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May 29, 2006

Texan Reflection on a Farewell to Wabash

Danny Lippert '06

 

This truly was one of the beautiful days during our tour.  It was the only day that I woke up early for the entire tour.  Tom and I woke up earlier, by accident, and went down to breakfast in our Glee Club uniform, the first time I was ready for our concert.  After going back to our room, I took my time to pack for the next few days.  I enjoyed thinking about everything I needed and all the clothes I hadn’t worn while I’ve been here.  In a way it was a short time to sit and think about the tour.  After we had our second-to-last concert at St. Andrew’s Church next door, we got on the bus, changed, and got on our way to Glasgow.  Edinburgh was one of the better cities of the tour but also one of the more expensive.  Edinburgh was a blast, but Glasgow would be a nice end to the tour.  The bus ride was beautiful and scenic, and I enjoyed a nice stop for lunch before we hit the Trossachs, the name given to the foothills of the highlands.  We went through Stirling Castle and then the Trossachs, but the entire time I just glanced at everyone in the Glee Club and reflected on the relationships I have made during my time at Wabash.  It was during this last year that I most enjoyed my time at school.  I made so many new friends and got really close to people I never would’ve imagined I’d speak to.  I have become more truthful and stronger during the four years I’ve been in school.  This must be the first trip that I have been on when I really haven’t gotten very annoyed at people and where I have gotten closer to people as well.  I think about the times in the future when I’ll return to visit my friends and speak of special times we had here.  It is something that I’ve enjoyed while I’m here and will definitely continue to enjoy even after this tour is over.  The dinner conversation we had tonight at Pancho Villa’s Authentic Mexican Restaurant makes me look toward the future in hope that things at Wabash will get better, and relationships will not die out after I leave.  Glee Club will hopefully get stronger and have glorious concerts and tours like the few in the past.  I evaluated some friendships tonight and realized that I have become great friends with people I wouldn’t have imagined otherwise, like Filip and Bryce.  Greg has definitely grown on me and gotten closer to being a brother than a friend.  Tom is also the only Texan that I’ve learned to open up to because he is one guy who is just as crazy as me.  I appreciate everyone on this trip and will greatly miss them all.  I must say that, even though the trip has had its hard times, we have had great moments where we enjoyed ourselves immersed in a culture different from our own.  It brought me back to my semester in Greece in Fall 2004 when I made many great friendships and memories while finding out so much about myself.  So I leave Wabash after having four trying years and thank you for the growth, both physical and mental, which made me the person that I have become.  I am glad to see that there are respectable men in the Midwest who are able to come together and enjoy four years together.  Tonight, one of the last nights I will have with most of these guys, was very hard for me but also thrilling because it was another night to add to the many enjoyable experiences I’ve had.  I have loved my four years and enjoyed my time with the Glee Club in Great Britain.  So I bid farewell to Wabash, the Glee Club, Europe, and the UK, and move on to many more memorable moments back in Texas.  I leave my four-year home but will return back South, a new Texan.

Time ticks differently in the United Kingdom

Michael Matsey '06

 

I discovered today that the Scots enjoy taking time off. When I awoke this Sunday morning, I found that all the shops in Edinburgh were closed and would not open until lunchtime. It was a little frustrating, considering I still had some shopping to do, but I had to remind myself that Europe beats to a different drum. It is not surprising then to find shops open late in the morning, take an afternoon tea break for an hour, and close at supper time. On this particular day, I noticed something I hadn’t noticed since I studied abroad in London a year ago. Europeans have a different perception of time. Before you think I’ve gone into some clichéd science fiction story, I should give you an example. If I were to meet a fellow European, they would be quite frustrated if I was late, much more so than anyplace in the US. Once I would meet my European friend, however, there would be no need to rush. Meals take hours, a night out with friends could end much later than previously hoped. All this, I believe, is personified by the lack of clocks in the UK. In all the places we have been, there have been few time devices.

Impatience is a rare occurrence here, at least for natives. I could easily tell the tourists as they rush everywhere, trying to capture every sight and sound. If one were to just take a moment, let those sights and sounds rush over your soul, then you’d be able to experience it like a native. Taking time to enjoy life seems to be a very European thing. I have missed this focus on time. In the US, there are to many things to do that we cannot stop and enjoy what we are doing. Here, they seem to enjoy life and live it to the fullest.

After this brief morning interlude, we sang at St. James and St. Andrews Church during their Sunday church service. It was great singing for a congregation, especially one with such a vibrant history as the Presbyterian church. We proceeded to travel towards Glasgow, our last stop on our tour, and made a few pit stops along the way. One included Stirling Castle, the site of a memorial to Robert the Bruce. From there we could look across the valley to the memorial to William Wallace, the legend of Scottish history and Mel Gibson fandom. My favorite thing we did today was our other pit stop. We drove through the Trossachs, an area of Scotland composed of many hills and lakes, stopping at a few stops along the way for photo taking. These brilliant views reminded me so much of my trips to Switzerland, but seemed quieter and more serene. I love hills with lakes, mystic vistas that touch the soul. When I’m gone, I expect that a part of my heart will still be in the highlands…

May 28, 2006

St. Johns College warmly receives Wabash College Glee Club

Ron King '09

 

My experience in Great Britain has been really exciting.  I have seen numerous interesting things and have explored many historic places.  This trip has been extremely educational and has really expanded my view of British culture and history.  The experiences that have intrigued me the most were jumping into the Irish Sea and climbing Snowdonia Mountain.  These both are things I would have never imagined myself doing; however, I am extremely grateful that I have had the opportunity to do them.

Today we spent most of our day in York.  This is a tremendously beautiful town, and I was excited to see the York Minster.  We explored many of the gift shops, and I tried British cuisine for the first time.  I had never heard of a baguette, but it was delicious.  Later that evening we performed at nearby St. Johns College for yet another concert.

