The Concert Choir gave a bittersweet farewell to our European choir tour with a final concert on Sunday, this time in front of the friendly faces of Bethel’s campus. While it was great to sing for familiar faces after singing for strangers for three weeks in Europe, it was an emotional performance for the 22 seniors of the choir. After not singing together since Wednesday, it was great to perform once more. I was already starting to miss the music and memories we were making together. Even though many of us were still feeling the effects of a jet lagged weekend, there was not a dirth of intensity and emotion in our music. At the end of the concert, all of the seniors received a special round of applause at the front of the stage, and two seniors, Ariel Silva and Taylor Stucky shared some reflections on their class and the music that they make. Ariel spoke of the diversity of the senior class – there is a very wide array of majors and minors. To me, this is one of the reasons why Bethel’s liberal arts education and the Concert Choir are so special. We each bring a special set of skills and interests, but we all share one thing in common – our love for music and our membership in the concert choir. The choir really did become like a family during our time in Europe. There is no doubt that the seniors of the choir will be missed, but they will soon be the shoulders upon which future concert choirs will stand. - Braden Unruh
By Abby Schrag
At 10:30 am, Friday the 24th (I would say yesterday but with the time difference and long time spent traveling it seems like 3 days ago), we began our 11 hour flight home from Frankfurt. It was sad to leave Germany after all of our incredible experiences there visiting historical sites, exploring German cuisine, meeting so many new people, and of course a lot of singing! Luckily all travel went smoothly. We made it on time to all of our flights and no baggage was lost!
According to our trip itinerary, we flew a total of 5,461 miles to get back home to Kansas! Our faithful bus drivers that were there with us from day one in Warsaw also informed us that our bus traveled a total of 3,880 kilometers during the trip! We are so lucky to have been able to travel to so many different places and see so many different sights.
It was a great trip, and now we have a day to recover from jetlag, reunite with friends and family, and (finally!) do some laundry! It’s strange to be separated from my other 44 choir members, Bill, and Merle, but we will all reconvene tomorrow for our home concert at 7:00 at Mem Hall. Hope to see you there!
By Madelyn Weaver
This is a small blog but a good connection to back home!
Today I had a little reminder or “taste” of home if you will.
We had a concert in a gorgeous cathedral in Solingen, Germany that also made gorgeous music with the great acoustics. Afterward, we got connected with our host families and we all went into another room to have a pot luck with the choir members and the host families! When I heard we were having a potluck I immediately thought of my church back home in Hesston, KS : Whitestone Mennonite Church and all the delicious potlucks we have. We had yet to have a “potluck” at any of the other churches in Europe so I had been beginning to wonder if it was just a United States thing.
A lot of the food was different than back home of course, but still just as amazing! I’m sorry I dont have pictures to share of the food so you will just have to take my word for it!
Tomorrow will be a busy day of traveling, touring and it will also be the day of our last concert. I can’t believe how fast time has gone and how quickly the trip is coming to an end. It has been a wonderful experience!
By Abby Schrag
Jacob Brubaker and Clarie Koehn mimic a statue in a mall in Leipzig.
Today was mostly spent traveling from Bielefeld to Hamburg, which isn’t super exciting to read about on a blog, so I figured I would spend some time talking about some of our observations of Germany and German culture so far.
1. Sidewalks and bike lanes may look very similar, but are definitely not the same! Several choir members have had awkward encounters when they were accidentally walking in the bike lane and were yelled at by very angry German bikers.
2. Along the same lines as #1, there are many more people biking and riding the public transportation than driving here. My host families so far have attributed this to the high prices of owning a car and also concern for the environment.
3. Most people here are skinnier. I have yet to see many larger people in Europe – maybe attributed to more biking and walking?
4. German bread and chocolate is DIVINE. This is a pretty well known fact, but seriously, we have pretty much been living off those two commodities for 1.5 weeks and we’re not even tired of them yet!
