Saturday, July 19, 2008

Another Limerick

Here's the limerick I wrote for Linda Needham... bear in mind it needs to be read in an Irish brogue so the words more-or-less rhyme. Also bear in mind the Irish place name "Cobh" is pronounced as if it were spelled "Cove".

Our intrepid Miss Linda went to Cobh
In response to a sign from above
An enormous book store
On the far western shore
Who says money can't buy ya love?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Gazetteer of Ireland @ 1845

These quotes were taken from a Gazetteer of Ireland published in 1845. I located the quotes as I search for information about the Irish Sea. Andy's Aunt Babs had the Gazetteer in the library of her home in Great Easton, Leichestershire, England.

from the entry for "Belfast Lough":
"It's scenery, on both shores, is strikingly beautiful. An illiberal or prejudiced stranger, who enters Ireland by sailing up to Belfast is confounded by the brilliance of both the natural and the artificial features, and is liable under the rebound of feeling, to imagine that all he has heard of Ireland's bogs and poverty is a jest and that he is entering one of the most charming and opulent countries in the world."

from the entry for "Dublin Bay" (I merged the two readings together)
"It exhibits so noble a combination of scenery and affords at different points such attractive varieties, such fine interchanges of the soft and august as to have won for it the fame of being a reduced copy or large miniature of the Bay of Naples; and thought destitute of features which correspond to either the natural sublimity of Vesuvius or the artificial power of the remains of Pompeii, it possesses a sufficiency of charm to justify the assertion of a celebrated (Scottish) writer of acknowledged taste that a (British) admirer of the picturesque will regard the prospect of the bay as ample recompense for the expense and trouble of a trip to Ireland."

Two Limericks

Here are two limericks from the farewell dinner, held in Killarney on July 3rd.

There once was a lass with pink hair
Her longing to be a castle bard,
She scribes for O.C.
an alto she be
Our Rhonda will do what she dare.

Young Bernie did everything choral
And helped Karen with everything floral
he Took his choir on a tour
and now he is poor
'Cause he needed some surgery oral.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Onward and (literally) upward

Our little sub-trip continues: we successfully rented 2 cars for the 6 of us, drove to the final concert in Limerick (which was fantastic), drove R & S to the train station, then drove off to our cottage outside of Killorglen. We're now in the Killorglin library, having visited Skellig Michael yesterday and ridden horses today - two death-defying acts in as many days!

It has been a fantastic tour, with loads of sightseeing, great company, and cool concert venues galore. Happy trails to everyone!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Soon off to the airport

Well, what a wonderful trip this has been. The chorale is scattering to all parts of the world as several continue their holiday (vacation) elsewhere in Europe before heading home. There are just a few of us who are boarding a 2:45 pm flight from Shannon that will fly into Philadelphia for a three hour layover and then on a flight to Portland that will arrive at almost midnight! LONG day. I am really anxious to get home to Jerry and Ben and to my own bed and shower! Familiarity is a good thing!

The concert last night was a great experience and the best way to end the tour and our performances. I'm not sure how many people were there but my guess is about 400-450 including the people from the Voices of Limerick who shared the concert with us. Everyone was so appreciative of our music and gave us such gushing compliments. I am truly humbled!

I plan to add more to this blog including pictures and limericks that were written by the tour group for each other. Stay tuned for more!

Final Concert & Winding Down

Yesterday was our last day together as a group. We left the hotel at 9 to drive to the Cliffs of Moher. I have to admit I was a wee bit skeptical about driving an hour or more to see some cliffs, but it was well worth the experience! The cliffs were breathtaking, and the visitor center was quite new and really well done with a bunch of informative displays and a virtual reality film that would make you dizzy if you weren't careful. My favorite display was one that would show you how the continents have drifted over the last 500 million years -- it was really interactive and well done.

After we returned from the cliffs we changed into our formal attire and headed off to the Augustinian Church for our joint concert with the Voices of Limerick. We got there more-or-less on time but the 3 p.m. Mass was running quite late (it was a Mass for the Sick and they closed with Benediction, it appeared). So we got into the space around 4:05 instead of 3:45. We spent the time waiting milling around in the back and chatting with the Limerick choir. Finally we got up in the sanctuary and had the chance to run through a little bit of our joint number ("Down By The Riverside" by John Rutter) and then as it turned out we started the concert early (at 4:20). The Voices of Limerick sang first. They were much larger than we (I think I counted over 70 of them) and had a very full, warm sound. They sang for about 30 or 40 minutes; I particularly enjoyed a Mendelssohn piece they did and another in Gaelic by a local composer. Then we sang:
  • Down In The River
  • Glory of the Father
  • Pater Noster
  • Lux Aurumque
  • Irish Tune
  • Lagan Love (this was a BIG hit)
  • Loch Lomond
  • Witness
  • Deep River
  • My Soul's Been Anchored

They really loved us and applauded wildly, so we sang our encore (Aint-A That Good News) and then the Voices of Limerick joined us to sing the joint piece. It went quite well, especially for such little rehearsal together. All in all it was our best concert of the tour -- the church was packed and the audience very enthusiastic.

After the concert we went back to the hotel and the Limerick choir joined us; we had an impromptu reception at the hotel and took some pictures and hung out and enjoyed some fellowship. I can't say enough about how warm and welcoming they were -- they were so kind and complimentary. I hope if we host a choir in the future we can do half so well.

After the reception wound down we had some dinner in the hotel and went to bed. Today we are scattering to the four winds -- some are staying on in Europe, headed to various destinations, and the group travelers leave for the airport at 11 a.m. (one last bus ride with Danny!).

All in all it's been an amazing, wonderful time and one that I will always treasure.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Bunratty Medieval Banquet

Tonight most of us enjoyed a slip back in time to the medieval feast at Bunratty Castle and what GREAT fun it was! The music was exceptional. Especially the ladies close harmony pieces and most especially the lullaby. Bernie has inquired and found out that the troupe is rehearsed by the same woman who directs the Voices of Limerick with whom we will be sharing our last concert tomorrow! Not only that, but the lullaby was arranged by the director and has yet to be recorded. We MUST get that arrangement!

