MCCL singers in grades 6 to 12 traveled for five days through upstate New York and eastern Ontario, Canada sharing music with and learning from each community they visited. The choir spent time in Turin, New York; St. Catherine’s, Ontario; Hamilton, Ontario; Baden, Ontario; Kitchener/Waterloo, Ontario; Vineland, Ontario; and Akron, New York. Below are singer reflections and photos highlighting aspect of the tour experience.

Day One: Departure, Watkins Glen State Park, Christian Community Center in Turin, New York.

Miranda (Concert Choir). Friday was when I had my very first host home experience. The rest of the concert choir girls and I stayed in a schoolhouse-converted-bed and breakfast. It was one of the most amazing and memorable places I think I’ll ever stay. The building truly did look like a school, they even had some of the chalkboards in the bedrooms. It was a beautiful space, and I am so glad we were able to stay there for a night. I think the very best part of it all was the host and her stories. You could really tell that God had worked through and with her to get the schoolhouse to the point it is now. I loved that schoolhouse/bed and breakfast and wish we could’ve stayed longer and hope to go another time soon. God can really work through people and I think that day really shows how that happened. 

Malloree (Chamber Choir). After an opening prayer and blessing, the choir split up into our small groups and boarded our buses. We learned about Watkins Glen, our destination and our chaperones while traveling to New York for the day. When we arrived, we ate lunch under a pavilion while it was raining and got to know those in our small groups. The hiking groups for Watkins Glen were split into those who wanted to hike at a fast pace, a medium pace and a slower pace. We walked the trail in beautiful weather after the rain and I had a digital camera on me and was taking pictures of my friends and those I had gotten to know because of the choir. Our hike ended in light rain as we boarded the buses again. Arriving at Turin, New York at the Christian Community Center, we were greeted with hospitality by those at the church who had cooked dinner for us. Mr. Weaver gave us devotions and we got ready for our concert. This concert let us see just how deeply our audience was affected by our music and the message we were spreading. We received our host family assignments and went home for the night after a day of content growing as a group, and ready for what the weekend had in store for us.

Day Two: Border Crossing, Charles Daley Park in St. Catherine’s, Ontario, Christ’s Church Cathedral in Hamilton, Ontario.

Rosalind (Concert Choir). Reflections on our Jamaican dinner. There were so many options to pick from but I’m glad I went with the ox tail. I had never had it before, and it was fun to try new things and even more fun to eat it with friends. I’m thankful that we got to sing our thanks to Sophia who was the talented women who cooked for 74 of us by herself. 

Elsa (Chamber Choir). We started the day Saturday at host homes with our friendly hosts from the church in Turin. It was sad to leave the new friends we had made in our host homes behind but still the mood when we arrived back at the church was that of refreshed joy as singers shared with each other about their experiences the previous night. The next segment of the day was our four-hour bus drive to the Canada border. We enjoyed various activities as entertainment on the bus such as talking with peers and chaperones and singing. Mrs. Blessing also led us in some group songs. We rehearsed “I Sing the Mighty Power of God” as well as “Over My Head” in which we enjoyed freestyling our own solos. For lunch we made a quick stop at a rest stop, where to our dismay we discovered there were no bathrooms except for a few porta potties. Despite the less-than-ideal circumstance we persevered and were back on the road in no time. The Canda border crossing went well with no hiccups, and we even had the opportunity to sing a few songs in the customs building for the workers. Next, we went to a Cathedral where their kind organist, Bruce, told us about the Cathedral and played the organ for us. Each choir also had an opportunity to sing in the space, which was really cool. We then enjoyed a delicious meal of Jamaican food for supper, brought to cathedral fellowship hall, since there was not room for all of us at the restaurant. Satisfied and well stuffed, we walked a block to the restaurant where the food was prepared to sing for the cook, who was very appreciative. After that we returned to the bus and headed for our final destination of the day, Shantz Mennonite Church. At the church singers were happy to meet our new host families. We left for our respective host homes and enjoyed fellowshipping with our hosts before, of course, getting a good nights rest to prepare us for the next day.

Day Three: Shantz Mennonite Church and Hillcrest Mennonite Church, Music workshops at Conrad Grebel University, MCCL Talent Show

Collette (Concert Choir) – Today we woke up to a lovely breakfast provided by our hosts. We all gathered at Shantz Mennonite Church where we rehearsed and then sang during the church service. When we finished, we ate a lunch of various chilis and lasagnas provided by the church, and then we had devotions. When we finished devotions, we went to Conrad Grebel University for choral and gamelan (Indonesian instrument) workshops. The gamelan workshop was interesting, and I learned a lot about the instruments. After that we ate pizza and had a talent show. I loved seeing all the different talents that people shared. When we finished the talent show, we went back to our host homes and went to sleep.

Ava Bird (Chamber Choir). Sunday morning is one of my favorite parts of the week. I love waking up for church, getting ready and eating breakfast with my family. However, I spent this Sunday morning in a small town called New Hamburg, in Canada. Malloree and I were staying together, with our wonderful host parents Carol and Murray. MCCL provided the entire church service, which was daunting. I didn’t have any reason to be worried though. The concert we gave felt like one of the best we had ever given. The Men’s Ensemble piece, “I Am With You”, has grown to be my favorite song of the entire concert. The text and the harmonies are just so gorgeous, and what makes it even more powerful is how everyone can find a way to relate to that song. I had a very special personal experience during another one of my favorite songs, “Rise Shine”. I always get emotional when I sing, but usually I can get ahold of myself. I was already just very engaged and emotional with the song about halfway through us singing, and I look over at our bus driver, Kay, and she is just quietly crying. I lost it. During that moment of the beautiful and powerful song and being able to see how much impact a choir can have on an audience emotionally, I was just able to cry onstage during the song. After the concert, I noticed other people around me with teary eyes as well, so I knew that there was something special about that song and those moments. These are the experiences that make me so grateful to be in this amazing community, and I am so happy that God gave me this gift and opportunity to have a space where I can feel and express emotions through music. God is so good. That afternoon, we had an experience unlike anything I’ve ever had before. We got a Gamelan instrument workshop at Conrad Grebel University, in Waterloo. Gamelan is an Indonesian percussive instrument style, and Conrad Grebel has an entire course on the instruments and their style. We each got an instrument, which were all different, and we learned the techniques and basic styles of the instruments. After the time we spent at Conrad Grebel, we went back to Shantz Mennonite Church for a pizza dinner. We spent some time enjoying the fellowship of each other, and even got the joy to celebrate two Concert Choir singer’s birthdays, Rachel and Anna. Following the wonderful supper, we had the famous MCCL talent show. We got to experience the talents our choir has besides singing. We heard trombone, piano, viola, tap dancing, and more. My personal addition to the talent show was my eighteen funniest jokes of this week. This whole trip thus far has been so incredibly moving, and I am so beyond grateful to have these people in my life. I feel so blessed.

Day Four: Niagara Falls, United Mennonite Home, Clarence-Center Akron Mennonite Church

Elilta (Concert Choir): The Hornblower Niagara Falls tour was AMAZING. We walked around the sides of the Falls before getting to the boat, and I was just so amazed and awe-struck. As Mr Blessing would later say, we are created in the image of the God who made the Falls! The water was so clear at the top and ran down in a calming, rushing sound. We also took lots of pictures.

When we got on the boat, we went to the edges and everyone was so excited! Then the boat moved forward, and I was looking at all the churning water behind the boat as we approached the Falls. As soon as we got close enough, water started spraying all over everyone. I couldn’t even open my eyes when I stood at the front of the boat! My khaki pants got soaked very quickly, but everyone looked like they were having a great time. This was my first time going to Niagara Falls and it was a very fun experience!

Micaiah (Chamber Choir):  I awoke to find my fellow singer wide awake having responded to my alarm of which I was blissfully unaware.  Having spent the previous evening practicing calligraphy with our host, I had opened the window and the birdsong that had started early that morning sounded similar enough to my alarm to be tuned out. We quickly packed our bags and tidied our room before heading down for a delicious breakfast of cereals and egg casserole. Afterward, we headed out through the rain to our host’s brand-new Hyundai Ionic and drove the 15 minutes back to Shantz Mennonite Church. There as the rain poured ceaselessly from on high, we huddled under the eaves before loading the bus and heading for Niagara Falls. The buses dropped us off about a mile from the Niagara boat launch, so we all hooded up and walked through the rain doing our best to avoid the copious puddles and tiny streams of water along the way. All our efforts proved to be in vain because the falls boat ride, however awe inspiring, left every individual regardless of clothing quite literally drenched. At the closest point the rain and spray from the waterfall left us feeling as we had been aloft in a hurricane. The weather being none to warm, we trudged our way back from the boat launch up to the gift shop. Meanwhile the steady but light rain continued to fall as we walked back to the buses and headed towards United Mennonite Home in Vineland, Ontario. There we were all blessed with food, before giving a concert. The next hurdle of the day was crossing the border, which ended up taking less time than expected. We then drove to Akron Mennonite Church where we feasted royally with taco salad and gave a full concert. Everyone met in the sanctuary for post-concert announcements and a short time of worship and singing before retiring to different rooms throughout the church. Writing all this down I can hardly believe that it all occurred in a 24-hour period but it was a truly incredible day to serve God and others.

Day Five: Travel to Pennsylvania, concert at Elizabethtown Mennonite Church

A huge thank you to our wonderful volunteer bus drivers, Kay and Sil Martin, who serve the singers through driving, praying, and adding sparkle to each concert.