King's Voices Ireland Tour
22-27 March 2017
Report by Anna (Fitzwilliam College) and Simon (King’s College)
King’s Voices’ first full day in Dublin brought many surprises; not least that eight of the sopranos and altos could coexist in one room with one shower and no casualties! Having all retreated to the local bar the night before to escape from the rain, we found ourselves miraculously hangover-free, and had the opportunity to explore Dublin in slightly sunnier weather.
After a good lie-in at our hostel (which became something of a theme), we headed out to explore Dublin and sample the culture of the Emerald Isle. For some, this meant a walk round Trinity College Dublin (not quite as impressive as Cambridge’s own Trinity College, but still nice) and a look at the Book of Kells. Some of us found the best café in the world, and uncovered the intellectual delights of the Archaeology Museum – where Rachel and Anna represented Cambridge to the best of our ability by doing brass rubbing and questioning Viking fashion choices.
In the afternoon we rehearsed; we sang all the pieces a whole tone down, after being asked by the hotel manager to try and make a ‘lower’ noise. The beautiful Saint Andrew’s Church provided a great acoustic for a varied programme, and for our first concert with Dublin’s Cuore chamber choir and their conductor Amy Ryan (including the Irish premiere of Ethan’s ‘There is no Rose’ and a joint performance of Kodaly’s ‘Esti Dal’). The church was packed, and it was lovely to have such a welcoming audience for our first concert, and for Ben’s theatrical interludes!
It became apparent that the King's Voices repertoire is not as well-suited to singing in pubs after a couple of rounds as might be hoped; we hope to remedy this by next year.
Report by Adam (Downing College).
Day Three of our Ireland Tour took us to the Guinness Brewery at St James Gate. I had no plans for the morning, and was sleepily making coffee when I noticed on the Tour WhatsApp that people were heading to the brewery. When I was at University back in the USA, I took a course that was called ‘The Science of Brewing’. It sounds like a slacker class, I know, but it was actually an upper-level biology seminar and the hardest class I took as an undergraduate! Anyway, I’d forgotten everything I learned so I was keen to visit an actual brewery and see things in action. The architecture was amazing; an old brick building from the 1800s that has been half-renovated to include a 7-story tower with views of the city of Dublin.
I was never really the biggest Guinness fan, but after the brewery tour I’ve got to admit that our free pint on the seventh floor was quite tasty. We had panoramic views of the city and it was a bright, blue, sunny day. You could see the spire of St Patrick’s Cathedral and the harbour in the distance. Sometimes these adventures with just three or four other singers are the best moments of tour. Before I left for Dublin, I loved singing with King's Voices and Ben and had lots of great friendships in the choir, but after the tour I feel that I’ve found a second family. That’s why we sing, isn’t it?
Report by Susanna (Fitzwilliam College), Will (King’s College) and Tash (King’s College).
After considering recommendations from members of New Dublin Voices the previous night, a group of us attended choral matins at St. Patrick’s cathedral.
We then travelled to Maynooth, a picturesque little town about an hour’s drive west of Dublin, for a joint concert in the beautifully glitzy chapel of Maynooth University. This choir was lovely and really welcoming, which made it much easier to mix together. The excitement was increased when we realised that this was one of the first open concerts to be held in the chapel for years – and it was completely sold out weeks in advance!
Our final concert of the tour was particularly memorable. Having sung in a smaller venue the previous evening, we were all looking forward to singing in a cathedral acoustic, and Maynooth cathedral did not disappoint. A beautiful rose stained glass window lit up the ornately decorated cathedral walls, and the setting really inspired our final evening of singing. It was a moving experience to hear the sounds of pieces such as Bruckner’s Christus Factus Est and Rachmaninov’s Bogoroditse Devo echo around the room. A standing ovation from the audience that evening made our last concert even more special, and it topped off what had been a fantastic week of singing.
We are all really looking forward to seeing how much more we can improve as a group next term. The acoustic was great (though not quite as good as our own chapel, it has to be said) and it was such a lovely way to end such an enjoyable tour. As one of our new third years rightly feels, ‘I’m so glad I went, both for the singing and the socials – I’m gutted that this is my last year!
On the journey home, prizes were awarded, including best hat, best Irish accent and best snoring. Of course, what followed included proper ‘back-of-the-bus’ singing of some Disney classics and we arrived back at the hostel for a celebration of our successes and how much we had improved as a choir over the course of the week. Special thanks must go to our director, Ben Parry, for bringing out the very best in our voices!
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