It was a lovely Sunday morning as the Laudate crew began to arrive at Pequea Amish-Mennonite Church. We had been instructed to arrive by 8:55 and to meet in the basement of the school that was across the parking lot from the church. As I walked through the doors to the room we were meeting at, I suddenly realized that this morning would be a first for the 2023 tour. This would be our first and only morning program of the tour, and after a full day of recording, I knew my voice would require some extra warm-up time. I also knew this would be a program in which I would need to "dig deep" – wisdom given by our enthusiastic conductor in previous moments that required tenacity.
So we spent a few minutes warming our voices up and then were led in a time of worship, singing songs that directed our hearts to focus on the source of our hope and joy, our Saviour and Redeemer.
This time that we take before programs to be still and ready our hearts for worship has always been a personal highlight for me. Being led in a time of reflection and sharing what's on our hearts or questions for us to ponder has often been a valuable place of connection and community for Laudate.
We then headed over to the church to start our program. Walking through those doors felt very familiar as it was where we had spent 3 days rehearsing together before tour. It was a special place with lovely memories and now we had the honor of giving the full program there for the local congregation. I found it to be such a joy to worship with the congregation and there was a special dedication of Crossing the Bar that had a powerful impact on us as an Ensemble as well as the congregation there.
After the service we were blessed yet again with an incredible meal by Trina and a helpful friend. It was so delicious and left us feeling satisfied and with renewed energy to get us through the rest of the afternoon. It felt like time went by pretty fast and it wasn't long at all until the bus that would be taking us to our evening program pulled in and we were quickly loading and managed to leave earlier than we had even planned.
It was just the right size bus for our group and in no time there was a lot of chatter as several conversations got started. It was extra special have Trina and Bryson join us on the bus (especially for Cliff 😁) Some members were not chatting however as the long days, somewhat shorter nights, and a full day of hard work were catching up with us and there were some much needed naps taking place.
We arrived at the venue for the evening concert in Greencastle a couple of hours later. I went into rehearsal time with quite a mixture of different feelings knowing that this was our last opportunity to sing our songs together. The men all pitched in to help move and adjust the sound shell that was there to help with carrying sound and we learned to "be SO grateful for the shell." It was a bittersweet rehearsal as we prepared to give our last program.
We were served a very yummy meal after rehearsal by a very kind hostess and all were grateful as we knew it would be a late evening.
During the final program I couldn't help but notice that there were knowing glances between us as we sang through the songs that had become so very special. I was filled with gratitude for the opportunity to be able to worship with such an incredible group of people. We were also so grateful to those that put in the work to host this program and for those that came to listen and join in worship.
The bus ride home was one for the books and I don't think many of us will forget it for a long time. There was a fun little "Ladeedah" sing-along that took place and lasted most of the ride home. There were some barbershop type of sounds happening, mixed in with a bit of folksy, and even some gospel sounds. Songs of wayfaring strangers going home, an improv rendition of some lady coming 'round the mountain, Laudate songs from former years or what we could remember of them, some the most familiar hymns we grew up singing and their respective numbers, and last but not least, one lovely Christmas Carol with an incredible solo (I will say nothing more on that because I enjoy singing with this group and wouldn't want to jeopardize that in the future).
We arrived back at the church and all went our separate ways knowing we would have an early morning of recording some videos.
There was a small group of us however that ended up having a bit of a midnight snack together back where we were staying and the time provided for some great moments of laughter.
All in all an incredible end to a bittersweet day and an amazing 2023 tour.
- Dorcas Nissley