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.