Members of the Delaware Women’s Chorus are singing their way through Ireland.
The select ensemble-in-residence at the Music School of Delaware departed Thursday for a week-long tour of the island country where they are scheduled to perform at St. Mary’s Church in Kilarney, present a workshop and concert at the Brockagh Center in Glendalough and share the stage with an Irish choir at St. Andrew’s Church in Bray.
Before they left, the group previewed their program “Hands Across the Water” at a concert last week. Their repertoire includes Irish and American folk music as well as American gospel music and show tunes.
“Initially, I thought the last thing they’d want to hear is Irish music,” says ensemble director Joanne Ward. “But when I went on a directors’ tour last year they said they really want to hear Irish music and they like festive music, music that really gets their feet moving.”
Ward planned the itinerary with the assistance of Musical Celebrations International, an international music touring organization that helps groups schedule tours and concerts.
Ward is delighted with the support she’s received from the Music School. She got the idea from a brochure was given by Music School President and CEO Kate Ransom.
“I think in general when there’s an opportunity to do an overseas tour, visit a country outside the United States, experience the culture and share their musical gifts with audiences in another country, it is incredibly motivating to the ensemble,” says Ransom.
Debbie Callahan feels he same way. “I know that one of our concerts is at a local community center which I hope will give us the opportunity to connect with people up close and personal instead of just an-audience-at-your-concert sort of thing,” says the Salem, N.J. resident. “Maybe we can sing together and learn one of their songs that they like to sing.”
Twenty of the 30-person chorus which was founded in 2004 are on the tour. Members range in age from their 20s to 82 and hail from Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland.
Ward says the chorus is the ideal size for members to form relationships and share experiences. “They’ve sung at members’ weddings,” she says. “When a member lost her daughter she was devastated, but the chorus rallied around her and in a couple of months she was back singing and has never left. I think that sort of camaraderie makes the music that much better.”
The tour will provide plenty of opportunities for new experiences. In addition to their musical activities, the group will visit the Cliffs of Moher, the Ring of Kerry, Kilkenny, the Wicklow Mountains, Trinity College and Blarney Castle, among other sites.
Nancy Contell welcomes the opportunity to travel with her fellow choristers. “I’m comfortable traveling on my own but it’s fun to be doing this with this particular ‘cast of characters’ as I call them,” says the Greenville resident. “And Joanne’s such a great conductor. I think a lot of the women come because of Joanne.”
Ward hopes the exposure of the tour will raise the ensemble’s profile and help it grow. “It worries me that we’re here and so few people know about us,” she says. “I would love to see the chorus top out at about 40. I always want it to be small enough that we’re a family.”