NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Every four years, the Bethel College Concert Choir tours in Europe, performing in churches, cathedrals and other venues over a three-week period. The 2010 tour, Jan. 6-25, will take the choir to five countries, for a total of 14 concerts.
The choir has performances scheduled in Poland (Gdansk and Szczecin); Switzerland (Les Bémont and Moron); France (Montbéliard and Wissembourg); Germany (Berlin, Leipzig, Wuppertal, Krefeld and Espelkamp); and The Netherlands (Amsterdam, Ouddorp, Haarlem and Rotterdam). (For a more detailed schedule, click here.)
The choir has been making trips to Europe every four years since the 1950s. The last time it went to Poland was 1978.
“The choir will be singing in Gdansk in the former Mennonite church building, which now houses a Pentecostal congregation,” said Merle Schlabaugh, professor of German, who does much of the Europe tour planning and will accompany the choir. “The pastor there made the contact for us in Szczecin, also at a Pentecostal church.
“We will be touring Gdansk, as well as the Malbork – formerly Marienburg – which is the site of a very large castle-fortress built by the Teutonic Knights in the 13th century. This large and well-preserved castle housed more than 700 knights and thousands of attendants.”
The choir will sing at two Mennonite churches in Switzerland (the Anabaptist movement began in that country in the 16th century, in Zurich), at Evangelische Mennonitengemeinde Sonnenberg in Le Bémont and at Eglise Evangélique Mennonite du Petit Val-Moron in Moron, and two in France, Chapelle de la Praire in Montbéliard and Église Évangélique Mennonite in Geisberg (Wissembourg).
“I don’t know whether the choir has ever been sung in the Mennonite church in Montbéliard,” Schlabaugh said, “but if it has, it certainly hasn’t been within the last 25 years.”
Choir director William Eash, professor of music, also has a connection to the church in Wissembourg. Right after World War II, about 1947-49, Eash says, his father, Elon Eash, now of Archbold, Ohio, did reconstruction work at the church, then called the Geisberg church, under the auspices of Mennonite Central Committee.
“He has maintained contacts in the church there to this day,” Eash says, “and I’ll be meeting with some of those people when the choir performs.”
The choir will spend most of its time in Germany and The Netherlands. “Our time in Berlin will include participation in a Sunday morning ecumenical worship service being held in the St. Laurentius Church Berlin Köpenick, where the choir is being hosted by the Hofkirche, a Baptist congregation in Köpenick,” Schlabaugh said.
He added, “While in Berlin, choir members will have the opportunity to visit their choice of the following sites: the Reichstag [German Parliament Building]; the East Side Gallery, a preserved section of the Berlin Wall; Hohenschönhausen Stasi Prison, used by the East German state security for holding and interrogating political prisoners; the Holocaust Memorial; the Pergamon Museum; the Checkpoint Charlie Museum; the Olympic Stadium; the Berliner Dom and the Berggrün Museum, among others. They will also have the opportunity to attend some concerts in the Staatsoper, Komische Oper, Deutsche Oper or Berlin Philharmonic. We will have a tour in Leipzig led by a good friend and retired pastor, Günter Jacob.”
The time in the Netherlands will include a canal ride and tour of Amsterdam, time for the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House, as well as Zaanse Schans, a village with working windmills and artisans.
The choir will sing in Mennonite churches in Krefeld and Espelkamp, Germany, and four Mennonite churches in the four locations in the Netherlands.
“Our concert in Wuppertal will be in the Alte Kirche in Wupperfeld and will be part of that church’s concert series,” Schlabaugh said. Bethel College has a historic connection going back more than 50 years with the Bergische Universität in Wuppertal. There are currently two Wuppertal exchange students on the Bethel campus for the 2009-10 school year with two Bethel students returning from the fall semester at Wuppertal and two scheduled to go for the spring semester.
The choir performs a mix of sacred and secular music, including a traditional Kenyan praise song, “Wana Baraka”; a setting of John 1:14, “Und das Wort ward fleisch,” by Georg Philip Telemann; Cesar Alejandro Carrillo’s “O Magnum Mysterium”; a setting of the “Kyrie eleison” by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy and two settings of the “Gloria,” by Carrillo and by Jan Sandström; Javier Busto’s “O Sacrum Convivium”; “Singet dem Herr ein neues lied” by Johann Pachelbel; three “songs of faith” by Canadian composer Eric Whitacre (“i will wade out,” “hope, faith, life, love” and “i thank You God for most this amazing day”); Dietrich Buxtehude’s “Alleluia”; two arrangements of Stephen Foster tunes, “Nelly Bly” and “Hard Times”; two arrangements by Moses Hogan of Negro spirituals, “Deep River” and “Hold On”; an original composition, “Echo Song,” by choir member Nathaniel Yoder with words by Nathan Bartel, assistant professor of English; and several others.
On this tour, the choir will premiere “Peacefully,” a commissioned piece by composer Paul Rudy, a Bethel graduate who is on the music faculty at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music.
Soon after returning from the Europe tour, the choir will give its home concert on the Bethel campus, Sunday, Feb. 7, at 2 p.m. (note time change from previously printed schedules) in Memorial Hall. The home concert is free and open to the public.
European Concert Choir personnel are: Holly Anthony, Sterling; Allison Banman, Goessel; Joel Boettger, Hesston; Alex Boldt, Parlier, Calif.; Evan Conrad, Lakewood, Colo.; Anna Cook, Lawrence; Kelsey Easterday, Manhattan; Nicole Eaton, Dodge City; Justine Erb, Henderson, Neb.; Evan Fast, Goessel; Elizabeth Friesen, Littleton, Colo.; Kellen Goertzen, Henderson, Neb.; Ryan Goertzen, Goessel; Naomi Graber, Elkhart, Ind.; Benjamin Harder, Hesston; Clint Harris, Manhattan; Julia Huxman, Wichita; Oliver Kropf, Oregon City, Ore.; Kevin Leary, North Newton; Austin McCabe-Juhnke, North Newton; Taylor McCabe-Juhnke, North Newton; Jordan Ortman, Marion, S.D.; Kelsey Ortman, Marion, S.D.; Lindsey Ortman, Marion, S.D.; Camden Pankratz, Hesston; Lacey Parker, Lone Tree, Iowa; Sarah Pohl, Moundridge; Joshua Powell, Basehor; Sierra Pryce, North Newton; Keila Quenzer, Visalia, Calif.; Kelly Reed, Edinburg, Texas; Genevieve Rucker, Lawrence; Ben Santos, Smithville, Mo.; Monica Schmidt, Haven; Aimee Siebert, Topeka; Greg Shelly, Lenexa; Brian Skinner, Clay Center; Caleb Stephens, Lawrence; Austin Unruh, Goessel; Kyle Unruh, Goessel; Sara Volweider, Haven; Rachel Voran, Newton; Andrew Voth, Topeka; Brittany Voth, Goessel; Cameron Voth, Goessel; Sharayah Williams, Kalona, Iowa; and Nathaniel Yoder, Kalona, Iowa.
Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and was the only Kansas private college to be ranked in Forbes.com’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2009 and one of only two Kansas colleges listed in Colleges of Distinction 2008-09. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at www.bethelks.edu.