There was great food with which, of course, we only had a knife to eat! And one of our own was put in the dungeon! Ron (Swingen) was only down there for a few moments but he played the sorry soul well when released. :o)

We added(?) our own US of A brand to the evening and did a rousing rendition of Stars and Stripes Forever on kazoos. Yes, kazoos. It was well received but perhaps that was the result of the free flowing mead and wines!

Truly a good time was had by all and we must thank Mark Flannery and Christine Pellham for suggesting and making this opportunity happen! I hope to be able to post pictures at some later date.

For now, it is late and I must be off to bed. Tomorrow is our last touring day on this fair isle before we head home on Sunday and return VERY LATE.


Scenery: Moll's Gap

Here's an example of the phenomenally-lovely scenery we drank in all day at the ring of kerry: Moll's Gap. If you click on the photo, I think you can download the ful-size image.


Yes, this is our latest venue, and it was great! our Bunratty Castle concert turned out to be in Mac's pub on the castle grounds...well, not exactly in the pub, more like really near the pub... in a barn because of the light rain.

We were certain our concert was going to be for only a barn swallow or two, but due to Gunnar's tireless promotion (ok, and the ensuing downpour) the place was packed with delighted visitors who loved our singing. Also the barn acoustics were surprizingly good - what an adventure.

We're in the Park-Rad-Inn-Arms Hotel

I guess it's almost time to go home: all the hotels are starting to blur together. I'm looking at this photo from a short time ago, and can't quite remember what hotel it was or what city it was in.

The hotels have all been quite nice in some way - either conveniently placed, or spacious, or comfy beds... and (nearly) all the rooms in all the hotels have had close to American showers.

Burning Down The Barn!

We are in Limerick.

Yesterday we drove the Ring of Kerry, which is a scenic drive from Killarney out along Dingle Bay and back around. The views were... amazing, and we had amazingly good weather the whole time. Really, the weather the whole trip has been quite awesome -- it's rained quite a bit, but with few exceptions it has been really nice when we wanted to be outdoors. We stopped for lunch at a place Danny knew that had an amazing view of the sea; and later we stopped for ice cream in a village with the unlikely name of Sneem. We also went through a frighteningly small, narrow tunnel (we applauded Danny the driver for that one).

On the way back to Killarney on our drive we stopped at Muckross House, a manor house built in the mid-1800s. It has been restored quite nicely and the house and grounds are just gorgeous. Our tour guide had the most beautiful Irish accent, it was to die for ;-).

After Muckross House we returned to the hotel and rested and had dinner on our own, then gathered at 9 to share some early farewells since our schedules wouldn't permit proper goodbyes tonight or tomorrow. On the tour we've all had a "tour buddy" who we were responsible for making sure was present when the bus leaves. We were all tasked with writing a limerick for our tour buddies, and we shared them. I'm hoping we will all post them at some point. I'll just say that some were sweet, some were just darn funny and all were appreciated and a lot of fun. What a group! We also shared some limericks for Danny, our amazing driver and Gunnar our guide. Danny has been SO much fun on this trip -- skillful, knowledgeable and really funny. It's been awesome. After the gathering we commandeered the snooker room and sang some songs and shared some jokes. Eliot played some tunes on his pipes, and he accompanied Kate on a beyoooooootiful song she sang. Ron then led us in some other songs with his guitar and then I called it a night.

This morning we left at 9 (Danny played Neil Diamond's "Coming to America" (I think that's what it's called) in honor of July 4th) and drove to Adare, a small village not too far from Limerick. We sang a 15-20 minute concert in the park opposite the visitor center and had a reasonably good audience, but it was outside and it was hard for us to hear ourselves. We did a pretty good job though!

After we left Adare we drove to Bunratty Castle and had time for lunch (I paid €17.50 (about $25!) for some really good roast beef with mashed AND new potatoes (see Biff's post below), carrots and cabbage, a Coke and some lovely cake. Then we had a castle tour -- pretty cool. The castle was built in 1425 and except for replacing the roof they didn't have to do too much restoration. After the tour we grabbed our music and since it had started to rain, we went to sing in a barn next to the pub we were originally told we would sing at. We sang for about 20 minutes or so and actually had a surprisingly large and enthusiastic audience (about 50, I was told) -- I'm not sure where they came from but I think Gunnar rounded them up. It actually was one of the better concerts on the tour -- as Kristi said, "Who'd a thunk it!?"

After the concert we got on the bus and headed for the hotel, taking a moment to mark America's birthday by singing "America the Beautiful" by special request from Kate :-). It was heartfelt and really touched me. The hotel is really nice -- the nicest rooms we have had on the trip so far, and free Internet! Yay :-) Tonight most of us are going back to Bunratty Castle for our banquet. It should be a lot of fun.

Tomorrow is the Burren region and the Cliffs of Moher, then a joint concert with the Voices of Limerick. Sunday the group travelers head home. I'm about ready to sleep in my own bed... it will be nice to be back in the USA.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Potatoes with your potatoes?

People laughed when we said you always get potatoes, even if your dish contains potatoes. Well, here's the evidence: chicken with new potatoes... with mashed potatoes.

Battle of the Oregon Choirs!

