Hudson High Schools Chamber Choir views the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare, Ireland. Used with permission/Jacob Moore.
Hudson High School’s Chamber Choir views the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare, Ireland. Used with permission/Jacob Moore.

Hudson High Chamber Choir performs across Ireland

Chamber’s 10-day tour around the Emerald Isle
The choir is welcomed to Ireland by a rainbow as they descend to Dublin. Used with permission/Amber Naska.
The trip of a lifetime

In June, 25 Chamber Choir singers had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore the Emerald Isle and perform in four historic venues. For 10 days, singers and chaperones made unforgettable memories that bonded the group. Here’s what HHS’s flagship SATB choir did during their performance tour across Ireland.

Friday, June 16, was the day the Chamber Choir departed for Ireland. Luckily, Aer Lingus offered a direct flight to Dublin, meaning they wouldn’t have to connect through another airport. Everyone arrived at the airport three hours before the 8:20 p.m. flight, but unfortunately, the plane was already delayed for two hours. By the time the plane arrived and the passengers were loaded, it was almost midnight. The group settled in for seven and a half hours of flying, more than ready to sleep on the red-eye.

The choir is welcomed to Ireland by a rainbow as they descend to Dublin. Used with permission/Amber Naska.
The central waterfall in Ennistymon. Used with permission/Matt Pallo.
Saturday June 17

Saturday, June 17, seemed to begin too early. Although it was 11:45 a.m. when the plane landed, it only felt like 6:45 a.m. due to the five-hour time difference. Once through customs, the choir was greeted by a homemade sign from current Senior Sophie Uijtewaal and Chamber Choir alumnus Emi Uijtewaal. After the warm welcome, the choir loaded the bus for the four-hour drive across the country and met Don (the bus driver) and Aaron (the tour guide).

The first rest stop of the trip was at the Barack Obama Plaza near Moneygall in County Tipperary. This glorified service plaza had much more than anticipated, with a fancy gelato shop, foreign fast-food chains and a museum dedicated to former US President Barack Obama and his relations with Ireland. The group also encountered their first “random Irish downpour,” extreme rain that stops after a minute or two.

The musicians eventually arrived at the Falls Hotel and Spa in Ennistymon, where they would stay for two nights. The singers had the chance to unload bags in their rooms before heading to dinner on the hotel’s first floor.

Dinner was served in three courses, just like the rest of the group’s meals. The first taste of Ireland was delicious with soups, hearty main courses and exotic desserts. No one was left hungry that night. After dinner, some stayed in their hotel rooms to turn in early and recover from their travels, while others ventured into the small town of Ennistymon and visited the waterfall next to the hotel. Everyone was excited to spend the night in a real bed instead of a cramped plane seat.

The central waterfall in Ennistymon. Used with permission/Matt Pallo.
The choir performs inside the Gothic Church at Kylemore Abbey. Used with permission/Matt Pallo.
Sunday June 18

Sunday, June 18, marked the day of their first performance. The Chamber Choir would perform at Kylemore Abbey, a former Benedictine Monastery, about three hours from the Falls Hotel.

Getting to the venue was easier said than done. The coach bus had to wind through narrow country roads that some people handled better than others.

The first stop on the journey to Kylemore was in the town of Kinvara, to see a beautiful stretch of the Irish coast. A quick picture was taken, and the group reloaded the bus.

After more driving and visiting TESCO, one of Ireland’s most popular grocery stores, the group stopped again to admire Ireland’s natural beauty. This time, they saw the Hills of Connemara. The photos do not do them justice, as they seem larger than life when viewed in person. Across from the hills was a small area to feed sheep, which many choir members made time for.

Shortly after returning to the road, the group finally arrived at the Kylmore Abbey and set off to the Gothic Church, the specific place on the property where they’d be performing.

Countless hours of preparation and rehearsals were shown through an excellent performance. Choir members were glad to finally present their work to an international audience but didn’t expect to see a familiar face in the crowd. To the singers’ surprise, Hudson High teacher Mr. Bolin and his wife were in the audience and came to the abbey just to watch the choir perform. Everyone was excited to see them and made sure to take a group picture at the end.

With one performance down, students and chaperones were given time to explore the full Kylemore Abbey property. Among the area were the Victorian Gardens, the endless rooms of the actual abbey (where the monks resided) and an extensive gift shop.

