Oasis Chorale Tour Continued
After staying up all night on the ferry and visiting Powerscourt Gardens, we gave a concert at a YMCA in West Dublin. This concert experience was quite informal, and we deviated a bit from our normal repertoire. First, our choir had been advertised (via a huge sign outside) as an “American Gospel Choir.” I hope no one in the audience was disappointed with our predominantly sacred choral selections! Yet due to the nature of the space and the amount of children in the audience, we made it a little more fun by doing crazy Oasis warmups with the audience beforehand and even singing Irish and American folksongs as warmups. We sang “Home on the Range,” lol. After intermission, we collaborated with Maureen, an audience member who sings with a gospel choir in Dublin and who sang for us “There is a Balm in Gilead.” We also pulled out our improv skills when a young boy in the front row (from the Irish Travelers cultural group) asked us to sing “O Happy Day.” It was after this concert that I enjoyed talking with the Irish audience members over “tea and buns.” I met two Irish women who were friends, and we had a lovely chat. (I was interested, however, that they described themselves as being from two different religions, Christianity and Roman Catholicism. ? I was uncovering even more layers to the religious culture of Ireland.)
Tuesday we had a much-needed mid-tour rehearsal. I haven’t written much yet about the choir experience, but I will say this. We are blessed with an amazing director who recognizes the diversity within our choir, especially regarding musical experience, education, and talent. Patient and encouraging, yet prodding and stimulating, Wendell Nisly empowers choir members by creating a safe space for musical giving and taking. Responsibility and a humble heart are the core values this year. And these come through discipline. Our director’s humility, creativity, and resourcefulness, specifically this year, continue to push Oasis to further artistic integrity, and it’s so exciting to be a part of it. We as a choir are learning from each other what it means to be disciplined musicians who humbly give their gift, both abroad, and at home in our own communities.
A sappy quote from my journal from this day: “By this point in the trip, I’m realizing that I’m having so much fun. I’m making friends, having interesting conversations, making beautiful music, and touring beautiful Ireland and meeting wonderful people. It’s touching.”
To give you a little glimpse into choir touring culture, I’ll explain what our typical day looked like. Many times we stayed in hostels and had breakfast together at the hostel. Then in the mornings we traveled or spent time touring local areas. For lunch, we were dropped off in city centers or at travel stops and we were on our own. These were always fun times to try local food. We would get back on the bus with all kinds of stories about the little pub we found or the new food we tried. This particular day in Drogheda, I ate at the Copper Kettle with Joy, and I tried brie and bacon on brown bread with tomato relish. We also ordered “tea for two”. My dish came with a salad, red beets, and coleslaw.
I should also at some point post pictures of the REAL travel life in Ireland. You guys get to see gigantic roses and pictures of gorgeous architecture, but you don’t have the privilege of seeing midgies (Irish fleas). Or daily lugging your suitcase up four flights of stairs at a hostel with no “lift.” Or banging your shower knob every 10 seconds so the water stays on because if you don’t it automatically shuts off so that you, the wasteful American, don’t use up all the groundwater in Ireland. Yes, these are the real Oasis Ireland tour memories. But. I think tourists can focus on certain inconveniences, or they can simply deal with them, as an adventure, make memories, and LIVE UP the trip of a life time!
So that even when we ran out of time to visit Newgrange in Ireland (an earthwork structure in Ireland that PREDATES Stonehenge) you simply sigh wistfully, and move on. But also try to get a picture of it while the bus is zooming past.
On Tuesday night, our choir was once again warmly received by the hosting congregation, Drogheda Presbyterian. We were delighted to sing to both church members and visiting community people. A big shout out to John Woodside for his promotion of the event! By this point, we were becoming increasingly attached to our audiences in Ireland… their endless thanks and appreciative encores. The times of fellowship following our concerts were highlights enjoyed by all of us.
Thoughts on Choir
One reason I continue to sing with Oasis is because of comments like this that I heard: “Your music brings us back to what it’s all about. It’s very special in that way.” A capella singing, sung beautifully, with a message of truth, has the power to do that, I believe. At Drogheda, I had an interesting conversation with someone about the crafting of our repertoire, and its mix of sacred, emotional, and even evangelistic pieces. I think that the type of music Oasis sings has an awakening power. I have been to choral concerts that have awakened in me a sense of longing, one that I can almost not articulate. It is a longing for beauty and peace, which we get a temporal taste of through good music. It is my desire that those who experience this longing will turn to Jesus Christ, God’s Son, through whom we find eternal life and that beauty and peace which all humanity longs for.
Another part of choir tours is the indispensable bus time. A note: jamming over 40 emotional, spontaneous, artistic musical divas onto a bus for two weeks can certainly make for some interesting times, not to mention ridiculous games and memories, like “Bus Hide and Seek,” group surveys, and endless verses of “The Fields of Athenry”. We also get into really great discussions about things like music, architecture, poetry, bear hunts, and avocado. I was in this great conversation about the problems and issues of poetry and theology in new hymns, and we were reading a new hymn in which the theme was about how our eyes will be opened and the veil will be drawn away once we get to Heaven, and we will know God fully. I was commenting that I agreed with this sentiment… Here on earth, we do not fully understanding God’s ways… in our humanness, we cannot fully understand God now, but we will know Him fully once we get to Heaven. (This made sense to me because sometimes I feel very distant from God.) Then someone, almost irritated, said, “He will only be fully known then? WHY?”
