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!