Sunday, June 5, 2016

Surrounded by beauty, embraced by mosaics

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Tulla was now behind us – the echoes of the Irish harp, fiddle players, the smell of turf fires in the village but a memory.  We were now headed into another demanding weekend of work in the sunny Southeast of Ireland, in the Diocese of Ferns.  But first:  a stop along the way, at University College Cork, where we offered an afternoon concert and workshop in the stunning Honan Chapel, in the heart of the University campus.

We were lucky to be hosted by a former member of the Notre Dame Folk Choir, Nathan Williams, who had graduated from the ECHO program the year before.  Nathan had done yeoman's work, sending out leaflets, notifying local musicians, and the results of that labor were evident when we sang our first measures – the chapel was chock full of people from around the diocese.  Presbyters, lay folk, students, even curious concert goers all crammed into the chapel for our midday offering.

The format for the presentation was a mixture of elements.  While we wanted to provide concert repertoire, we also wanted the afternoon to be pedagogical in nature – a chance to teach songs, talk about the principles of sacred music and liturgical celebration, constantly encourage and admonish our Irish hosts to look towards participation as the key to spiritual renewal.

It turned out to be one of our more successful gatherings.  In part, because at a certain point I asked the choir (who were dispersed among the assembly) to gather in the center aisle to sing certain portions of the event.  I conducted in the very center of all of them, our feet standing on the mosaic stream of the waters of life that are so beautifully part of the Honan Chapel's mosaics.  That incredible choral sound, welling up (pun most certainly intended) from the middle of the assembly, was something that easily moved hearts and souls.

Our ensemble will not again, I think, encounter a place of such architectural and pictorial significance as what they experienced at University College Cork.  Hours could be spent exploring the mosaics that grace floor and sanctuary and walls of this esteemed house of prayer.  But for a few precious hours, we stood surrounded by the beauty of it all.  It was a welcome stop on our passage to Wexford and the labors that await us – the National Opera House, Our Lady's Island, the the good people of the Diocese of Ferns.

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