One never knows exactly how things will turn out when planning something that has never been done. Plans are made, details reviewed and expectations set, but the outcome is uncertain. So when the formation of a Territorial Youth Band and Youth Chorus was announced last summer, who knew what the response would be. While the territorial music and gospel arts department hoped young people throughout the territory would be interested and give up two weekends to rehearse and to perform at the Festival of Worship Arts in June, how many actually would and what would their ability level be?

Earlier this year the department got its answer when 63 young people showed up at Camp Wonderland on a weekend that resembled Alaska more than the Midwest. Traveling from as far away as Omaha, Neb., and Port Huron, Mich., the eager group of young people entered the chapel. As if coming home, they were comfortable in each other’s company and this familiar setting. Most have been recent students at Central Music Institute and have known each other for years. They greeted friends and quickly settled into the compact weekend schedule that included three rehearsals, one sectional, three small group devotionals and two mini-programs—all in less than 24 hours!

Following a brief welcome by William Himes, territorial music and gospel arts secretary, the groups plunged into full rehearsals of challenging repertoire. Including players and singers from the Chicago Staff Band (CSB) and Bill Booth Theater Company (BBTC), the Territorial Youth Band (TYB) of 54 instrumentalists was led by Staff Bandmaster Himes and Peggy Thomas, while the Territorial Youth Chorus (TYC) of 34 voices was led by Joe Caddy and Meghan Pierson.

Throughout the weekend young people were challenged in their spiritual journey by small group studies based on the three movements (making a difference, making time and making progress) of “Quest” by Paul Sharman which the TYB will perform at the festival. As chaplain, Marty Thomas led the devotional periods in which participants broke into small discussion groups led by members of the CSB and BBTC.

After a time of fellowship, the TYB rehearsed cornet and trombone features with the CSB, while the TYC worked on special music for the Festival of Worship Arts. This was followed with an informal 30-minute CSB/BBTC concert featuring soloists Ben Kinzie, Paul Bowyer and Shaun Thomas. The Bill Booth Theater Company presented a thought-provoking sketch, and the evening concluded with Joe Caddy and Kaela McDougall singing the beautiful duet, “The Prayer.”

Saturday began with sectional rehearsals again led by members of the CSB and BBTC, followed by another full rehearsal and devotions. After lunch, groups assembled for their final rehearsal and group photos outside in 14 degree weather with snow showers! The retreat concluded with each group “trying out their stuff,” performing two numbers and being cheered on by the others. The progress made in such short time was amazing.

With Marty Thomas’ final challenge, young people met in their small groups one last time, committing to pray for each other until they meet again in June.

It was apparent everyone was looking forward to meeting at the Festival of Worship Arts in Merrillville, Ind., June 6-8, where both groups will be featured prominently.

“Our territory is blessed with a lot of wonderful young people—and many of them are in the first-ever TYB and TYC,” said Bandmaster Himes.

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