During spring break, Choir Director Brandon Ring and 42 members of the Saint Anselm College Choir will embark on a 10-day journey to Ireland for their bi-annual European Concert Tour including visits to various abbeys, churches, and cathedrals.
The tour entitled, "Turas; A Global Journey Through Music," symbolizes the Eurochoir's journey through time, cultures, and countries. In past years, the group has journeyed to Hungary, Italy, Spain, and the Czech Republic. This year they will travel across western Ireland through Westport, Adare, Killarney, and Cork.
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UPDATE: Friday, March 4
From Susan Gabert, Director of Campus Ministry
Throughout our travels across this beautiful country we've enjoyed it’s “40 shades of Green,” stories and visits from our leprechaun friend Murphy, lively music and pubs, great food (Irish Stew, Fish & Chips, Tea & Scones and much much more), and the sheep, which appear to be everywhere!
Thursday morning bright and early we headed out to Cork City with the EuroChoir dressed in concert attire. Arriving at Cork's City Hall, we were greeted by the Lord Mayor of Cork who explained the history of the city hall as well as the history and politics of Cork. In appreciation, the choir treated the Lord Mayor to a few songs, of which he seemed to truly enjoy.
Following a quick tour of the Lord Mayor's building and office, we headed to St. Fin Barre Church of Ireland, Cork's Anglican Cathedral–the site of the choir's final concert in Ireland. Here the group toured the Church and held a quick rehearsal. We had a lovely crowd for the concert which was a hit, even receiving a standing ovation from the audience–a fitting and appropriate way to conclude.
This particular performance also included some special moments as Director Brandon Ring invited Bobby Aldrich`01 (tour manager) to conduct “I Love You Lord” and invited all alumni traveling with us to join the EuroChoir. Sarah Fitzpatrick, Jenn Kernan, and Kate Swider '12 along with concert visitor Elizabeth (Liz) McGloin Browne '99 – joined in for this signature piece. Liz, who lives in Naas just outside of Dublin, was a member of the choir when she was on the Hilltop. She drove two hours to Cork to attend the concert but said she truly enjoyed listening to this talented group.
Since we were spending the night in Cork, the rest of our day was spent getting settled in at the hotel and exploring the city. John, our tour guide, gave us a short walking tour of Cork City so we could get a sense of direction and then folks headed off in groups for lunch, shopping, and to discover all the city had to offer.
Friday morning we headed to Blarney where we toured the famous Blarney Castle and its exquisite grounds. Many in our group climbed to the top of the castle so they could kiss the Blarney Stone.
According to the Blarney Castle literature, legend says that the Blarney Stone was Jacob’s Pillow, brought to Ireland by the prophet Jeremiah. Here it became the Lia Fail or ‘Fatal Stone,’ used as an oracular throne of Irish kings – a kind of Harry Potter-like ‘sorting hat’ for kings. It was also said to be the deathbed pillow of St. Columba on the Island of Iona.
Legend has it that it was then removed to mainland Scotland, where it served as the prophetic power of royal succession, the Stone of Destiny. When Cormac MacCarthy, King of Munster, sent 5,000 men to support Robert the Bruce in his defeat of the English at Bannockburn in 1314, a portion of the historic stone was given by the Scots in gratitude – and returned to Ireland. Others say it may be a stone brought back to Ireland from the Crusades – the ‘Stone of Ezel’ behind which David hid on Jonathan’s advice when he fled from his enemy, Saul. A few claim it was the stone that gushed water when struck by Moses.
Whatever the truth of its origin, we believe a witch saved from drowning revealed its power to the MacCarthys. Those who “kiss the stone” are said to gain the “gift of gab.”
The afternoon was spent at Blarney Mills enjoying lunch and shopping. The Blarney Mills are particularly famous for their wool and the group certainly supported the economy of Ireland today, purchasing items for themselves and gifts for their loved ones. We headed back to Cork City for the early evening where folks are on their own for dinner and evening activities.
Tomorrow, Friday, we had another change in plans and will be headed to Cobh, a picturesque port town where many who immigrated to the United States would have left by boat. This is also the last port where immigrants loaded the Titanic for their journey to the U.S. We look forward to the Titanic Museum, Immigration Center, and Cathedral.
We have enjoyed our time in this beautiful country and it is hard to believe that we will be headed back to the Hilltop soon.
UPDATE: Wednesday, March 2
From Robert Aldrich '01, Assistant to the Director and Susan Gabert, Director of Campus Ministry
The weather in Ireland has thrown us for a loop and we've been doing a lot of adjusting to the itinerary. Wednesday was one of those days. The original plan was a boat tour through the Lakes of Killarney and an afternoon of either visiting the gardens at Muckross House or a hill walk up Torc Mountain. Let me tell you a little about what actually happened on Wednesday!
With high winds predicted the boat tours were cancelled. The entire group boarded the bus and headed into Killarney National Park to see the Gap of Dunloe. This incredibly picturesque spot is named in Irish Dun Loich, meaning Loich’s stronghold. It's a narrow mountain pass between two peaks in County Kerry, Ireland.
A "short" walk into the national park, most of the group walked right up to the mountain gap (approximately 3 miles each way). We walked a few miles to the “wishing bridge” and stopped for a group photo with the Gap in the background. With the sun starting to peak through we thought we would enjoy the views and the fresh air – until the heavy rains, wind, and hail started to come down! Despite getting soaked the group pressed on (without any complaining). It's hard to be upset with anything when surrounded my such beauty.
We returned to Killarney and had an opportunity to dry off, get a hot shower, find a quick bite to eat in town, and then boarded the bus in the afternoon to go out to Muckross House. Although the weather was still far from ideal the group had an opportunity to walk along the lakeside, see the gardens, and go through the house. The evening was free for the group to enjoy Killarney, and enjoy it they did!
