Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Music in Moscow

As I mentioned in my post last week, I recently traveled to Moscow (Idaho, not Russia!) to attend the Christ Church Summer Music Camp.

Sadly enough, Idaho is only the third state I've ever been in. The other two are Washington and Oregon, although I don't know if Oregon really counts since I live there.

On the other hand, I don't know if being in Moscow entirely counts as being in Idaho, since Moscow is right on the border. I mean, we passed the "Welcome to Moscow" sign barely 5 seconds after we passed the "Welcome to Idaho" sign.

Idaho (or at least, all that I saw of it) is very green. Bright green. Not like Northwest Oregon's varied darker greens. No, Idaho is like a crayon-box, with the stripes of green and yellow on the hills. I couldn't get enough of the view, at first, especially from where we were staying. There was a certain spot that we would always stop at almost every time we drove to the school for the camp. You could see the hills stretching out before you as far as you could see. It was glorious.

The music camp itself was also fantastic. It was held at Logos School and is run and directed by Dr. David Erb. If Dr. Erb is one thing, it's enthusiastic about music.

I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting from the music camp, but it's nothing near what it turned out to be. It was quite professional, actually. When we arrived at the school Monday morning we were given a binder full of music and a name tag.

I was very happy that everyone wore name tags. Being an introvert and all, I was afraid that I was going to be an invisible girl in a crowd of people who all knew each other. Turns out that there were actually quite a lot of people who didn't know each other, so the name tags were very useful. It's much easier to go up and talk to someone when you actually know their name. Although I kept forgetting that people could actually see my name, and when people to whom I'd never introduced myself would say "Hey, Lauren!" I would jump, point to myself, and ask "me?" before remembering why they knew my name.

After we were fitted out with our binders and name tags we were split up into three groups - the 1-3 grade, the 4-6 grade, and the 7-12 grade. Then we were sent off to separate rooms for voice placement.

Voice placement. I know, sounds kind of intimidating. But all they were trying to find out was the range of each student's voice, and whether they would sing best as a soprano, alto, bass, or tenor. I normally sing alto, and thankfully I was placed as one.

Monday continued with a variety of activities, including a Bible study (with Pastor Douglas Wilson!) and score analysis - a class in which we went through all the music together and marked important things to remember, learned about the background of some of the songs, and reviewed basic sight reading.

It wasn't until Tuesday that we started the non-explicitly music related activities - archery and dancing.

Okay, well dancing is music related, but the archery not so much. But you see, the theme of the camp was "the Whole Armor of God" (Ephesians 6:10-18) and Dr. Erb wanted to incorporate some physical activity into it, so that's what we did. Actually, that's what the girls did. The boys had fencing lessons instead. I would actually rather prefer fencing, since I've done some archery before, but after seeing the boys having their fencing lessons out in the hot sun and getting bruised and whacked, I changed my mind.

As for dancing - well, this wasn't your normal ballroom dancing. We started off on Tuesday by learning the Scottish sword dance. Our dance instructor was Katie Bouma, and I think we all had quite a bit of respect for her - she's very sweet and cheerful, short and petite, and six months pregnant, but she got out two real swords and demonstrated the sword dance for us.

In case you happen to be wondering what that looks like, we learned something similar to this:

Only, we didn't do all those complicated jumps and leaps all around the swords at the beginning. Just the actual dancing-inside-the-swords-bit. Although the "swords" we used were just crosses made of blue tape on the floor. You have to start somewhere, right?

The following days we learned some contra-dances, including the Scottish Polka, the Virginia Reel, and the Soldier's Joy. I already knew two of those, so it was fun just to actually dance to them.

The music that we sang was also a lot of fun, although it was challenging. Among the choir pieces we sang were The Pilgrim's Psalm from the opera Pilgrim's Progress by Ralph Vaughan Williams, a Civil War era hymn called "Contented Soldier," a piece by Mendelssohn from the oratorio St. Paul ("How Lovely are the Messengers") and an arrangement for choir that Dr. Erb wrote using the spiritual Great Day.

Great Day earned us the biggest applause at the end-of-week concert.

The camp ran from 9:00 to 3:00, so we had some time afterward to do other things. One afternoon we roamed around downtown Moscow. It's kind of like downtown Hillsboro or Oregon City, only there's a lot more brick (and less hills). And we tried to find Bucer's, but failed, which is too bad. Maybe next time.

We also ran into New Saint Andrews as we wandered around. It was smaller than I was expecting it to be, seeing how so many people at my church have been there or want to go there. But it's a nice little building. We peeked in all the windows, and then sat in Friendship Square for a while until it got too hot. It stayed around 80 degrees the whole time we were in Moscow.

