Welcome to the official blog for the St. Olaf Choir 2009 international tour to the British Isles!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Invitation to Contribute!

As a final invitation, I would like to invite choir members, alums, parents, audience members, family, friends, and anybody else to post their own memories and comments about the choir to this post. I hope you enjoyed the blog! Thanks again!


Last Concert Recap.....

Hey everyone! So our last concert was at Christ Church Cathedral, the oldest medieval cathedral in Dublin, completed in 1038!It is the seat of the Church of Ireland's Archbishop of Dublin. As we noticed during rehearsal, it is a well-visited tourist attraction.

Above is an indoor view of the cathedral's high Gothic arches and ceiling. It was the perfect place for the British Isles choir to finish up our historic tour. I feel lucky as a senior to have sung my last concert in this centuries -old hall.

Somehow we all made it through the final concert despite many tears and singular moments that I will remember the rest of my life. The final concert was everything I thought it would be and more. It was memorable evening to end a memorable tour and a memorable year.

The tour could not have run as smoothly without a few people I must mention!

Our Tour Manager, Lauren VanScoy, from Gateway Tours, was an absolutely essential part of our trip. She kept us organized and on time to our destinations! Our bus drivers Liam, Fergus, John, and John were also an important part of the trip. They scooted us safely around the British Isles and were great story-tellers and friends over the course of the trip.

Pictured here is John and Ruth Ferguson. John, of course, was the principle organist on the tour. He managed to "tame" the many different instruments we encountered on the tour and created beautiful music with us throughout. His wife Ruth was an ever-present help on the trip as well, serving as another pair of ears as we assessed balance before each concert.

Sam Backman '10, assistant to John Ferguson and featured organist himself, was another great person to have on tour. He provided invaluable help to Dr. Ferguson and performed beautifully on Durefle's "Sanctus."

Another essential couple on the trip was, of course, B.J. and Sigrid Johnson. Long- time St. Olaf Choir manager B.J. (affectionately known as Beej to La-La's) as always was at the foundation of the success of this tour. He was always there with advice, instructions, a kind word, and a good joke! He is a life-saver.

Sigrid Johnson, conductor of Manitou Singers at St. Olaf as well as Associate Conductor of Vocal Essence in Minneapolis, served as the all-important "ears" of the operation, assisting Dr. Armstrong with assessment of all things musical on this trip. She was the go-to person for advice on any issues that arose during warm-ups and the concert.

Finally, of course, we cannot forget our beloved Dr. A, the man behind the whole operation.

Here he is, alongside Beej. The importance of Dr. A.'s work in creating this tour and fashioning the British Isles choir into the group that it became goes without saying. He is the teacher, friend, and artist behind (and in front) of it all. Thank you Dr. A for all that you've done for us this year and years past! It was unforgettable.

Thank you to the people mentioned above and to everyone else throughout the tour who helped make this all possible!!

I'd finally like to thank the 2008-09 British Isles St. Olaf Choir for making the end of my senior year so remarkable. It was an exceptional year in the history of the choir, and I am so proud to say that I sung with you all. From the dimly lit halls of Christiansen, to the bright stage of Emory University's Schwartz Center of Performing Arts, to the cavernous sanctuary of Dublin's Christ Church, we've done it all together in a spirit of fun-loving professionalism. I will always remember you!

To end this farewell blog, I've posted a few of my favorite photos from the tour. Thanks so much for reading!

Signing off,


Thank you British Isles Choir!!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Just Returned....

Hey everyone. We've just arrived back in the States after a wonderful last night in Dublin. I will post pictures on our memorable last concert when I've recovered a bit from the jet lag! All I have the energy to write now is that it was a night that I will always remember. I love you British Isles Choir! Final posts tomorrow....

Friday, June 5, 2009

Just Touched Down In DUBLIN Town...

