Encore tours have given me the great pleasure of touring with students and their inspirational music directors for many years which I have often written about on this forum. This year however brought an added pleasure – Encore adult choir tours.
“That must be a lot easier” is what is often said to us comparing adult tours with students but any Tour Manager will tell you that is not necessarily the case! After all, us adults can be cantankerous and single-minded. Nor are we good at listening to – and remembering! – instructions such as what time we are leaving, or where we are meeting, or other vital information. But my adults this year were a dream. They were on their Encore tour to show the artistry they had been working so hard on, and to enjoy the experience of travelling together and discovering a new country, in our case, Ireland.
Encore tours always take us to lovely places and beautiful, historic venues. A favorite venue on Irish tours is the delightful Victorian Gothic memorial chapel at Kylemore in Connemara, a place of exquisite beauty especially if blessed with beautiful weather.
Some of our Irish venues are small as this one, but are of great historical interest. There are, for instance, the glorious 12th century St. Multose Church in Kinsale, the similarly aged Ballintubber Abbey in County Mayo (where Pierce Brosnan was married incidentally), the Chapel Royal at Dublin Castle, St. Mary’s Victorian church right in the heart of Killarney, as well as St. Patrick’s Cathedral itself in Dublin.
The other added pleasure on these tours this year was that my adult groups got to perform alongside, or with, local groups such as the Cantabile Singers in Kinsale, a wonderful ladies Gospel Choir in Ballintubber and with the famous Artane Music School in North Dublin.
One Encore group was a Methodist choir and they were very warmly welcomed and provided the music for the Sunday morning service at Irvinestown Methodist Church in Northern Ireland. This was a joyous experience for all and many new friends were made.
Unscheduled moments to perform are always a special pleasure. I have often had this thrill with student a cappella choirs and this year I was delighted when one of the adult choirs gave an impromptu performance at the behest of the guides in the Great Hall of Kilkenny’s great Norman Castle.
The tours were not just about performing though. The adults had a glorious time in Ireland (I know because they kept telling me). Fortunately we were blessed with lovely weather for the most part but this IS Ireland and as I always say “it is not called the Emerald Isle for nothing” and so, yes, there is rain. Sometimes LOTS of it. And so it was for one group whose first day included a visit to the famous Cliffs of Moher. The rain and accompanying mist came thick and fast. The cliffs may have been there but were nowhere to be seen. One choir member said “Well, I’ve heard that it always rains in Ireland so if I hadn’t seen any I would have felt cheated”. Now THAT’s the attitude to have. The same group was rewarded with excellent weather, however, on the very beautiful Antrim Coast and Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland and the consensus was “well, this is better than the Cliffs of Moher anyway.” I think they’re right.
There was one very special experience I must tell you about. One group came from St. Louis where the American Ambassador to the Republic comes from and she had arranged for the whole party to be invited to the Ambassador’s residence in Dublin’s Phoenix Park for morning coffee. We were warmly welcomed by Ambassador Kevin O’Malley, Mrs. O’Malley and their staff, where we enjoyed a tour of the house and grounds – built in 1776! – and served coffee in the dining room. Encore tours often bring wonderful surprises I’ve found.
The list of travelling experiences we did on these tours is too long to enumerate here. Suffice it to say that the combination of performances and sightseeing and the very special pleasure of experiencing at first hand the famous friendliness of the Irish people made these Encore tours something very special for my adults. As an Encore Tour Manager I never tire of seeing and sharing the pleasures and excitement of both student and adults on their Encore tours. They really are worth doing – come along!
About the Author
Stan Pretty has been an ACIS/Encore tour manager for over 15 years. As an actor, he has performed at the Royal Shakespeare Company, in the West End, throughout the UK and abroad. He has also directed a number of large-scale community plays and even received an MBE from the Queen at Buckingham Palace for his work in 2004.More Content by Stan Pretty