Finding Forgiveness, Kindness, Peace, and Gratitude Inside the Fences: A Summary of Writing Reflections


20th Season of the Oakdale Community Choir – April, 2018


-Prison confines prevent many from enjoying the gifts from God. One can only imagine the soft sand squishing under our toes as the waves come in with spray of saltwater. The quiet beauty from the top of a mountain peak can’t be appreciated from pictures of the views. Some can only dream to see the stars and moon with the coolness of a silent night. The light of the world, Christ, is one of the few peaceful gifts which can be practiced within the confines. It would be a shame if we couldn’t sing and praise God within these walls.

-Peace can be hard to find when we have stress in our life. Sometimes taking on one thing at a time is all we can do. Being around people with the opposite calming energy can help but many times it is easier just to take a few moments for ourselves. In these moments we can remind ourselves what we are capable of.

-The peace that we share is a shining star of light and hope. I do wish one day that things will be ok, a deep wave of peace. I hope one day my mother will have that relief. I wish every day she will feel the flowing air of light in this world.

Continue reading “Finding Forgiveness, Kindness, Peace, and Gratitude Inside the Fences: A Summary of Writing Reflections”

May I See Beauty Too


19thSeason IMCC Community Choir Concert – December, 2017

Call and Response:
We may know call and response best as a form of some African American songs. In our choir it is a way for all singers, experienced and new, to learn new music. We repeat the pitches and the words of our director. Call and response is the base of our singing together but also our relationships with one another. We listen to one another’s original songs, ideas about the meanings of the songs we sing together, and plans for our performances and the future of our choir, and we respond.

The writing component of our choir is part of this practice of call and response. John Schondelmeyer, assisted by Mary Trachsel, has provided us writing prompts this fall. Inside and outside singers have answered those prompts and shared their responses. This newsletter provides just a few excerpts from that call and response that enriches our communal choir experience. We hope you can feel the rhythm of our community conversation in these bits and pieces of our writing life together.
Consider how the interaction of insiders and outsiders sheds a new light on the prospect of people returning to communities. Continue reading “May I See Beauty Too”

Upcoming Concerts

The December 13, 2017 guest list is full. If you are on the list, an email with details about it should come to your inbox in early December.

Our next concert will be Saturday, May 5, 2018. Watch the choir website for a place to sign up to attend.

Newsletter: May, 2015


14thSeason IMCC Community Choir Concert – May 19 & 21, 2015 A Summary of Writing Responses

Bridge over Troubled Water
“When you’re weary, feelin’ small, when tears are in your eyes- I will dry them all;
I’m on your side Oh, when times get rough and friends just can’t be found,
Like a bridge over troubled water – I will lay me down.”
“Bridge” conjures up the flooding of a stream with violent turbulence. A bridge provides safe passage to beyond.
What strikes me is how firm and stable people being bridges have to be. You can’t be a bridge if you are being tossed in the currents too, so its a person who can rise above the chaos and stay firm. Those people are not always plentiful, but they are treasures to find, and it is awesome to be able to be that for others. Continue reading “Newsletter: May, 2015”

Newsletter: December, 2014

December 9 & 11, 2014

HIGH HOPES Holiday Concert Newsletter

“It was twenty years ago today, Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play.
They’ve been goin’ in and out of style, but they’re guaranteed to raise a smile.”
My favorite Beatles’ memory: The Beatles first visit to the U.S. happened when I was in 7th grade. The day after they appeared on the Ed Sullivan show, the 7th grade girls congregated in our music class and swooned over the Beatles’ performance. Mr. Bostwick, our teacher (likely only 10 years older than we were) pooh-poohed our conversation by saying, “Oh you girls. Next year you’ll be saying, ‘Beatles who?”’
Beatles’ Quote: “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”
Continue reading “Newsletter: December, 2014”

Newsletter: December, 2013


Winter 2013 Writing Prompt Summaries

Can Singing with others be a vehicle for change?
While we may have different preferences to what we listen to, music is a universal language that can reach across boundaries, joining those who might not otherwise…Music can give us new perspectives. When we sing together we share that common experience.
In a way, it is sad that so many of us now listen through earphones and MP3 players so it isn’t always a communal experience. We are fortunate to have the IMCC choir where we can share the joy of music.
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Newsletter: May, 2013


la) “What you spend years building, someone may destroy overnight. Build anyway.”

