Word of God: Touring Choir’s European Tour

July 3, 2024 / Christine Coddington

Eastern Mennonite School (EMS) Touring Choir embarked on an unforgettable journey through Germany and the Netherlands as part of their 2024 tour. The adventure began in Munich after an exhausting 26-hour journey by bus, plane, plane, and bus again.

June 7, 2024, A Memorable Arrival

Choir member Catherine Scherpereel shared her excitement upon arrival: “Seeing the sunset out the window was really pretty and cool to see the countryside. At 10:00 pm we finally arrived at the hostel and ate a little dinner before going to our rooms. I’m excited to be here after traveling!”

Exploring Bavaria

The choir’s European tour was filled with opportunities to experience local culture and stunning landscapes. They rode a gondola at Herzogstand in the Bavarian Alps, followed by a hike to a spot for a picnic lunch. The choir then ascended a short trail to a little chapel, where they performed “The Word Was God” and “Where The Sun” for an audience of about five people. “The hike was a blessing, and it deepened my love of nature and connection to the choir.” -Nico Armenteros

Dutch Adventures

In the Netherlands, the group enjoyed a canal tour in Amsterdam and a visit to Dopersduin camp, where students walked or biked to a nearby beach. The Touring Choir performed at Alkmaar church, a historic church dating back to 1619.

A Personal Reflection

Eleanor A. recorded her observations in her journal:  

“During this time, it stuck out to me how similar Germany feels to home. I don’t just mean the airports— though they were so similar that we’re all pretty sure we were actually in the same airport the entire time. I mean the landscape, the clothing, and the vibes.  When I wasn’t paying attention, the trees looked just like the ones I might see along Route 11; but when I looked closer, they didn’t look anything like what I’m used to. At one point, Milo Hertzler woke up from a nap and, after a moment, exclaimed that he had forgotten we were in Germany. I looked out the window and agreed that it almost looked like home (if you squint.) Occasionally, this feeling of familiarity was disrupted— like when we stopped for food and had to nervously figure out how to order without knowing if the employees spoke English. But during the late-night games of Heads Up that slowly gathered people from around the bus to one small, cramped circle, it didn’t feel any different from the time we spent together in the United States. Even though we’re halfway across the world, and the mountains are taller, and the language is unfamiliar, we brought the safety and familiarity of home with us in the bonds of our friendship and the music we make together.”

Performances and Collaborations

The choir’s first full performance took place at St. Paulus Church in Munich. The church’s acoustics were remarkable, enhancing the choir’s singing and making for an unforgettable concert. Following this, they performed at Walheim Evangelical Lutheran Church, where local students joined the choir for an impromptu collaboration. Milo Hertzler noted, “The church had so much energy.” 

Germany’s rich artistic culture left a lasting impression on the choir, evident in the cohesive traditional house designs, various graffiti, murals around Munich, and the traditional outfits they encountered.

Erin L. shared her experience: “I have really been enjoying learning about the different culture[s] here, it’s been fun learning the language a little bit and seeing the little or big differences between what we are used to and what they are used to.”

Cultural Exchange and Farewell

In Walheim, the Touring Choir collaborated in a morning of singing with the Christoph Schempf school choir, culminating in a canoeing excursion that mixed students from both choirs. Calvin B. reflected, “They were great teammates for the games we played, and were also experts at splashing people in other canoes as we passed them. This experience has given me a better understanding of both Germany and also interaction with other cultures.”

Ellie Y. summed up the tour’s emotional finale: “The best and worst part of the last day was singing benediction with the Touring Choir one last time before some of us went our separate ways. I’ve grown so much closer to many of the people on this trip than I hadn’t been prior, and I’ll miss singing with them. Some of my friends I’ve sung with for over 6 years, and others I’ve sung within 6 different choirs. This being the last true performance together was very bittersweet, but I’ll cherish that moment and this trip for years to come. This choir now has a special place in my heart.” 

Gratitude and Acknowledgements

The success of the EMS Touring Choir trip was made possible by numerous individuals and organizations. Special thanks to the host families from Hessigheimer Felsengärten Germany, the tour bus company for ensuring safe travels and inviting the group to their home base at Heino Summercamp, and the dedicated planners who meticulously organized the tour. Lastly, heartfelt appreciation goes to the students for their courage and enthusiasm.

The 2024 tour was not only a musical journey but also a profound cultural exchange, leaving lasting memories for all involved.

Watch the EMS Touring Choir collaboration with students at Christoph-Schrempf-Gymnasium from the June 11, 2024 program here.


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