This summer, I had the opportunity to travel to Ireland with some of the students from the University Choir, members of the Church of the Savior choir, and singers from choirs from Michigan and Florida. It was my first time out of the country and first time flying on a commercial plane. Needless to say, I was nervous and excited all at once. The main purpose of this trip was to minister to the people of Ireland through music. We sang songs like the “Hallelujah Chorus,” “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” and “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” We had the chance to sing in Cathedrals like St. Patrick’s and Christchurch in Dublin, St. Kevin’s church in Glendalough, and St. Anne’s cathedral in Belfast.
In between performances, we visited the Guinness Storehouse where we learned about how Guinness is made. We also learned that Arthur Guinness, the founder, signed a 9,000-year lease for the brewery. Another place we visited was Malahide Castle, parts of which date back to 1175. We toured the many lavish rooms in the castle, some with original 12th century pieces, which were amazing to see. Among the extremely historical places we visited was Glendalough, which is Gaelic for, ‘the valley of two lakes.’ We toured the monastic site which was founded by St. Kevin and where monks studied from the 11th to the 13th century. Our tour guide actually let us go into the church on the site that held the altar stone from the 8th century. After we toured the site we traveled to the nearby St. Kevin’s church to sing for Sunday mass. The priest there was very excited to have us sing for mass and told us about the history of the church. If we had the time we probably could have stayed there for hours and listened to the storieshetold in his thick Irish accent. One woman came up to us after mass and said that she had just arrived from Indiana and was disappointed there was no music at the mass the week before. After praying all week that there would be music this Sunday, she came to mass to find a seventy-five voice choir from the states. It made her day.
After a few days in Dublin, we headed into Northern Ireland to stay in Belfast for the last few days of our trip. While in Belfast, we went to the Titanic exhibition, located right where the Titanic was built. It was a very interesting yet somber experience since they had reconstructed the different classes’ cabins and the first-class deck. We also learned the stories of those who did not survive. It was one of the most memorable parts of the trip. Our concert in Belfast was held at St. Anne’s cathedral. While we were rehearsing our director stopped us and told us that one of the families from St. Kevin’s church in Glendalough had come to see us perform again and that it was their grandmother, Mary’s, 80th birthday. We got to sing “Happy Birthday” to her which made her smile from ear to ear. Overall, this trip was full of fun times at tourist destinations however, it was full of many blessings as well. We were able to bring the word of God to a country that needs Him and is greatly divided in some parts over religion. The division is so intense that one would not go into a Protestant area if one identifies as Catholic and vice versa. I believe that we touched many lives through our singing and hopefully, we were able to make a difference in someone’s life.