12 March 2017


During the February break, February 25 - March 6, the Saint Mary's University Chamber Singers went on tour in England.  I had the privilege of joining them on this fantastic tour.   We began by going to Chicago on Saturday the 25th.  We began the next day by having Dunkin Donuts provided by Erin McCoy's parents.  Great start to our first day!  At 9:00 that morning the Chamber Singers sang for Mass at St. Francis Xavier Parish in La Grange, IL  After lunch we departed for O'Hare Airport and boarded the plane to London!  We had a great flight and arrived in London at 8:35 the next morning. The bus driver drove around London, and I was able to point out various landmarks to help orient the students to the city.  We checked into the hotel in the afternoon and after a group dinner at Byron's we had free time to explore the city or hang out before going to bed. We needed to stay awake until bedtime so our bodies could adjust to the time change.   The next day was free to explore London and go to the theatre.   Students visited Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abbey, the South Bank, Tower Bridge, The Tower of London, Sherlock Holmes' site, and many other places.  That night I went to see Imelda Staunton in my favorite play, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  It was awesome!  Some Students went to see Wicked and Dreamgirls and others went to see a farce entitled Bank Robbery about a bank robbery that takes place in Minneapolis.  How ironic!  The next morning we departed for Canterbury, checked into our hotel and had some free time before we went to St. Thomas Roman Catholic Church to sing at the Ash Wednesday Mass.  Here are some photos of students getting ready to rehearse.


Singing at the Mass.

The next morning we walked to Canterbury Cathedral, one of my favorite places in the world.  It is filled with so much history! For me it is a magical place. I envied the students singing here.  

We were guided to the Chapter House which is off on the side of the Cloisters.  Here the students were able to warm up before going into the Cathedral for their mid-afternoon recital.

The great ceiling in the Chapter House.

I recorded the rehearsal. Here is a bit of it.

The Cloisters

The Mid-Day Recital in  Canterbury Cathedral.

A video of Elijah Rock

If you want to see more photos of the Cathedral check out my London blog from last semester where I posted a lot more photos.  Canterbury is where King Henry II 's knights murdered the King's best friend, Thomas a Beckett, who was the Archbishop of Canterbury.  The site then became a pilgrimage for many christians. Chaucer's Canterbury Tales was a series of stories told by pilgrims on their way to Canterbury Cathedral. Here are some photos from inside the Cathedral.  Again check out my blog to see more.

Saint Thomas a Beckett in the stained-glass window

After some free time to wander around the Cathedral and the town we met for rehearsal at Saint Paul's Anglican Church where we had a joint concert with the Caritas Chamber Choir

The rehearsal!

Shauna waiting before the concert before she passes out the programs.

Ian fighting Jet Lag.

Jet Lag wins!!!!!

Dr. O'Shea conducting both groups in one of Benedict Preece's compositions.

Benedict Preece, the conductor of Caritas Chamber Choir,  conducted Dr. O'Shea's A Prayer of St. Anselm.  He also wrote a piece for Dr. O'Shea and the Saint Mary's Chamber Singers which he presented to them at the end of the concert.

Dr. O'Shea conducts both choirs. Video.

The Mayor and Mayoress of Canterbury attended the Concert.

After a great concert we joined the Caritas Choir for a buffet at The Dolphin Public House where we were able to socialize with them!

On Friday morning we went to Junior King's School in Canterbury where the Chamber Singers performed at an assembly for the entire school.  They performed in this building which was an old barn.  When Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet this building was already 15 years old.

After the concert we walked over to the brand new music building on the campus where Dr. O'Shea and Tim Frost, the Director of Music at Junior Kings School conducted a workshop with the school's choir and our Chamber Singers.

Later that morning we boarded the bus and went to Dover Castle.  This was a first for me.  When we arrived, there were sheep on he wall!

The moat!

One of the many ravens!

There are tunnels on the property that were used during WWII.  One for a hospital and the other the was important on the rescue from Dunkirk.  It was an hour tour; we could not take pictures inside the tunnels.  Really fascinating. 

The White Cliffs of Dover.  Tunnels were behind these cliffs.

One of my favorite monarch's, King Henry II, was responsible for building Dover Castle.  He is the King who was best friends with Thomas a Beckett.  He is also the subject of the play and film, The Lion in Winter.  He was father of Richard the Lionheart and John who later became King John who signed the Magna Carta.  Great movie with Peter O'Toole and Katherine Hepburn.

The small dots on top are our students.  See blown up photo of them below.

We said goodbye to the sheep and continued on to Deal.

At Deal we visited the Manor of Sholden where we had tea and sandwiches.  The Lord of the Manor is a distant cousin of Dr. O'Shea.  This was the first time they met.  

We had tea, sandwiches, and dessert in the Drawing Room.

This fireplace in the dining room was imported from Germany.  Interesting tiles.

The patio.

The Lord and Lady of the Manor.  He is from Canada and she is from Nigeria.

As a thank you, the Chamber Singers sang a few songs for our gracious hosts.

At the end of a long day we had one more concert to do at the Parish of St. Ethelbert and St. Gertrude.

After a good night's sleep we boarded the bus and went back to London where we had a free afternoon.  I took some students to eat Italian at La Porchetta, Pollo Bar in Soho.  Chad went to the Imperial War Museum and others went shopping at Primark!  At 5:00 pm we met at St. Patrick's Church in Soho Square for a rehearsal before singing for the 6:00 pm Mass.  The singers sang in a side chapel which sounded really good in the main church.

After the Mass we boarded the bus and drove to Oxford. On Sunday we arrived at The Oxford Oratory-Church of St. Aloysius Gonzaga where we met Andrew Knowles the Director of Music.  We rehearsed in a small room on the side of the church and then sang for the 11:00 Mass.

The church was packed and the Chamber Singers sang in the Choir loft!

After the Mass we had the rest of the day to explore Oxford.  At 6:00 pm there was a group dinner at Brown's restaurant.  Unfortunately, my lower back was out, and I had to go back to the hotel so I missed the dinner!  Me missing a meal!  Oh, my!
We left really early the next morning to drive back to Heathrow Airport to fly back to Chicago!  Then took a bus back to Winona. 

A good time was had by all!