Hey, I’m back in America after a month or so across the pond. I was touring with BYU Singers in Ireland, Wales and England, and then stayed a week longer in Germany to see my family living in Gießen. While I don’t have the time or energy to give an entire recap of my trip, I would like to at least mention some of the highlights for me and recommend you see the full tour story at the BYU Singers blog.
We started in Cork, which reminded me how much I love that city. It’s big enough to have everything you need in a city, but small enough that you can actually get to know people and get about easily. It’s really one of my favorite cities of all time, not just Ireland. We also got to take a train to Cobh (pronounced: “cove”) and enjoy a beautiful day there. The weather was stunning the whole time in Cork, and it certainly didn’t disappoint in Cobh. What did disappoint was the absolute lack of Fish and Chips shops. I couldn’t believe the rotten luck of it all. No Chippies? Ridonculous.
We participated in the Cork International Choral Festival and had fun participating in all of the performance, but my favorite performance we did in Cork was in St. Micheal’s Church in Blackrock. The place never filled up, but I didn’t care at all. The people who came were so warm and friendly. The acoustic was fantastic for our music. Most of the time I don’t feel that a long reverb time is appropriate for most live concerts, but here it was glorious. There were few venues after this that equaled it. This became one of my favorite concerts I’ve ever participated in.
Back to the Choral Festival, we participated in the Fleishman Trophy Competition and won second place. We also won the “P.E.A.C.E Award,” which is given to “a choir who touched the hearts’ of all who heard them and exemplified the intentions of the trophy’s benefactors, the P.E.A.C.E. Movement, Cork.” We felt so honored to have received this high compliment. We felt that we had accomplished the mission that we set out to complete. We all got to pass around the trophy and see what it looked like. It was a beautifully cut crystal bowl. We all joked afterward that it kinda looked like a really expensive candy dish, and that we should all expect to see it in Dr. Staheli’s home or office filled with peanuts.
After Cork we went do Limerick for a concert sponsored by the branch there. It was particularly touching to me because I lived in Limerick for a while and made a slew of friends there. It’s nickname is “Stab City,” but when I was there I saw nothing but great people everywhere. After the concert I got to meet up with several of them. I hadn’t been there for at least three years, but they all remembered me. I was swimming in nostalgia to see their familiar smiles. I only wished it could have lasted hours longer.
We then drove up to Derry. I got to visit Coleraine, where I had also lived, and we toured the Antrim coastline as well as visit the Giant’s Causeway. We then drove on to Belfast and sang in the gorgeous Ulster Hall. This hall was one of the best places we sang. It sounded incredible and as you can see in the pictured, looked just as great. We were very impressed by the whole set up. It’s too bad we couldn’t use the organ but whatever. Just to name some other acts that have been on this stage: Charles Dickens, Edward Elgar, and Led Zeppelin. Actually, this is the hall were Led Zeppelin premiered, “Stairway to Heaven.” I only wish we could have gotten a choral arrangement for the event.
This was a benefit concert we did for the Marie Curie Cancer Care Foundation with a group called Capella Ceciliana. The group performed a number of early Renaissance pieces, and also sang “The Lamb,” by John Taverner. It reminded me how much I love that piece. Together we sang “Cantate Domino,” by Claudio Monteverdi. Over all it was an amazing and memorable performance.
Next we went on to Dublin and spent a good while there. I also lived in Dublin for a while and was really glad to have a chance to visit again. It’s such a magical place in spite of it’s rough edges. Walking through the city center and hanging out on the Liffey waterfront brough back a wash of good memories. It’s memories like these that keep you warm in cold times. After a short time in Dublin we took a ferry across to Wales. I have to admit, it was hard leaving Ireland again. It felt like I was leaving home again. Home has always been an illusive concept for me and I sometimes feel like I don’t know where mine really is. Occasionally though, I’ll get a glimpse or two of what “Home” is to me. Leaving Dublin was one of those rare moments.
Wales turned out to be a gorgeous place. We went up to the Wrexham/Chester area and did a concert there to benefit the Nightingale House Hospice, as well as perform a few songs at the Hospice itself. Since we had Professor Rosalind Hall with us (who conducts the BYU Concert Choir and Men’s Chorus) we decided to visit her hometown in the south of Wales, Merthyr Tydfil. We performed in St. Tydfil’s parish church and had some really magical moments. First, the acoustics were great (Hallelujah!). Second, virtually everyone in the room knew Prof. Hall and was anxious to see her conduct a few pieces. Almost all of us in Singers has sung with Sister Hall and so it was a pleasure to sing under her direction once again. There was a moment when we were singing “Pilgrim’s Song,” when we all started to tear up and I don’t get misty-eyed when I sing. The evening was brimming with magic. Ralph Pullman (Prof. Hall’s brother) gave us a safety lantern that was used down in the coal mines of Wales that symbolizes safety and peace.
We then dedicated a song to Prof. Hall and her family for their generosity in letting us keep her at BYU. She really has touched thousands of lives at BYU and it’s been wonderful to have her. We sang, “Homeward Bound,” and found a few days later that a video had been posted on YouTube. Here it is:
After Wales we went up to Liverpool, Preston/Chorley, and finished in Oldham/Manchester. Officially tour came to and end and we all went our separate ways. I myself went to on to Germany to visit my sister, brother-in-law, and nephew. We had a great time tromping around Deutchland. By special request, we went to Leipzig and heard two concerts in Thomaskirche. This is the church were J.S. Bach spent the last 27 years of his life working. This is the place were he wrote the B-minor Mass, the St. Matthew Passion, the Christmas Cantata, and hundreds of other cantatas. We got to hear Ensemble Concerto Sacro (absolutely stunning!) and the Thomaskirche boys choir. It was pretty awesome.
We then went to Limburg, Köln (and climbed the cathedral tower), Heidelberg, and Frankfurt city center. Everyone told me that Frankfurt was going to be a crappy place, but I actually really enjoyed it. It was beautiful week and we had a great time visiting all those places.
After a month in Europe though, I feel beat. I actually started pining for America. I’m glad to be back, and now it’s time to get back to work. I’ve got some great ideas going and am going to start composing again shortly.