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For APU Music Groups, Summer Means Tours in U.S. and Beyond

by Michelle Bonja '12

This summer, several Azusa Pacific musical groups toured across the United States and as far as Armenia. Of APU’s 20 music ensembles, those touring this summer included the Men’s Chorale, University Choir and Orchestra, Bel Canto, The Saints, and the Handbell Choir.

Men’s Chorale was the first to depart on May 3 and headed straight to Washington, DC. Seniors in attendance had to take a break in their performance schedule to fly back for graduation on May 5 before finishing up the tour, which ran through May 14.

“Without a doubt, each place we went, people were moved, from the beginning of tour with the National Day of Prayer to the final concert in Madison, Wisconsin,” said Clifford Gee ’12.

Texas congressman Louie Gohmert was present while Men's Chorale sang for the National Day of Prayer and invited the whole group to sing in the Capitol. It was an unexpected highlight of the trip for the band of brothers, who are under the direction of Harold Clousing.

“If I had to pick one favorite moment,” said Gee, “I would probably have to say it was singing in the rotunda of the Capitol building at 1:30 in the morning. The fact that we were able to proclaim God's holiness in the heart of our nation's capitol is an unforgettable event.”

Both Bel Canto and UCO left on May 6 for a two-week trip, performing 15 and 13 concerts respectively. The all-women’s Bel Canto choir, under Director David Hughes, DMA, brought 60 voices together to travel through Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Utah. Meanwhile, University Choir and Orchestra, led by John Sutton, DMA, toured through California, Oregon, and Washington.

“There are days that we feel sick and low energy, out of tune, or have problems rhythmically, but then we look out into the audience and see tears running down people’s faces,” said Taryn Spink ’12. “Touring is always effective because of God in our hearts, in our music, in our message, in our lives.”

The Saints are a newer group on campus with nine members. Under the direction of Al Clifft, this vocal group often sings a cappella to showcase their unique sound. They left after all the other groups returned, beginning an extensive five-week tour through the South on June 2. They had 12-hour rehearsals the week leading up to their departure, before hosting a send-off concert in the School of Music on June 1.

The Handbell Choir spent a two-week mission trip in Armenia, where they performed 10 concerts interspersed with mission work. They partnered with Shoebox Ministry to pass out boxes filled with supplies to children in poor villages surrounding the capital.

“The best part was finding out that the children knew the same pedagogical system that we know called solfège,” said Laura Long ’12, referring to the teaching technique for sight-singing. “So we were able to communicate to them through solfège. Then they opened our concert, and it was a blast!”

With money raised and donated, they were also able to sponsor four students for one year at the Shushi School of Music.

“The primary purpose of our trip was for mission work,” said Director Donavon Gray, DMA. “It was very successful according to the students and from what I heard from many of the Armenian people that we ministered to.”

APU’s ensembles represented the university well as they traveled nationwide praising God through music.

“I was amazed to see how, even with a language barrier, music became the common thread,” said Long. “It was beautiful to see how God could use our handbell music to speak to the Armenian people.”