Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Wednesday Whine & Wine with Heidi Cullinan

The Real-Life Choir That Inspired Fever Pitch

The Saint Timothy Chorale, the Ambassadors, and Salvo are all fictional choral groups in Fever Pitch. They are all based, however, on my experiences in my own real life choir, the Wartburg College Choir.

This is what the choir looks like now. My director, Dr. Paul Torkelson, is absolutely the basis for Nussy in the story, but he’s no longer at Wartburg. In fact, almost none of my favorite professors are, which will make my 20 year reunion next year a bit bittersweet.

This is what the choir looked like in my day.

(Want a soundtrack? Try this on. This is us singing “Ave Maria.”)

That girl on the far right, a few rows back? That’s me. I was an Alto I, total part voice. You don’t want me singing a solo. I loved choir, though. The energy and craziness described about the Saint Timothy Chorale? That was us. The family, the excessive drinking? Also us. The part where they talk about getting drunk and walking up a mountain? Us too. Here’s the picture as proof.

I often think the choir was one of the greatest anchors for my sanity in college. My personal experience was somewhere between Walter’s and Aaron’s. The day Aaron loses it and can’t stop crying? I had one of those. The professor who lost his job? Ditto. The fighting parents, the anxiety, the swirling sense of what the hell is going on here? Me, me, me.

But the choir was always the bright spot of my day. Every day from 4:50 to 6PM, I sang my heart out. In November and December everything in my life revolved around Christmas With Wartburg, which was as intense and poorly timed a tour for us as it is for Saint Timothy in the story. No matter how bad my day, though, for an hour and ten minutes, Monday through Friday, everything would be okay.

We did tours as well. Every spring we’d take a week to tour somewhere in the United States—my first year in choir we sang at Carnegie Hall—and once every four years, the choir went on a five week tour of Europe. That’s where we ended up hiking drunk up a mountain in evening wear. That’s where I married my choir husband (don’t ask). That’s where I stayed with charming, wonderful host families many of whom I kept in touch with for years after we left.

This is me with my roommate and our host parents outside of Bamford, England. They made us lovely meals, washed our clothes, and took us to all manner of local touring sites, including a clog factory. I will never forget the quiet peace of their house, and I often call it up in my mind when I’m low. The tour was full of stops like that.

(Need a new song? This is us singing “Alleluia.”)

We did drink a lot, in choir. We drank bars, breweries, and wineries dry on tour on a regular basis. There were always parties at the White House—and yes, there really was a White House—and if you put more than three of us in a room, we would end up drunk.

(This is me getting choir married.)

We passed things during concerts too, just like they do in Fever Pitch—and the couch cushion really did happen. I never got many because I stood on the end, but the strangest crap was passed around, including peeled bananas, which always pissed people off.

Choir was family. Choir was where we cut loose. Choir was where everything and everyone was okay. And yes, a whole lot of the guys were gay, though very few were out. I remember, in fact, the stress one young man had over his coming out. This was 1993, after all. A very different world than the one my fictional boys inhabit.

I’ll close you out with one last song: “Witness,” which was always one of my favorites. May you enjoy your choir tour with my fictional chorale. And may everyone be able to know the kind of community I found in my choir. There can never be enough of that in the world.

Follow the rest of the blog tour for more guest posts, excerpts, and chances to win a copy of the novel.  Check out the end of this post for the Rafflecopter Grand Prize Drawing too.


Available from Samhain Publishing

Fever Pitch

Book Two of the Love Lessons Series

Sometimes you have to play love by ear.

Aaron Seavers is a pathetic mess, and he knows it. He lives in terror of incurring his father’s wrath and disappointing his mother, and he can’t stop dithering about where to go to college—with fall term only weeks away. Ditched by a friend at a miserable summer farewell party, all he can do is get drunk in the laundry room and regret he was ever born. Until a geeky-cute classmate lifts his spirits, leaving him confident of two things: his sexual orientation, and where he’s headed to school.

Giles Mulder can’t wait to get the hell out of Oak Grove, Minnesota, and off to college, where he plans to play his violin and figure out what he wants to be when he grows up. But when Aaron appears on campus, memories of hometown hazing threaten what he’d hoped would be his haven. As the semester wears on, their attraction crescendos from double-cautious to a rich, swelling chord. But if more than one set of controlling parents have their way, the music of their love could come to a shattering end. 
Warning: Contains showmances, bad parenting, Walter Lucas, and a cappella.

More Fever Pitch links:



Book Page on Website

Book Page for Love Lessons (book one in the series)

Heidi Cullinan has always loved a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. She enjoys writing across many genres but loves above all to write happy, romantic endings for LGBT characters because there just aren't enough of those stories out there. When Heidi isn't writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, knitting, listening to music, and watching television with her husband and ten-year-old daughter. Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights and is proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality. Find out more about Heidi, including her social networks, at


  1. Sounds like you had a great choir. I'm quite jealous I didn't have something like that in college. (Not that I can sing a note, but still. ) I've already bought Fever Pitch, and hope to get it read soon. :D

  2. My choir days were a bit more sedate. We won't examine my school orchestra days under a glass, though :-) Can't wait to read this - now purchased and on my to-bo-read cyber pile :-)