Day 9: Edinburgh Castle and University of Edinburgh Céilidh Experience

Day 9 Reflections:
Today was an emotional day for us all, as it was the choir’s last full day in beautiful Scotland. We began the day by traveling to Edinburgh Castle, which is home to the Stone of Scone (also known as the Stone of Destiny), upon which numerous monarchs have been crowned; and the Crown Jewels of Scotland. After walking through the castle grounds, the choir was free to explore around Edinburgh for several hours. Today was the first real experience the choir has had with typical Scottish weather, since we have been blessed with fair weather throughout the majority of this trip. However, the weather gods decided that the choir would not have gained a true sense of what Scotland is like without being subjected to cold, rainy weather. Those who did not bring their umbrellas with them were forced to make a mad dash to a nearby store to purchase one. However, the rain soon settled into a light drizzle, which did not prove too bothersome while we went about enjoying our free time. After our free time was over, we met up with one another and then went to meet with a local group for dinner and entertainment at the University of Edinburgh. The group taught us some traditional Scottish songs and also traditional Scottish dances. We left a bit early in order to be back in time to pack for tomorrow’s flight. We are sad to be leaving behind such a wonderful place, but also look forward to seeing all of our friends and family in the U.S. again!

~Amber Roberts

We had a later start than usual, so we got to sleep in for a little while longer. After breakfast, we headed to the New Edinburgh where we visited the Edinburgh Castle, which in my opinion had the best view of the city.  Amidst the rain and freezing weather, we all embarked on our own personal tours of the city. So, with map in hand and a few friends, we set out to conquer this great city. There were art galleries, the parliament, National library and definitely malls where most people visited to do last minute shopping for their family members.

After the tours, we all congregated at our usual stop close to St Giles Cathedral and walked our way over to where our final reception (Ceilidh) was to be held. On our arrival, we noticed that we came a little early so to pass some time, the concert choir rap book was revealed and after a series of numbers from the group, it was time for a surprise!! The seniors after serious deliberations had decided to find a new keeper of THE book since the current keeper was a senior and had graduated.  The announcement was then made that Keith Wall would be the new keeper. After this coronation, Keith led the choir in his own personal rap.

Despite the long anticipation, the food finally arrived and so did the musicians, before this though we had the opportunity of singing with a group called the Sangstream choir. They taught us some Scottish songs and we in turn sang some selections from our repertoire. A traditional dinner was served which included neeps (turnips), tatties (potatoes) and haggis. We then learned some Scottish line dances ,which was accompanied by the Ceilidh Caleerie band. This was definitely a great experience for every member of the concert choir and I’m so glad that I had an opportunity to be a part of this group.

~Onyeka Ononye

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Day 8: St. Giles Cathedral and Edinburgh

Day 8 Reflections:
Today we rose early to depart for Edinburgh, Scotland to perform our final concert at the historic St. Giles’ Cathedral. After an informative guided tour of the church, we gathered under the beautiful architecture and amongst the lustrous and epic stained glass windows to sing our final selections. It was bittersweet for both the seniors and those departing from concert choir after this year as the closing Lutkin benediction’s “May the Lord bless you and keep you” echoed through the great cathedral, bringing our journeys with the group, as well as Scotland, to an end.

Following the church concert, we all went out separate ways to explore the city – some to tourist shops, some to eat at the Elephant House where Harry Potter was first conceived by author JK Rowling. Personally, I went to the University of Edinburgh Anatomy Museum, where I had the lucky opportunity to be allowed access to see the skeleton of my infamous body snatching great great great great great grandfather, William Burke. It was a life-changing experience for me, as I’m sure others have also had on this trip.

Next we had a very dramatic and chilling tour of Edinburgh, led by very charismatic guides dressed in ghoulish black capes and robes. This fun experience tied up our time in Edinburgh for the day, and we headed back to the hotel for another delicious dinner in Stirling. We tied up the night by singing the Lutkin benediction for the friendly kitchen crew.

~Mary Moates

We began our day driving to Edinburgh to take a tour of St. Giles Cathedral.  It was a beautiful drive as we were leaving the city of Stirling, and traveling through the cloudy countryside to Edinburgh. The St. Giles Cathedral was absolutely gorgeous.  The stained glass, architecture, and building in its entirety was breathtaking.  We were able to take a tour before our performance at 12:15.  Today was our last performance and it was extremely emotional and memorable when we were singing as our sound carried throughout the cathedral.

