We began our tour to Ireland with three days in Belfast, home to two of our choral scholars, at Fisherwick Church, where our Northern Irish hosts provided a warm welcome by means of vast quantities of scones and tea. After our rehearsals we went home to our hosts, where activities varied from Jenga to having my first ever Guinness in the most Irish pub that I have ever visited! Thank you to all those who helped look after us in Belfast – everyone had so much fun and was made to feel so welcome.
The next morning we departed to visit Giant’s Causeway. Our trip was a lovely contrast to our experiences in urban Belfast – our resident geographer, Anna, was particularly overjoyed by the prospect of investigating the rock formations that make up this unique and iconic landmark.
We then returned to Belfast, and gave a concert by candlelight at St. Patrick’s Church on Donegal Street. The audience was treated to a programme that varied from Purcell to Rutter, and the acoustic was wonderful to sing in.
On Sunday morning, we sang Mass at St. Peter’s Cathedral, where one of the choir’s many music students, Declan, received his choral training. It was quite unlike any other service that I had ever sung in, and the “obscenely loud” organ was put through its paces by our Senior Organ Scholar, Ben, who played a virtuosic Vierne toccata in the wonderful surroundings of the Cathedral. We were then taken on a bus tour of Belfast, including the Falls and Shankill Roads – even those who had lived in Belfast learned something new! That evening we sang evensong in St. George’s Church. I’ll never forget the chipper vergers who amused us so much before the service that we found ourselves suppressing giggles as we were about to process in! After a beautiful service, we all gathered together with everyone we met in Belfast for a fantastic party.
Our final day in Northern Ireland was certainly rewarding – we led a workshop with the choir of Methodist College, Belfast, of which our other Belfast-residing choral scholar, Syamala, is an alumna. The Choir of Methody made a great sound, and were so engaged in their singing – we were treated to an incredible a capella rendition of the theme from Mission: Impossible, complete with actions (including ‘shooting’ a teacher)!
We were so honoured to sing in Belfast. We hope that we will be able to return soon!