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An inside look at a Concert Choir ‘overnight trip’: A blog by Andrew C. Cary

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I’d been in choir for three years in high school—every semester since sophomore year. And even though it in no way fits into my Communication degree, I made sure to put Concert Choir into my schedule for my freshman year at Bethel. It was something that I loved to do, and I had the highest hopes that choir would be just as good, if not better, in college. I certainly was not wrong, but it is different. One main difference would be the overnight trips. Maybe it’s because I didn’t read the syllabus (it’s definitely because I didn’t read the syllabus), but I had no idea that we were even doing this until about a week before we left. It basically went down like this. Choir Director Dr. Bob Ham: “We only have three rehearsals left until our first concert!” Me: “I thought our first concert was in December…” The person next to me: “He means the overnight trip.” Me: “... Overnight trip?” So, at 2 a.m. on Saturday, I packed my bags (forgetting, of course, many things), and at around 10 a.m., boarded one of the two buses booked for the choir and we set sail. After about four hours and a plethora of great and hilarious conversations (choir people are the best), we arrived at our destination: Davison Missionary Church in Davison, MI, just next to Flint. Now, for those of you confused as to what exactly we do on these trips, allow me to give you a quick synopsis. The choir prepares some of the songs we are doing for the Christmas Concert (on Fri., November 30 at 7:30 p.m. and Sat., December 1 at 2 and 7:30 p.m. in the ER, buy your tickets now!), along with a few other choral worship songs, and perform them for a church congregation, in place of their usual Sunday morning service. I wasn’t really sure how this was going to work out, as the congregation may be a little put-off by having something so different in place of their usual service, but it went wonderfully, to say the least. But more on that later. The most nerve-wracking and potentially awkward element of the trip, though, was the host homes. The idea of host homes confused me at first, so I’ll explain that, too. A few families from the church we go to (in this case, Davison Missionary Church), open up their homes to a bunch of random college students, and feed and shelter them for a night. How nice is that? Some people take six or eight guys or girls (not co-ed, this is Bethel after all) with them, but most only take two. A majority of people in the choir signed up for a roommate to be in a host home with them, but I (being a lowly freshman) didn’t really know anyone well enough at the beginning of the year to room with them, so I rolled the dice on a random roommate. I got lucky with my roommate, who turned out to be another freshman guy like me, and we became friends. One of the main great things about trips like these is the bonding that goes on. Living with someone, even if only for a night, and going through five-plus hours of grueling (but necessary) rehearsal, can cause that. As for our host home, we had the nicest family you could ask for. It was a dad, a mom, two absolutely adorable little daughters, and a small, cute dog that was a mix of about seven different breeds. I could go on and on about how friendly they were. They stuffed us with more food than was reasonable, they talked to us like old friends, and they even let us watch the Notre Dame game (in the heart of Michigan territory; Go Irish!). The dad in the family, who we spent most of our time with, absolutely talked our ear off. It was nice though, because we were both exhausted, and didn’t want to have to do most of the talking to avoid awkward silences. This guy had a pretty crazy life, which was evidenced by a few of the stories he told us, which included: Setting a car on fire, making a car stand up straight on its rear bumper after trying to ramp off a pile of snow, and his brother elbowing a girl so hard in the face while playing football that her nose disappeared (!). He is a calm family man now though, and even though he looked back on those times and laughed, he is focused on being a good husband and father now, and that is just one example of how God can work in someone’s life in a drastic and positive way. We went to bed on Saturday night at around midnight, and slept in a little girl’s excessively pink bunk-bed for a few hours until our 7:30 a.m. get up. After breakfast, where I had six pieces of French toast, six pieces of bacon, and two over-easy eggs (I told you they fed us well), we proceeded to put on our concert tuxedos. After finishing off the ensemble by putting on my cumberbund (seriously, what is the point of this thing?), we drove to the church and said goodbye to our host family, and thanked them gratuitously—maybe a bit too much. Our concert ended up going greatly. All of the soloists and instrumentalists did such a fantastic job. We sang eleven songs total; a few were with the full choir, and a few were only guys or girls. Every once in a while between songs, Dr. Ham would talk to the church about what the songs were about, or what they meant to him. Dr. Ham has been fighting cancer and lymphedema for over a year now, and as he shared his testimony with the congregation, you could feel the support and the prayers flowing out from the church-goers. I even got a little emotional myself, honestly. When the concert was over, the congregation gave us a standing ovation. They were so appreciative that we took the time to go to the church and sing for them, and I know that we really did make an impact with our voices that day. Music is such an undeniably important thing for so many people, and I am so thankful that I fit Concert Choir into my schedule this year and was able to be a part of something so great with so many awesome people. After such an exciting weekend, on the bus ride home, I slept.    
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