Haemi Kim–Staff Writer
During winter break, Dordt College Concert Choir and its conductor Ryan Smit went on a tour, sharing their talents to many different audiences. It was a week-long tour going around Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana.
Many of the choir students enjoyed being on tour because it was an opportunity to meet other choir members and build relationships with other choir members.
“It’s a unique opportunity to get to know the other choir members outside of the choir room,” said senior soprano Kourtney TeBrake.
“Before tour, you recognize people in the choir, maybe know their names, but when you spend a week traveling in a charter bus with 52 other people… you get to know each other real well,” said senior soprano Jalyn Vander Wal.
“Coming into Concert Choir for the first time, as sophomores, we kind of feel like we don’t really belong to the Concert Choir because those who were in before all knew each other and bonded in previous tours,” said sophomore Yovela Belicia, “but then through the tour, you feel like you become more part of the group.”
The bonding did not end just within the choir but expanded through experiences the choir had with the different churches and host families.
“It was great getting to meet new people on the road, especially some of the host families who were so generous and kind, opening their homes to us,” said senior tenor Daniel Seaman. “I definitely look forward to the host families because there’s always stories we get from that.”
“The hospitality that the host families showed us—the people they had never met—was such a blessing,” said sophomore soprano Kate Lodewyk.
One particularly memorable song, “Ain’t No Grave Can Hold My Body Down,” included sign language. Vander Wal, standing in front, took charge of signing while the choir joined in during the chorus. Then, almost at the end of the song, the whole choir became silent, singing only in sign language before coming in strong with their voices again to finish the piece. The music itself called for sign language.
“I loved how the composer thought that this would be a unique take on an African American Spiritual,” said Vander Wal. She has been signing for about seven years since high school for her foreign language class.
“I really like sign language because it can be an art or it can be practical with deaf people,” said Vander Wal. “I think it is awesome that we could incorporate this beautiful language into our piece. I loved the excitement on people’s faces in the audience—or fear among the high schoolers—when we did this song and I had people at almost every stop come up to me afterwards and thank me for it.”
Even though the choir tour was a blast to many of the choir members, this year, the stomach flu spread within the choir, affecting around 14 students, and even the conductor during their last concert before coming back. Because of this, TeBrake and Seaman stepped up to conduct the last concert, each taking half of the performance.
As music education majors, it wasn’t their first time conducting for a choir. Both of them had opportunities to conduct in Lab Choir, as well as for different Dordt music classes. Seaman also mentioned that he had opportunities to conduct for his church and high school.
“I loved being up on the podium and seeing everyone signing,” said TeBrake. “They were happy for Daniel and me, as well. Being in front of a powerful choir was absolutely amazing and gave me goosebumps.”
Minus the sickness, choir members had a great time during the tour and shared their experiences with excitement.
“There is something about being able to make beautiful music with a very talented group of individuals,” said Lodewyk. “Singing is an expression of worship and being a part of that is truly a blessing. My favorite part of every concert came right at the end, singing Praise to the Lord… as the close of our concert… I think that tradition reminds us why we sing: to bring praise to the Lord.”