During the entire trip we have had the opportunity to engage in joint musical endeavors with many British groups, and today was no different.  We were engaged in concert with the St. Johns College’s entire music department.  They are an extremely talented group of individuals, and they apparently thought the same about us, given the constant and spirited applause.  I really enjoyed their band’s rendition of the Simpsons’ theme song. It was a really unique piece.  I was just glad to mingle with people our own ages.  The reception afterwards was a blast.  I met many students of the college who were very anxious to meet people from America.  I felt like I was a celebrity with all the attention I was getting from them.  I even exchanged e-mail addresses with a number of them to stay in contact. This was an experience like no other, and I was glad to be apart of it.

Although the trip is about halfway over, I am still excited about what we have left to do.  This truly is an opportunity of a lifetime, and I can’t wait to share this experience with families and friends.

Nick Leon '08

 

Last night before our concert at York St. Johns College, Dr. Bowen informed us we were its first delegation from Wabash College.  Knowing that, it was even more amazing when we received a double encore.  Most performing groups are lucky to get one, so it was a very humbling honor to receive two last night.  We performed with three ensembles composed of students from St. Johns: two vocal and one instrumental.  The influence of their enthusiasm was definitely seen in our faces and heard in our voices, especially when one of the biggest applauses we received was for “Old Wabash”.  I also felt we did an exceptional job on our first performance this tour of “Got a Mind to Do Right”, a very upbeat spiritual.  This suspicion was shortly confirmed by whistles and hollers from the audience.  York constantly found new ways to impress and astound me.  When we first arrived, I felt like a young kid on a family vacation, awed by just staring out the window.  My eyes struggled to take it all in as we moved from miles of rolling green hills to winding streets lined with beautiful Victorian and medieval buildings.  I do not think I have ever been to a city with so many friendly people, but it’s easy to see why.  I also did not think anything could live up to the experience of performing at the York Minster the day before.  Again, I was pleasantly surprised during and after the concert last night.  I am so lucky just to have the opportunity to perform in another country, for anyone.  But to perform for audiences as great and appreciative as we have had, reminds me what a truly great experience I am having the privilege of being a part of.

 

(Photo: Wabash men walk the walls of York with their tour guide.)

Edinburgh yields interesting singing experience in St. Giles church

Travis McLaughlin '09

Returning to Edinburgh, but with a much different sort of itinerary than my last trip (with Dr. Watson’s playwriting class earlier this month) has been a lot of fun.  This morning we awoke at a relatively late hour and enjoyed a buffet-style breakfast in the refined George Hotel before changing into our uniforms and going to St. Giles’ for our concert.  There was a short noon-time prayer service, followed by our performance.  Our opening number, “Ave Maria” by Jacob Arcadelt, went particularly well today.  The architecture and artwork in the church were fantastic and created another in a long line of extraordinary settings for us to sing in.  The acoustics left a little to be desired, insofar as there was difficulty in hearing myself sing, but the resonance created by this gothic-style building was fabulous.  The stained glass windows and large organ provided an excellent backdrop, and the sixty or so people who stopped in to listen to us sing were quite appreciative.

After the concert, we had a trip to St. Andrew’s, the home of the Old Course and the governmental seat for the rules of golf, though I would wager that, if you had to be told that, you could not truly appreciate the significance of being there. I will say that the history of the site was truly overwhelming, and three of us were even able to get our pictures taken on the Old Bridge.  The parts of the Cathedral which were standing were also a sight to be seen, even though most of it was destroyed in Reformation-era violence.  We ate lunch at the Dunvegan, where the winners of the golf tournament traditionally eat, and which is owned by a third-generation Texan who graduated from Texas A&M some years ago. As such, the food was highly “American” but enjoyable nonetheless.

In the late afternoon, we returned to Edinburgh for a night of leisure on the city.  There are a number of local places which have live music on the weekends, so some of us will likely go out in search of some traditional local music.  After that, we look forward to a relatively early bed time for our travels to Glasgow tomorrow.

A tour of Scotland entrances Wabash man

Filip Dramberian '08

 

Who goes to Scotland? Who does that? The Wabash College Glee Club, that’s who. So far this tour has been a non-stop educational and musical adventure. With so much to learn in so little time, each new location has offered a myriad of cultural and educational facets that can initially seem daunting. Edinburgh, Scotland, is no exception. While on our drive, we traveled through some of the most scenic countryside thus far. In between estimating how many sheep I could see at one time and finishing a book which covered everything from the life of a princess to peat bogs (which we will hopefully experience in a couple of days), our guide, Tom, gave us some history lessons about Scotland. After a three-hour journey, we picked up a Scottish guide bearing the same name as our bus driver, Bill, just before our arrival in Edinburgh. The information overload continued as our bus tour of Edinburgh began. Two words came to mind, and though under normal circumstances they would have been something like “rippling brook,” in this case the following words were more unsophisticated: “simply amazing.” Girded in traditional attire, including kilt and bagpipe, Bill proved to be a bottomless well of historical information. I was in a trance as I was trying to take it all in. Seeing things like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s home, Alexander Graham Bell’s house, and Robert Louis Stevenson’s childhood residence (who happens to be the author of my favorite Glee Club song entitled, “Sing Me A Song of a Lad That is Gone”)—seeing these things gave me a sense of awe. The end of our bus tour marked the beginning of a tour of Edinburgh Castle. I truly wish I would have had more time to visit everything, because I simply couldn’t stop reading and seeing everything as I was soaking it in like a sponge. We saw the Stone of Destiny, which is the other half of the Blarney Stone. It’s a shame we couldn’t kiss it, however. In addition, I was mesmerized as I visited the prisoner-of-war prison and the Royal Scots Exhibition. Bill confirmed my thoughts about Scotland when he explained the meaning of the Scottish motto, which in Latin reads, “Nemo me impune lacessit,” meaning No one attacks me with impunity. Much like the motto indicates, my experience made it very clear that Scotland as a whole is most definitely not a game. Thus, we’re taking on Scotland, and we have risen to the challenge.