We got to St. Mary's Cathedral in Killarney about 5:50 p.m. to sing at the 6:15 Mass. However, when we got there we discovered another choir was there to sing as well -- and not just any choir, but another Oregon choir! The Cascades Choir from the Dalles was also supposed to sing! And of course the person who'd scheduled all this for the cathedral was nowhere to be found... So our director and theirs arm-wrestled (JUST kidding) and worked out an arrangement to share the service. We wound up singing one song (The Glory of the Father) right before Mass, as well as the Kyrie, and Pater Noster at their appropriate places during the Mass, and the Adoramus Te at Communion and the Ave Maria right after Mass. The Cascades Choir sang one song before Mass, two songs at the Offertory and a song after Mass (after we sang). I think everyone was satisfied with this arrangement.
The cathedral was built in the 19th century and is very, very beautiful. We were dressed in our formal attire and looked quite spiffy, befitting the surroundings. It was a real pleasure for me personally to attend Mass and receive Communion at this holy place.
Oh, and if the whole thing wasn't surreal enough -- we've been told the Oregon Repertory Singers (ANOTHER Oregon choir) is supposed to sing at the cathedral *tomorrow* night. And, there's a choir concert tonight at another St. Mary's (an Anglican church) down the street from our hotel right now. Wow! As Danny, our driver, said -- what's going on in Oregon that half of Oregon is singing in Killarney?!

I Paid €10 To Kiss The Blarney Stone!

Tuesday morning we left Dublin and drove to Kilkenny. I got a little confused and didn't make it to St. Canisius (the 13th century Anglican cathedral) because I wandered into St. Mary's (the 19th century Catholic cathedral). Oh well! It was beautiful as well. I did get to go on the tour of Kilkenny castle, which has been lovingly restored inside to its Victorian splendor from its heyday as a manor house. It was quite beautiful.
Leaving Kilkenny we drove to Waterford and went on the Waterford Crystal plant tour. It was truly impressive to watch the craftsmen at work. Unlike many factory tours, this one really let you see what goes on and how it's done. Of course we had some time to look at the showroom afterward and several tour members invested in some beautiful crystal :-). There was a 20% discount for 4th of July week, presumably aimed at the large number of American tourists.
This morning we left Waterford and drove to Cobh (pronounced "Cove"), a.k.a. Queenstown, and visited the museum there. It talked about the history of the port, the Famine, and the area. We only had about an hour and 15 minutes there, just barely enough to get through.
After Cobh we drove to Blarney castle -- this was an addition to our itinerary and (for my part) a most welcome one. We had just a couple of hours there but it was enough time to pony up €10 to enter the castle area and (of course) kiss the Blarney Stone! I have photographic proof that I'll post on my MySpace when I get home :-).
After Blarney castle we drove to Killarney for our concert. I'll blog that separately if I have a chance.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A rainy day

Dublin has many bridges across the River Liffey. We said goodby to Dublin this morning and headed for Kilkenny. It started to rain soon after we left and rained off and on (mostly on) until after we left Kilkenny.

Kilkenny is quite a busy, colorful town and we spent about 3 hours there visiting the cathedral, walking around, shopping, and having lunch.

We arrived in Waterford around 3pm and drove on out to the Waterford Crystal company. We had a very interesting tour and then an opportunity to shop. So many pretty pieces! We are staying at Dooley's Hotel which faces the River Suir. We had a nice walkabout after dinner along the river, stopped at a 11th century Franciscan monastery ruin right in the middle of modern buildings, and looked in store windows (all closed by then) - very pleasant. It would be fun to explore Waterford some more but it's just a short visit as we leave for Killarney tomorrow.

Monday, June 30, 2008


FINALLY we are in the REPUBLIC! It feels of good to be out of the UK and back to free Ireland! The second we crossed the border from the North, the weather got warm and sunny, the signs read Gaelic, and Eiot and I had a definite sense of being home. Living here for a year was not exactly easy at the time, but we remember the bad times as fondly as the good knowing full well we only have to stay for a week before heading back to our house, garden, cat, and family.
We thoroughly enjoyed singing/playing in Christ Church cathedral today I explored the underside of the church at the recomendation of other choralers and discovered a mummified cat and mouse in the crypt that had been found stuck in the organ pipes in 1885. Quite interesting, to say the least.
Eliot and I took a group to the Porterhouse, our favorite pub/restaurant here in Dublin as it has great food (rare in Ireland) and is a great venue with 4 sories and lots of places to sit. Unfortunately, the Sunday match was on and it was very loud and packed... but I still had a Bulmers cider and a great time. Pubs in Ireland get packed whenever a match is on (doesn't really matter whose playing)... just think of each match like the Superbowl and you'll have a small idea of how involved the Irish are with their sports. Nothing good in my mind though... just football (soccer), hurling, and cricket. Needless to say, it was loud and a very good time!
We will be staying behind as the rest of the group so Eliot can play for the piper's club at the Cobblestone ( We'v already been in Waterford last year, so we aren't missing too much. We are then taking a train to Killarney to meet up with the group, which we are THRILLED about... we've had enough bus travel for a lifetime! We did some research and found out they are having a special that makes the train almost as cheap as the bus, which is great beacause we will be able to get up and walk around, play cards, eat, not get carsick, etc. Yay!
All around I am just enjoying seeing all our old haunts, food we enjoyed, and places I'd never thought I'd see again. I also heard they finished the bridge over the river at the University of Limerick, so we just may have to go see that, considering how many extra miles we walked due to the construction there.
Yeah, there's a lot of things I don't miss, but overall it is very good to be back, but only to visit this time!

A Day in Dublin

Another busy day on the tour. We visited the Book of Kells and the Long Room (the Old Library) at Trinity College in the morning. The Book of Kells, written around 800 AD, is a beautiful illuminated manuscript of the 4 Gospels. They only display 2 pages at a time and the pages are changed every day. The Long Room is breathtaking - full of many rare books and manuscripts. These are definitely a must see should you ever find yourself in Dublin!

The chorale sang at Christchurch at 1:15pm. What a magnificent setting for them! Their music was beautiful and was thoroughly enjoyed by all who visited the church. I think the chorale members enjoyed it as well. We enjoyed the beautiful music shared by Elliot on his Uilleann pipes.

