Sunday, May 10

Mother's Day! And Mom's Birthday!!

Happy Mother's Day!! From far away Ireland we both wish you two (Cathy and Lydia) a happy Mother's Day with all the love we can show across text on a blog. :) Mom, happy birthday! You're 28!! YAY!!!! ;)

Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures on my computer; they're all on my hard drive at home. I was hoping to make a collage or something similar of our mothers and the good times we've had with them, but it'll have to wait. Just know that we love you two, and are getting stuff for you ;) You are not forgotten. :)

Due to our current location and circumstances, I found this Irish Blessing about mothers. :)


Saturday, May 9

Belfast (and all the other days mixed into one post)

So, we've had the internet now for 24 hours, and what have we done?? Not used it! Well, we have been busy, but still. Let's recap...

We left the beautiful (and mostly dry) city of Cork to head up to Limerick, Ireland. Limerick is still in the Republic of Ireland (the southern part of the island), but on the west side, opposed to Cork in the east. On the way we passed through Blarney, Ireland, where we had to see (and kiss) the Blarney Stone, located on top of Blarney Castle. There are so many pictures I want y'all to see of it, but we'll just have to be satisfied with this picture and give you the link to all the others.

Angie, Ben, and I all kissed the Blarney Stone, granting us the "gift of the gab," or the gift of eloquence. Aww. Now we's can talk purdy. :)

The stone was a lot smaller than I thought it would be, but our lips managed to find it. After which our lips also found some hand sanitizer to bathe in, just in case. With all the swine flu scares, we didn't want to bring back, or help mutate, any Blarney Flu. That would be terrible.

We had some fun in the Blarney Castle Gardens and took a lot of pictures, then continued our travels up to Limerick, where we went to a really nice Pub for dinner (fish and chips!! YES!!) and stayed in the most basic of Travelodges in the world. But it did the job. :)

We went ahead and drove 20 minutes to get to breakfast Tuesday morning. Our original plans had been to eat at this Diner-like restaurant next to the Travelodge (Johnny Rocket's, or something like that), but Sister Hall vetoed that on the spot. We instead went to a different hotel's buffet breakfast, but it was great. However, I think we started getting a little tired of the traditional Irish breakfasts, including sausage, weird bacon, beans, eggs, toast, pudding (blood sausage), and steamed tomatoes. Needless to say, the cereal line was much longer than in Cork.

The biggest thing we did (besides passing too many castles to count) was visit the Cliffs of Moher (supposedly pronounced Mow-Air). These cliffs towered 650 feet above the ocean! At least that's what they told us. The cliffs were beautiful! Also really cool about them was the blasted wind - it was howling over 40 mph the entire time! We had a lot of fun leaning into the wind, until my eardrums started pounding. It was absolutely gorgeous, though. A wonderful stop in Ireland. Though, Sister Hall let me know in a matter-of-fact way that these were nothing compared to the Cliffs of Dover in England. Hehehe.

That night we had a really good concert at the Limerick Institute of Technology (I think), and it went really well. There even was a guy there from Brazil, and we had a 15 minute conversation in Portuguese! Supposedly I was the only one in the choir and audience who could speak Portuguese, so we had a fun time talking. It was a good evening. :)

We left Limerick on Wednesday to make our way up to Derry, if you're from the Republic of Ireland, or Londonderry, if you're from Northern Ireland. It's the same place, but your political side determines the name of the city. There used to be a ton of political unrest and violence there, but about 10 years ago they established peace, and it's a beautiful, historic city to visit now. On the way we stopped in Sligo to eat lunch, which is funny because Sligo is mentioned in one of our Irish songs. That was, I think, the only reason we stopped there.

The weather decided to turn against us on Wednesday, becoming much colder, windier, and wetter (word??). However, it was a good drive. We got to Londonderry and met our host families (Raymond and Sharon Douglas), and they took us home the long way, which meant we drove on the coastal road for about an hour. It was gorgeous!! We even drove on the, on the beach for a while. Then they took us home, fed us dinner, and took us to Portstewart and Portrush for an evening stroll on the seaside and ice cream. So cool. :) The fact that the sun goes down there about 10pm this time of year was convenient.

We were up and in the tour bus by 9am this morning, and took a bus tour of Londonderry. It was really cool to see how far they've come in the last 10 years and how much the city has grown. We also got to walk along the Derry Wall, enclosing the city and making it the only fully walled city in Ireland, with the original wall to prove it. The wall's been up since at least the 1640's. Wow. And it rained. :(

We stopped in a beautiful cathedral and had a tour, then had lunch and got ready for our concert in the Guild Hall, which was beautiful, too. We had a great concert with the Londonderry Youth Choir and got to sing our last song with them. Then we went back home with the Douglas Family.