A trip to Edinburgh Castle

Matt Mckay '06

We left Harrogate for Scotland this morning.  It required a 3-hour drive, but we stopped for food in a small Scottish town, where I enjoyed my first taste of haggis.  Granted, it was on panini with brie cheese, but nevertheless it was actually good.  To fill up the rest of the time on the bus, I started another book.  Somehow, I have managed to finish a couple books on this trip, and I am happy to be reading things for pleasure and not for class.  We continued on our way to Edinburgh and picked up Bill, our tour guide.  The highlight of the day was Edinburgh Castle.  The castle is perched high upon a rock outcrop, staring down at the city with its intimidating presence of strength.  The castle has never been taken by force.  Once it was surrendered because the drinking water became contaminated during a siege, and another time it was taken by stealth, but never by force of arms, and looking at how defensible the fortifications are, I could see why.   Inside the castle we visited a war memorial that housed the names of all Scots who died in service to their country during the Great War.  Gorgeous coats of arms and flags were carved in bas-relief.  The whole building filled me with a sense of honor and eternal glory.  Also on the castle grounds, there is an exhibit of the prisons that housed French and American prisoners during the 18th century, and also a room full of swords, spears, halberds, and even a glaive.  For me, it was a magnificent sight.  Finally we got to see the royal crown and scepter of Scotland, a beautifully crafted claymore, and the Stone of Destiny, which is present at the crowning of the king, and which was once part of a meteorite that landed in Ireland, and split in two when the Scots migrated to what would be called Scotland.  The Scots called their piece the Stone of Destiny, and the Irish, the Blarney Stone. 

There was no concert today, so the rest of the evening was spent relaxing and taking in some of the sights of Edinburgh. 

Wandering the streets of Edinburgh

Jon Harris '09

 

Ring ring. Ring ring.  Knock knock.  Hello?  So began the Saturday morn of the twenty-seventh of May.  Upon the strokes of 7:15, 7:30, and 8:00, the hotel, in its efforts to assist in waking me up, made calls by phone and actual visits to the room.  It was a worthy effort that unfortunately succeeded each time.  Not since…I don’t know when I last had to wake up so early on a Saturday.  Once awakened, I wandered from the dungeon-like inner chambers of the hotel, through the dozen corridors, fire doors, and staircases and finally arrived on the ground floor.  The lovely meal was served among marble pillars and canopy lamps and consisted of bacon and ham, sausages, fancy oatmeal, and assorted fruit.  The fruit was great, and there was a lot of it.  As such, some of us decided to steal some for snacks later.

After breakfast, the choir took a short trip on the bus to St. Giles, the high kirk of the Church of Scotland.  Upon arrival, when we walked through the doors, I stopped in awe at the wonder of the church.  The stained glass appeared new compared to that of the York Minster—modern, though some windows were older with designs like crests and coats of arms.  The sanctuary appeared much more intimate than the Minster, being shorter in height and darker in lighting.  This only added to my wonder because it transported me to an elder day when the church was used.  Shortly after noon, upon the conclusion of a short prayer service, the Glee Club made its Scottish debut and finished at around ten of one.  Shortly thereafter, the Club made its exit and splintered into tiny groups into the many avenues of Edinburgh.  Some went to St. Andrew’s, an hour and a half drive away.  I fell into the category of the Edinburgh wanderers.

My group walked back to the hotel, but en route, a group of about ten of us made an impromptu performance on the bridge over the Edinburgh Gardens in the ravine.  We sang numbers like “Down By the Sally Gardens” and “Old Wabash”.  By doing so, we met some fellow Americans from Ohio and Maryland.  After the short singing appearance, we went to change and promptly left again for an afternoon of shopping and walking.  After a few hours of frittering away my money on clothes and bagpipes, we made our final stop in a restaurant to enjoy a meal and a nice pint.  A fitting way to relax after a day of wandering.

Shopping and longing for free refills

Campbell Robbins '09

 

Our day today was spent in the ancient city of York in the north of England.  One of the trip’s most anticipated events occurred, when we were fortunate enough to sing in the awe-inspiring York Minster Cathedral.  This medieval architectural masterpiece took over two centuries to build, as we could see, for instance, from the immense amount of detail on even the smallest panes of the stained-glass windows. Our voices echoed beautifully throughout the structure, and a substantial number of patrons paused for a while to listen to us.  After singing, we were able to go on a guided tour of the Minster. 

The rest of the afternoon was spent at our own leisure in the city center.  Old, narrow cobblestone streets wound all around the city.  One of the streets, called the Shambles, was so narrow that two people could shake hands from the tops of houses on either side of the street.  I was relieved to find a restaurant which served hamburgers.  Having never been a particularly ardent admirer of certain traditional English dishes—such as Shepherd’s pie or mincemeat, which had lately been the predominant choices on the menus of restaurants I ate at—the opportunity to devour a burger was one I decided not to pass on.  When I was last in England in the late 90s, there was an outbreak of Mad Cow disease, but I was reassured by a couple of my companions that British beef was safe to eat.  Even if it wasn’t, I would quite possibly have ordered a burger anyway, as my longing for one was quite strong. 

Right now the British are gearing up for the World Cup.  English flags are everywhere, hanging out of house and car windows.  Supposedly, the English squad is one of the favorites to win the tournament, so there is understandably much anticipation as the days count down to the Cup’s commencement.  It’s evident that anything less than the team’s bringing home the Cup would be heart-breaking for many people all around this soccer-crazed country. 

