The Concordia Choir traditionally goes on our 16-day choir tour over the week of spring break and the following week. We arrive back at Concordia in time for a concert that following Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. While on tour, the Choir performs in churches and high schools. For sleeping arrangements, the Choir either stays in a hotel or has a homestay in the homes of the congregation of the church we performed in that night. While on tour we have a slew of traditions that take place either on the buses, during dinner, or before our performances. These traditions are one of the main highlights of choir tour, which garner lots of laughs and promote lots of camaraderie within the Choir. One example of a tradition we have is dinner entertainment. The Choir board assigns the new members of the choir different groups such as Skit Crew, Senior Interview, Fashion Report, and many others. These groups perform during dinner time every day for the returning members. Their performances are always met with lots of laughter and are the basis for many inside jokes throughout the choir. Although we usually travel through many states during choir tour, the best way to give a good snapshot of what choir tour is like is to give the top four places we spend the majority of our time from least to greatest: the bathroom, the charter bus, the performance space, and our host families’ homes.
The bathrooms on our charter buses are reserved for emergencies only (and forgetful people). Naturally, that either leaves us to use the bathroom at the church we’re performing in, at the hotel, or at our host family’s house. With a completely new eating schedule that involves eating three large meals a day, and the responsibility to keep hydrated at all times, one can expect that the bathroom would be an all too familiar and necessary sight for us choir members. Our host families usually cook a very diverse breakfast for us in the mornings, which consists of eggs, bacon, bagels, pancakes, juice, and coffee, and expect us to chow down. Naturally, who can say no to bacon. Then, we eat a fast food lunch on the road to our next location. Lastly, at the church there’s always a hearty dinner waiting for us with tableful of desserts that rival the entrée table. The main courses I’ve had on tour have been pasta, pizza, tacos, and pulled pork sandwiches. On top of all of this, we’re expected to keep hydrated at all times to keep our vocal chords in tip top shape, which warrants in itself at least three bathroom trips a day, sometimes at convenient times and sometimes at the most inconvenient time (for example, right when we’re about to go on stage for the second half of the concert).
We spend a lot of time on our two 48-passenger charter buses going from venue to venue. On these buses is when a lot of camaraderie happens either through various games like Contact, cards, Facebook basketball, or, most famously this year, cribbage. Traditionally, each bus has a name: the animal bus and the people bus. The animal bus is usually as loud as we want (with the exception of yelling profusely). The people bus, contrarily, is quiet with people usually either doing homework, listening to music, reading, or sleeping. Both buses are great places to get to know other choir members whom you have yet to interact with. Needless to say, these bus rides are what you make of them. You can talk, do homework silently, play games, or just sleep with your headphones on.
Once we arrive at the performance venue we rarely leave until the end of the concert. For a 7:30 p.m. concert we arrive there at around 3:30 p.m. to set up our risers and shells we bring with us. By 4:30 p.m. we’re up on the risers testing out the space’s acoustics, rehearsing getting on and off the risers, and determining soloists for the night. 5:30 p.m. is dinner, 7:10 p.m. is devotions, and 7:30 p.m. is when we start our two hour long concert. We get out of there by around 10:00 p.m. (which is when tear down gets done) to either go to our host families homes or the hotel. This entire process is repeated 15 times on tour, so you could say we get quite accustomed to how everything operates.
The number one place that the choir spends the most time at is our host family’s homes. These home-stays are a highlight of our tour for both the choir members and the families hosting us. We have great conversations with our host families that start out with “We loved your concert so much!” move on to “What are your majors?” or “Where are you from?” go on to “Goodnight, and sleep well!” and end with, “We’re so glad we could host you. Have a great rest of your trip!” after we arrive back at the church to load the charter buses. We are told to stay away from politics or hot-button topics with our host families. We want to make a positive impact on their lives, not one that leaves a bad taste in their mouths.
Obviously, there are a number of places that we also spend time at. For example, fast food restaurants, hotels, and all the various places we have extra time to visit like The Garden of the Gods, The Phoenix Zoo, or the Airforce Chapel at the Airforce Academy in Colorado Springs. These other places make just as much of an impact on our lives as the host stays do, if not more. But the most fulfilling part of the trip is seeing how much of a positive impact we are making on the lives of the people we perform for every night; seeing their faces after every applause, talking with them after the concert, and seeing their standing ovations. We really do make an impact on the lives of everyone that attends our concerts for the better. In this politically charged world our only refuge is the knowledge that our Father in Heaven loves us dearly. With every song we sing, we remind the audience of that fact, and provide the fulfillment they need through our powerful musical expression to heal the sin sick soul.