On Friday 30th June, 25 members of Senior Choir gathered at dawn and departed for Dublin. We had a quick warm-up at Birmingham Airport with a verse of ‘Cockles and Mussels’ and headed off by plane. As soon as we landed and had located our coach, we went directly to the Francis Street Christian Brothers School. This is a primary school for boys and is located in the city centre. We had a warm welcome with a huge spread of food and and then we sang our concert for them. We were delighted when they replied with songs and dancing for us.
We then found our hostel and then set off for the Science Gallery, which had a great exhibition on sound and music. After a short rest at the hostel or play in the park, we had a short rehearsal in the dining room (to the amusement of some other guests) and then walked to a local restaurant for a very nice dinner. Early bed was in order.
On Saturday, we woke early and enjoyed breakfast and then a rehearsal in the games room. We walked to the jetty where our boat trip was departing and then enjoyed a super cruise down the River Liffey. The guide was excellent and everyone absorbed a huge amount about the history of Dublin.
We then set off on foot to St Patrick’s Cathedral, where we ate lunch and then gave a lunchtime recital. This included solos and duets in addition to some super choral singing. It was a treat to have some home fans in the audience. The cathedral was beautiful and the acoustics were wonderful.
The next stop was The Ark, a cultural centre for children, which was showing a new exhibition called Beautiful Beasts. It gave the children a lovely opportunity to calm down with modelling and drawing activities. We left there to go and sing to the Molly Malone statue. We rather gate-crashed the set of a busking guitarist, but were delighted when he agreed to accompany us in a full rendition of the expected song.
From there we took the children to buy an ice-cream on Temple Bar and then headed back, before venturing out to Milano (Dublin’s Pizza Express) and then returning for Mr Palmer’s games. The bingo featured places we had been to and seen in Dublin and was excellent fun.
On Sunday morning, we squeezed in another rehearsal and then strode up to Croke Park. We were given a fantastic tour and the children were full of insightful questions about the games and their teams. We could have spent longer than the allotted 2 hours there, but we had to leave in order to get to Christ Church Cathedral on time.
Arriving at Christ Church Cathedral, we first practised processing, which is really the bit that we, as a choir, are least familiar with. There is a very particular way of taking corners that meant walking as if you were walking into something and then turning at the last second. Once we had got the measure of this, we were sorted. The musical rehearsal was straightforward, as we had worked hard on the music and everyone had been thoroughly briefed on the order of service.
The service was very beautiful and everyone concentrated hard. Evensong is an intense service for the choir as pieces just roll into each other with no announcements. Mr Ashwin and I were very pleased indeed with everyone’s efforts.
Following this service, we headed back to the hostel (via a gift shop – of course) and had a quick rest before heading off to dinner, back in the same restaurant as Friday. It was a super meal and restored tired legs. Back to the hostel for fun awards (with prizes lovingly crocheted by Mrs Angell) and toilet roll games with Mr Palmer. We made a lot of mess and a lot of noise and had a great time.
On Monday morning, we had to get suitcases packed. This took some time, but we were soon on our way (by tram) to Dublin Zoo. Dublin Zoo was very impressive and I think we all really enjoyed it. The walk back to the tram and then the walk from Abbey Street to The Little Museum of Dublin was long, but the tour at the museum was, again, highly entertaining. It brought together a number of the points that we had picked up from the river cruise and Croke Park and added in more political and historical information. The children listened very quietly as they were worn out!
Back to the airport we went and we negotiated self-check in and security with no dramas, but a few more water bottles in hand luggage than I was expecting! A last rendition of ‘Cockles and Mussels’ at the airport and we were on the plane.
It was great to hand everyone back to their parents in one piece and with suitably tired and content children. We had a super tour and all of us staff enjoyed it. We were very proud of the children’s singing and the way they conducted themselves around Dublin. We were all utterly exhausted on our return, as tours do not give a moment’s rest. However, given that I am already mulling over ideas for the 2019 tour, it must have been worthwhile!
Huge thanks to all parents, children and staff on tour (Mr Ashwin, Mrs Angell and Mr Palmer) and staff back at school for supporting the tour. We love Dublin!