts ? the terminal degree in art. The oil paintings shown below were a part of the Islands & Lights: A Creative Arts Exhibition of WLC Art and Music Departments? Overseas Tours in the Schlueter Art Gallery this past fall. Inspired by the international concert tour I was able to go on with the Wisconsin Lutheran Choir last spring, these pieces were very fun to make ? especially as I remembered all the great memories from the trip. I am planning to make more pieces using the reference photos I took throughout the tour, but for now, I hope you enjoy these!
The first piece is ?A View from the Rock of Cashel,? showing the Rock of Cashel in ????Ireland. Choir members stand off to the right as they walk on the rolling hills of the Irish landscape. I found the view of the sky and land and the physical structure of the Rock of Cashel itself, run down with history and constant tourists, as such a neat and immense juxtaposition to the tiny figures taking it all in. As a choir, I think we constantly felt an overwhelming awe at the glory of God?s creation and the lands we were able to see outside of Wisconsin, USA.
The second piece is ?Capturing the Cathedral.? Taking in the many cathedrals as tourists, as well as having the chance to sing?in them, was quite the experience. In this piece, I hoped to show the almost hectic feel of walking into such a large cathedral. This particular cathedral is St. Patrick?s in Dublin, Ireland. By far one of the largest cathedrals we sang in the whole tour, the crowds that day were also just as big. As tourists, as well as members of the choir, I caught this moment as a bunch of us tried to take in the cathedral before we sang. Interesting how our ?taking in? of such a wonderful piece of architecture is capturing it through a camera lens?Luckily for us, we got to experience the glory of one of God?s houses as we sang praises to him in front of the altar seen in the background of my painting.
The next piece is ?Galway Bay.? During a walk with a few members of the choir in Galway, Ireland the night we arrived, this view caught my attention as the sun was going down. Almost like a picture postcard, the nice composition created by the colorfully painted houses in the background and the boats in the foreground make for an enjoyable painting. There were many of these beautiful scenes throughout our tour of Europe.
The final pieces are sketches I made throughout the tour showing?other tourist spots we saw and cathedrals or cafes we stopped at. I was so happy I brought my sketchbook along to make live drawings of the places and people I saw.
Merry Christmas to you all, and I can?t wait to sing for you all again in the spring!
I can say, fairly certainly, that Edward Pola and George Wyle, the writers of the popular Christmas song, ?It?s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,? were not college students in 1963 when they composed the song. College students?may be hard pressed to find examples of why late November and early December is ?the most wonderful time of the year? while neck high in group projects, presentations, juries, research papers, clinicals, along with a host of other daily tasks,?the number of which?rivals that of the angels in the sky on Christmas Eve. Stress from high expectations, whether looming or past, weighs on our minds as we continue to trudge through all the tasks that?must be completed within an ever-shortening span of time.
I can say from the personal experience of being a student through (almost) four full fall semesters at WLC that there are some days that are exactly the opposite of wonderful. There is, though, one part of my daily routine during these bleak and hectic times that provides a much needed relief from the pressures of the everyday grind: choir.
In spite of the impending doom of November and December, each year I anxiously await the time that our choir folders are filled to the brim with Christmas music to prepare for our Christmas Festival Concerts. Ever since my senior year of high school, the Christmas Festival Concerts at WLC have been the highlight of my Christmas season. This being my last year as a member of Wisconsin Lutheran Choir has led me to examine just how much I appreciate and will miss the fellowship that comes with hours of rehearsal and preparation for three evenings and an afternoon of beautiful choir music. I really can?t think of any better way to celebrate Jesus? birth than joining in fellowship and song with other Christians. So next time you?re tempted to grumble at the hustle and bustle that accompanies this season, just take a moment to remember why it really is the most wonderful time of the year.