Most would agree after eight years, Symphony in the Flint Hills is the premiere music event in Kansas. Joyful Noise, a day long event sponsored by the Symphony in the Flint Hills and hosted by YMCA Camp Wood near Elmdale, is a precocious two-year-old, finding its own success in a smaller and more intimate musical experience. My friend Sue and I found a great deal of Joy and beautiful Noise in our day there.
Traveling southwest on the turnpike, the sun rose in our rear view mirror signaling a nearly perfect day. We arrive at Camp Wood just in time to register and eat breakfast before orientation in the main hall. It should be noted that the day is advertised as a “Music and Prairie Family Camp.” In addition to all forms of musical gatherings there are workshops for people like Sue and me, who come to not only enjoy music in sound but also in word, art and story.
Turkey vultures circle in thermals, rising gracefully above the patio outside the main dining hall as Dr. H.C. Palmer, a retired physician and poet, begins his class by suggesting we think of a poem about these very birds. Dr. Palmer and Emily Hunter Connell, Executive Director of Symphony in the Flint Hills share their beautifully written works. Here we are, writing about turkey vultures, one of my favorite birds, and I only think of how to incorporate buzzard and my nagging question as to whether they have a nose.
Art class is equally entertaining. We laugh and create. Well, Sue creates. I laugh. We both learn.
We break for lunch and then two hikes looking closely at the Flint Hills prairie, searching for what is nestled down in the grass that might be good for us to eat in a pinch. Also, we learn how it is that cattle thrive so readily in that same grass. Speaking of cattle, a real cowboy teaches how to rope and ride while herding. Finally, Jim Hoy, Professor at Emporia State University and author tells stories about colorful and hardworking people living and working the prairie in Chase and surrounding counties.
After the evening meal, we all meander up the YMCA hill for short performances by music groups that met during the day. How they sound so good with just an hour of time in each class speaks to the outstanding musical staff provided by Emporia State University. Then, just as the sun begins to set, the perfect day ends with the Twilight Prairie Concert, featuring Eugene Friesen, Cello and the Emporia Symphony Orchestra enthusiastically conducted by Jeremy Starr. What an inspiration not only for young people but all of us to hear Emmy Award winner Dr. Friesen play his own beautiful, unique compositions.
While not as promoted or outfitted as the Symphony in the Flint Hills, Joyful Noise has charm, down home appeal, and personal attention. But, at the end of the day both equally share the music. Wrapped by the Kansas Flint Hills it is the merging of art and nature that brings feelings of Joy to all blessed to attend.