After satisfying my culinary desires, I spent the remaining hours just visiting a few different shops.  I’m not a shopper by any means. (I realized today that, although I’m nineteen years old,  the majority of my clothes have been picked out by my mother, with me just complacently wearing them.)  So I took the lead of the three or four other guys I was with, and followed them into whatever stores they desired to visit.  I was more interested in admiring the architecture and ancient remnants that are still present, such as parts of the Roman wall that used to surround the city.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the tour up to this point, but I’ll sure be glad when I return to the States and be able to get as many free refills of my drink as I desire, instead of having to pay circa three dollars for every miniscule glass of beverage I drink.  Oh, and a tall stack of pancakes drowned with syrup for breakfast will be much appreciated upon our return to the states.  Otherwise, the tour has been nothing short of wonderful.

May 25, 2006

Wabash man awed by the majesty of Yorkminster

Jeff Sostak '06

Today we left Manchester at the bright hour of eight o’clock in the morning to make the ultimate destination of this entire trip, the Cathedral of York Minster. To say this structure is large does not do it justice. To be granted the opportunity to sing in this building is a memory I am sure to cherish for a very long time since the sound continued to resonate for multiple seconds after the final cutoff. The performance was magical, to say the least, even with a bit of trouble at the beginning, while we were still getting used to the environment around us and hearing the pitch in the cavernous space.  I particularly enjoyed hearing the music swirl around the cathedral at the end of “Cantate Domino”.

The cathedral took over 200 years to build, and I am sure they spared no expense on any part. But unfortunately at the time of Henry VIII and the formation of the church of England, parts of the ornate decorations were taken, and we were left only to dream and wonder what treasure stood there in the 16th century. Visitors are allowed to climb the tower to the top, and Clayton Craig and I deemed we were fit enough to attempt the grueling task. The climb consisted of 275 steps packed into a spiral staircase with a width of no more than 2.5 to 3 feet, and therefore room for error was small. For one slip would produce a cartoon-like fall all the way down the stairs.

It was fortunate that today was an absolutely gorgeous day, the first sunny day since we began the trip 7 days ago. The scenery at the top of the tower was breathtaking and provided many photo opportunities of the compact shops within the old walled city below. An interesting side-note about the city of York (according to a plaque on a statue) concerns Constantine the Great, who was proclaimed Roman Emperor in York near where the cathedral stands today.

It seems fitting that the man who called for the Nicene Creed and helped the fledgling Christian church would be declared emperor on the same site as the largest gothic cathedral north of the Alps.

Freshman explores the Medieval City of York

Campbell Robbins '09

Our day today was spent in the ancient city of York in the north of England.  One of the trip’s most anticipated events occurred, when we were fortunate enough to sing in the awe-inspiring York Minster Cathedral.  This medieval architectural masterpiece took over two centuries to build, as we could see, for instance, from the immense amount of detail on even the smallest panes of the stained-glass windows. Our voices echoed beautifully throughout the structure, and a substantial number of patrons paused for a while to listen to us.  After singing, we were able to go on a guided tour of the Minster. 

The rest of the afternoon was spent at our own leisure in the city center.  Old, narrow cobblestone streets wound all around the city.  One of the streets, called the Shambles, was so narrow that two people could shake hands from the tops of houses on either side of the street.  I was relieved to find a restaurant which served hamburgers.  Having never been a particularly ardent admirer of certain traditional English dishes—such as Shepherd’s pie or mincemeat, which had lately been the predominant choices on the menus of restaurants I ate at—the opportunity to devour a burger was one I decided not to pass on.  When I was last in England in the late 90s, there was an outbreak of Mad Cow disease, but I was reassured by a couple of my companions that British beef was safe to eat.  Even if it wasn’t, I would quite possibly have ordered a burger anyway, as my longing for one was quite strong. 

Right now the British are gearing up for the World Cup.  English flags are everywhere, hanging out of house and car windows.  Supposedly, the English squad is one of the favorites to win the tournament, so there is understandably much anticipation as the days count down to the Cup’s commencement.  It’s evident that anything less than the team’s bringing home the Cup would be heart-breaking for many people all around this soccer-crazed country. 

After satisfying my culinary desires, I spent the remaining hours just visiting a few different shops.  I’m not a shopper by any means. (I realized today that, although I’m nineteen years old,  the majority of my clothes have been picked out by my mother, with me just complacently wearing them.)  So I took the lead of the three or four other guys I was with, and followed them into whatever stores they desired to visit.  I was more interested in admiring the architecture and ancient remnants that are still present, such as parts of the Roman wall that used to surround the city.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the tour up to this point, but I’ll sure be glad when I return to the States and be able to get as many free refills of my drink as I desire, instead of having to pay circa three dollars for every miniscule glass of beverage I drink.  Oh, and a tall stack of pancakes drowned with syrup for breakfast will be much appreciated upon our return to the states.  Otherwise, the tour has been nothing short of wonderful.

May 24, 2006

An avid Beatles fan visits the Promised Land of Liverpool

Ross McKinney '09

Today began with the much unanticipated early alarm. Deciding to pack the night before provided me the benefit of an extra 15 minutes in the morning.  After I awoke and took a shower, the same breakfast of sausage, ham, baked beans, grilled tomato, and poached eggs did not sound terribly appealing.  The choice to sample all the jams, jellies, and preserves with the copious toast proved a successful and tasty alternative. 

The morning was also met with a vast and great excitement when the request of a few days prior was granted, namely, the opportunity to skew from the “Official Glee Club Itinerary” and visit the birthplace of the Titanic and The Beatles: Liverpool, England.  Even though The Cavern, the famous pub where the Fab Four got their start, was apparently demolished, the opportunity to see this world famous city was very awesome indeed.  It was also a point of interest to learn that all museums in the city, and seemingly all of the U.K., are free to the public, a welcome change from the expensive prices for food we have experienced thus far.  The modern art museum provided ample confusion and awe as to what can be classified as ‘art’. 

