Choral students from Alexander High School experienced the trip of a lifetime during their winter break as they shared their talents while participating in a total cultural immersion during a tour of Ireland.
According to Alexander’s choral director, Sandra Chandler, the eight-day tour from Dec. 26 through Jan. 3 included three concerts where they performed a diverse program, which included the music of Tim Sharp, executive director of the American Choral Association.
The tour included a group of 20 students and 13 adults, some coming from different choirs. Also touring with the group was Kevin Hibbard, professor of music and chair and director of choirs at the University of West Georgia.
Internationally known in choral music circles, Sharp, who toured as guest conductor through Ireland with Alexander’s choral group, has become a locally-known presence as well for his composition “Come Away to the Skies: A High Lonesome Mass,” which he has conducted during the choral group’s performances.
Chandler said the choral students began preparing for the trip last spring and performed portions of the “High Lonesome Mass” and a lot of Tim Sharp’s work, such as “Banjo Picking Girl” and an arrangement of a Johann Sebastian Bach piece.
LeAndra Douds, a sophomore at Alexander and the harpist for the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra, toured with the choir performing as well as singing with the choir.
Choral performances were held in Tipperary, the second outside of Waterford and the final concert was at Christ Church in Dublin. The three major cities visited were Limerick, Waterford and Dublin. Sight seeing included the Rock of Cashel, the Cliffs of Moher, kissing the Blarney Stone, tours in each town and an arranged Sacred Harp singing with the local people of Dublin, said Chandler.
To ready themselves for the Sacred Harp singing in Dublin, the choir completed a unit in class of the music, based upon shaped note singing and four-part hymns.
The Alexander students participated in a Sacred Harp singing in Whitesburg back in November to get an authentic Sacred Harp singing experience, said Chandler, to ready themselves for singing with a Sacred Harp group in Dublin, Ireland.
The concert tour afforded the Alexander choral students to meet and perform with musical peers throughout Ireland. During their first concert in Tipperary, their opening act was by a local group called “The Badgers,” who played the different instruments from Ireland.
A second concert by the Alexander High School choral group was opened by a group of 10 fiddle players, the “Comeraghs Comhaltes Branch” which promotes traditional Irish music and culture in County Waterford, Ireland.
Formed in 1980 and based in Cúil na Sméar in the foothills of the beautiful Comeragh Mountains, the program’s aim is to celebrate and promote Irish traditional culture, music and heritage.
The tour of Ireland was Alexander High School senior Morgan Blacksmith’s first experience abroad. In fact, it was her first experience in traveling by air.
“I loved hearing the different musical groups,” she said. “Their culture is so lively and their musical performances were so upbeat. To be able to talk with them and to know them was amazing.”
Her favorite place while touring Ireland?
“I enjoyed the Christ Church Cathedral,” Blacksmith said. “It was such a big, beautiful place.”