On day 3 the choir and stringers awoke early in the morning to perform in worship at Centenary United Methodist Church. After the service, we ran to the bus to make our way down to Kentucky for an afternoon matinee. On our way, we experienced our first tunnel dance of the year. We soon arrived at the church and quickly warmed up for our 4 pm performance. After a successful performance, we were greeted with an amazing potluck dinner provided by the wonderful congregation of the church. With a longer evening, we were able to visit and get to know our audience and hosts for the evening. With a little more free time than normal, the singers and stringers are currently catching up on sleep and homework before we return to the road tomorrow.
After staying in our first home stays, we started to our second destination at Centenary United Methodist Church in Terre Haute, Indiana. This was an especially fun concert because we were joined by the Northview High School Advanced Choir, directed by Brenda Buchanan. Their choir was working on several pieces for Chicago, one of them being “Nyon, Nyon” by Jake Runestad which the we are also singing. Because of this coincidence, we were able to collaborate and sing together on this fun song. Not only did we have a fun concert, but had amazing home stays with some of us becoming “international performers” in Brazil, Indiana.
On February 24, the Castle Singers and Kammerstreicher set out for the first stop in Davenport, Iowa after a long week of midterms. The Singers and Stringers spent the first exciting day at St. Paul Lutheran Church with Chris Nelson as our host. While the Singers were rehearsing, Kammerstreicher and Dr. Tews visited Rock Island High School orchestra in Illinois to clinic and perform with the students. After a wonderful dinner provided by church members, we performed our first tour concert joined by a select group from the Rock Island Orchestra. The group played two songs they will be performing at Disney in March. One of the other highlights of the evening was the world premiere of Dr. Tews’ “A fishin’ apron cesspool.” This madrigal is written in “mad gab” and at first, glance looks like many random words strung together, but when it is sung, tells the tragic story of a princess and a fish. Kammerstreicher and Castle Singers are currently on their way to Centenary Methodist Church in Terry Haute, Indiana to perform their second concert.
The Wartburg College Castle Singers are not only thrilled to collaborate with members of Kammerstreicher for the second year in a row but also to have the ensemble’s director, Dr. Jacob Tews, traveling, conducting, and performing on their upcoming national tour. As the two chamber ensembles embark on a nine-concert recruitment and enrichment tour through the southeast, they are anticipating two separate programs connected by a late Baroque work, entitled In virtute tua, for chamber choir, two violins and continuo and the world premiere of Dr. Tews’ madrigal for voices and strings. In addition, the Castle Singers eclectic choral program includes Renaissance and modern madrigals, featuring Gerald Finzi’s My Spirit Sang All Day, a global set featuring a raga from South India, and a collection of folksongs, featuring Kenneth Jennings’ arrangement of Rise Up, O Men of God and René Clausen’s arrangement of Softly and Tenderly. The Singers will conclude their tour program with U2’s With or Without You and a Beatle’s set including In My Life, Yesterday, and Eleanor Rigby.
This trip really started this past September, when eighteen of us gathered for our first rehearsal in the Choral Hall. As a first year student, I had no idea what great friendships, stories, and memories were to be made. I had no idea what struggles we would overcome through the year. I had no idea this tour would bring everyone in the choir so close to one another. Over the duration of this trip, I saw a group of singers become one family.
Sure, the castles and churches we saw were very cool and beautiful. The museums and monuments were interesting and the city tours were fun. But at the end of the day, I won’t remember all the castles we went to. I won’t remember the names of each church we went to. To me, that wasn’t the most important part of the trip. The most important part, the part of the trip that I will remember, and carry with me each day, are the memories that I made with my Castle Singers family.
Now it’s May. Graduation is in four days, May Term is coming to an end, and some Castle Singers have gone home for the summer. We had a lot of fun, but now we have to say our good-byes. For some, I will see you next year. For others, I wish you the best in your future endeavors. Just remember, where ever you go, you have a big family of Castle Singers at Wartburg College.
After a church service and a long bus ride we were back in Berlin where the Castle Singers started this amazing European journey. Because there was so much traffic on our way we were put far behind schedule and we had 30 minutes to warm-up, get through devo. and finish off the end of the year castle singers traditions. The church we were singing in was the zionskirche where Dietrich Bonhoeffer worked as a sort of youth pastor. It was also a center of opposition during the GDR regime when much of the artwork and design of the church has been covered to make it look more modern. This re-decoration ruined much of the original artwork. When Berlin was bombed during WWII the church was plundered by locals for firewood and protection. The church has been through many restorations but still has a sense of ruins from a troubled history. My camera does not do this description justice because even with its past the light shines in any way it’s possible.
The concert itself was a little scary at first. It was probably the smallest audience we had seen yet and they didn’t start clapping when we finished the first song. Which, as any one who has ever performed will know, that this can really ruin the mood of the singers. Even with this audience we gave one of what I believe to be our best performances. I could not have asked for anyone else to perform with such emotion.
It’s the singers in this ensemble that make my experiences at Wartburg more than worth it. They are some of the most beautiful people I have met and have given me so many reasons to want to stay at Wartburg and I couldn’t be more thankful for each and every one of them.
P.S. for the singers, Sorry for creeping all tour but I hope you like the pictures. Sorry if I don’t have one of you, it means that you move too much so all of the pics are blurry 😦 But I think everyone is in at least one picture!
Stillness and silence. That is how I would describe our experience at the Flossenburg Concentration Camp. It is one I will never forget. We started out our day at the Flossenburg headquarters, in which 15,000 people were imprisoned at one point. This spot is also where the SS would interrogate and torture prisoners. However, I did learn that mass killings came from the labor they had to put forth in the quarries, rather than from being sent to gas chambers. Nonetheless, the torture these prisoners had to go through was unbearable.
I was moved to tears after singing in the Synagogue. It was one of those experiences that is hard to put words to. As we gathered around the Star of David and joined hands, we sang Lamb of God. It was then when I truly listened to the words and fell in love with the beauty of that song. While the words don’t necessarily connect, there was one line that really stuck out to me-“Have mercy on us.” Singing in there meant everything it needed to be.
As I walked through the Valley of Death, I couldn’t quite grasp the concept of why someone would put innocent people through what they had been through. It was painfully obvious that if there was ever a time of evil, it was at that point. While this establishment was commemorated as a memorial, something still felt haunting as I took my first steps down. Our tour guide described it as “walking down into hell” which I think was quite accurate, with the entrance being located above the crematorium. There were pillars at the camp gate to represent the prisoners’ suffering. The ashes of about 15,000 people were scattered or buried near the crematorium. Walking inside the crematorium was nothing but eerie. The Pyramid of Ashes is made up of remains of those who perished at the camp. I walked around it just wondering how any of it could come to be. The Square of Nations memorializes those dead by country of origin. By the time I had walked the whole path and made my way up to the chapel, I felt a sense of revelation. The memorial site is laid out to resemble a Christian Stations of the Cross, so the chapel can be seen from the crematorium. I surpassed the Valley feeling relieved, as others should have been able to do.
The message was clear to me. It wasn’t about sorrow or grief. The concept of the Concentration Camp is remembrance. Remembering those who were put through things that some of us couldn’t imagine. They were all just people like us. They all had self worth, whether they themselves believed it or not. It was all overwhelmingly powerful. The only way to fully understand it is to experience it. Nevertheless, an experience to remember.