While many Knox students are heading home for a week of recuperation from winter term this spring break, the members of the Knox College Choir will be embarking on their annual spring break tour. In previous years, the choir has traveled to Colorado, Spain and New York City for their tour, but this year they are staying closer to home, traveling by bus through the Midwest. The tour kicks off in Galesburg with the traditional Send Off Concert, and two weeks later the choir will start their official tour.
Having the choir tour the Midwest, while less exotic than past trips, is a good way to connect with choir alumni and facilitate choir bonding.
“We try to do a bus tour where we’re in the Midwest every few years because it allows us to connect with a lot of alumni,” said senior Jmaw Moses, who is president of the choir.
Save for the scheduling of high school visits in the Chicago area, the locations of the performances have already been set. Their first stop, in Iowa City, Iowa, is in “a fabulous church, with great acoustics,” according to Choir Director Laura Lane. The choir will do homestays in Iowa City before traveling to St. Paul, Minn. and Minneapolis, Minn. The choir will have a free evening in Chicago, where “they’re going to need some time on their own to run around” after five days of performances, Lane said. Saturday, March 22 is the big Chicago concert at Divine Word International, a cathedral just outside the city.
“Of all the places where we’re singing on this tour, it’s the most like a European cathedral,” Lane said. “It has big, long acoustics. Whenever we go to Europe, we try to find a church that has long reverberation like that.”
Lane expects that the concert will be well-attended by alumni and parents.
The next day, the choir will drive to Rockford, Ill. for a joint concert with Kantorei, a boys and men’s choir, before heading home to Knox several days before the rest of campus returns from spring break.
Lane says that the location of the tour is convenient for alumni, as well as parents of the current choir. In addition, the tour acts as a recruiting tool for the choir because an important segment of the tour is when the choir visits high schools in the Chicago suburbs and sings for their choirs before facilitating a discussion about singing and Knox. She says she likes to make a personal connection if possible by trying to schedule visits with those high schools where current members of the choir attended.
“These are people who might go to Knox one day … I love to represent Knox in a really positive light, and I think the choir does such a great job of that,” Moses said of the high school visits.
Choir members are excited about the chance to bond with each other on the road trip.
“It lets us really connect as a choir,” said Moses, adding that the long bus rides, which can be as short as an hour or as long as 10 hours, provide a space to talk to people you don’t know well, make music or just watch a movie together.
“It’s much more focused on time with the group and music, as opposed to the place we’re at,” said Choir Treasurer and junior Martina Pezzino.
Sophomore Erik Dohner, a recent transfer student, said he was excited to be “getting to know the choir and the experiences that come with such a trip.”
The program for this year’s tour is proving to be a challenging and unique experience.
“There is a pattern to all my tour programs,” Lane said. “I think it’s really important first of all for the students to experience a large variety of repertoire.”
The program includes traditional folk songs and spirituals as well as more modern, “hot off the presses” pieces. Highlights include “a brand new piece” from American composer Eric Barnum called “The Sounding Sea,” which involves ocean sounds and vocal special effects. “Kalinda” is a song sung in Haitian Creole, which Moses describes as “just so fun and really rhythmic, but the chords in it are just gorgeous.” Pezzino and Dohner are fans of “When David Heard,” an eight-minute contemporary piece based on four lines of biblical text. The repertoire also includes a Latvian folk song translated into English and a song sung in Lithuanian.
“I love surprising the audience with something new and different,” Lane said.
The Knox community will have the opportunity to see the choir perform their tour program during their Send Off Concert on March 2 at the First Christian Church of Galesburg and the Home Tour Concert on March 28 in Kresge Recital Hall. Lane recommends going to both performances, but if concert goers had to pick one, it’s agreed that the Home Tour is the one to be at.
“When we’re on tour, we actually change a lot as a group and evolve a lot as a group É just as a group we tend to bond and communicate better musically and the home tour is always just a really special way to end,” Pezzino said.
“When someone else who’s never heard us sing this music before hears it once and then hears it again and notices the difference, that means a lot to me,” Moses said. “It means that we as a choir worked hard to be able to do that.”