UPDATE: Tuesday, March 1
From Robert Aldrich '01, Assistant to the Director
The group woke up on Tuesday morning and left Adare and headed to Glenstal Abbey, which is an abbey founded by a group of Benedictine monks who run a school on the property (sound familiar?). The monks were forced to leave Belgium in the 1920s, and their Abbot, who was Irish, found the property in County Limerick. They were embraced by the community and in the early years were cared for by the locals and in return started to educate the kids. Now, over the last 80+ years the school has grown into an all-boys boarding school for more than 225 students from all over the world.
With true Benedictine hospitality, we were welcomed by Brother Padraig. After coffee, tea, and scones we were given a tour of the Abbey Church and had the opportunity to watch a brief DVD on the history of the famous Glenstal Icon Chapel. We had a chance to visit the chapel, located in a crypt underneath the Church (sorry, no pictures allowed) and then went to daily Mass with the monks. Glenstal is famous for the musicality of their monks (CD's available for purchase) and the Choir had a chance to hear the Gregorian Chant used in the Abbey Church. Following Mass the choir performed a 30-minute recital for the monastic community and about 50 local parishioners, including members of a local choir. We were then treated to lunch at the school, a tour of the gardens and monastic cemetery, and finally hot chocolate before boarding the bus and heading south to Killarney.
A real treat to weave in the Benedictine connections on our tour of Ireland!
Following our visit to Glenstal Abbey we continued south to Killarney, in Ireland's County Kerry. Upon arriving in Killarney we unloaded the bus, changes into our concert attire and headed to St. Mary's Church in the center of town to rehearse for our evening concert. A benefit concert for the church restoration fund, our's was the first concert in their spring concert series. We had a small (but very appreciative) audience of about 50 people. The kids really enjoyed performing in the space and even did a "flash mob" type performance in the city center prior to the concert to advertise for the event. Following the concert we had a group dinner to celebrate!
PS: It didn't rain today!
UPDATE: Monday, Feb. 29
From Susan Gabert, Director of Campus Ministry
Sunday we journeyed to a Benedictine Abbey called Kylemore Abbey – just stunning! The Abbess and sisters were so gracious to our students. We toured the beautiful grounds, attended the monastic community's Mass (where the choir provided the music) and then we headed to the Gothic Cathedral (also on the grounds) for rehearsal and a 1:15 concert to a very full church. The choir performed a variety of songs which were truly impressive and senior Billy Endicott conducted one of the pieces.
We had lunch in the abbey's café, and enjoyed wondering throughout the walled gardens, Castle, gift shop, and rest of the grounds before heading back to Westport and our hotel. Many groups headed into town for dinner and to have experience the lively music in traditional Irish pubs. Some of our students even got to sing for the patrons!
Monday we left Westport and journeyed to Adare. It was a full day of travel as we made several stops along the way. While we had enjoyed a beautiful, dry day on Sunday, we were not so lucky on Monday. When we arrived at the Cliffs of Mohr it was raining quite hard and it was very windy. This did not deter our students one bit; they spent a good amount of time outside enjoying the magnificent sights of the Cliffs. Completely soaked, they warmed up inside where they checked out the gift shop and enjoyed lunch and the exhibit in the visitor center. They said it was worth it–a once in a life time experience. While I did not spend as much time outside I certainly concur that seeing the Cliffs of Mohr was a once in a lifetime experience. And after all it was just rain!
Next we headed to Bunratty Castle where we traveled back in time to this formidable castle built in the 15th century. It has been preserved just as it would have looked in the 1500s. Our tour of the castle included the great hall, main guard and south solar. Then we visited the Folk Park, an authentic re-creation of life in Ireland at the turn of the 20th century.
Finally we headed back on the road to Adare, a beautiful, little town; we are staying in a lovely hotel just outside downtown. We have a very short stay here, but headed into town for dinner. Most of our group went to Collins on the recommendation of our bus driver Bill. It was a great call – delicious food, wonderful service, and very reasonable prices. Thanks Bill!
Throughout our stay we are blessed to have John as our tour guide from World Strides. He shares wonderful stories and history of this incredible country and it's people. He is taking very good care of us.
Tuesday we head to Glenstal Abbey (I’m so excited to be at another Benedictine Monastery!) where we attend Mass and the choir performs an informal concert. The monks have planned a schedule that truly demonstrates Benedictine hospitality with tea, lunch, and an afternoon snack. BTW – I am loving all the tea and scones. Then we head to Killarney where we will spend the next two nights. This evening the students will perform a formal concert which I am certain will impress this community.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 28
Members of the Saint Anselm College choir have arrived in Ireland and have already sang at Mass and performed a concert.
The group of 42 students and several members of the college staff arrived in Shannon, Ireland bright and early on Saturday morning. They boarded a bus to Galway and then another to Knock where they visited a special Holy Site: the Shrine and Museum at the Basilica of Our Lady, Queen of Ireland.
The story goes, in 1879, an apparition of the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, and St. John the Evangelist appeared at an altar on the south gable of the church and was witnessed for more than two hours. The tour of the Shrine grounds included the Apparition Chapel and original Gable Wall, the Papal Cross, the Basilica, and the Chapel of Reconciliation.
After an eventful bus trip and several hours exploring Knock, they continued on their way to Westport where they'd spend a couple nights.
On Sunday morning, the group explored Kylemore Abbey, a Benedictine monastery and walled garden in Galway. After viewing the gardens and abbey, the choir sang at Mass for the Nuns of the Monastic Church of Kylemore. An informal concert followed.
Tomorrow the group will explore the Adare area traveling to the Cliffs of Moher.