Men’s Chorus Tour
Feb 26th–Mar 1st 2012
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Good evening from a soaked Beatrice, Nebraska! We have completed another day of tour, full of wonderful singing and community.
Before departing from Kansas, some of the men had the privilege of enjoying the donut shop in Newton, KS called Druber’s. Before going to the all-night restaurant, I was informed that it was something of a hotspot for Hesston students. It opens at 11:30 and stays open all night until closing in the morning to stay closed for the remainder of the day. The donuts were splendid! I could see why this place had a great reputation! I went with a small group of about eight of the guys, and when we got there it was clear this was a place that many of the host families wanted us to see. Eventually, there were about twenty or thirty Goshen men enjoying the fresh-made treats. I’m sure some of the Hesston people who may not have seen us in the morning were wondering who we were!
We got up in the morning and loaded the bus at Whitestone for a brief three to four hour trip to Beatrice. We had some fun along the way when we took a break at a rest stop containing the National Hall of Fame of Midget Car Racing. It took some of the men in the choir some time to figure out that this Hall of Fame was not in fact being un-PC, but was referring to the type of car that was raced, named a Midget Car. At that same rest stop, there was a gift shop full of Kansas artifacts run by a kind elderly lady. We thought we would sing her one of our songs, and we chose the Palistinian piece, “Ya Mariem.” She seemed to enjoy the song, but I’m sure it’s not every day that a large group of men comes in to her shop and sings loudly at her in Arabic.
We arrived in the early afternoon in Beatrice and went to a youth center in town called the “429 Factory.” The director opened the doors for us and allowed us to play for the afternoon. A group of the men started playing some soccer and others played basketball in the full-sized gym. (I, for one, played basketball, and did indeed beat the one and only Scott Hochstetler in two-on-two with Luke Slagel). Anyway, following that the soccer game continued and extended into the entire gym. This is a talented group and the soccer game was very high quality. We also used a relatively new white ball and turned it into a slightly ripped, not-so-white ball. We certainly feel bad about this, but hope the director realizes that this is just a sign that we had a very fun and competitive time.
Once school was let out in the area, the director picked up some local middle-school students who joined us at the center. We interacted with the kids for a short time and even sang for them before we left. They seemed to enjoy our presense there, as we provided something certainly out of the ordinary. The girls especially seemed rather smitten with a certain member of the choir, whose name shall be withheld. It could have been any of us, really, as we are all ridiculously good looking.
After the factory we went to First Mennonite Church in Beatrice. We had another wonderful dinner of pulled pork and baked beans. Seriously, these midwesterners really know their meat and barbecue! Once we were all stuffed we prepared for our concert. It went swimmingly, of course, and it seemed that the audience thourougly enjoyed it. It never gets old to hear after a concert from a spectator that they loved our singing.
Following the concert, we had the privilege of witnessing a thunderstorm in the Great Plains. It was truly gorgeous, but also a little frightening to see a storm from so far away and know that it is headed for you. But the storm came and was relatively brief, so most of us were not forced to trudge our luggage out to the cars in the sheets of rain.
Tomorrow we head to Iowa City. Hawkeye Country here we come!
Once we said our goodbyes to our new friends at Rainbow Mennonite Church, we got back on the bus to depart for Newton, Kansas. The three-hour bus ride to Shalom Mennonite Church was nothing compared to the ten-hour ride from Goshen to Kansas City. It was even a good time to rejuvenate and rest after the performance. With one performance under our belt, we were eager to provide another meaningful concert to the people at Shalom Mennonite Church. Once we got there, we were warmly welcomed by the members and were served a wonderfully authentic Russian Mennonite meal.
The sanctuary had great acoustics and after the concert, we received good comments from those in attendance. We got to meet up with our hosts from either Newton or Hesston. Unlike any other hosts for this tour, they were hosts for two nights, Sunday and Monday. We were grateful to converse with them both on the car ride and in their homes. Thanks for the gracious hospitality to all the hosts from Newton and Hesston!
The following morning, we got up and met at Hesston College Chapel in anticipation to perform for an audience primarily of our own age group. The performance did not include all of our repertoire, but it was exhilarating and somewhat nerve-wracking to be performing for a whole chapel full of students, staff, and community members. After the performance, we got to experience Hesston campus life by eating at the college’s dining hall and having a good three hours of free-time on campus. Some of the activities we enjoyed doing involved playing a variation of “500″ called “5″, ultimate frisbee, touring the campus, and hanging out at Larks Nest.
At 4:15pm the bus picked us up and took us to Panda Kitchen, which was Goshen College’s treat to the choir. We all enjoyed the opportunity to fill our stomachs with Chinese food. After the meal, Fran, our bus driver drove us to our next performance site, Whitestone Mennonite Church. We had a fantastic audience and saw some familiar faces from Hesston College. We also enjoyed a nice reception after the concert in which we got to meet some of the members there. Whitestone Mennonite Churhc, thanks for the making us feel welcome at your church!
After a ten-hour, three-movie bus ride from snowy Goshen to sunny Kansas City, we unpacked at the beautiful stone Rainbow Mennonite Church just before supper. And what a supper it was! Members of the Rainbow Mennonite Church congregation picked up barbecued pork, brisket and ribs from Quick’s Barbecue right down the street.
We met up with our host families and had the opportunity to hear stories about this active urban congregation, which runs a neighborhood park and playground and facilitates a Head Start program. Several guys got to spend the night at the Mennonite Voluntary Service house in the neighborhood and tap into what’s going on there.
The Sunday morning service started off with the strains of Rainbow Mennonite Church’s nineteenth-century organ, which they recovered, cleaned and shipped from an abandoned church building in New York. We had the opportunity to sing “Wonderful grace of Jesus” with organ accompaniment and a church filled with strong singers before we took the stage to give our first on-the-road tour performance.
The concert was very well-received. We sang “The Mennonite Game,” a humorous barbershop tune, with its composer, Andrew Shelly, in attendance. Afterward, we joined the congregation in a potluck that spread the length of their fellowship hall with tables of sauerkraut, meatballs, salads, curries, cakes, and over fifty very happy college guys. Thank you for your hospitality, Rainbow Mennonite Church!
This was quite a week for the Goshen College Men’s Chorus. On Sunday, Feb. 19, Maestro Vance George, the Toledo Symphony, and the Goshen College Combined Choirs along with 30 select high school singers and select members of the Music Center’s children choir, Shout for Joy, presented, as part of a larger program, Gabriel Fauré’s monumental Requiem in d minor. I had the privilege of singing the baritone solos on short notice. As I sat on stage listening to the warm and soothing sounds of the choirs combining with the lush strings, I was proud to be part of a performance in memory of Dr. James Miller. That performance along with this morning’s chapel service by the men’s chorus reminded me again of the power of music as a healing force in a dark and troubled world.
My hope is that each of our audiences on tour will receive at least a glimmer of hope through our heartfelt message of the peace and light of Christ. Please send us traveling mercies as we brave the Indiana winter in the morning!
Dr. Scott Hochstetler
The 45-voice Goshen College Men’s Chorus is touring during spring break, sharing music that reflects on the theme of “Light in the Darkness” at churches and schools in Indiana, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska, Feb. 26-March 4, as well as performing a concluding home concert in Goshen.
More information on the chorus and our tour is available on the right-hand side of this page. We look forward to sharing our journey with you!