Mary Honeyman, alto, 20111-2012 Drake Choir officer
After scrubbing off travel grime and collapsing into our beds last night, we were a little slow to start waking up this morning. Once our sleepy choir made its way through the brisk English air to breakfast, we were much more awake and ready to eat. The hotel staff greeted us with a beautiful buffet complete with breakfast tea, coffee, fresh berry cocktail, granola cereal, croissants, a variety of jams, and a golden array of fresh bread. Our English and Welsh bus drivers encouraged us to order the hot traditional English breakfast on top of everything else, so we devoured eggs, boiled tomatoes, pork sausage, mushrooms, baked beans, and the biggest slabs of bacon you’ve ever seen. We were ready for hibernation, but waddled to the buses and headed to Hereford for local sightseeing.
Our first stop was the Hereford Cathedral, and it was breathtaking. We shared a quiet moment as the Chaplain prayed for the visitors of the cathedral and the souls of the world each hour. She welcomed us as guests, and we gathered around the altar to sing “Os Justi” to the visitors of the Cathedral and to ourselves. It was a very refreshing, bonding experience for the choir. Little moments like that are what make Drake Choir tours unforgettable. Afterwards, we split up and briefly toured the town shops before loading the buses and leaving for Ludlow.
One of our tour managers, Anita, told our bus that Ludlow was known for their castle ruins and variety of town boutique shops. We were not disappointed; there was an open market in the town square, hundreds of shops to dot the winding streets, and the eerily beautiful ruins of a once magnificent castle, nestled cozily in the rolling English countryside. The view from the top of the castle was so picturesque, that if it weren’t for the chubby sheep grazing through the pastures, no one would believe it was real.
After Ludlow, we continued across the border and arrived at the Pavilion in Llandrindod, Wales, to begin our rehearsal and prepare for our joint concert tonight. It was a long concert, but our hosts and audience made every second more dear. They served us tea before we sang, and everyone was eager to begin the concert! The Builth Men’s Voice Choir began with three songs before the Drake Choir, Chamber Choir, and Brocal Chords followed suit. All of the choirs sang beautifully, and after giving “thank you” gifts to the organizers of the concert and to our conductor, Dr. Aimee Beckmann-Collier, the Drake Choir joined the Builth Men’s Voice Choir to sing “Guide Me, Oh Thou Great Jehovah,” a popular, beloved hymn in Wales, to conclude the concert.
Showing their outstanding Welsh hospitality again, the people of Llandrindod prepared a small feast after the concert for everyone to enjoy. It was a great chance for Drake Students to meet the local residents and Builth Choir members. Even more astonishing is that after the “after party,” when the Drake Choir had changed out of our formal wear, the audience sat around in circles and literally sang us back to the bus. They sang traditional Welsh songs, a couple of German folk songs (there were a significant number of audience members from Llandrindod’s German sister city, Bad Rapenau, visiting), and they even sang “The Rose” so we could at least attempt to join in the singing. They ended their serenade with “Good Night, Ladies” as we waved good-bye and loaded the buses. Though it was late, past 11:30 pm, no one wanted to leave! We left satisfied with an excellent performance, and touched by the kindness shown to us by complete strangers in a foreign country. Through the beauty of music, Drake University will now and always find friends in Llandrindod, Wales. It was a great day.
Here is the link to 23 photos taken Saturday, May 19: