Day 1 Worship Conference 2017: The Early Birds

Confused as to what Worship Conference is? Read my article HERE!

In my four years of high school and five years of college, some students were asked to come early to do sports seasons, orientations, and other things. I ended up going early to campus seven out of nine years: four times for basketball camp, once for freshman orientation, and twice as an RA.
I have learned to enjoy the early arrival. The campus is so quiet. Only a handful of the normal students are there, no one is in School Mode quite yet, and people can unload all their stuff without the madness that will be occurring a few days later. It almost feels like you’re not supposed to be there yet!

I am enjoying that today, Day 1 of my Worship Conference. I am participating in the Festival Choir concert that is opening the conference on Tuesday evening. (9pm Eastern Time and it’s being streamed so I hope you can watch it!) Because we have to practice, they let all the singers (and instrumentalists) register and come to campus on Sunday instead of Tuesday.

Because that only applies to about 130 people, the registration and dorm-move-in process was blissfully easy. We were able to pull right up to the registration building and leave our car. We picked up our stuff, got our dorm key and meal card, and drove easily to our assigned dorm building. We unloaded our stuff with only two cars around us, took it upstairs, and I had no issue parking my car in the designated lot – it wasn’t even ¼ full yet.

We signed up for an air conditioned dorm room, which did cost extra. But with the upcoming weather of 80s and 90s coming our way, my mother and I are glad we chose what we did!

Our room a “suite,” which means we also have a bathroom in the room. It’s pretty much a hotel room…except there are no toiletries waiting for us. That was a problem when we realized that neither of us had packed soap. Other things we could have used were fitted sheets, thumbtacks, hangers, and a box of tissues. Those are things that would make our stay extra nice. But even without that stuff, the room is pretty awesome!

Lake Michigan
In no time at all, we had unpacked. The dinner hour had come, and we got to experience another perk of early arrival: a nearly-empty cafeteria.

I have been on this campus a couple of times, and I know that the lunch and dinner rushes during the conference are awful. Don’t expect to have a salad, because it will take you half an hour just to get around their weirdly-shaped salad bar. With that in mind, I made sure to have a salad without a major line. (It was delicious.)

The staff was very friendly and helpful, which I really appreciated. It hasn’t been very long since I’ve done college cafeteria eating, but it is honestly an experience watching some older ladies and gentlemen try to figure it out!

I was able to eat a lovely meal of chicken, rice, and beans along with my salad, and I’m glad I finished it up with some soft-serve ice cream because my throat really needed the cooling sensation before I completely shredded it in choir practice! I ate with my former choir director at MLS and several friends from my first congregation – Trinity. Already, my BINGO board is filling up nicely. Actually, someone who reads this blog came up to me, shook my hand, and said, “BINGO!” She did indeed fill my square for “Jared’s Friend.” (Thanks, Lena!)

While the conference attendees are given a nice zip-up tote bag with a water bottle, I like to be unique. I am using my regular (giant) summer purse and my own water bottle. The uniqueness helps because I can easily tell what stuff is mine amidst all of the red bags and water bottles that are soon going to litter the campus.

My mother has her own water bottle, but she remembered to bring a Sharpie pen and wrote her name on her tote bag in giant letters. If she loses it, it won’t take long for someone to bring it to her!

Choir rehearsal started at 6. We were in a different venue this year for rehearsal – a smaller recital hall off of the main chapel building. Because of this, I noticed that our numbers were much smaller. Usually we have about 130 singers total for the Festival Concert, but this year I’m not sure our numbers get up to 100! We have plenty of women, but we only have about a dozen tenors.

The Siebert Chapel
Our two directors – Dale Witte and Kermit Moldenhauer – are very experienced conductors, and it is evident when they lead rehearsal. They both have commanding presences, but they each do it in their own way. You can tell that Witte directs high school choirs because he has a very solid directing technique that is easy to follow, and does a lot of helpful hints that helps singers know the outline of a song. Moldenhauer is much more soft-spoken, but he demands perfection. We spend a lot of time working on vowels and unifying sounds – and for good reason! A choir isn’t a choir if they have a bunch of different ways to sing “a”. (I’ll let you determine what kind of “a” we are singing.)

The two of them switched off with their selections, and that really helped the rehearsal go by at a good pace. Many of the things we learned for one song could be used to improve another song, and by the end I could tell we had made great progress – maybe not in perfecting the songs, but unifying our sound and being on the same page with the conductors.

We ended at 9:30 and finished the evening with some beverages and snacks in the cafeteria. They had lots of variety with beer and wine, but they ran out of snacks very quickly. That has never happened so quickly before! I hope they plan more snacks for when the full conference is in session.

When my mother and I got back to our room, the air conditioning had brought the temperature down to a pretty comfortable degree. Tomorrow promises to be a crazy day of nonstop rehearsals, but I hope to continue updating you on what I experience at the conference. First, I have to figure out this wifi! Apparently no one has been able to access it yet, but you get a 10-minute window where you can check your email for a confirmation link. (And it never comes.) I’m using that window to post this for your enjoyment! Stay tuned to see if they ever get the wifi bugs figured out!

BINGO Card update: 8 squares filled…no BINGO yet. 

Read about Day 2 HERE!


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