It’s that time of year again. Spring break is just around the corner, and while some of our peers will be traveling all over the country and the world for SSP’s, Northwestern’s choir students will be participating in their annual A cappella Choir Tour—a tradition that has been a part of the music department for decades. These musicians will be headed to Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan, first traveling up the west side of Lake Michigan, then around Chicago, up the east side of Lake Michigan, and again to Chicago, before heading home to Orange City.
Throughout their trip the choir will perform 14 concerts in schools and churches, along with holding masterclasses and workshops with 11 choirs.
As always, Dr. Holm has worked meticulously to piece together a thoughtful and moving program for the choir that he began putting together way back in the summer.
While that might seem early to begin work that will be performed in March, in order to decide on the works in this year’s program he reviewed hundreds of choral works before selecting the final set. As those who have been to choir concerts at NW can attest, Dr. Holm takes the quality of his programs very seriously. He’s always careful to select high quality pieces with a variety of texts, languages and ideas. This year’s program contains a sacred package, highly virtuosic pieces that are emotional and heartfelt, the traditional “Beautiful Savior,” and a spiritual titled “Ezekiel Saw De Wheel.”
As one would imagine, choir tour contains a lot of time on bus rides, and students utilize this time to get to know each other better and connect with classmates they haven’t had the chance to get to know.
“My favorite part of choir tour is the fact that we all grow closer to one another as friends and as musicians. We spend so much time together on tour, and we all come back from it much closer than when we started,” said junior Libby Ven Huizen.
As Dr. Holm said, “Once we board the bus, we are now a family that travels together, eats together, prayers together and performs for many audiences together.”
One way the choir works to strengthen their bonds and grow closer is through a tradition called “interviews” during which everyone in the choir shares their answers to a few questions both funny and serious.
“These icebreakers are a really cool way to get to know people better and to start building new relationships,” said junior Schuyler Sterk.
Of course, in close proximity these goofy and creative people often wind up with beautiful and hilarious memories from their times together. From the tour her freshman year, Ven Huizen recalls watching Shrek on a bus stopped in the midst of a Montana blizzard, and Sterk remembers watching old VHS Disney films with fondness the following year at a host family home.
Another favorite part of choir tour is the spiritual element.
“Music is a performing art,” said Dr. Holm. “And it is a rich gift from God. We put these together on tour to enrich the lives of others, and in so doing become of part of God’s redeeming work in this world.”
Senior Abby Ver Mulm agrees and states that it teaches her to be a servant.
“As a Christian musician it serves as an excellent reminder of why we sing in the first place—choir is an act of worship and service,” she said.
Given the fond memories, bonding time and opportunities to serve and fulfill God’s work as a servant that choir tour gives, it’s no surprise that students routinely rank it as the top of their music experiences at NW, and they aren’t the only ones who greatly value the honored tradition.
“Making music in a concert with these wonderful young people [is] my greatest joy,” said Dr. Holm. “I feel so blessed to be right in the middle of the process.”
Of course, music must be shared to be truly appreciated, so make sure to come out and support the A capella choir and watch them perform their tour program on March 13th at 7:30 p.m.