As an avid Beatles fan, I found the shops and storefronts to be a haven of memorabilia and souvenirs for the band, as well as items relating to the areas we have visited.  Welsh flags, it seems, are cheaper in England.  It is a constant concern that, even though the price of items seems reasonable, it is in reality doubled due to exchange rates. 

I also really enjoy the extensive use of coins.  When one might expect change from a purchase consisting primarily of paper money, I have often been given more than five pounds in coin, a novel concept. 

Manchester was seventy-one miles down the left side of the road—and, yes, to my surprise, it is measured in miles here—from Liverpool.  Accommodations at the Princess-on-Portland Hotel are very refreshing and spacious.  After we checked in, the time for dinner approached.  Jay Brouwer, Derek Lough, and I were traversing the local square, and happened upon what seemed a good deal for a buffet of various Asian dishes.  For a mere ?5.50p, one could enjoy all the delicious dishes of Asia, filling our stomachs while not completely decimating our wallets.  Upon closer inspection of the receipt, we discovered that the lunch price of ?5.50p was available only if you were “vacated of the premises” by 6:00 PM.  Discovering the time to be 5:58, and three additional pounds for each meal (for the same food), we quickly exited with relatively satisfied appetites, to the visible dismay of the tricky restauranteurs. 

At the hotel, we were encouraged by Dr. Bowen to retire for the evening at a reasonable hour—“reasonable” being a highly subjective term, especially with the Manchester night-life yet to be explored.  His advice does have merit, however, as our departure scheduled for York Minster involves a wake-up call for an hour at which I have been known to be awake studying for biology exams. 

Our concert-free day gave our voices a chance to recuperate, and it provided more free time to mingle with the Liverpool and Manchester natives and see the sights. (A native of Liverpool is called a “Liverpuddlian”, and of Manchester, a “Mancunian”.) Thus far, the treat that is international travel has been a great experience and one that I have enjoyed immensely.  The Glee Club has been acting well as ambassadors of both the U.S. and music, and it is a time that will not be forgotten. 

Glee Club overcomes negative stereotypes in Wales

Jay Brouwer '09

Our final departure from the Beaches Hotel in Wales today marked our sixth day on the isle of Great Britain. After a moderate drive through the Welsh countryside into England, we arrived at one of the UK’s most famous cities, Liverpool. Named for the fabled “Liver” birds (pronounced “lye-ver”) that can be seen as symbols on t-shirts and flags, and as statues on tops of buildings, this port was home to some of the most famous British musicians in recent history. The Beatles and Rolling Stones were born in Liverpool. There is, in fact, a museum dedicated to these arthropodic artists, the Beatles, at the dockside. Unfortunately, an abundance of wee Irish children touring the building made a visit impossible in the allotted time.  Many small shops and views of fantastic Victorian architecture proved a wonderful alternative, however. 

Once this brief stay in Liverpool was concluded, our group boarded the coach yet again for our journey to another famous British city, Manchester, where we arrived around 3:30 pm.  After checking into our hotel, we made our way to dinner in separate groups.  I, along with Ross McKinney and Derek Lough, made a quick walk to the nearest Chinese Buffet where we had a mere 15 minutes to scarf down our meals (which were rather tasty nevertheless) in order to avoid the 3-pound extra charge for finishing after 6:00.  The proprietors of the institution were quite displeased when we left with the promised lunch rate at 5:59.  

We found our new hotel, the Princess, to be rather hospitable.  Larger rooms and more comfortable beds will make it hard to get up at the 6:00 call tomorrow for breakfast to get ready for our next concert.  And though we had none today, I believe our performances are progressing quite well.  The joint performers in Wales all have seemed to appreciate our time and talents.  Many of these elderly gentlemen have reformed their negative opinions of Americans based solely on our behavior, and for this, we feel very proud.

Audiences at Electric Mountain ask for encores

David Herr '00 - Today, Monday the 22nd, marked the fourth consecutive concert day of the Wabash Glee Club UK Tour, as well as our final day in Wales. However, today also gave us the opportunity to view and marvel at some of the natural and technological wonders of Great Britain second to none, as we toured the vast landscape of North Wales. We began our day with a brief stop at the town of Conwy, which was made famous by the brilliantly constructed Conway Castle of King Edward I (also known as Longshanks), one of the most well fortified and defensible fortresses of the Middle Ages. (On the way to Conway, I was intrigued to find out that my favorite English city, Liverpool, has been considered by some as the capital of Ireland in England, due to the large masses of Irish that immigrated to this port city during the Great Famine of the 19th century.)

We continued on to Llanberis to visit Snowdonia National Park, which covers over 823 square miles of the Welsh countryside. After a nice lunch in the National Park Café, we ascended atop the epic Snowdon Mountain, the tallest mountain in Great Britain, which towers over 3000 feet above the Welsh landscape. Unfortunately, from a photographer’s point of view, the tour was a disappointment. Upon seeing the video of the mountain before getting on the train, we were thrilled at the thought of seeing the “Five Great Kingdoms” of England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and the Kingdom of Heaven from above. Once the train got to the top, however, we couldn’t even see 10 feet in front of our face, for the intense rain and harsh weather had created a thick blanket of fog over the mountain. Despite the poor weather, however, the tour was breathtaking, for I have never experienced such a fierce wind at over 3000 feet above the ground.

After the tour, I reflected on a line from one of our songs, “Come Travel With Me,” which states that “we will go where high winds blow.” We certainly did not fall short of that today.

