Last weekend, I traveled with the Erskine College Choraleers on our spring concert tour to Myrtle Beach. What a whirlwind of a weekend it was! I was definitely looking forward to the trip, but I think it turned out even better than I had expected. It was surreal to think that this would be my very last time on a tour bus with my college choir, and I wanted to relish every moment and make the best memories possible.
Our weekend adventure began in the Due West ARP church parking lot, where our tour bus awaited. I made my way across the circle from my dorm, loaded down with a bit more than was necessary for just a few days. I usually find myself packing “what if” and “just in case” items than I actually never end up using. But one never knows, and it is always best to be prepared. As my mom tells me, “A Girl Scout is always prepared.” Not that I ever was a Girl Scout, but I suppose it is a useful saying to keep in mind. Once all of our belongings were loaded beneath the bus, attendance was checked, and we picked up our bagged lunches (courtesy of Moffatt dining hall). We were on our way!
Our first concert was held that evening in Chapin, SC at Chapin Presbyterian Church. The church was beautiful, set back into the woods, with a lovely, airy sanctuary — a wonderful space to sing in. Phillip started off our program with a thoughtful saxophone solo of “I Need Thee Every Hour,” a perfect selection to help calm any performance jitters. After that, the Choraleers performed our first four selections, followed by two pieces by the Chamber Singers. Sarah played a lovely piano interlude after we sang, allowing us to catch our breath and relax for a few minutes off stage. Then Choraleers began the last four song selections with Egil Hovland’s “Saul,” a unique, dramatic piece, and Anna closed our program with an organ postlude by Bach.
My two favorite pieces of the program were “All Who Dwell in the Shadow of the Lord” by Z. Randall Stroope and “There Will I Be” by Craig Courtney. Both songs express such powerful messages about God’s overwhelming love for his people, and I never get tired of singing them. “All Who Dwell in the Shadow of the Lord” especially gives me chills. Songs that are sung from the heart always sound best.
When the concert was over, we were ushered into the fellowship hall where we were treated to a spaghetti dinner and dessert. The congregation was so complimentary and hospitable, and we welcomed the chance to unwind and enjoy a delicious meal. After changing out of our concert attire, we boarded the bus for our final destination: Myrtle Beach. This was my first time traveling to Myrtle Beach, and there was about a three-hour drive ahead of us. It was about 1 a.m. by the time we got to the place where we were staying for the weekend, and needless to say, we were quite the sleepy singers.
Thankfully, we had the entire morning to sleep if we wanted to, and Moffatt had been kind enough to provide us with breakfast food to take to our rooms. After a brief delay, we found our rooms in the dark. For us girls, there were five or six of us assigned to a room. The rooms were decent, and it did not take too long to fall asleep once everyone was situated. I slept in until about 9, and then got ready for the day. Wandering outside, I discovered that some Choraleers were headed to breakfast not too far away. A hot breakfast definitely sounded more appealing than a granola bar, and a hot breakfast with friends is even better, so I happily joined them.
After a delicious breakfast and cheerful conversation at Eggs Up Grill, we headed back to our lodgings, stopping along the way at one of the large touristy bargain shops that had “Myrtle Beach” stamped on nearly every item. After that detour, we had just enough time for a quick trip to the beach before our group met up for lunch. The neighborhood we walked through on our way to the beach was well-kept and quiet. I was surprised that there was not much traffic as we crossed the street. And there was the beach! I do not think I could ever get tired of the ocean. The beach was not crowded at all where we were, and we had just enough time to take a few pictures and get our feet wet in the cold water before heading back. It was a cool but beautiful day. We made it back to the cafeteria just in time for lunch, and then we had a little time to get ready before we left for an afternoon of miniature golf.
Much to the surprise of my friends, I had never played miniature golf before, so I was not exactly sure what to expect. We arrived at Professor Hacker’s Lost Treasure Golf and divided into five people per group. Sarah, Jennifer, Taylor, Rebecca and I made up one group, and we all got to ride on wooden train that took us to the top of the course. Miniature golf was more fun than I had expected, and we shared a lot of laughs together.