5. Their showers are weird. There are often no shower curtains and our taller choir members have had to become contortionists to wash themselves under the short shower heads that most have. During our “Tales of the Tour” time there is always at least one story involving a shower mishap.
6. The German people are extremely generous. We have had 3 homestays so far on tour and everyone has returned to the group with stories about the hospitality of their hosts. We are always filled with amazing food and great conversation. It has been so incredible to meet so many fun, caring people who are willing to take in 45 college students for free!
When we arrived in Hamburg we took a 2 hr bus tour around the city and gave a concert at the Mennonite church in town. These last days of tour are back-to-back concerts everyday, so we are keeping very busy!
By Abby Schrag
Five choir members imitate a statue.
This morning the choir left Berlin and traveled to Leipzig. A stop in Wittenburg was planned to see the church where Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door. However, we unfortunately didn’t get to go inside because they are working on renovations. The trip was not in vain, though, because we decided to walk around the town for a bit and several of the choir members got recruited to become a part of a flashmob doing the Cupid Shuffle with a group of students from a college in Michigan!
There wasn’t time to do much sightseeing in the afternoon when we got to Leipzig because of our concert in the evening. It was a very special concert because several members of Dr. Eash’s family were able to come to hear us sing and wish him a happy birthday! We also celebrated another choir member’s birthday today, Taylor Stucky! There must have been some birthday magic in the air, because we rocked that concert tonight! The choir continues to get better and better as the tour goes on, so prepare for an epic home concert when we get back!
By Erin Regier
Today was a day that I was both looking forward to and dreading. Today we visited the Buchenwald concentration camp. Located right outside of Weimar, Germany, this camp is nestled into a gorgeous dense forest on Ettersberg (Etter Mountain) According to the informational video we watched before touring the camp, over 56,000 people died in this camp. It was unreal to me that such a beautiful setting could hold such an ugly past.
For the duration of our tour of the camp it was overcast, drizzling rain and quite chilly. Although it was not great weather for being outdoors, it somehow seemed fitting. As I walked through the area that used to hold the barracks and holding cells, I tried to imagine what it must have been like to be prisoner in this camp during the winter. Here I was, shivering in my snow boots, fleece lined leggings and ski coat (not to mention a full meal in my belly!) and I was miserably wet and cold. The prisoners held here had nothing- just ill-fitting shoes and clothes and an empty stomach. Yet still they were expected to put in a 10 hour workday or face certain death. I can’t fully comprehend how terrible that must have been.
Although it was an unsettling and difficult place to visit, I feel like this was an important and moving experience for the entire choir.
Tonight we gave a concert in the oldest church in Weimar, the Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche St. Peter und Paul. This church was built in 1200s and has such a rich history. During one of the breaks in the concert, Open Road (the men’s a capella group) sang a song that I found especially meaningful for today. The lyrics are taken from an inscription found scratched into the walls of a hiding place of Jews during the holocaust and are as follows:
“I believe in the sun,
even when it is not shining.
I believe in love,
even when I don’t feel it.
I believe in God,
even when He is silent.”
After a rather emotionally draining day, these words bring me hope!
By: Madelyn Weaver
Today was an eventful day. The previous night we had our first home stay experience of this tour. From my experience and from what I have heard from others it went great and the people were so kind, hospitable and gracious and filled us to the brim with food!
This morning we all met at the Horsche factory. This factory makes farm machinery and is owned by the extended Horsche family who helped set up our visit and concert in Schwandorf. When we got there they had more food and drinks awaiting us along with free hats! They gave us a short presentation of an overview of their history, who they are, the various things they do and where they are located (including the headquarters in Schwandorf and a few areas in the US one being Harper KS!). After the presentation they took us on a tour of their facilities and then brought us back where they served us even MORE food! Being sent off with happy hearts and tummys because of how kindly the people of Schwandorf had treated us, we started on our way to Weimar, Germany.
