How Christmas with Wartburg changed my life

Being a member of a vocal ensemble, there is a period of about two weeks toward the end of the fall semester that everyone dreads at least a little bit: Christmas with Wartburg rehearsals.  Each November provides us with some of the most stressful and tedious set of rehearsals we’ll have all year.  Despite what feels like the sea of constant exhaustion, though, there’s no way I would be the same person today without it.

I’m a senior, but this is only my third CWW due to the fact that I transferred in after my freshman year.  My first CWW experience came as a member of the Castle Singers in the fall of 2015; the last time CWW was taped to be aired by Iowa Public Television.  Those rehearsals felt especially long.  Every time I thought we did the best take of a song ever, we’d STILL have to do it at least one more time.

For the sake of continuity, all of us had to look the exact same every single day; we had to wear our hair the same way, girls had to apply the exact same makeup, and we had to wear our tuxes and dresses without ever really getting a chance to wash or dry clean them.  And on top of that, we would have to tediously stand in the exact same spots for every song, almost to the inch.  Ultimately, though, as my studies would later teach me to appreciate, all of it was necessary to create the best product it could be; and we got just that.  It turned out amazingly, and I can’t wait to watch it again come this Christmas.

The next year wasn’t as hectic for everyone, but it was right up there in craziness for me.  I had made the decision on a whim to audition for the Wartburg Choir earlier that fall, and I was accepted.  On top of that, I decided to continue being in the Castle Singers.  I love both of those choirs very much, and I don’t regret my decision to be in both at once.  But, holy crap, was it difficult.

Trying to remember your movements and the order of the show in one choir is tough enough for some.  So being in two, especially when it’s the two groups that have the most solo work in the entire show outside of Wind Ensemble, was a whole different animal.  It certainly put my endurance, both vocally and physically, to the test.  It also tested my patience.  It was twice as hard, but twice as rewarding at the end of it all.

Then came my senior CWW.  I made the decision at the end of last year to give up my spot in Castle Singers to allow for more openings in my schedule, so all I’m in now is Wartburg Choir.  It was a bit more lax this year, at times, and it also seemed like the rehearsal process as a whole was shorter and less stressful, but maybe that comes with the experience.

Traditionally, the Wartburg Choir seniors give their senior devotions before performances throughout the year.  The Saturday afternoon show for CWW brought my turn.  For this reason, everything kind of started to hit me throughout that performance.  While sitting on stage, I found myself reliving the memories of my Singers days, my experiences on international tour with Choir last May, and the wonderful friendships I’ve made throughout my three years here.

When the time came to close out the show with the traditional Night of Silence, one of the narrators read the words I’d heard so often: “Jesus said, the light will be with you for a little longer.  Walk while you have the light, lest the darkness overtake you.  While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become children of light.”

Those words hit me especially hard that day. In this particular instance, the light is choir.  After college, I have no way of knowing if I can continue singing.  As the piano started playing for the final number, and the prayer was being spoken, I realized just how little time I had left.  I would only get to sing with the people around me a few more times throughout the year, and only two more times for CWW.  And, for the first time, I allowed my emotions to overtake me. Around that same time the next day, I even shed some tears; something I hadn’t ever done in a performance before. If that doesn’t speak to just how special this is, I don’t know what will.

The Christmas with Wartburg experience comes once in a lifetime.  I could go to a thousand CWWs after graduation, but none would compete with the ones I had the pleasure of singing in.  CWW allows us, as performers, to touch the lives of anyone who sits in that auditorium for the shows.  There’s no way of knowing what people are going through, or who needs to hear the message we bring.  It teaches us that, despite how stressful the process may be, none of the exhaustion matters when you’re sharing your talents and the message of the show with others.  I could win a thousand awards for journalism, or make millions of dollars.  But at the end of the day, nothing is as rewarding as touching other people’s lives.  And nothing has shown me that fact more than CWW.

Cherish what you have.  Whether it’s music, sports, or anything in between, don’t take anything for granted.  In the final episode of The Office, Andy Bernard says “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.”  You’re in them right now.  My second-to-last semester has gone by in a flash, and I’ve been so stressed all the time that I didn’t really take the time until now to stop and appreciate all of the amazing things Wartburg has given me.  To me, that’s the most important message my last CWW can give.

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