Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Ring of Kerry, Concert, Celebration

So, this morning, we're driving around the "Ring of Kerry," which is a roadway that circles this general area of the country. There is absolutely beautiful scenery throughout the entire area - some golf courses, rivers, bogs, sheep, cows, farming, the mountains, and plenty of large roadside trees.

A quick word about the houses that we have seen on the roadside: every single one of them has been gorgeous and well-maintained. They all have smooth stone. Or plaster finishes and tend to be brightly colored in pastels: yellow, orange, blue, brown. The colors are perfect and bright, the lawns are impeccably manicured, and the yards and tidy. It's really quite impressive.
The land and farmland is divided with bushes and trees into smaller plots of land, squares and rectangles. It makes for an interesting patchwork effect as we explore.

One neat little thing: there are these cool, tall, rectangular stones every once in a while. They are thousands of years old and the first impressions of Irish writing - usually stones marking boundaries or towns. Not too many things like that in Pennsylvania.
First stop of the morning was at Caitin's Pub, where a man named Brendan showed us how he worked with his sheepdogs. It was pretty extraordinary; by voice command or by whistle command, he could get the dogs to bring the sheep in any direction he wanted. I was amazed that he could get the dogs to obey specific commands from a half-mile away based on how he blew his whistle.

I wonder if choruses could be trained like that?
We eventually stopped at the Scarriff Inn, advertised as "The Best View in Ireland!" They had the usual tourist kind of gift shop and quite a nice cafeteria. The view, over the Bay of Kerry (I think), was marvelous, and the food was tasty and relatively light. It was stereotypical Irish fare, with shepherd's pie and curried chicken and bread pudding.

There was a pretty little road to walk down, with sheep and cows kept nearby. The tops of the mountains were swathed in mist, but the water was clear and deep. Little green islands dotted the water, some with buildings and some without.

The absolute funniest part of today's bus trip was when Barb Jacobsen's husband, on a deserted part of the highway, had to make a "comfort stop." He had a Guinness with lunch, and - as we know - we only rent beer. Eventually, we have to give it back. To rousing laughter, he left the bus, found a bush, and did his business. "Get your cameras ready, ladies!" his wife said. He came back into the bus to a standing ovation. She videotaped the whole thing; we'll get a YouTube link later, for those interested.
The last stop along the Ring of Kenney was a Moriarty's Gift Shop, which I enjoyed because I'm a Sherlock Holmes fan. Anyplace that's named after one of the first super villains is okay. With me. I bought a new hat, as did Bob, and a bunch of people bought some jewelry, sweaters, and such.

One of the things that we learned from Brenden Ferris, the sheepdog man, is that there are several varieties of sheep on the island that are kept for their wool only, and that things like sweaters and hats and such are made right here in Ireland. Support local business, ladies and gentlemen.
The evening performance was about a hundred feet or so from the previous evening's performance. As a matter of fact, we had the same warmup room both nights! This was one of our two formal performances, so we all dressed to the nines and sang in a beautiful church. I'm not sure of the age of the church, but the organ (near to which we sang, although the organ was not used as part of the performance) was donated in 1875, according to the sign attached to it. The acoustics in the room, as you'd expect was marvelous.
We had an audience of around 100, 125 people; some came and went during the middle of the performance. After the show, we had an opportunity to talk with many of the people: there were people there from China, Germany, France, and the UK. Donna asked the family from China if they had heard our style of music before. They said yes, but they weren't sure where! Looks like Sweet Adelines is truly International. A young lady from Germany told Katie that she wanted to sing, too, and we put her in contact with the websites of Sweet Adelines International and our German affiliate.

After the show, we split into, basically, two groups. My group went wandering down into Killarney hunting for a pub, potentially with live music. We settled on a small, quiet townie pub a few blocks from the tourist area. As we were settling and ordering drinks, the regular patrons at the bar were eying us disapprovingly - one guy had even asked us to keep down our volume! We started singing about five minutes after that, and international relations became friendly again. The guys at the bar really enjoyed our singing, requested songs, and even sang some of their favorite Irish tunes to us! It was an awful lot of fun. We made our way back home around midnight.

The larger group of people congregated back at our hotel bar. This did include some people that caught a quick pint at other places and went back to the hotel, incidentally. They had a similar experience: there was a man there playing music, and the Sweet Adelines got a chance to sing for the local musician and get some songs in return. Barb Wood and her quartet (Cindy, Liz, and Tammy) absolutely crushed their song out of the ballpark, getting a standing ovation from the local crowd! A German guy, who spoke no English, brought a picture from his cell phone up to Donna to say that he had seen us sing earlier in the evening.

Donna said that when she was walking into the bar after our show, she came up to a small group of young girls, who were apparently discussing the performance blouses of the chorus. Donna was carrying her blouse, so she shared it with the girls. They were from the other side of the country, heading back home the next morning. The girls were quite impressed; after all, Sweet Adelines do sparkle!
I just heard from another group that went to a local pub and entertained the crowd with song. The bar was called Hussey's; not pronounced the funny way, but said "Hoo-see's."
This morning, we are headed for the Blarney Castle and to Waterford. That should be pretty cool; I'm looking forwards to climbing around in a castle for a little while, and I guess that kissing the Blarney Stone is something that you have to do.
While I've been writing, we have passed an awful lot of sheep by the side of the road. It must be boring to be a sheep; just kind of standing around all day watching the traffic go by. It rained pretty steadily all night, and the weather is quite foggy and overcast. We did get incredibly lucky yesterday; there was quite a bit of clear weather. Very, very different from today, and I'm glad that we had the chance to actually see the countryside.
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