After the tour, we crossed to the site of Electric Mountain, the largest pumped storage power station in all of Europe. After relaxing in the visitor’s center, we embarked on a tour of this truly amazing plant, which is located deep in the interior of the mountain. I will never forget the deafening roar of the mammoth water pipes and machinery as we descended along the long tunnels and pathways built inside the mountain. I marveled at the fact that humankind can indeed transform a seemingly impregnable piece of Mother Nature into one of the greatest feats of modern civil engineering, in which over 16 kilometers of pipes were constructed inside the mountain in less than 10 years.

After the Electric Mountain tour and a quick supper, we performed alongside the Cor Meibion Dyfryn Peris Choir. Until the concert, I was unaware that Llanberis is one of the few towns where the Welsh native language is more commonly used than the English language. Every commentary given by the Choir in between the songs was in Welsh, which was eventually translated to English merely for our sake. The concert was spectacular. I thoroughly enjoyed the Cor Meibion Dyfryn Peris Choir’s repertoire of spiritual, secular, and patriotic songs. Although we were relatively tired from our long day of touring, we gave our all, and the audience was so moved that they asked us to give an encore, which rarely occurs in most Llanberis concerts. This community choir, in my opinion, turned out to be the most receptive group in our tour thus far. After enjoying a great post-concert feast of food and wine (Pino Grigio in particular) at the Hotel, Dr. Bowen was presented with souvenirs of the Robert Owen Cooperative Committee in the deep appreciation of the choir.

We concluded the evening singing songs together and enjoying the fruits of a well-deserved reception. The Peris choir members and committee members truly made it clear that it would be a thrill to have us return to Wales for a second tour in the not-too-distant future. It was truly a memorable night. In the words of our conductor, Dr. Bowen, “there would never have been a better way to conclude our grand tour of Wales.”

On to England!

May 23, 2006

Cold mountaintops can't get in the way of a fun time

Tom Pizarek '09

 

In the morning, we hopped on the bus and made our way to Llanberis, stopping at Conwy to do some quick sightseeing.  Conwy Castle is an impressive structure that dominates the small town.  After we took a couple of pictures, we piled back on the bus and continued to Snowdonia National Park.  When we got there, we took the train to the summit of Mount Snowdon, the highest point in the United Kingdom.

What we had hoped would be a lovely, clear day turned out to be a brisk, rainy one.  Unfortunately, the views on the postcards were obstructed by thick, white fog.  Though the scenery was veiled from view, it was still quite an experience to stand on top on the mountain, bombarded with frigid wind and freezing rain, completely oblivious to the surroundings.  As I stood up there, on top of Britain, I was wet and shivering, but I was invigorated.  After our train trip back down the mountain, we toured nearby Electric Mountain, the largest hydroelectric plant in Europe.

In the evening, we sang a joint concert with the Vale of Peris Male Voice Choir in Llanberis.  It was interesting to be in a part of the UK in which the main language was not English, but Welsh.  It was easy to tell that the announcer spoke English only for the benefit of us visitors.  I could see that the audience was especially moved by our performance of Bestor’s “Prayer of the Children.”  Our hosts were wonderfully appreciative and hospitable toward us.  It was a fitting way to wrap up our time in the nation of Wales.

 

 

(Photos: Despite the fog and cold, Wabash men still managed to have a good time scaling the mountain, even if it meant getting a little wet.)

Twenty-first birthdays in walled Roman cities

Renny Esser '08

Chester was by far the best place to spend my 21st birthday. I was able to take in the cultural tradition of enjoying pints by the glass at many of the local pubs. Beyond the pubs, the city of Chester featured various architectural embellishments, which are very historical compared to what we are used to in the United States. Shops and taverns are right above each other in a two-story fashion, and covered walkways could be found at any given area. After taking in the sights in Chester, the Glee Club returned to the Beaches Hotel, where I took it upon myself to utilize the aquatic facilities which, I might add, are very well maintained. After basking in the sauna and the steam room for a few minutes, and following my diving into the ocean, I decided to explore the rest of Prestatyn. One can’t help but notice the abundance of sheep and cattle in this mountain area. After observing the countryside of Wales, I have concluded that the farther north you go, the higher the elevation gets. Of course, no matter where you go in Wales, you will encounter a fair amount of rain, but this had no effect on the Glee Club’s spirit. After a very successful performance at the Caldy Valley Church this morning, we all changed into our civilian attire, and shopped to our heart’s content. I, of course, decided to spend most of my pounds on drinks, but saved enough to hopefully eat for the rest of the tour.

 

(Photo: John Segner stands in the streets of Chester)

Marathon concerts don't scare away appreciative Welsh audiences

Royce Gregerson '09

Today we woke early (as always) is order to leave Llandrindod in the morning.  After boarding the bus, we took off for Flint, Wales.  Along the way, there was more of the beautiful Welsh countryside to enjoy – rolling meadows and lots of sheep.  As we went farther north, the hills got bigger and bigger and the cliffs became steeper.  It is a wonder how people can live and their sheep can graze in what is really a harsh land.  It’s the beginning of summer and the temperature outside is about ten degrees Celsius, although everyone around here says that this is particularly cold weather.  After leaving the motorway and driving along some country roads, we came to the Erddig House (pronounced ehr-thig in Welsh).  It is the former home of the Yorke family, a part of the landed gentry of Wales.  The house is historically important because its owners preserved the lives of their servants through care of their quarters, which were very nice for servants’ quarters, and photographs and poems that memorialized members of the house’s staff.  All through the house there are pictures of the maids, coachmen, cooks, nannies, and the like accompanied by poems that read something like, “Nancy Sue was our nanny / but she went off and married a Dannie.”  According to the tour staff, the Yorkes did not enjoy typical pastimes such as foxhunting, but instead enjoyed music, literature, and so forth, so I think the poems were also a form of entertainment.  The house was beautiful, and I couldn’t help but imagine myself being in the Professor’s house from the Chronicles of Narnia.  Someone said he wanted to climb in a wardrobe and see what happened.  I thought the gardens were even more impressive, though.  They are wonderfully done Victorian formal gardens with beautiful planters in the shape of the Celtic cross, of course, sculpted hedgerows, ponds, and gates to the property.