“People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.”
Wasn’t it Will Rogers who said, “Be kind to everyone you meet on the street.” They are all going through terrible straggles. We often don’t see it on the outside…it doesn’t make sense to resent or become angry with people who are difficult…Not only is it a good idea to “forgive them anyway” and try to sidestep the whole entangling mesh of action and reaction, perhaps its even a good idea to thank them!
How is it that in this life we are all individuals, doing what we do to survive & hopefully thrive, yet we live among an entire planet of living creatures? How can we more thoroughly understand that all our actions impact the greater whole?
“It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” …(apply) to what you have invested your blood, sweat and tears into creating… Quote from Children of Dune “Are you sure we’ll succeed?” Ghani asks. Leto answers, “I’m more sure that if we don’t try, we’ll have failed.” This is a sort of life quote for me-I’ve made a choice, to reject fear of failure as a reason not to do something..
We can probably all relate to this in some way… While it is hard to remember in the thick of an argument that the “other guy” is not out to deliberately hurt me I can usually look back later and understand that they were probably also feeling hurt…I have found that compassion and tolerance of our differences…are essential to eventual forgiveness and real love. Communication is a prerequisite to this compassion and communication requires trust…A veiy wise person once advised me that instead of waiting for an apology, I might try apologizing first…This can work miracles in allowing the other personto let down their defenses…and perhaps open the door to mutual forgiveness.

lb) Write about a favorite memory of our December concert.
Continue reading “Newsletter: May, 2013”

Newsletter: May, 2012

IMCC-Community Choir Writing Sampler #9

May 2012

Dear Choir  Members—- My name is Shanyn Cline and I am a journalism student here at the University of Iowa.  I have taken much interest and joy reading, and learning about your success in the Community Choir program.  Through my Topics in Human Rights course, I have had the opportunity to explore the importance of human rights to the well being of ourselves as individuals, and society as well. Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled, often held to include the right to life and liberty, freedom of thought and expression, and equality before the law.  No matter who you are, or the past you hold, you hold these rights as a human being. The denial of these rights is not only a tragedy for the individual, but can lead to social and political unrest. Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression: this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. From the passages you all have written, it is clear that the choir has demonstrated article 19 through powerful musical expression in singing and writing. By writing and singing songs, you are not only graciously unifying together, you, individually are participating in a rehabilitative activity to cope with the constraints of prison life.  The songs you have sung, written and performed, have done more than provide words to a tune; they have uncovered feelings and emotions that reveal inspirational power. I have grouped your musical experiences under four different themes; reactions to songs, us as songs, working together, and finding hope.  I have found positive energy filled with expression in these passages, and I hope you too can seek the strength and hope found in these musical experiences. 

“More than just letters and symbols on a page, the music and message we take up, becomes a part of us, to be communicated to others.” –An inside singer

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Newsletter: May, 2011

Oakdale Community Choir Newsletter—May, 2011

Thanks to all the writers who contributed to this newsletter.  In this installment, I’ve divided the excerpts into five categories.  In the first section, “Choir,” singer-writers reflect on the choir itself.  The second section, “Concerts” contains choir members’ comments about past concerts; the third section, “Songs,” features responses to songs we prepared for our spring 2011 concert; the fourth section, “Musical Life,” contains excerpts from choir members’ musical biographies, and the final section, “Muriel Stackley: Keeping the spirit and passing it on,” contains choir members’ responses to the farewell letter from Dr. Mary Cohen’s friend, Muriel Stackley.  I hope you enjoy reading these reflections from our spring, 2011 choir season.

Mary Trachsel, (Ed.)
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