Oklahoma Camp Meeting Orchestra

October 20, 2022

WEWOKA, OKLA. – The Orchestra Music Program at Oklahoma Camp Meeting is always a highlight, but you may not know how it all comes together. After all, musicians traveled from seven different states to be a part of the orchestra this year. How do they practice together in preparation for camp meetings? Easy answer: they don’t. In fact, this was the sixth year that Harvey Gil, pastor, has organized the orchestra at Oklahoma Camp Meeting, and to this day, their only practice time is the two and a half hours before they perform! 

Here are the details. Gil, being the music artistic director/Jesus lover that he is, started a ministry called the “Festival of Lights” when he pastored the Claremore Seventh-day Adventist Church. The goal was simple: to bridge the community members and church members in a night of sharing holiday joy and Jesus. He led this program for almost 20 years! This is where he met some of the musicians that were in this year’s music crew. 

Through the years, Gil has kept a list of participants and does his best to stay in touch with them from “back in the day.” He also relies on friends bringing friends! The musicians this year came from as far south as Houston, as far north as Lincoln, Neb. and from the Carolinas, Missouri, Arizona, Arkansas, Texas and a good handful from Oklahoma. 

Gil selects the music, musicians and conductors for the weekends. “We get together two and a half hours before the worship service and that’s the only time we get together to practice, so you better know how to sight read!”, said Gil. The first weekend, a Texas woman named Lanice conducted the concert. The second weekend, Giovanni, a second year choral director doctoral candidate from the University of Oklahoma led the orchestra. 

World-renowned musician, Jaime Jorge, popped in for the orchestra, sat down and joined in with his violin! When Gil chatted with him later that day, Jaime said, “This is very rare. This is very rare indeed.” 

To have people from all over come and practice together for two hours and perform such incredible music is a true heaven-like experience. Sometimes, musicians don’t get the appreciation that God calls us to give them. But at the Oklahoma Camp Meeting, they are more than just their instruments. We pray for them, their families, their personal ministries and their future. They have purpose, names and needs. They need direction, correction, protection and love. Remember that like David, the one who used to play for you, may one day be your leader. Love them well. 

“From gas cards and meals to purchasing the sheet music and mailing it out to each musician, this orchestra wouldn’t be possible without the help from our sponsors,” according to Gil.

As we start planning for Camp Meeting 2023, Gil is ready to meet some new young musicians who want to join this orchestra! If you’d like to join the orchestra or support it financially, please reach out to Harvey Gil. 

By Ashley Alipoon & Harvey Gil
Photos by Bailley Schmidt