The evening saw us going into Flint for a concert with the Flint Male Voice Choir.  It turned out to be their Flint music festival and also featured a harpist and two sopranos, who performed Italian opera and Broadway numbers.  The Flint choir performed many great Welsh hymns and also did a very nice rendition of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, one of my favorites.  I couldn’t help but sing along softly.  The concert was very long – over three hours.  I think many Americans would have left after intermission, but I don’t think a single person left.  These Welsh people just love their music.  Afterwards there was a buffet for everyone, and of course the bar was open.  We didn’t get to stay and sing some more like last night with the Bwilth choir, due to our bus driver’s regulations on driving times.  So we headed back to the hotel to catch some sleep before our morning concert in Chester.

Long concerts and Victorian castles make the experience

Steve Zusack '06

We started out the day checking out of our hotel at Llandrindod Wells and leaving for Erddig house (pronounced Airthig), driving north. This is an old 17th-century home which was significantly remodeled during the Victorian period. This home is unique in a very interesting way: over the centuries the family of this home, the Yorkes, paid special attention to the servants who worked there. It was the first home to either have portraits painted or take pictures of all the servants. The home itself was beautiful and so were the servants’ quarters, through which we entered.

After Erddig house, we departed for Flint and the Beaches Hotel, again driving north. The Beaches Hotel is located directly next to the Irish Sea. The area is quite nice, but there is a certain sea smell that is difficult to overcome. While we were going through the town, there are quite a lot of “touristy” things to do but not as many truly Welsh experiences to be had as there were in Llandrindod Wells.

After we got settled in the hotel for a while, we left for our second concert, which was in the evening. It featured a 14-year-old harpist, two excellent opera singers with accompanist, the Welsh choir of Flint, and our glee club. In other words, it was a ridiculously long concert (about three hours in length). However, every single performance was absolutely amazing. The reception afterwards with the Flint choir was very fun and interesting. It’s always a blast talking with people who have made singing a large part of their life. I am interested in singing with more Welsh men and in talking with them about their ideas of music and voice. We arrived back at our hotel around midnight.

Welsh shops and freezing water

Craig VanSoest '09

Because it is my only free meal of the day, I awoke at seven thirty this morning to partake in the hotel’s breakfast.  As I went through my morning, I compared some of the standard features of an American hotel to the Metropole here in Llandrindod Wells, Wales.  The first thing I noticed was a pain about two inches above my ankles.  Since I am one of the taller members of the glee club, the length of the bed left a bit to be desired.  The faucets in the sink and shower—yes, mother I am showering—had hot and cold water running out of two different faucets.  The shower was fine, but when I washed my hands, I had to choose between burning or freezing water.

Due to late nights at Wabash, I normally sleep through breakfast.  But not today.  As I walked down the buffet, I noticed things one would normally see as part of breakfast—eggs, toast, pineapple, and cereal—but I was surprised to find baked beans and broiled tomatoes.  It turns out that they are actually common breakfast items throughout the United Kingdom.

We were then given the liberty of deciding what to do with the rest of the day until our rehearsal at four o’clock.  Our tour guide told us that the local market was open until noon, so that was the first place my roommate and I went.  It had several stands of fresh fruit, homemade cakes and breads, clothing, and American movies and music.  From there, we went down every shop-lined street we could find.  Most were smaller than shops we would find in an American downtown, and were run by one person.  Whenever we bought something, it was placed in a plastic “carrier bag.”  Interestingly, none of the bags had a brand name on them.

A first experience with a Welsh Male Voice Choir

Ahson Ali '07

The highlight of the evening was the first concert of the UK tour.  After a quick rehearsal and dinner at a local bistro, we dressed in uniform and assembled at The Pavilion, a building to be used as our concert hall.  The show began with a performance by the Builth Wells Male Chorus, followed by the Wabash College Glee Club.  The first half of our songs included mainly sacred songs while the second was themed around travel and songs from Britain.  The Welsh chorus sang heartwarming songs in both English and Welsh.  It was a special concert too, since, thanks to the local Rotary club, the proceeds from ticket sales went to funding a damaged school in a poor community of Romania. 

The formal concert went smoothly, but the real fun began immediately after.  During the reception both choirs proudly began to sing their favorite songs. We shared “Ride the Chariot” with the Welsh choir since we were both familiar with it.  We also shared our national anthems with each other, and many others from our growing repertoire.  The community had even prepared desserts and tea for everyone.  While enjoying the snacks, the glee club carefully listened as we heard some traditional Welsh songs and even a few fun drinking songs.

The singing didn’t stop there, since, as we walked back to our hotel, we did what we could do with “American Pie,” and by the time we arrived, the crowd in the hotel lobby had requested a tune.  With about 15 members of the glee club still around, we picked out a few of our older songs and just had a good time enjoying the music.  These impromptu concerts are some of the most fun, and I know they will continue to take place since we all love singing, and that’s why we’re here.

May 19, 2006

Pub culture and Victorian life: two things America doesn't have

Austin Crowder '07

This was my first day outside the States.

Leaving is such a strange experience.  I know that I’m into my second day out of Indianapolis, but I’ve yet to get a handle on exactly what time it is.  I haven’t slept and I’m feeling fine.  (Let’s hear it for jet lag!)

The airport was located in the middle of nowhere, from the perspective of an American from the Midwest.  Green pastures cut by winding tree lines covered the ground.  Multi-lane highways and massive supercenters of America were nowhere near the Bristol airport.  Even when we passed by the city, everything maintained the feeling of a small town.