It wasn’t long before Chamber Choir was on the road again, passing through more countryside and coastline. One of the stops on the way to the hotel was in Spiddal, which had a village of small arts and crafts shops with cute items like pinch pots and sheep-themed glass art.

Upon arriving at the hotel, the group enjoyed another meal at the hotel.

Those who didn’t head into town the day prior visited Ennistymon before “lights out.”

The choir performs inside the Gothic Church at Kylemore Abbey. Used with permission/Matt Pallo.
Choir Director Mr. Moore ponders his life choices while viewing the open water at the Cliffs of Moher. Used with permission/Penny Mouse.
Monday June 19

Monday, June 19, let many choir members scratch an item off their bucket list. Today’s main event would be seeing the iconic Cliffs of Moher.

The bus bubbled with excitement as the group approached the cliffs. Since it was reasonably close to the hotel, there were no stops before this first destination.

At the cliffs, the view was surreal. It was hard to believe that it wasn’t just a stock image from a desktop computer but that it was right in front of them. Scattered across the cliffs were old and young, individuals and groups, locals and tourists. Even though there was a varied crowd, the cliffs were impressive to all who viewed them. Senior Sarah Kelley shares, “It was so beautiful to see all the greenery and feel the breeze. It was an amazing sight.”

The choir was given abundant time to explore the opposing ends of the cliffs, but when it was time to regroup, everyone wished they could stay for even longer.

Once they left the cliffs, finding lunch became the next priority. Before they could do that, there was a photo stop at a beach in Quilty and a rainy ride on the Shannon River Ferry to cross into County Kerry from County Clare.

The bus finally stopped in the town of Listowel for food, where a sudden torrential downpour occurred for 20 or more minutes.

The group continued the journey to the new hotel after the rain had stopped and the singers had eaten. For the next three nights, they’d be staying at the Randles Hotel in Killarney. This hotel was in a town bigger than Ennistymon but still safe and friendly enough that singers could roam around freely in pairs before and after dinner.

Another three-course meal was served at the hotel that night, and most explored Killarney before the shops closed for the evening. When walking back to the hotel, some choir members passed the church they’d be performing at on the last day in the town.

Choir Director Mr. Moore ponders his life choices while viewing the open water at the Cliffs of Moher. Used with permission/Penny Mouse.
Recent graduate Katie Babitsky and Senior Sunita Bhatia sing in harmony during the rainstorm. Used with permission/Jennifer Platek.
Tuesday June 20

Tuesday, June 20, was the most memorable day of the trip.

The day began with an optional carriage ride in the Killarney National Park. Junior Adeline Pelletier thought that the ride was, “the perfect start to the early morning. I especially enjoyed it since our driver told us fun facts, like how there were no snakes in Ireland.”

At the end of the ride, everyone was dropped off at Ross Castle, a small historic building in the national park.

Once the whole group rejoined, the bus was off to the Ring of Kerry, a circular, scenic 111-mile route within the countryside. The parts of the ring the choir visited were Moll’s Gap (where there’s a sudden dip in the hills), Lakes of Killarney (where everyone spontaneously climbed a hill for an even better view) and the Torc Waterfall (where the group ate packed lunches). These three sites were gorgeous and offered great individual and group photo opportunities.

The last stop of the day would be at Muckross Abbey. The singers had to walk a mile from the main property of the Muckross House to get to the actual abbey. As they began the trek, it (not surprisingly) began to rain. Friends shared umbrellas during the journey and hoped it would be just a little bit longer before finding the abbey.

The rain continued as they arrived. The abbey was half-covered, half-open, so the rain continued as they explored the area. Eventually, Mr. Moore organized the choir around an ancient tree in the middle of the property so they could sing some of their songs.

It’s hard to express what it was like to sing there. Each lightning strike and thunder boom occurred at the perfect time mid-song, and no one realized how many of their songs referred to rain before they were singing in it. The acoustics were phenomenal, and it was clear to any visitors at the abbey that this would be an unforgettable and magical experience for everyone there. Junior Ashlyn Mouse recalled, “singing in the abbey felt almost spiritual. Even if you aren’t a religious person, you would surely feel something special while there. It was definitely a moment I’ll never forget and something I don’t need to record to remember.”

After the unplanned performance, students and chaperones couldn’t leave until it had been at least 20 minutes after the last lightning strike. All there was to do was stand around the damp abbey and wait until enough time had passed. The abbey lightly flooded while they were there, and there were no dry shoes or socks to be found within the choir.

