Monday, November 17, 2008

"Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweeping down the plains..."

This weekend my Youth Choir went on a trip to Tulsa, Oklahoma. We were hosted by the youth group of College Hill Presbyterian Church, which is on the edge of the campus of the University of Tulsa. A young man named Ben Buchanan, who is a member of First Pres, is now a student at UT and attends College Hill Pres. So, that's the connection. We had 14 choir members attend the trip; they are a nice bunch of young people. We camped out on the floor in the youth area and had a great time.

The drive up was a little dramatic; we left in the middle of Friday afternoon traffic in Dallas, the parent chaperone who was driving had never driven to Tulsa, didn't bring a map, and we almost ran out of gas on the freeway when we couldn't find a gas station. Oh, and we got lost on the highways of Oklahoma City for about 45 minutes around 11:30pm. That was fun. But, we made it eventually!

On Saturday morning I had a rehearsal with the young people. I am working on getting them to sit up and support their sound, and we are just starting to work on the idea of following my conducting gestures musically. Oh, and don't forget watching the conductor! They sang a Latin American folk song called "Alabare", a John Bell piece called "Take This Moment", Dad's words to Arirang ("Abba, Abba, Hear Us") and "Many and Great." For that last one, we used the words out of the Canadian Book of Praise (The BoP, as I like to call it), which start out "Many and great, O God, are your works, maker of Earth and Sky." Though the text appears in the American Presbyterian hymn book, they go "Many and great, O God, are thy things..." which... really... well... yeah, no.

The Youth Choir gets a new t-shirt made every year (!) and I got David to design it this year in time for the trip. We will wear them this year when we sing in church too; though there are choir robes set aside for the youth, all my guys are too short for them! We have to wait for the growth spurts to kick in. But, David's design is sharp and the kids all think the shirts and David are "awesome."

After we got ready for singing in the service, we met up with Ben on the campus and he gave us a tour. The Dallas kids were not dressed properly for Tulsa - it was crisp, cold and windy during the day. Gorgeous weather - but not good for kids dressed in shorts and flip-flops. They pretty much froze their little Texan tushes off.

We went for lunch at Taco Bell - I would like to report that there are no french fries at Taco Bell in the southern U.S. What's that about?? In the afternoon we had showers at the YWCA (I thought of Aunt Jill) and a scavenger hunt on the university campus, organized by the youth group of the church. That was a lot of fun, and a great way to get the kids running around outside and burning energy. We had dinner with the two youth groups back at the church and watched "Get Smart." My kids were talking big about staying up late and "bonding", but they pretty much fell asleep at 11, which was fine with me!

In the morning we all got our t-shirts on and prepared to sing in the service. The regular choir at the church had the morning off so we were the main event! Ken had organized us to bring along our Orff (a.k.a. orphan) instruments to accompany Arirang and Many and Great, and that sounded really nice. My big trouble right now is that my kids can't seem to sing a whole step in the line "your hands have set the heavens with stars" (between 'set' and 'the') in Many and Great; they keep singing a semitone. I think it's because it's hard to get the modal sound in your ear if you aren't used to it, it's high for them (working on that) so they're afraid to go for it, and there's a semitone in a similar motif in the first line. Sigh - we'll get it one of these days! Enjoy this picture of me using way, way too large conducting gestures in an effort to elicit a musical response from the kids.

The service went well; the young people were really well behaved the whole time (same goes for the weekend overall) and they sang nicely. The minister and congregation at the church were really pleased and grateful that we were there and that the kids sang. And, a lady who is an Orff instruments teacher came in to see us and rave about our Orff playing (way to go, chaperones).

Our drive home was beautiful, through the reserve lands of Oklahoma. Not the gorgeous leaves in Ontario but still beautiful and a nice change of scenery. It was pretty much as smooth and great as I think a trip like that can be, and I felt like I got to get to know the kids in a more laid-back way. It feels great to be back and be in the home stretch of my first term at SMU!

(Okay, seriously though; Many and great, O God, are thy 'things'????)

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