St. Thomas’ Concert Choir, Chamber Singers and three members of a faculty band will travel to Ireland on May 20 for a ten-day performance tour.
Around 60 students from the Festival Choir are participating in a tour across the Irish countryside at the end of May. They have been preparing for this concert during the academic year. (Kelsey Broadwell/TommieMedia)
The tour, set up by Kingsway International tour company, includes about 60 St. Thomas students ranging from freshmen to seniors. They will perform four concerts around Ireland and sing for a mass in the Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin.
Angela Broeker, St. Thomas’ director of choral activities, said plans for the trip have been underway for the past two years.
“The academic year prior to when the ensemble happens is when all the planning happens,” Broeker said. “This year three of our concerts are shared with professional choirs from Ireland. That is the part of the trip that is most exciting for me since we haven’t done that in years past.”
Breoker said she also hopes this experience will mean more for the students than just choral practice.
“I hope that this will be a cultural exchange and students will be able to experience the Irish culture,” Broeker said. “I hope they can fall in love with Irish music they hear on the streets and in the pubs.”
Many choir members, including sophomore Greg Billion, are excited about the opportunity this tour presents.
“Going over there for 10 days with a bunch of people I enjoy singing with in a place where I have always wanted to go was an opportunity I wouldn’t pass up,” he added.
Junior Tommy Glass said he is very excited to see the countryside, and prior to the trip, he didn’t realize he had relatives living in Ireland.
“I am 85 percent Irish, so it will be really fun for me to be able to see where my ancestors came from. My grandma’s cousin lives in Galway, so I am going to meet up with some family over there,” he said.
Junior Brianna Velzke said she is excited to work with Irish choirs, sing true Irish songs and dive into the culture.
“I think I’m most excited about singing,” Billion said. “Singing Irish music for the native Irish people is kind of a daunting task, but it is also bringing some of our American heritage.”
St. Thomas’ Festival Choir debuted some of the pieces the choirs will be singing in Ireland last Sunday at the spring concert.
“Not all the choir is going, so it was nice for the people who aren’t going to still connect with the music. (It) helps us get ready,” Velzke said.
Along with the choirs, Broeker said some members of the faculty band, often called the “Showed Up” band, are also going on the trip.
“They are members of the university who play American bluegrass music and they also play Irish tunes. The folks that are traveling with include Joe Kreitzer who is one of the vice presidents of our institution, Tom Hodgson who is our swim coach, and Bob Douglas who works in the physical plant,” she said.
Adjunct faculty member Jay Broeker will also accompany the choirs to Ireland and hopes the trip will bring everyone together.
“One of the primary reasons we do these international tours is we want students to have the opportunity to get to know each other better and bond even more as an ensemble,” Broeker said.
“And to have an experience they will look back favorably upon into their adulthood.”
Kelsey Broadwell can be reached at email@example.com.