Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Mists of Rostrevor

It was as if we saved the best for last.

A tiny village just over the border, in Northern Ireland, a village that nudged up to Carlingford Loch, almost as if it came from another place a time;

A clean and hospitable retreat house where we could all be together for our last night;

A community of singers...  for the beginning of our concert (and what was, in actuality, the launching of the Rostrevor Choral Festival), small children, teenagers, and the village elders literally singing us into their midst;

A warm, intimate welcome to the Folk Choir by none other than former Irish President Mary McAleese, who calls Rostrevor her home;

Friends from near and far (e.g., North Belfast and Edinburgh) who traveled down to this tiny village to be part of our final, musical hurrah;

And finally – there, in the first pew, none other than the great American composer of sacred music, Morten Lauridsen, who was attending the festival as well.

So many things coming together in one place!  It was as if the chalice of sacred music was being poured into, and out of, over and over again.

The children, their singing, their gentle presence; the booming voices of the men of the community; the fabulous embrace of our assembly to the music of the Folk Choir;  the moment, after Ubi Caritas et Amor, when Morten Lauridsen led the ovation from the community; the beautiful welcome - spoken in Irish - by Mary McAleese, as she recalled her days at the University of Notre Dame, her celebration of St. Patrick's Day on our campus, and her resolve to bring the Folk Choir to her home town.

At the end of it, all I could do was weep, knowing what had just transpired, knowing that this would, in many ways, be the capstone and the conclusion of so much work, so much joy, so much encouragement for ministry and song and witness.

Emma Fleming, this year's Folk Choir tour coordinator, had worked long and hard hours to make sure every detail worked out such that the ensemble could enjoy themselves.  She bore many, many everyday burdens to assure the comfort of the ensemble.  This year's officers: Ellyn Milan, Marisa Thompson, and Rose Urankar, held the group together and guided them through the myriad activities of the year.  Joe Moran and his business team kept busy selling our CD's (and dancing through our finale selections!  Don't think I didn't spy you from the corner of my eye!).

And finally, there were those blessed, grace-filled fifty singers and instrumentalists, who breathed fire and enthusiasm into the hearts of every single person who heard their music.  It was a breathtaking two and a half weeks, the likes of which we will more than likely not encounter again.

Our song, our travels, our witness – all of them fell under the protective mantle of Our Lady and the cloak of Saint Brigid.  It was almost the time to whisper "Nunc Dimitis" – Now, Lord, let your servant go in peace.  For go we shall, from this gentle land, that holds in honor the musicians in their midst.

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