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Published: August 13th 2019
At last, we had an extra bit of time to sleep in (until 7:45) and eat breakfast at a reasonable pace. I chose fabulous Irish ham (not juicy, not very salty, great flavour) and soda bread and strawberry jam. As we learned later, we could have ordered a hot breakfast also, but I was already full.
Our hotel proved to be about 45 minutes from the centre of Dublin. When we arrived, a crucial street was blocked for repairs. The medieval streets were never meant for a 55-passenger tour bus. We applauded driver Tom each time he slid through very narrow, tight turns. Rain, then drizzle accompanied us around the streets, thus we were happy enough to be inside the bus.
Half an hour late, we picked up our official city tour guide. The main points of history we had already learned from Tom’s unofficial commentary over the last few days, but it was good to hear a more organized presentation. 2016 was the centenary of the Easter Rising
, which still seems fresh in people’s minds, leaving a fair amount of residual bitterness towards the British. The tensions over Brexit may have exacerbated these feelings. I learned that the north
Guinness Experience atrium
Shaped like a Guinness glass?
side of Dublin, where I stayed last week, has always been less affluent and more prone to social problems. That was evident in the range of small businesses and fewer Georgian buildings
. Towards the end of the tour we saw a huge park
that was originally the hunting park for an affluent family. Now it is public and in a few weeks will host a visit by the Pope
, for which half a million tickets will be available.
Close by was “the holy land”, as described by our guide, that is, the Guinness
premises. All the work of brewing is done at this location, including roasting the barley - a rare distinction to roast in the same place as the brewing.
Going into “The Guinness Experience” was mind-blowing! The interior is supposedly in the shape of a Guinness glass (hard to perceive), constructed of steel and glass. Gigantic videos played as the innumerable tourists wound around and up the structure. Many in our group were glad to have toured Jameson’s
yesterday, because the processes are similar, making it easier to understand the whirlwind of images and messages.
After goggling at the displays, we joined the queue for the “Tasting Room”. After
a ten-minute wait, fifty or so tourists mobbed into a room equipped with four aroma posts. Each one puffed cold steam, scented with the four main ingredients of Guinness. I was near to the toasted barley post, and I certainly could sense the flavourful aroma. The Guinness host gave a little explanation and offered tiny glasses of Guinness to taste as we moved into another room. Here she asked us to take a good mouthful and taste the sweetness on the tip of the tongue, the toasted barley on the sides, and the bitterness of the hops at the back. Indeed an experience!
Hungry now, we moved up to the fourth level, eschewing the third-floor history of advertising. Of course, the café was packed; luckily, after a few minutes another Westwinds chorister beckoned Susan and me to share a table occupied by an Irish woman on her own. With too much experience, I showed Cheryle how to use an elbow on the bar to dominate some space and get the attention of the bar man. I ordered a hot roast beef sandwich, which was much better than our version because it came on a soft baguette and had a
Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin
Can't believe we will sing here!
modest amount of herbed gravy. The Irish beef was tender and tasty. The Guinness was “complementary” with our ticket. A local singer added to the festive atmosphere.
Time was short – I stayed to finish my drink a bit slowly, and Susan went to shop in the expansive brand store. With moments to spare, I whipped through the shop and quickly bought some Guinness infused chocolate and a little gift for Ruth.
Then we were back on the bus to drive to near Christ Church Cathedral
. A couple hours of free time were soon consumed by showing Susan where to find the Book of Kells
exhibit and by shopping for a souvenir silver ring featuring the tree of life
, an Irish symbol. Also, I took time to have a cup of tea and write these notes.
Back at the buses, the driver closed the curtains on our bus. In turn all the women and then all the men changed into our “uniform” (black everything). As we finished, all hundred of us sat on a stone wall and ate a provided sandwich lunch (5:00), because we won’t have dinner until after our performance. Afterwards, we walked a few blocks to Christ Church Cathedral.
In this much bigger church, we spent quite a bit of rehearsal time working out how to surround the audience for “Yanaway Heyona
”, and how to exit while singing “Kom!
”. A couple of dozen people were touring the Cathedral while we were rehearsing, and they seemed to enjoy hearing us. A fair number sat down and listened. Finally, Nicole decided she liked us singing one round of “Kom!” at the front and then walking two by two down the aisle.
While the band set up and started rehearsing I went into the crypt. Since I wouldn’t pay for a tour last week, I used the time to take lots of interior pictures. Very few men were buried in this crypt; other crypts are crowded, but here each ornate tomb was situated in its own arched niche. A small selection of treasures was on display, particularly a small golden chalice.
Even after the band’s rehearsal there remained about an hour until call-time. Susan invited me to join her fellow flautists in getting a cup of coffee at a nearby café. The iced tea I drank was so refreshing I finally lost my feeling of dehydration.
At the church a
good audience gathered. We in the choir sat at the back. And more people came. So we sat along the sides. And more people came. So we sat along the sides up near the front.
The high vaulted ceiling mixed the band’s increasingly confident performance sound. After the short intermission to clear the band equipment and chairs, the choir took our places all around the pews, with great pillars separating the altos from each other and the tenors from each other for “Yanaway Heyona”. The audience was mesmerized by the rise and fall of the chanting music resonating through the arches. True to plan, I stepped forward to do the introduction as the others took their places at the front. Fortunately, this church had a mike for the speakers, letting me speak in a more relaxed voice. To my interior chagrin, the sentences and some words came out in an order different than written, but I was happy to be able to insert all the ideas without losing confidence and choking. Later quite a few people congratulated me, which was very gratifying considering the mix-ups.
Singing for this audience was a wonderful pleasure, because people were responsive, which
Christ Church Cathedral
made us perform with more personality. Two young men in the front row grinned throughout the concert, clearly enjoying every song. During “Take Me to the Water
”, almost everyone clapped, and a few people joined our singing when invited. The applause was enthusiastic, and the audience did not quite accept that our rousing exit while singing “Kom!” was indeed the end of the concert. When walked towards the front to gather our things, the audience was giving us a standing ovation! Sadly, we had no encore to perform.
We floated back to the bus and exchanged rapturous highlights. Mike (Band Director) came on the bus to congratulate us and announce that 304 people had attended and more were turned away! Supper awaited at the hotel (10:00): salad with hot mustard dressing and roast chicken breast. Bed by midnight.
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