As we were heading back past NSA I passed really close to one of the windows near the street. The blinds were up, and I glanced in and spotted a middle-aged man (probably a professor) sitting in a chair at a desk. Our eyes met and he smiled and waved cheerily at me. I waved back. I have no idea who he was, but that kind of made my day.

I believe it was Wednesday that we drove out of Logos to almost 90 degree weather. So I got out my phone and we looked up the nearest pool (which is Hartman-Lowe aquatic center,) changed into our swimsuits and  drove over there, along with probably a third of the population of Moscow. Seriously, it was pretty crowded. It was a very nice outdoor pool, despite that. The only place you could really get to yourself was the water slide, since they made people go down one at a time. So I went down the water slide in an inner tube maybe fourteen or fifteen times.

On Saturday morning before the concert we went to the Moscow's farmers' market. Now, I love the idea of farmers' markets, and I always have, but there's something so disconcerting about actually being at one. Everyone always walks so slowly past the booths, the crowds around the one you actually want to buy something at always gets bigger when you try to pay, and if you make eye contact with any of the booth owners you feel guilt tripped into stopping at them. It was the same in Moscow, except the Moscow one is in a parking lot unlike the downtown Hillsboro one, so it feels bigger.

Okay, I'm done complaining. The Moscow farmers' market was really nice. One booth was selling raspberry lemonade, and another was selling Egyptian pastries (we bought one.) I didn't see any potatoes, though. In fact, I didn't eat a potato the whole time I was in Idaho, which is kind of sad. I did buy some Idaho sweet alfalfa honey to bring home, though. That and a pair of bright blue handmade earrings was my only purchase at the market.

Saturday afternoon was the end of camp concert. It wasn't held at Logos, but at a local Presbyterian church which, incidentally, had no air conditioning. And to preserve the stained glass windows the church forbade opening them. So it was HOT.

Fortunately, I (and some of the front row altos) were standing directly in front of a fan that one of the helpers had placed in front of the choir to keep us all cool. On one hand, it was nice to stand in front of that semi-cool air. On the other, my sheet music was flapping in the breeze and my hair was blowing all over the place, so we had to adjust it.

The concert was amazing. I almost wish I could have been sitting in the audience listening instead of singing (although it probably would have been hotter down there). It wasn't just choral singing - we were also accompanied by drums, cymbals, pipes, a piano, an organ, and a violin. For the very first song of the concert - the "Contented Soldier" hymn - the choir all marched in after the audience had been seated and sang with the drums beating and the pipe playing. It was incredibly neat to be a part of that.

After the performance we went and had dinner at Wendy's. One thing that bothered me a little bit about buying anything in Idaho was the tax. We don't have a sales tax in Oregon, so the price on the tag is the price you pay.

Of course, that didn't mean I enjoyed my hamburger and milkshake any less, especially after being in that hot church.

Sunday morning we packed and left Idaho. The drive home felt kind of like being a pioneer on the Oregon trail - Oregon or bust!

I was waiting and waiting to see pine trees and Mt. Hood and those blue hills in the distance. After we left bright green Idaho we were stuck in flat brown Washington. I got really tired of that really fast.

Funnily enough, as we finally left Washington behind and drove past the "Welcome to Oregon" sign the road all of a sudden got smoother.

We stopped in Hermiston and attended the church service at a Lutheran church. The lady who sat in front of us during the service turned to us afterwards and said "wow, what excellent singing!"

We told her we had just come from a music camp in Idaho.

"What did you sing?" she asked.

"Ummmm...." My mind went blank. Mendelssohn. Ralph Vaughan Williams. William Walker. Great Day. Canons. Traditional hymns.

"Choir... arrangements," I said.

"That sounds like fun," she said.

"It was," I said. "I had an amazing time."

After that we got back into the car and drove and drove until we saw the pine trees and the grey skies and the blue hills and the sleek silver buildings in Portland. I was incredibly happy to be home.

But you know what? I actually wouldn't mind traveling again. 

I think I might have a taste for it now.

Did you go traveling this summer? Have you ever been to (or do you live in) Idaho? Ever been to a music camp? Ever sung in a choir? 


  1. What a great trip you had, Lauren. Those camps can be very special, meeting new people, learning new skills. I once saw an opera master class. . .so amazing what the human voice can do.

    1. Yes, it was a lot of fun. And it is quite amazing what the human voice can do if applied.... Unfortunately a lot of people grow up without really any knowledge of music or how to sing.



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