2014 German Gospel Choir Tour report
According to reports from choir members in Germany and Wisconsin this gospel tour ΓÇô the fifth in a an eight year gospel choir ministry of the Wisconsin Gospellers (UCC) and the Westend Gospel Singers of Eberswalde, Germany (EKBO) ΓÇô brought deep blessing to the church. Myriad lives were touched as dozens of homes were opened in hospitality; a score of congregations prepared potlucks, shared facilities, and offered help; thousands attended concerts and worship services; and hundreds of gospel singers attended workshops ΓÇô not to mention the many encounters on the road and along the Way.
According to reports from choir members in Germany and Wisconsin this gospel tour – the fifth in a an eight year gospel choir ministry of the Wisconsin Gospellers (UCC) and the Westend Gospel Singers of Eberswalde, Germany (EKBO) – brought deep blessing to the church. Myriad lives were touched as dozens of homes were opened in hospitality; a score of congregations prepared potlucks, shared facilities, and offered help; thousands attended concerts and worship services; and hundreds of gospel singers attended workshops – not to mention the many encounters on the road and along the Way. Beginning in 2006, with a visit of the German choir to Wisconsin, these two choirs have since traveled back and forth across the Atlantic every two years, offering full hospitality to one another and singing together their shared repertoire. This year’s tour is only the last of these, with the Wisconsin choir planning a tour to Germany in 2016.
The tour involved ten performance opportunities in concerts or worship services at UCC congregations and institutions in Whitewater, Janesville, Ripon, Appleton, Neenah, Kewaskum, Sheboygan, and Greendale, Wisconsin as well as Chicago and Glenview, Illinois. Two workshops were incorporated into the tour, in Appleton, Wisconsin and Chicago, Illinois.
The Germans also enjoyed sightseeing:
- a luncheon cruise on Lake Geneva, Wisconsin;
- a bonfire and hayride on a farm outside of Janesville, Wisconsin;
- visit with lunch and singing at Fairhaven Senior Services in Whitewater, Wisconsin;
- a tour of Milton House (Underground Railroad stop in Milton, Wisconsin);
- tour of Ripon College, Ripon, Wisconsin (originally a Congregational school);
- visits to High Cliff State Park outside of Appleton, Wisconsin and the Houdini exhibition at the Outagamie County Historical Museum at the Castle in the city;
- a riotous talent show/variety evening in Neenah, Wisconsin, with acts from the German and Wisconsin choirs;
- rides in my VW Beetle convertible;
- a visit to Bayshore Mall outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin;
- live demonstration of raptors at Audobon Schlitz Nature Center outside of Milwaukee, with a hawk flying over our heads and an eagle brought into our midst;
- a visit to the Domes of Milwaukee’s Mitchell Park (enclosed biospheres with jungle and desert environments);
- a visit to Concordia University on the shores of Lake Michigan, Mequon, Wisconsin, with explanations of the experience of German immigrants to Wisconsin and a gospel flashmob in the cafeteria;
- a visit to Old World Wisconsin outside of Milwaukee, an outdoors historical museum with a section devoted to German immigrants to Wisconsin;
- a tour of Chicago Theological Seminary, Chicago, Illinois, led by John Thomas;
- an afternoon free to wander or sightsee or shop in the Chicago Loop;
- a visit to The Baha’i House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois, on Chicago’s North Shore.
We were able to do all this because — after five tours (3 in Wisconsin and 2 in Germany) — both choirs have come to expect a strenuous experience and we took precautions. The use of a coach bus allowed persons to rest and relax, and a break in the middle of the tour, simply resting at a UCC retreat center for 36 hours, with nothing to do, provided a second breath for the second week of the tour.
Along with encountering congregations and singing in concerts and at worship, the two workshop, held on consecutive weekends, were the highpoints of this tour.
- On Saturday, September 20 The Gospellers of the Wisconsin Conference and the Westend Gospel Singers of Eberswalde, Germany organized a workshop and concert, led and performed by Robert Robinson (along with his ensemble), whom the Minneapolis Star Tribune named “the Pavarotti of gospel music” (www.robertrobinsonmusic.com). As these two choirs have benefited from Robert’s musical and teaching gifts on several occasions since 2006, they determined to offer them more broadly, inviting to this workshop all UCC members and Appleton area residents. Participants were welcomed to sing in the evening the five songs Robert taught them during the day. 150 attended the workshop, 250 came for the concert, and some forty singers joined Robert during the second half of the concert.
- Trinity UCC, Chicago, Illinois, which hosted the German choir for two nights, sponsored the second workshop on Saturday, September 27. With support of the Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, the staff and members of Trinity offered strong support. The Rev. Carmin Frederick managed the logistical details of this visit, while the Executive Director of Sacred Music, Bryan Johnson, organized a Saturday afternoon workshop featuring Dr. Charles Clemency, a scholar of gospel music and accompanist for Mahalia Jackson. This workshop prepared the mass choir of some ninety persons – the German choir and members of the Wisconsin choir as well as a women’s gospel choir from Trinity – to sing in the 7:30 AM Sunday morning worship service. The three choirs sang on most occasion in the service, the German and Wisconsin choirs sang for the offertory an arrangement of “This Little Light” learned from Robert Robinson in 2010.
Through their choir fellowship these two choirs – Westend Gospel Singers of Eberswalde, Germany and The Gospellers from the Wisconsin Conference UCC – enflesh and experience full church fellowship, Kirchengemeinschaft through their common life.
To read more about the tour visit wisconsingospellers.org
For pictures of the tour and a video of a concert performed at Ebenezer UCC in Sheboygan, WI on September 24, visit the Wisconsin Gospellers Facebook page at <https://www.facebook.com/wisconsingospellers>. (You do not have to be a member of Facebook to view this video.)
A video of the worship service on Sunday, September 28 at Trinity UCC will soon be available.