As we find ourselves approaching spring break and thinking of warm weather, 45 Goshen College students are gearing up to head north. The Women’s World Music Choir will be on tour in Ontario, Canada, in just a few days.

Although not many people consider February the most logical time to visit Canada, choir director Debra Brubaker said that now seemed like a good time to go north.

Lydia Dyck, a first-year from Ontario, said that she thinks it will be special for the choir to give a taste of world music to some of the more secluded areas of Ontario, as well as to the larger churches around Toronto.

The Women’s World Music Choir sings songs from many different cultures and in a number of different languages each year. This year, knowing that they were Canada bound, Brubaker chose two pieces that reflected the tour’s destination: a First Nation song and a French Canadian song.

This is particularly special because the GC choir will be performing in a joint concert with a First Nations choir during the tour. Anja Kenagy, a sophomore in the choir, thinks this experience will be a highlight of the tour.

“It’s a kind of music that I haven’t heard firsthand before,” says Kenagy, “and I’m excited to hear indigenous music performed authentically, not just our interpretation.”

The First Nation song that the GC choir has learned, “Inniqtuq”, is based on Inuit throat singing, a type of singing that emulates sounds heard in nature. Hannah Friesen, sophomore, along with Kenagy, looked a bit deeper into the traditions of throat singing, even teaching themselves some throat singing duets which will be performed as a part of the tour program.

Friesen finds this type of singing valuable because it connects singers to each other, nature and the women who invented it. She is excited to share this unique style of music with audiences on tour, especially since the music originated in Canada.

When choosing music, Brubaker takes into account the number and type of voices in the choir, the text and musical content of different pieces that she is most excited about and the diversity of countries and cultures the songs come from.

The overall theme for this year’s tour is “Reflections of Light,” based on the piece “Reflections from Yad Vashem,” which the choir will be performing.

Brubaker chose this theme because “it presents the idea that each soul is a piece of light – a shard from the larger source of light, which is God.”

She hopes that the choir can provide some light to those who hear them perform.

“I see each person in the choir as one piece of light shining with potential,” says Brubaker. “When we come together to sing, we reflect the Divine light to others.”

In addition to benefiting the choir’s audiences, the tour aims to be a positive experience for students in the choir. Traveling together can be a bonding experience for groups, in both the bus rides and the performance venues where the choir will sing.

The choir will perform eight concerts together over the course of the tour, in addition to taking some time for sightseeing and fun in Toronto.

Brubaker recognizes the difficulty that some international students have had in acquiring the right paperwork to travel across country lines, acknowledging that things are a little dicey with the current political situation.

She hopes that there will be no issues with any border guards, but in the unlikely situation that there are, she says, “we can always offer to sing something for them!”

At the end of spring break, after returning from Canada, the Women’s World Music Choir will perform their final concert of the tour in Sauder Hall on Sunday, March 5, at 7:30 p.m. This concert is open and free to all GC students, faculty and staff.

According to Dyck, people should come to this concert because “it’s filled with every kind of song you could wish for: from lively, to heartbreaking, to heartwarming, to calming, to songs that make you want to get up and dance.”

Brubaker hopes the program will make a positive impact in each place that the choir performs, including here at home.

“The world needs lots of beauty and art,” she says, “and I am confident that we can offer that.”