I’ve dedicated a good half of all of my weekends to Male Chorale this semester.  The buses have hauled us over to Westminster, Fountain Valley, Littlerock, and Hemet, with the longest ride taking a little over an hour. There’s always a hint of excitement among us as we load onto the buses in our suits and ties, most of us not sure where we’re even going, and some of us just clocking out in our seats. I’ve found that the bus ride is a terrible place to get any homework done with the distraction of friends cracking jokes and (not surprisingly) singing random songs. With rehearsals consisting of 2 ½ hours of vocal practice, there isn’t much time to meet relax with the guys during the week. It’s only during these weekend concerts that we can actually socialize with our brothers.

That’s what made Male Chorale mini tour last weekend so much fun. Every fall the Male Chorale travels for a weekend to churches in Northern California and the central valley, singing night and Sunday morning concerts. Our first concert was in Ceres, a good 6-hour bus ride away. Sitting in a bus for hours and hours, trying to keep your suit nice with 50 other guys can be an experience all in itself, but I didn’t have to deal with that this year.

I woke up early Saturday morning and walked over to the music building before the buses even arrived. For this weekend, I would be on crew, which is in charge of setting up all of the speakers, cables, percussion instruments, and risers for each concert. Some people view us as the select 12 students that arrive before the concert, perform manual labor all up until the sound check, sing through the concert, tear down after the concert, eat after everyone else, and arrive home an hour after the buses. As a man, the idea of more work physical labor and delayed meals doesn’t sound too appealing. The hard work, though, is an afterthought. The true crew experience is everything else.

The adventure began with the van ride. Half of us ride in the van and the other half in the truck, but either way you’re laughing with just a couple other people instead of the entire choir. Don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing quite like a full bus of choir guys shouting across the aisles and playing random cell phone games. In a smaller group, though, you can easily have your shenanigans as well as some quiet time. On the long drive back down the 5 South, we all appreciated the hours of quiet, straight road. It is the shenanigans, however, that I like to remember and what really brought us closer together.

The bonding began simply by sitting in the van. With only seven people, it’s not hard to have a conversation with everyone since we’re all listening either way. When you have someone screaming from the back seat all the way to the front, you naturally have to be involved as well. The van travels much faster than the truck which carries all of our equipment, so of course of we had extra time to kill. We stopped in Chowchilla for a quick bite at Pedro’s Pizza, which I’m sure looked strange since we were a group of well-dressed college students eating pizza and burritos in a small restaurant. The whole experience was spontaneous but fun, which quickly became the motif of each van ride. The buses just take you to your destination. We had time to do much more.

Then was Saturday night at the church.  This year’s mini tour became even smaller since we only stayed one night instead of 3 or 4. Usually that will consist of two or three students spending the night at a home of one of the families from the church. For crew, that meant staying at the church since we needed to set up for the Sunday morning concert. Now, I stayed at a few churches for May Tour last semester, which ended up not being too exiting or comfortable. This church in Livermore, however, set a high standard. They provided air mattresses, cots, sleeping bags, pillows, towels, a carpeted room, and a satisfying amount of orange juice and powdered mini donuts. As if a food coma wasn’t appealing enough, there was an entire gym floor with basketball hoops and volleyball nets to enjoy. After some exploration we even found plastic hockey sticks and small ball. I can’t remember the last time I had that much fun playing hockey. I don’t think I’ve even played hockey before that night. It was such an incredible time with some solid guys.

We still setup and tore down all of the equipment the next morning and night, but we had experiences to laugh about through the weekend. If being on crew means that I have to dedicate extra time in my week to help Male Chorale with the 11 other brothers, I think I’ll stick with it.