May 2013 graduate Brittany Cook served as president of the Heidelberg Concert Choir during the 2012-13 academic year. As the choir just returned from its annual tour, this year making stops in Ohio and the Midwest, Brittany reflected on the experience in this first-person account.
By the end of our 2013 choir tour, I truly realized the meaning of the Van Gogh quote that Dr. Ramsdell had chosen to punctuate different parts of our tour. It read, "I always try my best to put all my energy into my work, for my greatest desire is to make beautiful things." We kept referring to that quote – in the patron letter, in the thank-you letter and in my speech. It became so ingrained into this year's program that it literally became the program.
This year, our director, Dr. Greg Ramsdell and the Concert Choir embarked on a journey through art studios illustrated through music. All of the pieces that we performed could be compared to a theme that an artist would use. In accordance with this, at our home concert, the Tiffin Art Guild had local artists prepare and exhibit pieces that would match and enhance our selections.
We had the chance to perform at several high schools on our Spring tour, stopping at schools in the area, Columbus, Kettering and Indianapolis. Not only did we receive praise from these students, but at Kettering, we had the opportunity to sing a shared piece with them. Even with 10 concerts in four days, it was a humbling yet prideful experience. We shared our art with students and adults alike. Along the way, we had the chance to invite several Concert Choir alumni to sing with us, and that only enhanced the scope of our performances for us and for the audiences.
As a choir, we took several sight-seeing trips as well. We were able to go up in the St. Louis Arch (which was nerve-wracking for some of us—including myself) and wander around Chicago's Navy Pier.
Our second-to-last concert was in Champaign, Ill., and we were hosted by Board of Trustees chair Sondra Gerhardt Libman, ’67. Not only did she give us a warm welcome, but she provided us with two wonderful meals and a decorated cake! I know from her praise that we gave her a beautiful performance in return.
Although what happens on the bus stays on the bus, I couldn't have asked for a better experience with the Concert Choir. We had fantastic time with Marion (our perennial favorite bus driver) and we definitely enjoyed each others' conversations (and the occasional blanket fort) along the way.
Our last night in Evanston, Ill., though, was my favorite and what I considered to be our best concert. It was definitely full of emotion for many of us—it was one of the hardest performances I have ever done. My favorite experience of the tour came from this concert. After my emotional speech, I went to the fellowship hall and heard complete silence. This was odd; typically we used the intermission to discuss the first half and use that excitement to fuel the second half. When I entered the room, I noticed many—if not, all—of the choir members had been crying. For the first time – and the last time – they had actually heard my speech. It was a beautiful experience, seeing the choir desperately trying to hold on to that second half of that performance because we did not want to see it end.
Like I mentioned in my speech during the tour, we all have to learn how to appreciate the beauty around us and we need to latch onto it and keep it close.
Art can be brought into every aspect of our lives, and I feel through this tour, we did that for ourselves. The theme of our concert not only showed through our performances, but it showed through our actions together and through our relationships.
This year proved to be a great year not only for our singing and our performance quality, but also for the strength of the personal connections among the members of the choir. Under Dr. Ramsdell and his wife, Cynthia (our accompanist), we have become a family—a relationship that I wouldn't trade for the world.