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Asia 2000 Tour
Calvin College Alumni Choir Tour Diary

Text by Darlene Kortenhoeven Meyering '69
Photos by Susan Lemmen Byker '71


The Calvin College Alumni Choir culminated its 1999-2000 season with a concert tour to five Asian countries—Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Taiwan. Planned over a 22-month period, the tour was made possible by the professional and personal contacts of Dr. Pearl Shangkuan and with the tremendous help of CRC missionaries and staff and Calvin alumni and friends living in Asia.

To embody the meaning and purpose of this tour, the choir commissioned composer and choir member Roy Hopp and noted hymn text writer Herman Steumpfle, Jr. to create "Many Colors Paint the Rainbow," the theme song of the tour.

The choir gave 19 performances in as many days, singing in packed concert halls, high schools and churches.

July 28—August 1

Images from Japan
Click to see images from Japan.

Arrived in Tokyo after 20 hours of travel. Settled in at the Hotel Grand Palace Tokyo after a two-hour bus ride through Tokyo traffic. Met by Rev. Larry Spalink of CRC World Missions who checked us in with his fluent Japanese! Two nights in a lovely, comfy hotel—hurray!

Explored Tokyo. Eighteen of us took a 5 a.m. foray to the Skiji Fish Market. Gorgeous picture material and squid or eel for breakfast. Yum! Wonderful sights all day. Tonight met with Dirk Pruis—he flew in for the weekend. Dirk and Larry were a Godsend in all our planning.

Whew! A subway ride dragging our luggage in 90 degree heat makes for an invigorating morning! Led the worship service at the Tokyo Union Church for packed church. After church Roy Hopp, Emily Brink and Randy Van Wingerden led a choral workshop for 40 people while we walked the beautiful Omotosande Road before lunch.

Evening concert at Amway Japan Ltd. A beautiful facility with all orchestrated to the minute and lots of protocol. The concert went great, especially our arrangement of a favorite Japanese folk song, "Hamabe uta." A lovely party followed where we visited with Amway staff, guests and some alumni and Calvin parents. Larry Spalink then matched us with families from the Reformed Church of Japan where we experienced the hospitality and warmth of these Japanese brothers and sisters for the next two days.

Traveled with our hosts to Kawaguchiko near Mt. Fuji—a lovely and majestic site! Housed in large rooms with tatami mats. Large closets held futons and kimonos for our use with 6-8 women or men to a room. Led a 4 p.m. worship service for over 200 Japanese Christians. Larry Spalink preached in Japanese using our theme song, Many Colors Paint the Rainbow to focus on unity in Christ. We sang "Holy, Holy, Holy," alternating the first four stanzas in Japanese and English with the last stanza in both languages and descant—a foretaste of heaven.

In the dining room the 200 Japanese were seated at low tables while Western tables and chairs were set for us! An authentic Japanese meal (sushi, rice, tofu, etc.) with chopsticks. Had to watch our Japanese friends to see how to eat each item "correctly!" An evening concert for our precious Reformed brothers and sisters ended this amazing first leg.

August 2 & 3

Images from Malaysia
Click to see images from Malaysia.

Travel to Jahor Bahru (J.B.) via the Singapore Airport. Arrived at The Tropical Inn tired from a full day of travel, astonished to see a huge "Welcome Calvin College Alumni Choir" sign on the hotel doorway with smiling strangers lining the steps! The welcoming committee was the Nanyang University Alumni Choir, our first "friendship choir." A full Asian feast and the fun of trying to communicate endeared us to these singers, mostly Buddhist or Muslim.

Our host, Mr. Ooi Yong Hee, arranged sight seeing in JB. Evening concert at the Foon Yew School (the largest Chinese School in Malaysia). The stage was decorated in Calvin colors with "Many Colors Paint the Rainbow," and large signs graced the school’s entrances near the huge statue of Confucius! Nine hundred people—over 300 of them Chinese students—attended. Overwhelming! The concert began after 25 minute’s of speeches by "honorable guests" in Chinese! At intermission CDs sold quickly. Students quickly unwrapped them and ran up to us to autograph the inserts. Young girls surrounded our choir men—they looked like rock stars!

Nanyang Alumni Choir began the final section with four folksongs and then we sang three Asian folksongs. When the Nanyang choir joined in on "Many Colors Paint the Rainbow" we realized the significance of our trip as Buddhists, Muslims and Christians sang "Free our hearts from hate and discord till our lives in concert blend. Alleluia! Alleluia! be our anthem without end."

August 4 & 5

Traveled by bus to Singapore for a day exploring the shops and ethnic communities in this beautiful city. Stayed a large YMCA—comfy and modern! Tonight—sing in the 150-year-old St. Andrew’s Cathedral with a Chinese and English Friendship Choir. Terrific people again.

Nine hundred again at St. Andrew’s! In this majestic cathedral in the tropics with fans lazily turning overhead, we’re amazed at the blessings experienced in one week. Our Singapore hosts, Dr. Samuel Cheung and Mr. Kay Sum are new friends we will cherish and hope to see again.

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