Blend and balance: these seem like essential elements in a college student’s life. But for members of Goshen College’s singing group Parables, blend and balance are crucial in both their lives and performances.Parables consists of eight students. Sophomores in the group are Paul Zehr, Martin Flowers, Prashansa Dickson, Miranda Earnhart and Benjamin Ganger. Remaining members are Becky Snider and Brody Thomas, juniors, and Rachel Mast, senior. Dr. Deb Brubaker leads and directs Parables, and Gwen Gustafson-Zook, minister of worship, provides spiritual focus.
Blending and channeling diverse personalities into a polished product is challenging, but the group has made it work. In spring 2013, students completed group auditions and eight students learned they were selected to form the Parables group the following year. Over the summer, the eight studied the music individually, but arrived on campus a week before classes in order to practice together. The group stayed at Brunk’s Cabin for a night, and spent about 40 hours practicing that week.
Preparation was necessary because, according to Dr. Brubaker, Parables will preform 20 to 25 times this year, at chapel, churches and camps. Fall break found Parables traveling around Ohio for three days, where they even preformed at a retirement community.
Their hours of hard work have paid off. Dickson says that nearly every church has mentioned Parables’ ability to blend vocally. Their own unique gifts have fused together in other ways as well.
Dickson herself used her knowledge to teach the group a Hindi song. “It talks about how even when we’re not aware of it, God is near us and around us,” she said. Another favorite song is “Hallelujah,” which provides this year’s theme, and has “harmonies [that] are awesome,” said Earnhart.
Group members also used their skills to develop skits for the biblical parables they share during their performances. “We just sat in a big circle,” said Thomas, “and threw ideas out and waited for something good to come up.” Each member is serious while sharing his or her personal faith story, but also knows how to have fun.
In one skit, Flowers plays the role of Jesus and asks the others (playing disciples) what they have learned. They love to respond with ridiculous answers. “It’s almost become a game to see how much we can throw off Martin,” said Ganger.
Audiences react well to the pieces, and children especially like the skits. Zehr spoke about the reactions: “It’s a really good experience [to be] pleasantly surprised by things you weren’t expecting.”
Balance can be hard, though. Jobs, majors and double majors, recitals, clubs, performances (both musical and theatrical), friends and schoolwork all compete with Parables for attention in members’ lives. But they manage.
Flowers, who recently acted in Goshen College’s fall mainstage, “Wit,” has developed a motto to help himself cope: “Sleep is for the weak!” Dr. Brubaker realizes that the students are very busy, but reports, “they’re all very good at multi-tasking.”
Together, Parables members balance one another and blend to create a strong group and powerful music.
The group will be performing at College Mennonite Church this Sunday at 9:30 a.m.