We left Londonderry on Friday morning, but got to sleep in! The bus was going through Colerain (something like that) to go to our next destination, and that was where we were staying with the Douglas family. So we slept in (gratefully!) and then met the choir and the bus, and headed out to Giant's Causeway on the way to Belfast. Giant's Causeway is incredible! I can't describe even a part of it, so here's the Wikipedia link. It was so cool and so much fun! Oh, and soooo windy. I don't have the pictures on my computer yet, but we'll post them as soon as we can! Just know they're great. And I have a couple of good videos, too.

We made it to Belfast, which is the second largest city in Ireland, after Dublin. We met our host families (in the rain), and figured out that our host family was not in town, but we got their house! Angie & I, plus 4 other guys. It's funny - when we drove up, we went to the wrong house and tried to open the front door with the key. It wouldn't work! Hahahaha, they probably think we're burglars... Well, we finally got here and found a flat-panel TV in every room, a stocked kitchen, trampoline, XBox, Wii, the works. So, the two of us made dinner for everybody, made them eat their vegetables (steamed broccoli), then watched Iron Man on the biggest TV and went to bed. Great day ;)

We got picked up early, like 8 o'clock, then got up to Belfast at 8:45 and started another bus tour. I tried my best to stay awake, but that Iron Man movie was over way too late for us (12:15am!!), and we just didn't have the energy to stay coherent for the whole tour. But it was really good and informative while we were awake...hehehe. Actually, we had a woman give us the tour, an Irish woman living in Orem now. Her name is Molly Bird, and she's actually a tourism...uhh...person, living in Orem. Sounded like she does some travel agent stuff, too. Either way, she was hilarious and really knew her stuff about Belfast, probably because she grew up here. Just a few facts: the Titanic was built here. Well, that's not a few, only one, but that's all I could think of right now. Hahaha. I'll let you know more when I can.

We looked around Belfast all morning, rehearsed in the afternoon, then had a concert in the Ulster Hall (I think), which was made for choral singing. It sounded great, we sounded great, the other choir we sang with sounded great, and our concert went from 7:30pm to 10pm. Seriously. I was soooooooooo tired when we finished. But, they kept clapping, so we kept singing! It really was fun.

We returned to our stocked house, had ice cream or drinks (just fruit...don't get any ideas), then all went to bed. Well, all of us except two of the guys who decided to "sacrifice" their night to finish a group load of laundry, while watching a movie. Such big hearts. So selfless... ;)

It's Sunday morning as I'm typing this as fast as my fingers can go, so I may have missed a few things. I'll see if I can fill in any holes in the next blog, which I don't know when it will be. We're at the mercy of fate when it comes to posting. If the family we stay with has the internet, and a wireless router, we can post. If not, it may not happen. We'll see. :)

Sunday, May 3

A Busy Sabbath

Today was interesting and eventful. :)

Since we haven't been staying with host families we had to improvise a little for sacrament meeting this morning. It was the first and last time we'll probably ever have sacrament meeting in a hotel suite but it wasn't lacking in spiritual nature. Dr. Staheli presided our meeting and Nick Bishop conducted. We had an opening hymn, prayer, a few announcements and went straight onto the sacrament. As the prayer was said and the coarsely broken sourdough bread passed around on a china plate, I couldn't help but think of the early members of the Church in New York not so long ago. Were their sacrament meetings much like this? Small groups with an intimate sacrament passed around on dinner plates? And then that led me to think of how much the Church has grown in the last 170 years. It started with just a few members have meetings in someone's house and now it's 11 million strong- with people all over the world. I felt so overwhelmed with gratitude for my ancestors who believed and brought my family the truth so early on. It's a great blessing.

That sacrament meeting was a great prelude to the Sunday services we did attend that day. We had the opportunity to participate in a local Catholic Mass in Cork. We sang the traditional texts within the mass (Cantate Domino, Kyrie Eleison, Alleluia, Gloria) and also added some of our own sacred pieces during communion, etc. like I Know that My Redeemer Lives and I Feel Like I'm on my Journey Home. It was amazing to perform for the audience but it was also amazing to see how many faithful people were there. Ireland is one of the most religious countries in Europe and there were plenty of people there to prove it. They were so grateful for our singing and after the services, they fed us very well indeed :). There were (of course) little finger sandwiches with cheese and ham, but there were at least twice as many desserts. And I think I tried every single one! Let's hope that trend doesn't remain consistent for the next 3 weeks.