Hey everyone! We have officially arrived in the fabulous city of Dublin at the cozy Wynn's Hotel!!
Let me tell you, it is a blast here. The city is both scenic and exciting. After a night of strolling around the Temple Bar district and visiting Dublin's oldest pub, we woke this morning to a characteristically rainy and windy Irish day, only the second of our two weeks in the UK! Needless to say, we've been quite lucky.

Here's the entrance to our historic hotel which was originally established in 1845

The Liffey River, which runs through the middle of Dublin, is just a block away! Some of us took a stroll next to the river to visit The Brazen Head, Ireland's oldest pub and hear some traditional Irish music.

Here's The Brazen Head below. It had a beautiful outdoor courtyard as well as cozy seating inside!

Later tonight we are performing our final concert (sniff sniff) of this amazing tour at Christ's Church Cathedral. I'm so excited that I get to perform my last concert with the choir in this stunning venue. This has been an amazing experience so far, and I think I speak for everyone when I say that tonight will be bittersweet. I'll try to keep it together for Beautiful Savior, but I don't know...

Thanks again for reading the blog. I'll make a few final posts tonight and tomorrow with news about how tonight goes! Wish us luck for one last great concert!

Susan Found Zero Leprechauns in Armagh...

Susan decided to give the reins over to me once again to fill you in on the latest news of our tour. We left Cork, Ireland, and headed back to the United Kingdom for our destination in Armagh, Northern Ireland. On our way there, we stopped for a few hours to visit the Rock of Cashel. Pictured below is Susan and Sam Willodson, '11, at the Rock. Don't they look cute together?

We arrived in Armagh and enjoyed a free evening in and around the city. Thursday morning we all piled into the buses and headed to Belfast for a bus tour. Our tour guide filled us in on the city's history relating to the conflict and violence it's seen over the past 40 years. Thankfully, peace prevails today, but tensions linger nonetheless.

Pictured above is our concert venue in Armagh: St. Patrick's Cathedral. Located on a hill, I spent the intermission of the concert taking in the beautiful view of Armagh and the countryside. Our audience included the Deputy Mayor to the city who said a few kind words of welcome at the end of the performance.

This morning we headed to Dublin and spent some time sightseeing, but those details will wait for the next post...

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

We <3 Ireland...Continued: Cork Concert

Hello everyone! This is Susan, writing to you from the green shores of Ireland!! The St. Olaf Choir's love affair with Ireland continued on Tuesday with a concert at St. Mary's Church in the heart of Cork. The proceeds of the concert benefited the Friends of St. Patrick's Hospital and Marymount Hospice.

The church was very reverberant! It served as a great setting for many of our pieces, particularly the Manuel Alleluia and Purcell's Hear My Prayer. Here we are performing below.

The outside of the church was a prime example of Neo-Classical architecture, as you can see below.

Below is a picture of us practicing Sorida, our processional piece. To the left are the basses and the right are the tenors.

Earlier that afternoon, we visited Blarney Castle and many of us kissed the Blarney Stone! I was surprised to discover the extensive and beautiful grounds that surrounded the castle. The huge trees, herds of cattle, and meandering pathways were even better than the dramatic figure of the castle, pictured below.

We had to climb a long, winding staircase to get to the top of the castle, where the Blarney Stone was located. Here is Sarah Van Houten '09 and Heidi Hartwig '09, making there way.

You had to lie down on your back and scoot yourself over a small gap in the castle floor to kiss the stone which is situated on the wall of the castle. This task was quite a challenge for many of the La-La's afraid of heights, but the two workers, pictured below, helped out. Any fear was well worth the gift of eloquence which the stone has since bestowed on me... eh? eh?

We left Cork and the Republic of Ireland behind this morning, for Northern Ireland and Armagh, the site of our next concert. Til' tomorrow...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Tour Photo Albums

Hey everyone.
Be sure to check out Official Tour Photo Albums by Erik Ekstrom '11. The links are down on the right column. Thanks!