person of Cromer’…)
‘There was… there was… a choiiiir, from Dublin
Who went… who went… to Cork, for an International Choral Festival.
When… they heard the results…
Over the moon.
But… can they do even better …
In New Ross?? ‘Well…When I first saw the music for ‘There was an old person of Cromer’, with its jungle of rests, dotted notes, accents, weird intervals, whatever…, I said ‘Good God, has Deirdre gone mad?’ Fifty-odd of us to sing that mess together, right notes, right timing, right emphases , and God knows what else, (and expressions and head movements hadn’t even surfaced yet..). Not a chance, Deirdre girl.Well, some months later, that bit of negativity got its come-uppance. Big time.Mind you, a helluva lot of sheer hard work, unlimited (well, almost) patience and pure dogged determination was needed to get from point A (January, in Griffith Avenue) to point B (May, in Cork). Well done Deirdre. And well done all of us.So, anyway…
May Bank Holiday weekend arrived and we all travelled down to Cork in great spirits, by car, train, bus, whatever, ready to do our best. Glorious day, sunny and warm. ‘Sure we’ll walk from the station. It’s just up the road. It’s such a lovely day’. Right. Up those hills, in that heat, pulling cases. ‘Whose bloody idea was that, anyway?’The hotel was lovely: bright and airy. A good shower and a change, and down to the bar for lunch. Leinster V Toulouse was just nicely under way when the minor matter of our first rehearsal intervened. Mutinous mutterings, but Authority prevailed, and we got some serious, solid work done. Then dinner and an early night, with a reminder of the next rehearsal at 8.30 a.m. (Good God…). Tomo was presented with a card, signed by all, thanking him for his contribution to the choir, and wishing him the best for his imminent return to Japan. We’ll miss his rich bass voice. (And the fact that he always got the music right… who did you think kept the basses right???)Next morning we opened the curtains to… heavy rain. Ah well..An early breakfast was followed by a very focused rehearsal, tuning our voices for the Open Competition. Then by taxi to City Hall. Lots of other choirs mingling, mixing, practising in the entrance halls. A bit unnerving: they all sounded so good.Very soon we were onstage, in the glare of the lights, the hall perhaps quarter-full, trying to focus on Deirdre, and on the music in our heads, and on all those instructions over all those months. ‘Were You There?’ went beautifully: Deirdre’s face lit up by a huge grin, giving us a big thumbs-up. We must have got the pitch right. Great! Then ‘Tick, Tack, Tick, Tack’… the chuckles came up to us from the audience. Great! They get it! That felt good. ‘Cromer’ got an even better response: plenty of chuckles, even some laughs. And we hit the notes right, and got the timing right…maybe even got the head-movement right..? A warm round of applause. This feels good!
Then down to the body of the hall to join our handful of supporters (Thanks Naomi and Jacki and Vaidas and Stephen, and.. and.. and sorry I don’t know all the names..). ‘You were brilliant’, we were told. ‘It’s between you and Cantate from Arklow’. A lovely group of women from Mayo gave the same verdict: ‘Were ye the fellas that jumped off the cliff? Ye were great. It’s between ye and the Arklow choir’.
Eventually, the results.
‘In second place, Cantate Arklow’. Hearts started thumping. Did we WIN?
‘In first place, Dolce, from Clontarf’. WOW!!!! It felt like winning the World Cup, the Eurovision and the Lotto all in one. Sheer elation.
Off, with a spring in our steps, to a light lunch before the Sacred Music competition in St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral, a beautiful small Cathedral, with its iconic Golden Angel on the roof. A quick practice beforehand on the Chapter House lawn, and into the beautiful old building. We hear Vocare from Wexford conclude their performance with a sublime rendition of ‘Lux Aeterna’. Oh god…can we match that?
On we go to perform. ‘Cibavit’ was…well…ok (my.. haven’t our standards risen..). ‘God so loved the World’ was good, maybe very good, but we felt we could have done a bit better. Anyway it was over. Can’t do any more now. A group photo in the Cathedral grounds by Vaidas (that’s Rita’s Vaidas, by the way), who had been snapping us, from every possible angle, since we arrived in Cork. Then some went into the church to hear the other choirs (including the eventual winners, Limerick Youth Choir) and to hear the result, while others went their separate ways. Later that afternoon the wonderful news of our second place spread by text and phone to various members in assorted eateries and other establishments throughout the city. Something more to celebrate!
We reconvened for the Gala Concert in City Hall that night: a wonderful smorgasbord of choral music served up by eleven choral groups from eight countries, plus a superb Irish traditional music and dance ensemble from Co. Cork. By a happy coincidence, the final performance was from the Slovenian choir who won the top prize in the Festival. Sublime singing.
Back to the hotel, where most people found themselves too exhausted for the planned sing-song (although a short one broke out a while later). A small hyper-energised handful headed for the Festival Club in the Clarion Hotel, where they were entertained all night by various choirs and solo performers doing their party pieces in one bar, while in another a band kept everyone hoppin’ and boppin’ (and even, occasionally, ceili-ing). The Festival Club closed at two, but everyone just went downstairs to the hotel bar where the same crack continued. It was still jumping at three o’clock when we left. Mad. Pure mad.
Monday morning came, but no Monday Morning Blues. A first and a second in the Cork International Choral Festival does a lot for tired bodies. And some great memories to hang on to.
I’m up for it next year anyway.
And roll on New Ross …