After miniature golf, we headed back to our rooms to get ready for our 6:00 performance at a church in Murrells Inlet. The people at First Baptist Church were warm and welcoming to us, and our second performance seemed to go quite well. Afterwards, we were served another delicious meal of spaghetti, salad, garlic bread and dessert. They really knew how to pamper hungry college students! Then it was back to the retreat center for our last night in Myrtle Beach.
Everyone was pretty tired, of course, but a group of us decided to walk to the beach one last time. It was chilly, but Phillip, Jennifer, Sarah, Rebecca and I ended up walking quite a long way down the shore. The beach was mostly deserted, and we were pleasantly surprised by fireworks in the distance. When we made it back to the place where we started, we ran into some other Choraleer members and took one last picture together before heading to bed.
Sunday was an extremely early morning! Everyone had to be up and ready to leave by 7:00 sharp. Besides packing up all of our luggage and getting ready for our first performance, we also had to clean out our rooms. Amazingly, we were all ready to leave on time. We sang in both services at First United Methodist Church, the first at 8:30, and the second at 11:00. In between services, we were served a spectacular breakfast of biscuits, fruit, cheese, yogurt, ham, muffins and more in an elegant sitting room.
I had the chance to talk to our bus driver, William, who was such a kind soul. I asked him what it was like being a bus driver, and he told me that he loved it, and that he has been able to go to places he never would have had the opportunity to go otherwise. He also told me that he used to sing in a quartet, and had been the driver for the group. I wish I could have heard some more of his stories because he said he had a lot of good ones to tell, as I can imagine.
Both services went well, and I liked hearing the sermon twice since it made me remember what the pastor said more than if I had heard it only once. Our songs also probably sounded better in the second service since our voices had had time to properly warm up by then. After the second service, we ate a lunch of subs, and then back on the bus we went for the biggest concert of the entire weekend in Conway at St. Paul’s Anglican Church.
The Choraleers had plenty of time to warm up and practice before Coastal Carolina University’s choir joined us for the rehearsal of Rutter’s "Gloria" and Hovland’s “Saul.” Collaborating with another (and much larger) choir was definitely a new experience, and I enjoyed creating a bigger sound together. Coastal Carolina University’s choirs sang first, and I was glad that we had the chance to see them perform. The Erskine Choraleers and Chamber Singers were next to perform, followed by an intermission.
After intermission, both choirs sang “Saul” and then "Gloria," both of which went very well, I thought. I enjoyed singing with Coastal Carolina University’s choir, and each of the students that I spoke to were so gracious and friendly. One girl in particular (I wish I knew her name), who stood right in front of me and had one of the solos in "Gloria," was especially sweet and complimented our choir on our performance. She said that she loved seeing the joy on our faces as we sang, which I thought was very encouraging and kind of her to tell us. I am so glad that we had the opportunity to sing with CCU. When we sang the final chord, it was hard to believe that we were finished.
We went to the bus to retrieve our change of clothes only to discover that, alas, the air conditioning was down in the bus. We changed into the coolest clothes possible and arrangements were made to have a bus meet us in Columbia to switch out. Our next stop was for a fast food dinner, and by the time we boarded the bus again, it had already begun to cool down somewhat. The temperature was fine once the sun went down, so we never ended up switching buses.
I have to say that I really do love traveling by bus. When I am not talking to the people around me, I enjoy watching the countryside pass by and having the quiet time to think. I did not feel as exhausted as I had been expecting to feel, and the drive back to campus was more lively than I had been expecting. Our bus driver, William, even sang two gospel songs to us and shared an endearing story about his past that warmed our hearts.
We got back to campus around 11:30 p.m., exhausted but with happy memories and, at least for me, a sense that Choraleers felt more like a family than ever before. It is hard to believe that my very last college choir tour is over already. I had such a wonderful time! It has been a privilege to be a member of the Erskine College Choraleers during my four years as a student, and I am so thankful for the memories that were created on this last tour. We certainly were blessed with a wonderful group of friends and singers to travel with! I am going to miss singing with Choraleers more than I can say, but I am glad that I have memories like these to carry with me wherever I go.