That comment convicted me. I realized the indication. If God is not fully known, whose fault is it? Is it not true that God will be found by those who seek Him? “Ask, seek, knock,” Jesus says.
But many people react to this truth. Many people respond: “I HAVE sought. I HAVE tried.” Perhaps we sometimes forget the amount of time it takes to “seek” something. Remember that a little bit every day goes a lot farther than one cram session at the end. The Lord will be known, and it will be by those who actively, regularly seek Him. Discipline, then, is indispensable to the Christian life. Discipline is my goal. Seeking God, His righteousness, and His purity. If God’s love and comfort are the deepest longings of my broken, sinful heart, I must seek Him with all diligence. This idea of discipline is something that has been rolling around in my mind for a while. It’s true that diligence and discipline bring results in many different areas of our lives. I have seen this work personally through things like long-distance running, music preparation, and even in developing a prayer life. But this is a lesson I’VE learned, in very personal ways, recently. So simply “telling” you this may not be very inspiring.
On the Road Again
Wednesday we drove to Limerick, Ireland, so obviously we had a limerick writing contest! The Listowel congregation graciously hosted us in their homes, and we were treated to some good ole Irish hospitality! Our hostess treated us to tea and a walk to the nearby beach. She also served us British goodness called Eaton Mess (strawberries, cream, and meringues). The best dessert I ever had in Ireland! Our concert was held at a community center, an old church that has been renovated into a concert space. In the morning, our hosts drove us the scenic route on our way to meet the bus… past the mouth of the River Shannon, to Ballybunyan beach (where John Bunyan was from), past the Bill Clinton statue (?), and the Jesse James pub. On the way, I had an interesting conversation with our hostess’s son about the use of story in music. He’s an Irish country music singer/songwriter who dreams of making it to Nashville. All the best, Stefan!
Tourist day! Thursday we went to Killarney! Or, as the locals call it, “KillARRRney.” It’s one of the most famous tourist towns in Ireland. Here I ate my first “fish and chips” at an Irish pub. Later I also tried the European goodness of “affogato,” a coffee drink made of espresso and ICE CREAM. In the evening, we checked into our hostel in Cork. Joy and I darted off to the city center. We were content to bum around Ireland’s second largest city! We met other choir members on our walk back, and we ended up goofing around, gadding about the city. It stays light so long here. It doesn’t get dark til after 10:30 because it’s so far north.
Nearing the end of choir tour, it’s easy to get “peopled out.” Crammed on a bus all day, it’s very hard to create necessary “alone time.” However, Friday’s Dunmore East cliff walk was healing for the soul! The tide was in, so some of us had to dash through the water, and others over steep rocks to reach the cliff-side trail. The sun was out in full abundance. The gulls, the waves, the grass… all things bright and beautiful!
In the evening, Oasis Chorale hosted a dessert social at Dunmore East Christian fellowship in order to meet the church people. Lots of fellowship, tea, and music-making. Saturday we held workshops with the children and church people. Those choir members not involved in the workshops were free to go down to the cliffs or explore the city of Waterford (of Waterford Crystal fame).
Saturday evening’s concert was at Christchurch Cathedral in Waterford. A lovely location with an engaging audience. The church sits on the site of the most famous marriage in Irish history, the marriage of Aiofe to Strongbow (a Norman from England) in 1170. This marriage effectively gave him rights to the Kingdom of Leinster. Luckyyyy. Now Ireland belonged to him.
In an interesting note, this church was built in the 1700s. Before that, a much larger cathedral sat on the spot. Men from the city tried to convince the church leader that they needed a new cathedral. The church leader was very confused because he was quite content with his Gothic cathedral. The men wishing for a new cathedral, however, were local businessman and builders whose pockets would quite benefit from a new building. When the church leader walked into the cathedral, these businessmen would have someone hide and drop mortar down on him to convince him that the old cathedral was falling apart. He finally consented to build a new cathedral. But tearing down the solid piece of work proved to be a failure! They tried and tried to break through the eight-foot thick walls, but they could not! They finally resorted to blowing up the church with dynamite.
The new architect was interested in creating a space with a lot of light. You’ll notice the yellow walls and the lack of stained glass. Interestingly, there exists a sun star with Hebrew lettering at the front of the church. The letters spell the word “Lord” but this symbol is Masonic, and it’s conjectured that the architect was a freemason. The chandeliers have been donated by Waterford Crystal.
We certainly enjoyed the acoustics in this space!
Sunday morning we worshipped with the Dunmore East congregation, and our last concert was at Kilkenny Presbyterian Church. I might comment here that, interestingly, this is the first time we heard the Gospel message explicitly preached in Ireland. I appreciated this introduction by Pastor Martin.
This was an emotional concert for us as it was our last concert. The bus ride to our hotel was full of laughter and giddiness. We checked into our rooms and then congregated on the hotel lawn for one last loud hurrah. My choir friends and I laughed and giggled til early in the morning. Then we all farewelled. I was really glad this was only the half-way point in my crazy trip! I was sad to leave my new friends, but so excited for two more weeks of English countryside!
Next up: Weeks 3 & 4 – The British Invasion!