After the services, we had a few hours to relax at the hotel and maybe grab some lunch (but I doubt anyone was hungry). Anthony and I had good company with Nick and Chrissy Bishop and we just chatted while they borrowed our computer and internet. Once 4:30 rolled around though, we were off to City Hall again to receive the results for last night's performance. They kept us waiting and riveted by having a traditional Irish musical performance before announcing the winners (but it was a step up from the dramatic reality shows). The reason we were invited to compete was for the Fleischmann Trophy with 11 other choirs competing as well. BYU really want us to win 1st because that would have been a big influence on the festival and probably the community. But we didn't get 1st, we actually got 2nd, but the festival also issued additional awards for excellence in other ways. And to our surprise, we won the PEACE trophy along with 2nd place, and these were his exact words:

Festival audiences are many and varied. They are represented not just by those who attend the Gala Concerts and Competitive Sessions, but by those who listen to choirs in their church visits, and informal performances throughout the week of the festival. This year the PEACE Trophy is awarded to a choir who touched the hearts of all who heard them and exemplified the intentions of the trophy's benefactors, the P.E.A.C.E. Movement, Cork.

Wasn't that our initial goal? Seeking to express rather than impress? It was the perfect award for us and one that we were unintentionally trying to achieve.

Cork City Hall

The day wasn't over though. Once the awards were given, we were called back to the Cork City Hall and every choir that competed sang a lighter program for the Gala Concert. Each choir was allotted about 5 minutes and they were allowed to perform anything they wanted (keyword, anything). A few were very good but overall... I felt like I was back in high school. One choir actually sang Smells like Teen Spirit by Nirvana...? (we just won't go there) But luckily we were last and were able to save the concert by closing with Leonardo Dreams by Eric Whitacre. It was definitely a crowd pleaser and we didn't even have to "head bang" to get it. Who'da thought?

So now, it's late, we're tired but we're sadly leaving Cork tomorrow morning at 11am. We are staying in a hotel, but I can't promise that we'll have the internet. We're planning on visiting Blarney Castle tomorrow, perhaps kiss the stone, and see some other little villages on the way.

And a video to prove that Ireland is cooler than the US :)

Saturday, May 2

Competition Day!

First things first: We didn't take any pictures today. Not a one. Not because we didn't want to entertain y'all, but because of one of two things: 1) Nothing really happened today worthy of taking a picture; 2) Part of the day we didn't have anything on us, including cameras. So, this is just a text post. Enjoy!

This morning we slept in. Yes. Oh, yes, it was great. We caught breakfast 30 minutes before the buffet closed, and ate with quite a few other late-bird Singers. Once again I ate a ton, but that's been saving us money in the long run. :) We've been eating light lunches and dinners after a HUGE breakfast.

Either way, we had yet another rehearsal this morning for about an hour and a half, but we made big progress with all the facial expression we started putting into our singing yesterday. Seriously, the choir sounds so much better! :) It makes me happy. Well, we rehearsed for a while, then had time off to go eat lunch and change to watch the afternoon session of the competition. Angie and I decided to try the market (a picture of the market entrance is in Angie's post 2 days ago), so we headed over there after changing into some official tour clothes. We bought a big chunk of cheese (€1.47), a gigantic baguette (€2), and 2 of the best oranges I've ever eaten (€1.34, yes they were expensive, but they were worth it). That was just what we needed for lunch, and it came out to only €4.71! I'm pretty sure those were the numbers, but if not they were pretty close. It was less than 5. And let me tell you - Gubbeen cheese with a baguette and an orange straight from the celestial kingdom is a mighty fine lunch. Mmmm-mmmm....

We headed over to the City Hall in the blowing drizzle to watch the afternoon session of the International Choral Competition. It was pretty good, but there was some weird music being performed. And coming from Singers, that must be weird music. But the singing wasn't bad.

Intermission came and those of us who wanted to leave were let free. Angie and I agreed - even though we absolutely love performing and being part of choral music, neither of us can sit through choral concerts well. Uhh..let me re-word that. Angie and I have a difficult time being entertained with sleep-inducing music (or just not good music). So we took the invitation and headed out quick. We decided to go to a nice hot chocolate place right around the corner from the hotel, and were shocked to see what Ben labeled as "chocolate porn" displayed on a flat screen above the truffles. Intoxicating images of chocolate creation, truffle coating, decorating chocolate beauties... Oh, the 5 guys there (me and 4 others) were just spellbound. Angie and Aubrey (Kevin's wife) looked at us like we were idiots. Oh, but it was just beautiful. ;)

After wonderful hot chocolate, we decided to continue our culinary excursion of Irish cuisine by visiting a Chinese restuarant! In Ireland! Hehehe, it wasn't that good, but it wasn't bad. It was just expensive. Like, €27.90. But, between the 2 meals it was still under €36, which is our allotment for the day (€9 per meal per person). We just won't try Chinese out here anymore.

We finally had our competition concert tonight! We could only sing 10-12 minutes of music, so we sang 4 songs, all in Latin, about our Savior. It was gorgeous, and went very well. We won't have any results from the judges until tomorrow at 5pm, but it's not that important to us. We didn't come to win; that wasn't the purpose of our tour. We still have 3 weeks of tour and over a dozen concerts to do give and more firesides, so this is just the start of what we're doing. Angie actually hopes we don't win, because so many other choirs came here for that purpose. We'll see how it turns out.

