TAKING THE GOSPEL ON TOUR
In the latest installment of this series, former choir member Randy Wittorp shares
his reflections on traveling with the Tour Choir of Immanuel Lutheran College.
The time I spent on tour was some of the most memorable of my years at Immanuel. While many have the opportunity to see the concerts, fewer see the preparation and daily effort involved with making the concerts happen. From the practices each week throughout the school year, to the life on the bus, to intermingling and fellowshipping with our Christian brothers and sisters across the CLC, there is much more to the ministerial efforts of the Tour Choir than the concert performances themselves.
Tour properly begins once tryouts have taken place and the Tour Choir lineup is announced. In addition to the Tuesday and Thursday mass choir rehearsals, members of Tour have practices on Monday and Wednesday every week. Practices increase in intensity through the third quarter of the school year as time grows short leading to Spring Break, when the Tour itself commences.
Any member of the Tour Choir will tell you how much anticipation builds as we await Prof. Reim’s announcement of the route we will take. Will it be the Colorado Tour? Texas? The Midwest? Florida? When the day finally comes, the choir is bursting with excitement over where we might be heading.
Before departing, each member is given a duty to perform throughout the journey. Loading luggage, unloading luggage, setting up and taking down risers (the platforms the singers stand on), assembling programs, distributing food: all of these duties and more are assigned to the members, and the duties are opportunities to serve one another in Christian love.
Throughout Tour, life on the bus is characterized by daily devotions and singing of hymns, playing games, reading books, and a lot of conversation. Nowhere did I learn more about my Immanuel classmates, especially those in grades above and below my own, than on the Tour Choir bus. Bus life could also turn quickly to the unexpected; I can recall bus breakdowns, bad weather, and flu season interrupting the regular flow.
As we would arrive at each destination, the entire choir would spring into action; distributing luggage, setting up instruments and risers, and coordinating to get changed into our concert attire. A “riser time” would be announced, when we would be expected to be dressed and ready to rehearse; often this would be set to give us enough time to enjoy a quick meal provided by our host congregation.
The concert itself always goes so quickly! As a coordinated proclamation of the Gospel and an expression of fellowship with the congregation joining in some of the songs, the performance offers a little taste of the Holy Christian Church on earth. Each performance is different, and each offers the edification and encouragement of the Gospel.
That Gospel message and the faith it engenders is then demonstrated in the nightly routine of being invited into the homes of member families. I have many fond memories of sharing Christian conversation and fellowship with members of congregations all across our synod. Connecting with fellow believers on a daily basis is one of the greatest blessings of being a part of the Tour Choir, and I cherish the many memories I have of doing just that.
Tour Choir is the result of a great deal of work, and work of a type many wouldn’t think of at first. Sure, there are the rehearsals and musical preparations. But the daily service of choir members, one to another, and the loving support of fellow members in Christ’s body across our church—these are what make Tour truly successful, and without which Tour wouldn’t exist.
Randy Wittorp was a seven-time member of the ILC Tour Choir. He and his wife Danielle live in San Francisco and are members of St. Stephens, Mountain View.