The four-year cycle of tours brings Busarow back to his roots. He calls it a "homecoming tour" as he looks forward to leading the choir in some of the places of his childhood and early concert career.
The tour begins on Thursday, March 5, at First United Methodist Church in Vincennes, Ind., and continues into Illinois for the weekend with concerts in Bloomington and the Chicago suburbs of River Forest and Glen Ellyn, where the choir will help celebrate Sunday services. The Saturday, March 7, concert in River Forest brings Busarow to the campus church where he did his undergraduate work at Concordia University.
"It will be good to hear the organ again where I played my senior recital many years ago," he said.
The tour continues Sunday, March 8, at Faith Lutheran Church in Busarow's hometown of Racine, Wis., where the choir will perform before an audience filled with his relatives and childhood friends. The next day, a performance is scheduled for Mount Zion Lutheran Church in Wauwatosa, Wis., a suburb of Milwaukee, where Busarow taught prior to Wittenberg.
In the final six days of the tour, the choir will perform in Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio, including a stop in historic Frankenmuth, Mich., at St. Lorenz Lutheran Church, which was once large enough to seat the town's entire population. Two performances in suburban Detroit, where Busarow spent 15 years as a teacher and church musician, are also on the itinerary.
After the tour's unofficial conclusion on Sunday, March 15, at Fairlawn Lutheran Church in Akron, the choir will perform on Wednesday, March 18, at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Germantown, Ohio. That will be followed by the choir's annual "home" concert in Wittenberg's historic Weaver Chapel at 8 p.m. Friday, March 20.
This year's program includes choral works representing more than 400 years of choral literature, from "O magnum mysterium" by the 16th-century composer Tomas de Victoria to a Christmas lullaby written in 2008. The featured work on the program is the motet for double choir, "Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf," ("The Spirit also helps us") with the choir dividing into two separate choirs.
For the past 10 years Busarow has programmed works from the Russian Orthodox Church. His father was born in Lithuania, and his mother was born in Russia. As a first-generation American, Busarow is deeply interested in music that represents his heritage, and two such works are included in this year's program.
The second half of the concert opens with the men in the choir in procession singing "The Prayer of the Children," written with children in mind who are living in war-torn parts of the world, homeless, orphaned and struggling to survive each day. Four British poets are represented in the concert — choral works written on poems by Mary Coleridge, Alfred Tennyson, William Blake and Robert Herrick. Two of these works are written for choir and oboe.
Of the 49 current choir members, 10 seniors have been with the choir throughout their four years at Wittenberg, which Busarow said is a remarkable achievement. Earning a position in the choir for one year is no guarantee of a permanent place. Annual auditions take place, and members are selected on the basis of voice quality, vocal range and music skills. Every academic department on campus is represented in the choir. Just 12 members are music majors.
"Choir is a place where we can be with others who appreciate and love music," said Kate Hubert, class of 2009 from Louisville, Ky. "When we come to an understanding of what's going on in a piece of music, the result can be the most beautiful expression."
Appointed in 1982, Busarow is the choir's fourth director in its illustrious 79-year history. He has been a member of the Wittenberg faculty since 1975.
Bob White, Wittenberg's director of church relations, will once again travel with the choir, representing the university each evening with a short presentation during the intermission. Choir alumna Hannah Auxter, Wittenberg class of 2006, and accompanist Brad Hall, class of 2005, are participating in the 2009 tour as well.
The choir serves as a recruitment tool for the university. In addition to his presentations during each evening's concert, White sets up a display of admission materials, and he and Auxter are available to discuss information about the school with concert-goers. White also ensures that Wittenberg alumni within 50 miles of each concert site are invited to attend the concerts and receptions.
"The members of the choir are tremendous ambassadors for the university," White said. "Wherever they go, they represent Wittenberg at its best."
Written By: Samantha Kimm '11
Photos By: Erin Pence
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