And to end the night, Angie was getting out of the shower when I heard a big bump, ran in, and she was in her towel holding her head. She slipped while getting out of the shower and hit her forhead on the metal hand bar on the side of the tub. :( I called room service and got some ice for her to keep the swelling down, and we're hoping the bruise doesn't travel down to her eyes. Everybody would think I beat her... Haha, yeah right. But it'll look bad anyways. Hehehe, Angie told me that before we got married she never had any accidents or got sick or anything. Now it starts...

Well, it's super late, and I've gotta get to bed. We'll write tomorrow! Happy Fast Sunday!

Friday, May 1

Cobh and a Concert

Today was an unexpectedly busy day! We started with a wonderful breakfast (again), then had a rehearsal for an hour and a half, 10-11:30. Well, it was supposed to be over at 11:30, but Dr. Staheli asked the men to stay a bit later for a men's rehearsal with one of our pieces, then we had a meeting with Sister Hall (a secret meeting...shhh!!). She let us know that our sound was exceptional, superb. But our peformance, our presentation on stage, was not good. At all. Normally we don't really care about that (not out of choice, just our concetration is on technique and musicality), but Sister Hall let us know that the Irish judges will base a lot of their score on our performance (she knows...she's done this a lot before, being from the UK and all). She said her rating of our mock performance yesterday in City Hall (Angie mentioned it yesterday) would have received a 2/10 rating from judges. That's it. SOOO, she told us she'd take notes at tonight's concert on each one of us, and if we wished, we could go to her afterwards and she'd let us know, with complete candidness and honesty, how our individual performance was and what we could do to help the choir improve.

On that happy note, we all got ready quickly and left for Cohb, about 30 minutes east of Cork by train. Yes, we took a train, which was really cool! :) Cohb is the seaport that the Titanic left from on that ill-fated maiden voyage. It was a beautiful town! And look what we saw!!

That's the Voyager of the Seas, the Cruise ship, the exact cruise ship, we took in January! Here, in Cohb, Ireland!!! What are the chances?? Hahaha, we couldn't avoid thinking about it the entire time in Cobh, because it's this HUGE ship just sitting in the harbor. Hehe, anyways...

We mainly visited this gigantic cathedral in Cohb, St. Coleman's Cathedral. It's 210 feet long and 120 feet tall at the highest point. But that doesn't say much of anything about the grandeur of the architecture and stained-glass windows. Oh, gorgeous!

It was so cute too, cause they were having a Catholic School class made just of little girls (like 9 or 10 years old, maybe younger), all preparing for a Primary Program type thing this coming Sunday. And they sang the cutest song about Jesus and how they loved him (I think...). Either way it was way cool hearing the little girls' voices filling the HUGE cathedral while we were just sitting there. :)

Then we finished our time in Cohb with some ice cream (no fish 'n chips yet - too expensive), almost lost one of our basses, then hopped on the 3:30 train to get back to Cork. We got back to the hotel quickly (4:30 or so), picked up dinner on the way (hot sandwiches, only €6 each, and delicious!), then got ready in our tuxes and dresses, and left at 5:45 to get to the venue of our first formal concert, in St. Michael's Church in Blackrock (suburb of Cork). We rehearsed, then had our concert at 8pm. It was fabulous! I was even surprised by Dr. Staheli asking me to sing a solo I had no idea I was even on the list for. :) It went great, too. Everbody was doing their best to show expression on their faces and really tell the story they were singing about in each piece. Afterwards everybody's faces were hurting from smiling so much! Hahaha. But the concert was great. Probably one of the best we've ever had, and far better than our Bon Voyage concert last weekend, even though that was great, too. Sister Hall said our faces and our eyes were so much better, and that was what contributed the most to the improved sound. :)

Oh, and the Irish people! After the concert we talked and talked and talked with this one Irish gentleman who told us all about his life as a global manager for an American company (he never specified) based in Chicago, the "training meetings" they had during 3-day rafting trips on the Colorado River, or 4-day Safaris in Africa, about how he worked on a radio station in Cork for a few years, and all this he tied into the effect of music on people. He was a great guy. :) We talked to a woman who was all tears and handshakes, men who were all smiles and handshakes, and acknowledged many who just smiled and thanked us.

Angie and I realized how much we're going to miss giving concerts and expressing our love of music to people. We're determined to make this last tour the best we can make it and really (no no...really really) make the best of each individual concert. Cause we're never gonna give concerts in this capacity again. And it's going to be really sad. :(

So, that's our day in a nutshell. It was a fabulous, rainy-turned-sunny day here in Cork and Cohb, Ireland, and we can't wait for tomorrow. We have our competition!!!! We'll let you know how that goes! :) Love you all!!