Take me Home, Country Roads — Announcing the latest Tawonga CD!

Like everything we do here at camp, our recently released Camp Tawonga CD, Home, was created, recorded, and produced with incredible care and intentionality. Celebrating the music of Tawonga is central to the camp experience, and Home truly captures the essence of Tawonga. Our hope is that anyone  who listens will be taken back to the “tall, tall trees” where the “stars in the sky” bring us “to the place [we] belong”.

Incorporated in the 18 tracks of Home are new and classic songs featuring the beautiful voices of campers and staff members, as well as current and past talented song leaders. Keeping it all in the family, Tawonga parent, Ben Bernstein of Petting Zoo Studios, took on the special project of producing Home — culminating in a final product that we are so excited to share.

“In selecting the title of Home, this concept of coming home is what we are going for when we think about so many campers, families, and staff. Tawonga is a place that genuinely feels like home, and we wanted the CD to evoke those feelings. It was this theme that influenced the pacing and tone of the songs,” said Tawonga Assistant Director, Aaron Mandel, who worked on the project.

Recording for Home began in the summer of 2013 when our music department, led by longtime Tawongan, Isaac Zones, began mapping out the kinds of songs that would be featured on the CD. In our entire camp history of 90 years, we have released only two other CDs — Camp Tawonga Live in 1997 and Od Shir Echad in 2004. Both collections represent the most classic songs of the times.

“In 2013 Isaac and I set up a mini-recording studio in Executive Director Ken Kramarz’ old house up at camp. We went through the old CDs and explored which songs needed to be recorded,” shared current Head Song Leader, Maya Abramson.

Of the 18 tracks on Home, 13 songs are newly recorded while the remaining five are from the two previous albums.

“The track order is really intentional; the CD starts with a newly recorded Country Roads adapted from the John Denver original. This song in particular makes me think of every first Sunday evening of the session when we open with this song. The roar of campers in the Dining Hall is overwhelming — the first few notes give me goosebumps every time. It’s a beautiful recording,” Mandel shared.

All of the tracks on the CD are reflective of the general role music plays at Camp Tawonga. There is a strong emphasis on the importance of music at camp: every day our Music Department engages campers in Song Session after breakfast and dinner.  Additionally, programs throughout the day often incorporate music, whether it is dancing during an activity, singing with a bunk, or learning how to play guitar on the back porch of the Dining Hall.

“The different songs on Home reflect the many ways we use music to set a tone at camp and create intentional moments for our campers. For instance, How Could Anyone is a beautiful Libby Roderick song we love as an anthem for body empowerment,” Mandel said.

The production of this CD was an incredibly collaborative project. In addition to all the musical talent, Tawonga’s artistic talent also played a role to make the project come to life. Meg Batavia, who has been on staff at Tawonga for the last four years, contributed beautiful artwork of the Dining Hall as well as the lettering on the album cover and the CD itself — all of which contribute to that feeling of Camp Tawonga representing home.

Even though most of the CD was newly recorded, it was also important  to honor and preserve the strong musical history at camp. Home features songs performed by our rich lineage of song leaders — Isaac Zones, Gal Friedman, Marsha Attie, and Jonathan Ferris.

“We refer to the camp songbook as the ‘Talmud of Tawonga’… We’re always adding new songs,” Mandel said. “The album closes out with the song Friends, Friends, Friends from our first album, Tawonga Live, led by Jonathan Ferris who has been doing music with Tawonga for over 20 years. Keeping that rich history and continuity is really important for us.”

We are incredibly excited to share Home with our entire Tawonga community! The CD is available for purchase up at camp’s canteen and on our website, as well as being available for download. We hope listening to this CD brings you back to our home away from home, Camp Tawonga. As we sing on the first night of every session:

“Country roads, take me home, to the place, I belong. Camp Tawonga, California, take me home, down country roads.”

Below enjoy photos of some of the day’s activities!