Ireland Memories

Wednesday, June 11, 2008 - written by Pam Mazurak

We left Killarney at 9:15 to drive toward Cork. After avoiding rain for the past few days, we finally ran into some this morning. It stopped by the time we reached our first destination, and we were left with a lovely, slightly cloudy day.

On the bus ride we acknowledged Leighton's 21st birthday with song. Julie reported that (despite rumors!) she was happy with our concert from the previous night. She had spoken with an eager young singer from Geneva (originally from Danville, IL!) who asked why her conducting often went outside the standard conducting pattern. Julie responded with her usual grace when faced with friendly suggestions and wisely told him that everything you learn in school goes out the window when you conduct a real group. As we know, our group in particular takes a lot of prodding.

Ireland pic 13

Our first stop of the day was Blarney Castle. This is a 17th century castle, and the story (according to the ever-unreliable Christopher Robin Fox) is that the name originated when Lord McCarthy refused to pay his taxes. The queen sent the Earl of Lester to find out what was going on. McCarthy had an excuse every year--bad crops, too much rain, terrible illness--but the queen finally responded "Enough of this Blarney."

There were a number of brave Chorale members who chose to climb the 121-step, windy staircase and kiss the Blarney Stone. We were warned that it was dangerous, but we persevered. Some said that the man who held onto our legs while we dangled through the crack between the floor and the high wall looked like a hangman, but it really wasn't that hard. We had bars to hold onto, after all. During the nearly-hour long wait to kiss the famous stone, we discovered the difference between Irish blarney and the more familiar "baloney." Baloney is an outright lie masked as a compliment, but Blarney is the truth soaked in flattery.


Baloney: telling a 50-year old woman she looks 18.

Blarney: asking a woman how old she is because you want to find out at what age women become the most beautiful.

Our next stop of the day was Cork. This is the hometown of our blarney-full tour guide Chris, allegedly. He assured us that there wasn't much to see there. It's the largest natural harbor in Europe and been a big college town since the 1860s. We drove past the harbor and on to the neighboring town of Cobh. Cobh is also known as Queen's Towne because when Queen Victoria came to Ireland its where she landed. Cobh is a famous British naval base that was occupied until 1938, and it's also where the Titanic docked.

Ireland pic 14

Our primary stop in Cobh was St. Colman's Cathedral. This is a rather modern church (build in the 1860s) and is neogothic romanesque with beautiful marble and stonework. It was one of the churches Julie had scouted for our concerts, but it didn't make it on our schedule. Chris tells us it's very difficult to get permission to sing there, but he thinks he may be able to work his magic (or his blarney--whichever works best) to get us to be allowed to sing a few numbers.

We sang our standard memorized pieces and the reverberation in the church was amazing. When we're finished, Jean surprised other tourists by singing a gorgeous song from a middle pew. As the sound echoed through the hall it was hard to tell where it was coming from.

We finished up the day with dinner at our hotel in Cork--a Radisson with a hydrotherapy pool. Some of us got under water massages from jets before our meal of chicken or salmon (again), and many of us ended the night with a ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee) led by Jean. She taught us some simple Irish-Scottish-southern-highland-gospel-fill-in-the-blank music, and we attempted to keep up and harmonize. A few limericks had to be told, of course, too. A joyful time was had by all.