After the concert, some of us went looking for the St. Patrick's cathedral. It, too, is beautiful, if you imagine past the scaffolding of the renovation! We decided to not go in, but look for food instead. After a quick delicious sandwich at a small bistro, we went to the Chester Beatty Library in the Dublin "Castle". Now that has a collection of art and manuscripts from the Orient, Near East, and Europe that deserved much more than the hour we were able to give it before closing. We saw less than half, and that too quickly. This, too, is a "do not miss" place in Dublin; we will be back, given half a chance.

Dublin is a bustling and busy city. There are many things to do and see here and one day just isn't enough.

Tomorrow we head for Waterford with a stop (around lunch, I hope) in Kilkenny which is reported to be a beautiful and colorful town.

Christchurch Cathedral, Book of Kells, the Long Room and hotel rooms

Ahhhhhh! What a lovely space to sing! We sang most of our sacred music which was absolutely stunning in the acoustics of Christchurch. We even had some people that came to hear us. One fellow all the way from Cork. I'm not sure how any of them knew we were coming but there were a number of people that stayed for our concert. There were still people moving through the church who had come to see the church and not us but it was nothing too distracting. For me it has been the best singing experience yet on the trip and one that I sorely needed!

Before the concert some of us went to Trinity College to view the Book of Kells and the Long Room. The book is amazing and the Long Room awesome! As a librarian it is some what compulsory for me to have visited here. I think I would have wanted to anyway. The intricacy of the designs and patterns on the book of Kells and the other books on display are mind boggling. As for the Long Room, I long to just browse the shelves but, of course, that isn't exactly allowed. I wonder if I could get an apprenticeship or something to work there for a month some summer. I didn't think to ask.

We have had a range of accomodations so far an this trip. Last night and tonight we are in the most modern hotel yet. It is not really my taste but serviceable. The sink and mirror are outside the bathroom and right next to the bed! The bathroom itself has a curved piece of glass and door! You can't see through it but honestly it's unnerving. One wall is a bright orangy red broken in between the twin beds we happen to have in our room by a decorative piece of mirror art with cove lighting behind. There is a huge floor to ceiling mirror on the wall opposite the bed with a nice little outlet for shavers and the blow dryer is there. Too bad they didn't think to put an outlet for us ladies who like to curl our hair! And, of course, this means you must do all of this noisy stuff right in the bedroom area. If you are sharing the room with someone who would like a little more time to sleep it becomes a bit annoying. Ah well, such are the stuff of traveling abroad. Again, one never knows what things one has taken for granted until that has been altered or taken away!

Tomorrow we move through Kilkenny on our way to Killarney for the evening. Like many I am affected by the long days and find it hard to sleep a full night. I don't feel that tired but am getting something less than my usual number of hours of sleep.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

So close, and yet...

Today we visited Newgrange, or more accurately, visited the visitor center at Newgrange. It turns out that groups of 15 or more (like us) need to book a shuttle bus to the site itself in advance, and such shuttles are booked out over a year in advance. To see Newgrange today, we would have had to know our exact schedule and number of tour members well before any of us owed the first trip payment. Such is life on tour: you win s0me; you lose some.

At any rate, the visitor center was really nice, with a reproduction of the central part of the passage within Newgrange, detailed explanations of the neolithic monuments at Bru na Boine(sp), and photos of the excavations in the 1960's.

Newgrange has waited for us for over 5,000 years; it will have to be patient just a bit longer.

What do the Isles have against the internet?

OK, we've FINALLY reconnected to the net, after a couple failed attempts. These countries seem to love an arrangement where you do the following to connect:
  1. Buy or get a free voucher from the front desk 0r the barista
  2. Connect to the strongest wireless access point, which had better be the one that sold you the voucher.
  3. Enter the username and password combination from the voucher card.
  4. It doesn't work.
  5. Go back to the front desk or barrista and explain the problem.
  6. "Sorry, it just doesn't work sometimes"
  7. The desk/cafe dude hands you another voucher from a large deck 0f them.
  8. Repeat steps 3 through 6 until the desk/barrista dude says "It's some BT thing. Sometimes these vouchers just don't work." (Implication: hey, we tried; what's yer problem?)
Contrast to the USA:
  1. Enter your room
  2. Turn on your computer
  3. Enter your browser and click "OK".
  4. use the net.
But hey, the view here is a LOT better :-)

Photo of Fisherwick Pres

This morning we sang in the service at Fisherwick Presbyterian, Belfast, singing Down in the River, Pater Noster, My Soul's Been Anchored, and Nunc Dimitus. It was a lovely service. Here is a photo 0f the church as we set up for our brief rehearsal.

Yoo hoo, it's me

Until moments ago I had been blogging under the name Oregon Chorale Tour because I had set up the blog and didn't remember to send myself an invitation to be an author so I could sign as myself. Well, now it's done and hopefully I will find more chances to add thoughts and observations to this bit of modern technology! This morning we sing in at Fisherwick Presbyterian church as part of their service. I am looking forward to singing in an old stone church building again. Later.

Culture, perspective & flexibility

I think what is most fascinating is the little unexpected differences that take you by surprise. Like how they cook their food. I really like my eggs done more, please. None of this runny stuff! And it appears that meat must be cooked to nearly charred bits. No rare or even medium for steaks! Not tragic,of course, just unexpected.
Flexibility is the order of the trip. We were supposed to sing at a maritime festival yesterday and were thoroughly rained out. I was both sad and happy. Sad not to get a chance to sing and happy not to have to try and sing in the open air and rain! The festival reminded me of a wee Rose Festival. Ships, food, demonstrations of local safety agencies and even the library had a tent. They have only been doing this for a few years. I am sure it will get even better.
Off to Dublin in the Republic of Ireland. Last country to explore. Erin go bragh! (Hope that's spelled right!)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Finally! I'm on the blog!

It has been a trial getting access but many blessings on Pete & Sue for letting me use their Asus. The trip has been wonderful! So much light with the long hours of daylight. I have been doing a LOT of walking on this trip. Which is what I expected but I am proud to say that I walked all 246 steps up (and down) the Wallace Monument AND walked the 2.5km path at the Giant's Causeway. Not all in one day, of course, but I'm proud none the less.
We have crossed the Irish sea to Northern Ireland and had a great guide that gave a fairly balanced overview of the political scene. I am learning a great deal about the history and am enjoying it.
Not getting a lot of good sleep but need to go now. I will try to post again soon.

