“Charmed” by Liese Schadt

Posted in Ireland on September 9, 2010 by Tracia

Many have already shared a favorite moment or place; my favorite thing has been the engaging sincerity of the Irish. Complete strangers exchange with us a smile and a “Good morning!” on the streets. Another, who’s watching the store till for his friend, discusses rugby, hurling, and cycling and kindly corrects me when I recall Sean Kelly as the only Irish cyclist to win the Tour de France (it’s Steven Roche). A gentleman agrees to board our very full elevator, “but only to be next to this beautiful woman!” (blush). I’ll never forget the Irish engaging manner, love for life, or sense of community that even includes singing tourists such as ourselves.

Cheers!

– Liese Schadt (soprano)

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“Bit o’ Blarney” by Erin Reddy

Posted in Ireland on September 7, 2010 by Tracia

The one stop that has it all! Town, pub, shopping, gardens, castle, and the famous Blarney Stone! Our bus pulled up just after 10:45 with a mere two hours to explore. Yet it was just enough time for everyone to see and do what they most wanted.

My mom, trusty travel buddy that she is, and I immediately set off to kiss the Blarney Stone. The stone lies at the top of the Blarney Castle ruins. Legend tells that a smooch on the stone will bestow you with eloquence – “the gift of gab.” The path up to the stone consisted of climbing a 100-step spiral staircase, with each step getting narrower than the last. As you climb, you are afforded a view of the different rooms of the castle, as well as vies of the landscape below.. Towards the top, the spires of the 18th century Blarney House appear. At last we reached the stone. But to reach it, you must bend backwards, suspended over the parapet. This makes for quite a photo!

After visiting the castle, we headed to the Rock Close. What a magical place! The trails wind through groves of gnarled oak and yew trees, with waterfalls and rock features as well. The close is the site of an ancient druidic settlement, and includes features such as the fairy glade, Witches Stone (a stone resembling an entrapped witch), and Druids Circle. Perhaps the most impressive was the Dolmen, a megalithic tomb portal with a gigantic rock balancing upon others. No one knows how it was placed there. After that it was about time to head back. I did have time however to run into the Erin Giftstore (yes, photo opportunity again!) where I found the perfect Celtic necklace.

Upon boarding the bus, I discovered that others had enjoyed themselves as well at the pub or Blarney Woollen Mills store. Overall, a wonderful experience!

– Erin Reddy (soprano)

“Altered consciousness” by Jill Kennedy

Posted in Concerts, Ireland on September 7, 2010 by Tracia

Driving along between dense green hedgerows, VAE began to practice “Irish Blessing”. What a _moment_. Boundaries between singers, listeners and country side merged.

More of the same that evening, as the group sang their first chords, the quiet intensity of their voices riveted the audience. Heads snapped to attention — absolute silence — little old ladies widened their eyes at each other. Again, the sense of loss self in some etheric place. Singers, locals, tourists held in exquisite sound.

– Jill Kennedy (camp follower)

“Irish Dancing” by Lori Leong

Posted in Ireland on September 7, 2010 by Tracia

After the concert in Killarney we were all excited to go hear the traditional session (Irish folk music) at the pub which was, conveniently, right next to the hotel. We didn’t even have to cross the street – a good thing, as I am still getting confused about the direction the traffic is coming from since they are driving on the “wrong side” of the road.

The pub was pretty full as we entered, and it only got busier as the night wore on. Pub crowds seem to be more age diverse than in the States. I don’t know if that’s because we’ve been in more touristy areas, but in my brief experience here, 20-somethings mingled easily with white-haired seniors, everyone queueing up together for a Guinness. We were all there for a fun evening out to hear the music, have a drink, and chat with friends old and new.

People were packed in up front by the band, so we made our way to the back of the bar where there was a bit more room. The music was full of energy and you couldn’t help but tap your foot or even get up and dance. Tracia had taken some Irish dancing lessons a while back, and she started showing Kay some basic steps, right there in the middle of the pub. They made it look so fun that other people started clapping along, and then soon they were joining in – first a few others from our group, then a couple of older ladies who had been watching (tourists also?) stood up and began to follow the steps too. So there they were, doing their best attempts at Irish dancing in an Irish pub, laughing and having a great time. People kept trying to get by to go to the restrooms, and, yes, some of them looked perplexed or annoyed. But most of them smiled approvingly and applauded when the song was over.

At one point Tracia got about seven or eight of us up there at once, including one young lady from France. The Irish dancing is very energetic and looks hard, and for those rhythmically-challenged among us (myself included), it was even harder. But, nonetheless, it was great fun to try for a little while.

I don’t know what the genuine locals thought about our Yankee version of Irish dance, but in any case, they were never less than polite. The same goes for essentially all the people I’ve met. Thus far, in shops, museums, hotels, in the pubs and on the streets, and especially at our concerts, very nearly everyone I have talked with has been warm and gentle or charming and witty or all of these. I like the way they say “You’re very welcome” when we arrive somewhere – not in response to a thank you, but as an introduction, a genuine welcome into a place, an invitation to make ourselves feel at home. Ireland is a place where even our mediocre attempts at dancing are welcomed.

– Lori Leong (alto)

“The Music of Nature” by Kay Dewey

Posted in Ireland on September 6, 2010 by Tracia

It is no accident that the music of Ireland reflects the beauty of the natural world. We’ve had some magical moments contributing to and appreciating the sounds of nature.

One was when we took a hike in the pouring rain (it is Ireland after all) and entertained ourselves and (hopefully the birds around us) by singing 4-part harmony as we walked along the trail.

Another was listening to two owls hooting to each other while we paused in a verdant fern garden near Barney Castle (Liese & Kay). Enchanting!

– Kay Dewey (alto)

“Color” by Christina Brice Dolanc

Posted in Ireland on September 6, 2010 by Tracia

I have not known the true taste of color until looking across the vast scenery of the Irish countryside. There are so many shades of green that I can’t keep count. Now I see where the name Kelly green came from. The bright blue sky is spotted with happy white clouds that will dot the green landscape with shadow and vivid sunshine that highlight the shade of green even further. Some of these greens just seem impossible to be coming from nature.

Eventually and 2-3 times a day, these happy clouds drop their moisture and, mixed with random sunlight, is the perfect recipe for…rainbows. While driving on the high coastal cliffs of the Ring of Kerry, we saw three rainbows, one so vibrant we could hardly look at it! We spent 10 minutes with trigger-happy fingers snapping pictures…must stop taking pictures of the rainbow…and were, of course, still searching for the pot o’ gold!

– Christina Brice Dolanc (soprano)

“Feeling Sheepish” by Jeri Ohmart

Posted in Uncategorized on September 6, 2010 by Tracia

On the Ring of Kerry we were surprised with a special treat: a sheepdog trial Irish style. Two border collies, Mac and Bessie, were put through their paces, demonstrating their phenomenal responses to voice and whistle commands.

In a barely audible voice, their master signaled commands to the dogs high up on the green hills, their intelligence and intensity as they worked the sheep was palpable. The dogs alternately moved the sheep downward and crouched flat against the ground to remove the threat and allow them to rest. Very quickly, the sheep were where the master wanted them to be.

We left feeling as though we’d seen a delightful snapshot of authentic Ireland.

– Jeri Ohmart (soprano)