This was a few hour bus ride and upon arrival we were given the afternoon and evening off. Because of the location of our hotel and it being towards the outskirts of town with no restaurants or shops besides a market in reasonable walking distance, we were also given the option to take our bus downtown at 4:30 to explore and find something to eat. A lot of us took advantage of that and then came back to the hotel for the rest of the evening.
That’s all for now,
Tomorrow is a busy day filled with tours and a concert so there will be much to tell!
Traveling to Schwandorf today! We’ll be spending lots of time on the bus during our last week and this is the start. Our drive today is almost four hours. After we arrived in Schwandorf we had about an hour of free time and most of the choir went and walked the main street of the town to stretch their legs and see the city. Schwandorf is absolutely beautiful, even though it was raining pretty steadily! It’s a bit bigger than Newton in population and has what I would call a small town feel. After our free hour we headed to the Mennonite church in town where some of our host families had provided snacks and supper. We had some amazing soup and salad along with coffee and tea; it was incredible how generous all of the people were!
Our concert actually took place in the Catholic church in town due to size restrictions. When we arrived at the church I was taken aback by the amount of people who were already there. We arrived at the church about an hour before the concert was supposed to start and many of the pews were already full. By seven o’clock, thirty minutes before the concert, there was standing room only! The balcony was full and every pew in the main area was full, we even opened up the pews that had been reserved for us and there were still people standing for the entirety of our concert. I have never felt as blessed as I did in that moment.
After our concert we went to meet our host families, tonight was our first homestay of the trip! Some of us were in groups and others by themselves; it was amazing to see how many people were willing to open up their homes for us to stay. I stayed with a family of three along with Kyle Riesen and Tim Regier. They were so incredibly gracious and kept offering us food and drinks. Even though they didn’t speak much English we still managed to have conversations about their work and where we go to school and many other things. It was nice to be directly immersed in the culture and I’m looking forward to many more homestays in the next week! Tomorrow we tour Horsch and then move on to Weimar! More to come soon!
By Emily Harder
Second blog post coming to you from the one and only Emily Harder. This evening we completed our third concert, located at Johannes Kirche in Berlin. As always we could have done things better but the audience was gracious as ever making our jobs that much more rewarding. As we were singing our last song, The Lord Bless You and Keep You, I glanced over into the audience and noticed a man wiping a few tears away from his eyes. The sighting amazed me and reminded just how powerful music can be.
The rest of my day was spent exploring the streets of Berlin. Today was our free day so people were doing various things, including visiting the zoo, going to museums, and just discovering what all Berlin has to offer. I began my day by attending a short service at the Berliner Dom, which is perhaps the most beautiful church I have ever seen. Also maybe the largest. From there we wondered through an artist market, finding some great gifts for ourselves and our loved ones. Stumbling upon some breakdancers performing for a crowd was definitely a major highlight of my afternoon. While my legs are a bit tired from the long day of walking, I’m extremely happy with all that I got to experience today. Hope all is well in the States or where ever else you are reading this from. More to come soon!
By Erin Regier
A reconstruction of the Pergamon Altar.
If they were to give an award for most tours completed in a day, I think the concert choir might take the prize!
We began our day with a tour of the German parliament building. The main attraction was the giant glass dome, complete with spiral walkways ascending to the very top. The history behind the dome was interesting, but for me the real highlight was the view. From the top of the dome it was possible to see most of the major landmarks in the city!
After that we moved on to the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe. We began the tour by walking through a field of concrete slabs; each one differing in height. It was a solem experience, realizing that each slab was representing lives that had been lost. As we exited the field, choir members commented on how the experience made them feel “lost, “uneasy” and that it had an “impersonal” feel. The rest of the museum is underground. It highlighted many individual’s stories throughout the musuem. While emotionally draining, it was definitely a worthwhile experience!
Last we visited the Pergamon Museum, which houses many life size reconstructions of ancient monumental buildings. It was mind-blowing to be able to visualize these ancient buildings, as well as to see some ancient artifacts!
It was a jam-packed day, but a great way to get to know the city and its history. With one more day left in Berlin, I’m excited to continue this adventure!