Rained Out in Belfast

After an enjoyable trip to the Giant's Causway (details at 11 from another reporter) we gathered at the Maritime Festival on the Lagen River in downtown Belfast. While preparing to sing, we had sufficient time to visit the tall ships that were a part of the festival. There were several (at least 3 square riggers) and a couple of 3 masted schooners on two sides of the river. It was fun being on any of them and realizing how complex such crafts are. We had several squalls to contend with while waiting for our "stage time". Then, just before our time to perform came another, longer and more intense squall. Adhering to the old Marine Corps adage that "One doesn't have to train to be miserable.", we opted for retreating to the bus and returning to our accomodations at the Ramada Inn. Twas a decision that all (I believe) agreed with.

Friday, June 27, 2008

St. Andrews - The Old Course

Our trip to St. Andrews provided not only the chance to visit the castle and cathedral but, for some, a stop at the 18th green and the 1st tee of The Old Course, which is one of 7 golf courses at St Andrews. The Old Course is the one that is the site of The Open every five years. Having watched all opens, both British and US, for several years it was wonderful to feel the "breeze" that is so prevalent at the coast and to see what a links course looks like up close and personal. Some of us also visited the Golf Museum, which is very well done. For golfers and golf observers (for me Tiger must be in the field) this is certainly a "trip to Mecca".

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Castles, cathedrals, and sticky toffee pudding....

It is our last night here in Stirling and we have visited Stirling Castle, Holy Rude Cathedral in Stirling, St. Andrew's Castle, and St. Andrew's Cathedral along with shops, the Tesco, the railroad station, and some very good restaurants.

The chorale sang in the Chapel Royal at Stirling Castle - very nice. The space seemed to be meant for their music. A large part of the chorale travelers then visited the Wallace Memorial. Several of us visited the Holy Rude Cathedral which is the only church in Britain other than Westminster to host a coronation. It was James VI of Scotland (James I of England). Beautiful cathedral!

It was a lovely drive out to St. Andrew's on the eastern Scottish coast. Quite a few agricultural fields which looked to be wheat, barley, peas, and potatoes. St. Andrew' is a pretty university town. The castle and cathedral there are fascinating ruins. Very interesting! Some of us climbed to the top of tower of the Church of St. Rule - how many steps - not sure, but it was quite the climb!

We closed the day with a delicious dinner of stovies and steak pie followed by a sticky toffee pudding shared by six. It was gone in 45 seconds! Yummm!

St. Andrews Visit

We just got back from our day trip to St. Andrews. I'm at the library here (just around the corner from our hotel) along with several other Choraliers :-). We left the hotel at 10 for the 1.5 hour trip to St. Andrews.

Our first stop was the (remains of) the castle. It was pretty impressive. During a great siege in the 1500s the attackers starting digging a tunnel (a "mine") to try to undermine the gatehouse; the defenders dug a countermine to intercept the mine and were successful. Tourists are allowed to go into the countermine and follow it to the mine. Amazing! But very claustrophobic -- the countermine is very cramped and narrow, you have to crouch the whole way. In America they'd never let you go in such a thing.

After the castle visit we had about 2 hours to walk around, so I was very ambitious and got myself a bit lost :-) but found my way back (I had to retrace my steps). All I had was a tourist-y map and I walked right off it!

Then we had our Cathedral visit. The St. Andrews Cathedral was absolute HUGE. Really. Enormous. Unfortunately due to the ravages of the Reformation and subsequent use of the cathedral as a convenient source of building materials, all that remains is one of the front tower, part of one wall and the very back wall, plus a number of footings for columns etc. It made me very sad that a holy place was desecrated so badly -- but it's the story all over Scotland :-(.

This week is apparently graduation week at the University of St. Andrews, and there were graduates and happy (and relieved) parents walking around, the graduates in their academic garb. It was fascinating.

On a personal note, I have the world's smallest hotel room. It's a good thing I'm not sharing it with David at this point because it's 8.5 ft by 9.5 ft (seriously!). It's definitely cosy -- but it's clean, and the bathroom looks pretty refurbed and nice so I'm not actually complaining.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Let there be light!

I forgot to mention in my last post and I don't know if anyone else has mentioned this...

It's light till 10:30pm here, and gets light around 4am or so (guessing from when my blurry eyes look at the clock when awakened by the blinding light. I can't believe how lovely it is to have so much light, even if it is somewhat disorienting (It's only 5 or so, right? Oh, it's 9pm? Wow).

The thing I am enjoying most about this trip is discovering how many things feel normal to me since I've lived in Ireland before. Usually when you travel to a foreign country everything is new and exciting, which sometimes then gets old after a few days and turns into homesickness. For me it is nice to feel at home seeing a Tesco, buying Jaffa cakes, driving on the left, and having my bacon in the form of "rashers", or little slices of ham. It's good to be back, but just to visit... paying 30p to use the facilities is not something I miss!

Tomorrow is more Stirling and St. Andrews, which I sadly know nothing about and am looking forward to it. I suppose I will just put on my sleep mask to ensure I get a good 8hrs of sleep!

The Year-long Winter

Today Eliot and I were talking to a local here in Stirling and found that some years they have no summer at all... they call it the year-long winter. With temps at 9 degrees celsius and constant rain, I feel like I have been transported back in time to Ireland when I walked 4 miles in the rain to get my groceries. I've now resorted to wearing not one, not two, notw three, but FOUR layers to keep warm. In June! Oy.

Eliot and I are staying seperate from the group in a little B&B right under Stirling Castle. We can actually look up at the castle from our back porch, which is quite nice, and all the other windows have views of the highlands, which is fantastic. Our hostess is ridiculously nice, and we are having a great time.

