Seminary Touring Choir Creates Off-campus Ministry Opportunities
“As a student of pastoral theology, I find the Touring Choir supports my scholarly work. It takes me beyond studying to experience various worship styles and to meet people who gather at particular churches,” says Melissa Haupt, a PTS Ph.D. candidate.
She sees the Touring Choir as such a valuable complement to her studies that she was also a member while earning her M.Div. in 2008 and her Th.M. in 2009. Today, she’s the manager of the choir, known for its service to churches, hospitals, and prisons.
“The Touring Choir has a long history of reaching out beyond the campus,” says Martin Tel, the Seminary’s C.F. Seabrook Director of Music. “We bring a wonderful musical experience to people. The touring aspect lets us make connections, make people aware of the Seminary, and expose people to music of the global church.”
Tel has directed the Seminary’s Touring Choir, Chapel Choir, and Seminary Singers since 1996, carrying on a tradition started by David Hugh Jones, who served the Seminary from 1934 until 1970 as choir director and organist. “He created a legacy of reaching out to others and giving them the gift of the church’s music. We now sing global music to share our rich diversity and expose others to music they may not have access to. And we know our alumni/ae have many fond memories of their choir experiences,” said Tel. Click here to share your choir memories.
The Seminary’s Touring Choir roster varies by performance, but generally includes approximately 20 students, selected from the Chapel Choir.
Sharing Global Music
The Touring Choir serves churches by singing, leading prayers, and reading scripture during Sunday services. “We mix traditional anthems with global music to help congregations experience other cultures. The beauty of global church music is its relationship to the service. If this were a concert, people might passively enjoy the music. When we weave songs into a congregation’s liturgy, people actively experience the music,” said Tel.
At the same time, the Touring Choir introduces students to the work associated with planning worship services at churches and programs at hospitals and prisons, while bringing a unique musical experience to others.
“I joined the choir because it not only offered an opportunity to sing and worship with fellow students, but also to travel to different church communities and share in worship, music, and fellowship with those congregations,” Haupt said. “As I have grown in my personal faith journey, music has become an integral and essential way of worshipping. It is where I’ve experienced God most fully.”
The Touring Choir History
The Seminary has a long history of using music to support its worship, education, and service to others. In 1937, Jones assembled the first Touring Choir. Selected from members of the Chapel Choir, the ensemble truly traveled the world. During Jones’s time alone, the choir performed at more than 2,000 churches across America. It also went global, traveling to Cuba, Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, and the Caribbean. The biggest tour was in 1953, when twenty-four singers left Princeton and spent fifty-two days touring Japan, Korea, and the Pacific Islands.
Traveling by train, boat, plane, military truck, and landing craft—and often dressed in military fatigues—they ministered to American, Korean, and Japanese service men and women fighting in the Korean War. According to Arlo Duba (M.Div. 1955, Ph.D. 1960), just twenty-four when he left on the tour, the choir performed 118 times and sang to nearly 43,000 people.
Duba and other alumni from that 1953 trip—Al Davies (M.Div. 1955, D.Min. 1978), John Lee (M.Div. 1956), Jim MacKellar (M.Div. 1955), Don Pendell (M.Div. 1955), Paul Rutgers (M.Div. 1955), and Phil Young (M.Div. 1955)—presented an extensive photo review of the tour October 27, 2010, as part of Reunion Week. They shared many memories, as well as photos, travel orders, military papers, maps, and other mementos. Click here for a photo gallery.
While Tel is not planning anything that extensive this year, he says there will be a more extensive Touring Choir schedule in 2011–2012 to support the Seminary’s Bicentennial Celebration.
Hear the Sounds
Today’s Touring Choir maintains a strong focus on global music. “That’s appropriate,” said Tel, “because we have a diverse student body that brings us songs from around the world.”
In 2010, the student body, already known for representing many nations, added 21 international students, representing Botswana, Canada, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Korea, Latvia, Liberia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Russia, and Switzerland. Typically, these students return to ministries in their home countries. Nearly 900 alumni/ae live outside the United States.
Listen to the Touring Choir’s global music.
To listen to the following audio clips, you must have Windows Media player installed on your computer. To download a free copy of Windows Media Player, please click here.
Text from Psalm 150. Music by Geonyong Lee; Joon-Yeon Heo, drum; I-to Loh, cantoto.
The Glory of the Father
Text from John 1. Music by Egil Hovland.
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
African-American spiritual, arr. William L. Dawson; Elaine Bowen, soloist.
Share Your Choir Memory
What’s your favorite memory of the PTS Touring Choir? Please share your thoughts online using the submission box.