TAKING THE GOSPEL ON TOUR
In the second of this four-part series, seminary student Sam Rodebaugh shares
his memories of trying out for the Tour Choir of Immanuel Lutheran College.
A few weeks into every fall semester, tryouts are held for the Tour Choir of Immanuel Lutheran College. For those of you who have had little exposure to these tryouts, I am here to give you the details.
Tryouts are held for four different voices, with the voices trying out on different days. Typically the sopranos and altos go on Monday and Wednesday one week, followed by the tenors and basses the next. Those so inclined may try out for multiple voices (though I prefer limiting the anxiety to a couple of hours, rather than stretching it out for a few days). Tryouts are held from oldest to youngest. All who want to participate in Tour Choir must try out, whether they are high school freshmen or seasoned college veterans.
The tryout normally consists of a few warm ups, scales, sight reading, arpeggios, and lastly, the singing of a piece picked out by Professor John Reim, the choir’s director. In my experience, this piece is almost always one written by J. S. Bach, who is, in Prof. Reim’s estimation, the greatest composer who ever lived. I’m quite partial to him as well, as I believe he was a bass at heart.
Tryouts for Tour Choir are a whole different animal from most other activities you might try out for. The stakes are high. You must prove your worth in a short amount of time, and when your voice inexplicably goes flat on the first note of your solo piece, there is no one else you can point the finger at. And you are auditioning by yourself—it’s just you, Prof. Reim, and a tape recorder.
So, as you can imagine, tryouts can be nerve-wracking; but Prof. Reim is a good sport about it. I remember that the last time I tried out for Tour Choir, I was a bit anxious beforehand. Once we got going, though, I felt that I was nailing the audition. That is, until I reached the sight-reading portion. I looked at the notes Prof. Reim had scrawled out on the chalkboard, took a deep breath, and sang . . . something. It certainly wasn’t a melody that Prof. Reim would have written; I’m sure that even I could have composed something better. I finished abruptly, glanced over at Prof. Reim’s puzzled-looking face, and laughed. To my relief, he joined in with a couple of chuckles and told me I could try again.
Believe it or not, the most unenviable position during the whole ordeal does not belong to the lowly high school freshman trying out for bass after seven experienced college guys have preceded him. The most difficult job belongs to Prof. Reim. Every year, sixty to seventy students try out for thirty-two spots. After replaying hours of taped tryouts, Prof. Reim must cut down the list by over half, finally settling on the group he will take with him around the country. This narrowing-down process inevitably means that some students will be heartbroken, even as others rejoice. Thankfully, many of those who are not selected continue to try out in subsequent years. A good buddy of mine went through such an experience many times. “Tried out five times as a bass, never made it. Tried out the sixth time as a bass, finally made it—as a tenor!”
“The moral of the story is, keep trying.” – Anonymous Seminarian.
Tour Choir was always the highlight of my school year. If you know a young person who has never tried out, or who has tried out but not made the choir, encourage him to keep trying. There are few opportunities greater than the chance to visit your brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the CLC while proclaiming the salvation which Jesus Christ has won for us.
Sam Rodebaugh is a second-year student at Immanuel Lutheran Seminary. His home is in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.