We are looking forward to singing in the castle at 2 today, but even more so I am looking forward to going shopping for some sweaters... maybe some rainproof ones....

Available: Experienced Firedrillers

We now know that Scottish hotels have one thing in common: Fire Drills. For the second day/stay in a row, we were able to participate in a hotel fire drill, although some of felt that we had performed so well in the first one that we didn't need to participate in the second. Also, the first (at 11 or so at night) had produced such a wonderful array of fashion statements (Gunnar, Colin and Those Who Shall Not Be Named) that the rest of us felt inadequate to putting in an appearance at the Stirling Outing, as it shall be known.

It is raining (again) here in Scotland, although yesterday morning was glorious for the visit to the Battlefield of Culloden. The new visitor's center is very well done, with some unique ways of portraying a rather complex subject wrt circumstances leading the the battle, the battle itself and the aftermath.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle

We visited the Loch Ness Exhibition Centre in Drumnadrochit at 11am and then spent a couple of hours shopping and eating lunch in the village of Drumnadrochit. Then off we went to see the Urquhart Castle that sits on the banks of Loch Ness where, after a short film on the history of the castle, we toured (self-tour) the castle ruins. This also gave us a chance to scan the waters of Loch Ness in search of the beastie, Nessie! We have has beautiful weather today - blue skies and white clouds with the occasional sprinkle that seemed to disappear as quickly as it came.

On the way to Inverness, the Highland capital

This is Monday so we must be in Inverness. We left Glasgow on the bus yesterday morning with stops at at Loch Lomond (yes, there was singing); Inverary Castle (yes, impromptu singing), and through some of the prettiest and amazing scenery along the way (yes, there was singing on the bus, too). There were mountains and bogs and lakes and waterfalls and streams and some of the prettiest villages! It was raining in fits and starts and mist clung to the tops of the monroes (mountains) which added to the beauty. Everything is so green! The chorale sang for Evensong at St. Andrew's Cathedral in Inverness. It was a bit close on the timing but Danny, the bus driver, did a great job getting us there! The cathedral was beautiful, the acoustics were amazing, and the chorale sounded wonderful!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Off we go to Inverness!

Most of us went to bed quite early, I think. I slept for about 10 hours and feel much, much better. We had an amazingly amazing breakfast here in the hotel and we will be getting on the bus in 5 or 10 minutes and heading up to the highlands. It's cold and rainy, unfortunately, but hopefully we will get to sing *outside* the bus at Loch Lomond!

Glasgow, we must leave thee

About to take the luggage down to the bus. Inverness hotel internet may be iffy, so we may be silent for a couple days.

Got to sing impromptu (Glory of the Father and Ain'ta that good news) in Glasgow Cathedral - it was wonderful to sing in a Cathedral again; lovely acoustics. I'm sorry for the part of the group that were singing at the end of their jet-lag-and-dehydration day, but the result was lovely.

Visited St. Mungo's crypt - cool.

Woops, the bus is here - ta!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Glorious Glasgow

this afternoon many of us went on a bus tour of downtown Glasgow. The weather cooperated, with just slight drizzles. The high point was our visit to Glasgow Cathedral and the tomb of St. Mungo and the Blackadder vault, singing in two parts of the Cathedral - a lovely place.

This evening (between the jet-lag and the high latitude, it's hard to guess the time) the rain is beginning that should stick with us Oregon Ducks through tomorrow.

Emergency call from home....

"How do you get the bird feeder apart?" the distraught housesitter asked. A small, wild bird had gotten its head stuck in the large bird feeder and she couldn't get him out. We explained how it was put together and where to find the screwdriver. We figured there was a 50/50 chance of the bird's head being in the way of the screw. It was..... Sue's next suggestion was to take the bird feeder to the local vet clinic where the housesitter works. We asked that she call us when all was done.

Several minutes later we get the second phone call. She had been successful in freeing the bird using forceps. Good news but I was not prepared for what she said next. "The bird flew away...and fell out of the sky."

Scottish Breakie

I'd forgotten the wonders of the Scottish Breakfast: mushrooms, tomatoes, sausages, scrambled eggs, fried toast, and (the Scottish part) blood pudding - very restorative (if you eat it infrequently!)

Syl's arrived safely

Note to Syl's mom: she arrived safely last night, and is now (at 10am) having a grand time.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Planes, trains, and.......

After 3 plane rides and 1 train ride, we arrived in Glasgow this afternoon around 5pm Glasgow time. We have had nice weather - a bit of a sprinkle as we walked over to the Italian restaurant for dinner - but mostly blue sky and puffy white clouds. It i s great to finally be here!

Now we are just tuckered out.....and ready for some sleep.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

More weird eats

We were doing the same thing for the few days before leaving: dining on pickles, herring, frozen lunches, and canned meat. At least we had a bit of broccoli at the end. Oh, and did I mention cereal for lunch?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Pre-travel food

Eliot and I leave the house tonight to drive up to Portland so we don't have to do all our traveling at once. Since we are leaving the house for such a long time, we have tried to do all the necessary things to ensure the house is ok by itself... put the plants on an automatic timer, take out the trash, clean everything, etc. About a week ago I turned to Eliot and said, "you know, we probably shouldn't buy any groceries since we are going to be out of town for so long."

Don't you know it, I was true to my word. We have been eating the oddest things since that time trying to empty the fridge of anything and everything we could consume. Pickles have become the new vegetable around the house. Tonight, my dinner consisted of 4 frozen ravioli and carrots with hummus. Eliot has been heating a lot of ramen, and I am pretty sure I've had canned soup for lunch every day this week. Looking back, I wish I had gone grocery shopping. Eating dry cereal and turkey burgers 4 nights in a row can give you great hindsight.

So now we take off to drive to Portland and drop the cat off with my mother. Two hours with a whiney cat... great. We are about a day behind the choir since we needed cheaper tickets, but we should get to Glasgow before everyone leaves, barring any travel problems.