Today we toured the Cardiff Castle in Cardiff, which is the capital of Wales.  The rooms we toured gave me a great insight into the nature of the castle’s owners, especially that of the 19th-century patriarch of the castle.  The man was a fan of the liberal arts: he knew twenty-one languages; he studied religions and concepts of time; he had his castle decorated in subtle, meaningfully symbolic ways… the list goes on and on.

We took lunch in a quaint little pub in Cardiff.  The atmosphere in Welsh pubs is completely unlike anything we see in the States.  There’s a hominess in the dark-stained wood walls and the forest green plush benches that is unmatched in American restaurants.  The beer was good, the food cheap, and the company talkative.  Moreover, you can’t get a cheddar cheese and tomato chutney sandwich in America.  Talk about a good sandwich!

 (photo: Glee Club members tour the Cardiff Castle)

Welsh landscapes and customs catch the attention of a Wally

Jason Simons '08

We have finally arrived at our destination! The last 24 hours have been very tiring, so it’s a welcome relief. We had a long and cramped flight, but that only added to the anticipation, and we were not disappointed. The landscape is absolutely beautiful.  It’s decorated with  grasses in shades of green I’ve never seen before, beautiful stone houses, many of them on steep hillsides, and sheep grazing on the lush grasses.

Having never been outside of the United States before, this is certainly a new experience for me. I have already noticed several stark differences between America and Wales. The first is that all the cars drive on the wrong side of the road! It was quite odd boarding the bus on the left side and leaving the airport in the left lane, but I’m getting used to it. Another difference is the architecture. Most buildings are Victorian in style, which is quite different from most of the buildings in America. This is especially true in downtown Cardiff. While everything is very modern, you also feel a deep connection to the past. One could easily understand the history of Wales without knowing any specific details about it. One cannot really say that about most cities in America.

So far, the trip has been great. I’ve learned many things. My mind is being stretched, and I am gaining an understanding of a culture that is quite different from ours. I have already begun  to learn to value the differences between the cultures. I anticipate learning much more about the United Kingdom. The next few weeks will be tiring and busy, but will teach me many things that I could not learn in the classroom. I can’t wait!

Rain and castles in the first day on the ground

Chris Jackson '06

First and foremost:  Mom and Dad, I am here safe and sound.

Our first actual day on the ground was filled with apprehension, food and drink, a castle, rolling hillsides and jet lag.  Prior to arrival I was worried about how much I actually was looking forward to this trip.  A lot will happen at home over the next two weeks:  A few birthdays (Happy birthday to Stepho and Danno), the Cubs vs. White Sox, the 24 season finale, and general good times with family and friends.  My fears are allayed, however, knowing that I felt exactly the same way before a previous Glee Club tour through the Midwest, in which I had a lot of fun forging lasting friendships with a bunch of Glee Clubbers.

Arriving shortly after 8:30 a.m., we boarded our motorcoach (sans one person’s baggage) and headed to the bustling Welsh city of Cardiff.   Here we met some friendly people giving away free sports drinks and measuring to see who, literally, has the largest mouth in the United Kingdom.  Unsurprisingly enough, the boisterous Fil Drambarean has the largest mouth (trust me – the experts measured) in the Glee Club. 

After lunching at various places in the city, the group came together and toured the Cardiff Castle.  Here our friendly and knowledgeable tour guide, Dean, provided insights to the history and value of the castle and all of its components (one room was value at more than 4 million Pounds – nearly 8 million dollars!).  The weather during Cardiff changed every twenty minutes.  It ranged from sunny and 65 degrees to cold, windy, and rainy.

Leaving Cardiff behind under a heavy downpour, the group headed to our first hotel in Llandrindod Wells (linguistically, the double-L becomes a garbled, throaty ‘ch’ sound).  The bus ride was filled with breathtaking scenery of rolling hillsides and flocks of sheep – visible only if Glee Clubbers had not succumbed to the effects of jet lag.  I slept for three quarters of the journey, but got some solid views when Tyler Gibson jabbed my ribs as we passed alongside a magnificent valley. 

After our arrival at the hotel, I felt dirty and tired.  Nevertheless, the afternoon was spent between napping, showering, and watching a British news channel, which after some brief channel surfing was deemed the most interesting channel out of the six channels we have.  Now, after a delicious (and free) meal, I close out this blog in hopes of getting a solid night’s rest in order to conquer jet lag and prepare myself for our busy schedule over the next four days.

(photo: students stand on the battlements of Cardiff Castle.)

Trip marks First Flight for Wally

Jeff Kirk '07

Well, today I experienced my first plane ride. I have never been on a plane because my family always wanted to drive to our vacation destinations. While we waited, we sang for a few folks in the waiting area.  I was under the assumption that everything would go smoothly the whole time, but I was wrong. There was an hour delay because of strong winds on Newark. I have to admit that this made me even more nervous than I already was.

When we finally boarded the plane, I looked at the inside and it seemed as if I was flying in a stick rather than a plane. I lucked out and had a window seat. The take-off was a different feeling, but I still enjoyed it. I was sad, though, because this might be my last and only immersion trip that I experience while at Wabash College.  Unfortunately Wabash has become too expensive, and, even with the help of professors and other accredited persons; I am still unable to attend this school which I love so much. So, this trip means a lot more to me since it will be my last.

To add to the confusion of a first-time flight, I lost my luggage in Newark before we arrived in Bristol! Although it was rather frustrating trying to retrieve my bag, I believe everything will be taken care of promptly, and I shall receive my luggage in due time. I am enjoying myself here so far. I love the atmosphere, and I want to make every second count while I am here. I am a Wabash Man, and that means that, while I am also an American representing my country, I also represent my college. And as a loyal son, I plan to take advantage of all that my school has allowed me to experience and still be a Wabash Man.

 (photo: Jeff Kirk and Rennie Esser work on a piano duet before leaving for Europe)