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.