I think I will have a pickle for dessert and hit the road!

Finally, moving!

Last night - setting up all the bills to be paid while we are away so we don't come back to collection agencies and repacking 2 and 3 times to get under the 15kg per person limit on Ryanair. Then this morning, more repacking, last minute E-mails to our son with "in the event of..." information, and last minute phone calls with last minute information to the house sitter. Finally, our ride to the airport hotel arrived so we said a tearfull goodbye to the dog (the dog's tears, not ours :)) and went off to pick up Brad & Linda.

Off to the airport and ... an accident tying up I84! Oh, well, we are not in a hurry - the plane does not leave until tomorrow morning.

Finally, checked-in, and in the bar, blogging and enjoying a Guiness! No more worries; if we forgot it, we forgot it. From now on it is vacation time!!


we're on the road!

We're blogging from our Portland hotel! Ok, it doesn't really count as being out of town, but we're at least we're connected to a hotel network, and we've left the house, and left at least 20 lbs of excess baggage behind. Whee!

Geek alert...

I am bringing a GPS logging device - it records latitude and longitude (and a bunch of other interesting data) every five seconds. It has the added capability of tagging digital photos (EXIF) with latitude and longitude information if 1.) the images are on an SD card and 2.) the camera clock is synchronized (within reason) to the GPS clock. I will be happy to make this data available to anyone that feels a need to know where they were when they took that prize-winning photo. If you're into Google Earth, it's also possible to generate KML (map overlay) files of our route. We can talk later...

The Tour Program (pdf for printing)

In case anyone needs to print tour programs or find our program order, here is the .pdf file of the tour program.

Oh, one more thing...

I promised Cristina and Jodi, two of my friends on the Hillsboro Arts and Culture Council that I would think of them on Wednesday the 25th as we're singing our concert in Stirling Castle and they're sitting through one of their two hour business meetings.  Could somebody please remind me?  :-D

Packing it in...

Packing is almost complete. I think the entire contents weigh about 14 pounds. My camera bag, on the other hand, weighs in at 16 pounds. I guess one can tell where my priorities lie.

I, too, struggle with taking time off from work. Not so much as I'm worried about indispensability, because face it, everyone is dispensable after a period of adjustment, but rather whether I'll be able to return to work with an appropriate level of enthusiasm and interest. Don't get me wrong - I like my job. It just takes me several weeks to process through the experiences of a trip like this.

Otherwise, I'm getting ready to activate my anti-jet-lag routine. Those of us that are not driven by routine have it pretty easy - I just make sure I'm REALLY tired when it's time to go to bed that first night and the battle is won! Here's to a wide awake and alert second day... !

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Pounds of Luggage

How could such little cases be so heavy? Since a few of us are flying into Ireland and taking a hopper-commute to Glasgow, we have to keep our luggage weight down. We thought everything was fine, then put the bigger case on the scale: 36 pounds, which is well over the 15Kg limit.

A few pieces of clothing and shoes later, all's well (though not all that light). I expect it will be good to have our luggage so empty - plenty of room for souvenirs!


For me the most stressful part of getting ready for this trip has been preparations at work. I'm in the middle of a bunch of projects and one of my coworkers has graciously agreed to cover them for me, but I want it to be as smooth as possible so I'm trying to get lots of stuff done before I leave.

I just realized yesterday that this is probably the longest vacation I've taken in the last 15 years, or perhaps ever. (Okay, it's not entirely a vacation, but from the work perspective it is). For those of us with a strong desire to feel needed/indispensable/irreplaceable at work, it's hard to be gone for that long. Either they'll get along just fine with out me (in which case I'll worry that they don't really need me!) or they won't (in which case I'll feel guilty). Oh well! My boss has been very supportive and happy that I'm taking some time, so I suppose I should as well.

We had our last rehearsal before the tour last night. We worked out our mixed formation and worked on some trouble spots. Our intrepid troubadour Eliot was there so we got to practice with him -- always a joy. And the identity of blogger "Biff" was revealed -- who'da thunk it?!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Recognizing Gunnar

For those who haven't met Gunnar, here's a recent photo so you can recognize him at the airport. He's actually a lot less serious than this photo would lead you to believe!

Lists, lists and more lists!

Where's my lists? I must have my lists! What to wear. What needs to be done before I leave. What needs to be purchased, placed or packed before I go. Reminders for my 16 year old daughter who is going along with me. What to pack in the main bag. What to pack in the carry on. Ack! Do I just need plug adapters or will I need a converter for anything? Will I be able to express the wonder and awe of my surroundings once I get there on this blog? Will you be able to experience it vicariously through our posts? I hope so! Now where's that list?!??!

Getting Ready

Susan, Kristine and I leave Wednesday morning. I believe I will be ready by Saturday, when most of you arrive. I still think we could make a lot of money selling a PassOut Kit for anyone traveling over 1 hour by air. You would take it prior to leaving the ground and you would be gently awakened as your plane taxied to your destination gate. Some people believe that is the purpose of whiskey, but I think that is a waste (of good whiskey). Have a safe trip and we'll see you in Glasgow.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Irish Place-Name Prefixes

I found a nice, brief list of Irish place-name prefixes, where you can learn, for example, that the prefix 'clon' means a fertile ground or meadow.

Was I supposed to arrange for care for the dog or the kid?

Well, I've packed but am not brave enough to weigh the suitcase yet. It's not the clothes that are the problem but the stuff; adaptors, camera cards, clotheslines, sunscreens, hats, extra shoes, and the medications. It's #@*% to get old. We have arranged for the 13 year old to be taken to Eugene by the 20 &17 yo brothers. He'll "hang" with the uncle for a few days then enjoy the PICC fest as part of the BACH festival. Then he comes home and the 17 yo goes to band leadership camp in Eugene after the 4th. The 20 yo just works and works. Two at home sounds like a lot less trouble than three. But there is some maternal angst at leaving your children home the fend. If you are staying home and following along with this blog AND you know where I live (most do); keep an eye on the house, please. I invite you to ring the bell if the house is vibrating with noise or there are lots of cars parked outside. I don't expect anything but what is the line about the unexpected? We are reading about Scotland and Ireland and the excitement is building. 4 more days!

