Friday, May 2, 2008

Full Circle

Four years ago, I was a senior in high school. By Spring, as debilitating senioritis was setting in, I had finalized my plans to attend Dordt College in the fall. My plan was to major in journalism and write for the school paper. At the time, I did not even consider the possibility of auditioning for a choral ensemble. I'd participated in school choirs since junior high, but I figured that only music majors were allowed into college choirs. I had grown up listening to the Dordt Music Department's annual tapes and CDs, and believed that I was nowhere near that level of skill.

Then, my former choir director, a recent graduate of Dordt and an alum of the concert choir, contacted me. He told me not only to audition for choir at Dordt, but to audition for a music scholarship. The suggestion caught me off guard. How far out of my league would I be, if I actually tried out for a scholarship? Anyway, the deadline for sending in audition tapes had long since passed, I informed Mr. Visker.

However, Mr. Visker had an answer for that, too. He told me that Dr. Ben Kornelis, the director of several Dordt choirs, would be visiting family in Lynden the upcoming weekend and that he would be willing to hear me audition live.

If sending in an audition tape would have been intimidating, this was even scarier. Nonetheless, Mr. Visker convinced me to meet with Dr. Kornelis. After church one Sunday, Dr. Kornelis stopped by and listened to the two pieces I had prepared: "Do You Hear the People Sing?" from Les Miserables and "Be Thou My Vision", my favorite hymn. To my surprise, I actually felt good about the audition. My family, friends and random people from church who had lingered in the sanctuary long enough to hear me sing (further adding to the intimidation of the audition) told me that I had done very well.

This was the first time that being a part of a quality college choir actually seemed like a possibility to me. So, I waited patiently for the results. Several weeks later, I got a letter in the mail informing me that I would be receiving a $2000/year scholarship to sing in a choral ensemble every semester and to take four semesters of voice lessons. I was overjoyed. God had opened a door for me where I had only seen an empty wall before.

Throughout my years at Dordt, I sang in a number of ensembles, starting in Chorale my freshman year and joining Concert Choir from sophomore year on. I also spent two years in Kantorei, and a year in the men's glee club, the Canons. The opportunity to sing with other committed, Christian peers, under a talented director (Dr. K would tell me I was being obsequious) was a tremendous blessing. Few experiences in life are as simultaneously fun, meaningful and utterly exhausting as a choir tour. After each concert on the road, we would form a circle (or oval, or amoeba-shape), join hands and sing the last few measures of "Praise to the Lord." In these moments, as our voices faded into the night sky, we knew as a group that the Lord had listened to our concert and that despite any wrong notes, tired voices, offbeat Dutch clapping, or missed cut-offs, He had taken joy in our praise.

Tonight, I sang in my last official Dordt concert. My long day at Dordt was finally closing. The realization struck me as we sang our final song of the night.

The song was "Be Thou My Vision."

The last four years have been incredible, and I am ever-grateful for the opportunity I had to be a part of the choirs here. I will share with you now the words to "Be Thou My Vision", which bookended my career as a student and singer at Dordt:

Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart.
Naught be all else to me, save that thou art.
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping thy presence my light.

Be thou my wisdom and thou my true word;
I ever with thee and thou with me, Lord;
Thou and thou only first in my heart,
Great God of heaven my treasure thou art.

Great God of heaven, my victory won,
May I reach heaven's joys, O bright heaven's Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my vision O ruler of all.