Everyone was thankful that Don somehow brought the bus closer than where he dropped the group off, so it wasn’t as treacherous as a journey back to the bus. It was nice to sit in dry seats and have the heater blasted the rest of the way to the hotel.

Recent graduate Katie Babitsky and Senior Sunita Bhatia sing in harmony during the rainstorm. Used with permission/Jennifer Platek.
The Chamber Choir sings parts of the Rutters Requiem at St. Marys Church of Ireland in Killarney. Used with permission/Brian Suntken.
Wednesday June 21

Wednesday, June 21, was the day of the long-awaited visit to the port town of Dingle and the choir’s second performance. Everyone looked forward to the shorter driving time, with the farthest destination of the day only being an hour away.

On the way there, the group stopped at Inch Beach. It looked different from the traditional US beaches they were used to since there were hills within the ocean. There were also more stops along Slea Road to marvel at the impressive views. The last visit before Dingle was at the top of Conors Pass, which had a beautiful landscape that you could see for miles beyond. It was not a typical coach bus stop, but Don was experienced enough to know how the bus could reach it safely.

Finally, at Dingle, the choir was given multiple hours to explore the town. The buildings were painted with bright colors, matching the small town’s playful ambiance. Senior Amber Naska shared, “I loved Dingle because all the people were nice, the shops were really cute and there was even a shop with a famous cat in it.”

Dingle was also where the coveted Murphy’s ice cream was, and almost every choir member enjoyed a scoop or two. While returning to the bus, the group saw a man and his donkey parading the streets.

As soon as everyone loaded the bus, they rushed back to the hotel to change into dresses and suits for their performance. Today, the Chamber Choir was performing at St. Mary’s Church of Ireland in Killarney.

This was the first performance of the trip in their typical formal attire, which made this concert feel more professional. The performance went well, with many singers later sharing that this was the venue where they sounded the best.

After the concert, students ventured into town, still in their performance attire. Many singers somehow ended up joining a street performer and sang “This land is your land” and other traditional American songs in downtown Killarney. The choir later discovered that the video of them singing with the performer was posted on TikTok and was seen by a significant number of people.

The Chamber Choir sings parts of the Rutter’s Requiem at St. Mary’s Church of Ireland in Killarney. Used with permission/Brian Suntken.
Students and chaperones stand in line to kiss the Blarney Stone at the top of Blarney Castle. Used with permission/Jacob Moore.
Thursday June 22

Thursday, June 22, left the group with “the gift of gab” and another performance under their belts.

The day’s main adventure was visiting the Blarney Castle and kissing the Blarney Stone, an ancient stone that allegedly gives all who kisses it great skills of eloquence and flattery. The line to kiss the stone was almost two hours long and snaked around and throughout the castle. To pass the time, the choir sang for the other people in line and discussed the memories they’d made so far. The last section of the line weaved up a claustrophobic staircase and dropped them off at the top of the castle.

To kiss the stone, one had to lie on their back and bend over the edge of the castle (which was 90 feet high). Some conquered their fear of heights to kiss the stone and were thankful they did it when given the opportunity. There was still an hour or so left before the choir had to go, which meant more time to explore the rest of the Blarney grounds. Other than the stone, the highlight of the area was hearing an authentic bagpipe player’s music sound throughout the castle.

The next stop was in Kinsale. Like Dingle, each building looked unique because of the various bright colors. It didn’t seem long until the group came together again for dinner at the Trident Hotel to have authentic European fish and chips.

As soon as they finished eating, the choir rushed off to St. Multose Church, the performance venue that night. The most memorable part was how hot it was inside the church, as Ireland was usually much cooler this time of year.

The actual performance was another job well done by the Chamber Choir. The audience enjoyed the performance so much that there was an encore.

After the performance, the choir reloaded the bus and departed for the Kingsley Hotel in Cork. They would only be staying one night in this hotel, and since it was already very late, the choir stayed there for the remainder of the night.

Students and chaperones stand in line to kiss the Blarney Stone at the top of Blarney Castle. Used with permission/Jacob Moore.
The group learns about the history of the Rock of Cashel while standing inside the historic area. Used with permission/Jacob Moore.
Friday June 23

Friday, June 23, was the day they departed for their last city of the trip: Dublin.

After a delicious breakfast and checking out of the hotel, they toured the Rock of Cashel, a historic landmark made of limestone where the Kings of Munster once lived.