USB issues

This morning I tried out transferring photos from our camera to our Asus EEE PC, and was lucky I did: the (Linux) PC didn't recognize the cameras, so I couldn't transfer photos.

Luckily, there's a simple way around the problem: get a USB Compact Flash (or whatever you use) card reader. We had one that I'd bought from Office Depot a year or two ago, and it transferred the photos just fine.


In other USB news: our Asus PC doesn't recognize our MP3 players, so check those USB devices before you arrive overseas.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Midge, it says here our east wing burned down last night!

I had noticed at our June concert that my tux coat was rather, um, 'snug' . I had been thinking 'man! I just bought this new coat a year or so ago...I must be bloating up like a dead cow by the side of the road!'

Then, this afternoon as I was digging waaaay back into the back of the closet to choose what to pack for the trip, I found my old tux coat...or at least I thought it was my old tux coat. Then, on a whim, I put it on - it fits great.

As near as we can figure, when we bought the new tux coat, I put it in the closet, took the old one to the cleaners, then hung that one up when it came back. Then when the next concert came, I wore the old tux coat, and the new one slipped further and further into the back of the closet.

I think only a musician can find himself ever saying 'I can't believe it, I've been wearing the old tux coat!'

Pictures of the Queen!

Like everyone else I'm getting ready for the trip. I bought new luggage a couple of weeks ago but today was my big day to run around. I bought more elastic for my music folder (too darn much music!). I bought another pair of black pants for our informal concerts -- God was looking out for me because I'd bought a pair at Costco a couple of weeks ago, and when I went back today I couldn't find ANY until at the last minute I found a pile of Dockers that had no price label over them at all (like they were left over) and right on top was the only pair of black ones, and in my size! Whew!

I also bought a current adapter and a charger for my iPod Shuffle. The charger claims to accept 110 or 240V and 50/60HZ, so I bought an adapter and not a converter. I guess I'll find out if the charger folks are lying or not! I also got another memory stick for my camera so I can trade them out.

I stopped at the bank and got 60 euros and 60 pounds. I'd forgotten how pretty European money is... a little too pretty. It tends to look like Monopoly money to me and it's a little too easy to forget it's not! The euros are not too good looking, but the English notes are. I've got pictures of the Queen! :-)
Four days from departure and it is amazing how many little details are necessary to ensure a fun and successful trip. I've actually been mostly packed for three weeks -- weighing my suitcase about every three days just to make sure I'm not going over the limit. Getting all of my bills paid in advance, making copies of important papers and emergency numbers. It's almost over whelming. Oh, wait a minute . . . Kay is asking me something. Hold on. "What? Say that again I can't hear you? . . . Passports! WE NEED PASSPORTS!!!!!"

Packing Challenged....

Excited about the trip?! Oh, my, yes! Excited about packing?! Nooooo......! I (Sue) have always been "packing challenged". I have always packed way too much in some misguided desire to make sure I have "options". I can't take my closet and dresser with me and the weather is sure to be changeable and some special event may occur or, who "clothes mood" may run amok so, I try to cover all the bases! Am I ready to go? Emotionally.......I'm practically there! Physically...........well, that's another story!!

Friday, June 13, 2008

beginning bloger

Hi all, I really don't know what I'm doing but here goes. I still have 2 1/2 days of teaching left and I have to pack up my room and pack for the trip! Yikes! I bought some of those travel "space bags" to help conserve space in my luggage. I wonder if they make them big enough that I could pack my entire classroom into one and suck all the air out, then put it neatly on a shelf until next fall. Boy that would be fantastic. Well this is my first ever BLOG and I'm a little nervous. I hope I don't mess this up. I can't wait until Thurs. when Ron & I fly out for Glasgow. I am looking forward to spending fun time with those of you I already know well and time to get to know the rest of you better!. See you there. Kay N.


We leave when? This tour has been in the works for literally years, and now it's just a few days away -- aaaaaaaaaaaaayyyeeeeeee!!

Each Chorale tour has had a completely different and unexpected theme. For example, the tour of the Baltics turned out to be a Freedom tour - a comparison and contrast of the oppression of the Soviet Era with the strange politics at home, along with the moving love our guides had for their very new freedom.

I wonder what this tour's theme will turn out to be?

Sitting on the Curb

Here we are, just a week before the Oregon Chorale 2008 concert tour begins, and I think I speak for most of us when I say that not only am I excited and eager to get started, but that I'm not ready!!!

Unlike the time when I was about 5 years old and was going on a short trip with friends of my parents. The family's fears that I would get homesick being away from home for the first time without mom or dad were unfounded. Apparently I left the house with my little suitcase and sat on the curb to wait for them to drive up. Mom was frantic, but I was ready to go, go go!

I still love to travel; it just takes me longer to pack these days.

More later!

The Joys of Packing

I remember back almost a year and a half ago now when Eliot and I moved to Ireland for a year, and I did all the packing for it. Four suitcases and two carry-on bags laid around me in a giant circle while I sorted through all our "must-haves" and "really-wants." I will never forget what it felt like to drag all 280lbs of our stuff all the way to Ireland and back... I remember it so well, in fact, that this time we are only taking one small suitcase between us!

(This is me, packing for our move to Ireland)

So now I am sitting in my circle again, trying to figure out how I will get 2 1/2 weeks worth of stuff into one backpack and half a suitcase. "Must-haves" are now things like prescription medication and my passport instead of Friends DVDs and my hairdryer. My how my perspective has changed on how to travel!

Now if only I didn't need all this darn music... :-)

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Welcome to the Oregon Chorale blog! This blog was started to help share our 2008 European Tour. Details about this tour will be here soon.