Written by Morgan Wrigley // Photo provided by Zach Bishop
The Harding University Chorus traveled to Olive Branch, Mississippi, last weekend to conduct a performance, marking the first time the group has made a trip of this nature since 2020.
The group left Searcy Saturday and returned Sunday afternoon, with one performance at Friendship Church of Christ on Sunday morning.
Dr. Susan Shirel, the director of chorus, said these overnight trips are “a rite of passage.”
“One of the really cool things historically for the choral groups, both chorus and for concert choir, is that the groups have traveled a lot for the last … probably 60 or 65 years, both in the States and overseas,” Shirel said.
As an alumna of both groups, Shirel said those overnight trips were significant memory makers.
“The singing is fun and is great and is impactful, but it was always on the trips where those really close friendships were made, or the choir tour romances happened, or the fun stories about somebody getting left someplace and having to get a get a ride to the next location, or whatever,” Shirel said.
Shirel said Dr. Cliff Ganus led the last choral trip in 2020.
Since then, because of COVID-19, there have not been many opportunities to perform in other places, much less stay in people’s homes. Now, the group is finally in a position where they can have those experiences again.
Shirel said when she asked the group how many of them had done an overnight trip with a Harding choral group before, less than 10 out of the 60 students raised their hands.
Many chorus members, including senior Keller Montgomery, have been in the group all four years of their time at Harding and still never have had this experience.
“I’m super excited to not only see places around the world but get to make music in these places, as well,” Montgomery said. “I think that getting to sing to people in our travels will allow us to not only gain something special and beautiful from these places but give something beautiful back as well.”
Freshman Anna Wright said it was her first time traveling with a choral group, and she was most excited for the opportunity to sing for people outside of the Harding community.
“I love singing for Harding people, but we’ve never gotten to go out and sing for other people,” Wright said. “And I think singing for churches is really special because not a lot of college students out there like to sing praises to the Lord.”
Shirel emphasized the importance of going out and making connections with different church communities.
“Whenever we travel overnight, most of the time we’re staying in church members’ homes, and so you’re getting connected and seeing how other people live and experiencing the hospitality of somebody from another church,” Shirel said. “… You are blessed in both ways of getting to know somebody else that is also a faith believer and getting to see them not just in a worship setting, but also how they live and learning more about them. And we grow through those experiences, as well.”