Working with Encore Tours has given me the great pleasure of touring with students and their inspirational music directors for many years. This year, however, brought an added pleasure: adult choir tours.
“That must be a lot easier!” is what is often said to us regarding adult tour compared to student tours. 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—nor remembering!—vital instructions such as what time we are leaving or where we are meeting.
This year, though, my adults were a dream. They were on their Encore Tour to display the artistry they had been working so hard on and to enjoy the experience of traveling and discovering a new country together—in our case, Ireland.
Encore Tours always take us to beautiful, historic venues in dream-like places. A favorite venue on Ireland tours is the delightful Victorian Gothic memorial chapel at Kylemore in Connemara, known as Kylemore Abbey. This is a place of exquisite beauty, especially on days blessed with pleasant weather.
While some of our Irish venues, like this one, may be small, they are of great historical interest. 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 Cathedral in the heart of Killarney, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin.
The other added pleasure on these tours this year was that my adult groups got to perform with local Irish 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 of the groups traveling with us, a Methodist choir, was 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; many new friends were made.
Unscheduled performances are always a special pleasure. I have often had this thrill with student a cappella choirs; 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!). We were blessed with lovely weather for the most part…but this is Ireland and, as I always say, it's not called the Emerald Isle for nothing. Yes, there is rain, sometimes lots of it. This was the case 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 they seemed nowhere to be seen.
One choir member remarked, “Well, I’ve heard that it always rains in Ireland, so if I hadn’t seen any [rain] 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. The consensus was, “Well, this is better than the Cliffs of Moher anyway.”
There was one very special experience I must tell you about: One of the groups traveling with us hailed from St. Louis, Missouri. Coincidentally, the American ambassador to the Republic of Ireland also hailed from St. Louis, Missouri. She warmly invited us to the Ambassador's Residence in Dublin's Phoenix Park for morning coffee. There, we were welcomed by Ambassador Kevin O’Malley, Mrs. O’Malley and their staff. We were given a tour of the house (built in 1776!) and the grounds, then served coffee in the dining room— all of which we thoroughly enjoyed. Encore Tours often bring wonderful surprises, I've found!
The experiences from these tours were so plentiful and rich that it would take too much room to elaborate on each fully here. Suffice it to say that the combination of performances, sightseeing and very special pleasure of experiencing the famous friendliness of the Irish people first-hand made these Encore Tours absolutely unforgettable for my adult ensemble travelers.
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, so come along!