Not long after, they stopped for lunch at another glorified service plaza similar in size to the original Barack Obama-themed plaza, though this one didn’t feature a former US President. Before they knew it, the choir was back in Dublin, where their Irish journey had begun.

A local tour guide jumped on the coach bus for a “step-on tour,” showing the group around the city, pointing out Dublin’s colorful doors and the cathedral they’d be performing at the next day. The tour ended in front of Trinity College, where the choir had a tour scheduled to see the intricate Book of Kells.

After these events, it was already time to head to the Clayton Hotel of Leopardstown, where the choir would spend their last two nights. Dinner was lengthy, and before anyone knew it, there was only an hour before “lights out.”

The group learns about the history of the Rock of Cashel while standing inside the historic area. Used with permission/Jacob Moore.
Senior Avery Travis is chosen to play the spoons at Taylors Three Rock. Used with permission/Brian Suntken.
Saturday June 24

Saturday, June 24, was the last full day in Ireland and the day of their final performance.

Students and chaperones started the day with a pep in their step, excited to visit a bigger city. While the day was slightly bittersweet as many realized it was the last day, everyone wanted to live it up and have the best time possible in the country’s capital.

The day began with free time around Temple Bar, an area with winding medieval streets, and Grafton Street, home to Ireland’s largest pedestrian mall.

It seemed as though Dublin was a different country since the choir wasn’t used to seeing more people than wild cows and sheep in Ireland. The majority of the singers made their time count by exploring chain stores familiar to them and viewing the parks scattered around the area.

This day’s performance was mid-day instead of in the evening, like most of their concerts. The Chamber Choir would be performing in the famed St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

The space was quite cavernous, causing their sound to be slightly delayed. Nonetheless, the Chamber Choir gave it their all and delivered a beautiful final performance.

It was an emotional performance for the choir. For the recently graduated seniors, this was the last performance they would ever have with this choir. During a final group hug, Mr. Moore gave an inspirational speech, and all in the group cherished the moment.

The choir’s farewell dinner was at Taylor’s Three Rock, which had an exciting theatrical show with traditional Celtic music. There was constant laughter, singing, dancing and jokes, which combined led to an invigorating performance. At one point, Senior Avery Travis was brought on stage to play the spoons. “I wasn’t expecting to get called up on stage, but it was so much fun!” Avery said. “I’m now an expert in playing the spoons and Irish dancing, and the experience was the highlight of the trip.”

Additionally, Mr. Moore was chosen to participate in a tongue-twister on stage and wowed the crowd. The choir was even chosen to sing “Tell My Ma,” a traditional Irish song, for the rest of the audience. The group surely made their presence known that night.

Back at the hotel, choir members spent their last night hanging out with each other and reminiscing over the memories they’d made.

Senior Avery Travis is chosen to play the spoons at Taylor’s Three Rock. Used with permission/Brian Suntken.
The Chamber Choir shares a touching moment at the end of their last concert together at St. Patricks Cathedral. Used with permission/Gretchen Fritsch.
Sunday June 25

Sunday, June 25, was the 2022-2023 HHS Chamber Choir’s final day as a full choir.

After breakfast, the choir checked out of the hotel and loaded the bus for the last time. The group arrived at the airport at a decent time and was thankfully not delayed on the way home.

The flight home allowed for some extra time to make memories since most people weren’t sleeping on this flight.

At last, the plane landed, and the choir was back in their home country. At baggage claim, everyone was excited to reunite with their families and share their numerous stories from the trip. Close friends said goodbye to one another, and the members of the Chamber Choir departed for their homes. Each one left with a smile and a song in their heart.

The Chamber Choir shares a touching moment at the end of their last concert together at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Used with permission/Gretchen Fritsch.
Chamber Choir’s final group picture in St.Patrick’s Cathedral. Used with permission/Matt Pallo.
Thank you message

There are numerous individuals that made this trip possible. Many thanks to all the trip chaperones, parents, Hudson board members and Valentine’s Day Singing Gram purchasers who contributed in various ways to the experience. Thank you to choir VP Susan Ross for creating a brief photo outline of the trip so students could be reminded of each day’s events. And, of course, thank you to Mr. Moore for allowing the Chamber Choir to have this incredible experience. Because of this trip, every chamber choir member now truly understands the Hudson Choirs’ motto: Everything we do, we do together.

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