This has been an AMAZING experience that pictures, videos and words can barely describe.  Every facet of the Ireland Tour was exceptionally memorable and meaningful.  To have so many things go according to plan was such a blessing and provided a huge return on the investment of time and funds.  Without a doubt each tour participant has had an experience of a lifetime and has grown in unique and wonderful ways from exposure to such a rich history, panoramas and cultural experiences.  The performances were truly world class and provide evidence that our student performers have grown both in vocal independence and togetherness.   

As a director I am very pleased with the world class artistic and technical standard achieved in each of the three international performances.  As an educator I am pleased that our students received an education they could never receive in the classroom.  Having a hands on interaction with cultural history from medieval times to the present in a European country is priceless.  As a mentor I am pleased by witnessing personal growth in young people that see the benefits of risk taking, being open minded, showing care for each other, living responsibly, living curiously, and reflecting on personal experiences in a way that leads to personal growth.  

Home, but changed.
Our end of week mystery activity was to receive Irish Jig lessons!  At first uncertain, before long the group cut loose in traditional Irish dance!  This activity helped a bit to burn a few of the calories we put on this week from all the amazing meals!  Take a look on our media page for video footage of our groups Jig dances!

"I have never been to a live choir concert before, but I don't know how it could be better then this."
"I really liked that "You Raise Me Up" lifted me up tonight!"
"This choir has voices of angels"
"The song "lullaby" touched me and took me back to when I was a young mother and sang to my children."
Our third and final performance in Ireland was held at St. Nicholas Collegiate Church in Galway.  This medieval cathedral had amazing acoustics that resonated every sound of our singers across every stone in the building.  The music resonated with the audience as well who were blown away by the concert.  "Are you coming back" was the generous comment that many in the audience shared.  Other compliments are listed above.  At every performance here in Ireland there was a strong connection between performers and audience, making the musical journey across the world well worth it.  This third Ireland concert was highly received, demonstrating that Oxford Choirs are truly world class.  It has been an honor to be the first Oxford High School music group to perform internationally.  We will have a couple videos on our media page from this concert.
Today provided the opportunity to do some shopping in Galway.  Following a rehearsal at St. Nicholas the group power shopped in the City Centre, claiming many great bargains.  The students enjoyed the opportunity to take in unique shops in this quaint and quirky Irish downtown of narrow streets.
The sun was shining in Ireland as we visited the incredibly restored 15th century Bunratty Castle.  Roaming the tight stairs to the Earl's quarters, the dungeon, the large halls and all the nooks and crannies was a very memorable experience.  The history of all the places we are visiting has had a great impact on each of us.  It is one thing to read about it, another to see it.  And no matter how many pictures we take, it hasn't been able to capture the fullness of these sights and experiences.

Thursday morning we visited awesome Crag Cave.  It was awesome being so far underground and seeing the earth in a different way.  A highlight was performing two songs in a large chamber of the cave, the sound was incredible!  The guide said she had never heard a concert down there before!  We all had a great time in this unique experience!  Check out our media page for video of the songs we performed in the cave.  Can't see us, but you can hear well!

The vocalists did an exceptional job at connecting with the audience in tonight's moving performance at St. Mary's Church in Killarney.  Glowing reviews were made from all audience members, such as:  "This was the first concert of the American Celebration of Music in Ireland series this year and it really set the high bar for other groups",  "This is one of the best groups that has been in this concert series".  Another sweet lady commented that they all "were good looking"!  Congratulations Oxford performers on taking to the international stage in such a professional way! This performance at St. Mary's was one that audience and performers alike will remember for a long time to come.  

A rainy day met a blustery day as we visited a working sheep farm.  A highlight of the day was holding lambs that were born just two hours before we arrived!  Then we watched a sheep dog demonstration.  Good times that even wind and rain couldn't ruin!
Wednesday morning we had a great visit to the 19th century Muckross House and Gardens.  Our groups was guided throughout this brilliantly restored, stately mansion that at one time was run by 22 servants and hosted Queen Victoria.  
Most of our group grew in eloquence by kissing the Blarney Stone at the top of 120 steps in Blarney Castle.  Here we see Anna Stanko giving the stone a good kiss!  The Irish rain did little to discourage our group of students from having a blast exploring the castle and it's dungeons.  Note some good pics of our Blarney Castle visit on our Media Page.