Ashley Abbott was happy to tell me her thoughts on the performance, “It was an amazing experience, truly overwhelming for not only the seniors, but the choir as a whole.” And, Kevin Krapf commented, “Singing with the MC Concert Choir at St. Giles was both an honor and joy that I will remember vividly forever.  As a graduating senior, I can feel nothing less than overwhelming gratitude for the chance to sing in such remarkable venues with this passionate and beautiful choir.” For our last performance I can’t think of a better group to sing with than the Maryville College Choir throughout this year and our Scotland Choir tour have become a close family, creating musical moments that will continue to be one of the most memorable experiences in our lives.

After all of the joyful tears following a wonderful performance we were able to take a break; search the town and get some lunch.  Then it was time for the ghostly underground tour.  Guided by a man who fully captivated our attentions, we were led on a historical/ghostly tour through parts of Edinburgh to the underground that gave us goose bumps.  After the tour, we had a very quiet bus ride back; exhaustion had taken over.  We have one more day in Scotland!

~Courtney Eaton

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Day 7: Stirling Castle and Church of the Holy Rude

Day 7 Reflections:
Everyday has been warm and uncharacteristically Scottish until today, which was cloudy and chilly. At least we finally got to make use of our jackets! We walked just up the hill to the grandiose Stirling Castle with ancient walls with fading yellow bricks and large, crumbling statues just beyond the old iron gates. On the tour, we learned many interesting facts about the old castle, such as the names of each room and how some courtyards received their names. We sang in the Great Hall, which was the largest hall in its day. Its oak ceiling looked like the belly of a ship and it contained five large fireplaces. The choir collected directly in front of the king and queen’s head table for the concert and began collecting a crowd. Some of our Heart of Scotland choir friends made an appearance as well. The rest of the crowd consisted of other tourists and tour groups that trickled in and out of the hall during the service.

After the concert in the Great Hall, we were free to tour the rest of the castle and go eat. The entire town of Stirling has cobbled stoned streets and older buildings, which give the town a unique and historical atmosphere. Later we met at the Church of the Holy Rude for our second concert of the day, which is also just down the road from our hotel. It is an ancient church with large stained glass windows adorning every wall. It must have been built around the same time as the great hall, for its ceiling also resembled the belly of a ship.

The Heart of Scotland Choir members are slowly becoming Maryville College concert choir groupies because they showed up to this concert as well and have promised to attend tomorrow’s concert. The church provided beautiful acoustics for the music and the crowd loved it. There is no greater feeling than bringing joyous smiles to a crowd through song.

We returned to our hotel for a couple hours of down time before dinner. We are tired from all the traveling, but the spirit of Scotland is all the motivation we need.

~Sarah Bohlman

Today began with chilly and misty weather more like what we were expecting from Scotland.  We visited the incredible Stirling Castle, which has been filled up to look, as it would have in olden days.  We had a short look around the garden and inside.  The experience helped show more of Scotland’s rich history; the castle was home to King James IV and V.  We performed in the Great Hall and were delighted to see some of the members of the Heart of Scotland Choir there!  It was after our performance, many of us stayed to enjoy the castle for a while longer before eating lunch.  Then, this afternoon, we performed in the beautiful medieval Church of the Holy Rude.  This was possibly our best and most emotional performance yet.  There were tears in our eyes as well as those in the audiences.  The phenomenal acoustics in the building made our intense songs such as “In Remembrance,” even more intense.  Again, we were very happy to see even more Heart of Scotland Choir members there, some of whom also came to the morning performance.  They stood with us and sang the Lutkin Benediction, which was a tremendous treat.  When we processed out of the church to the bagpipes, everyone was smiling and clapping joyfully.  Today’s performance was truly an amazing one that touched many people.  We will never forget it.  We left the church feeling very happy.  We then had some free time before yet another delicious meal, this time, with the alumni.  We talked and ate together, and will all go to bed peacefully.  All in all, a truly wonderful day.

~Cecily Babb


Iona Abbey Choir Performance, Video

Scone Palace Choir Performance, Video

(The videos above are on the Maryvile College Division of Fine Arts Facebook Page)

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Day 6: Castles and Heart of Scotland Community Choir

Day 6 Reflections:
This morning we left our historic hotel in Perth and headed to the nearby Scone Palace.  Scone Palace houses the replica of the Stone of Destiny – the stone upon which Scottish Kings have been crowned throughout history.  The grounds were absolutely beautiful; the large palace was surrounded by acres of green grass with ancient trees, peacocks and even a graveyard to keep it company.  The palace itself had a beautiful and elaborate interior, as well as a rich history.  It has been the home of the Murray family for decades, and the home was accustomed to ornate decorations, gorgeous paintings and it had also housed Queen Victoria and Prince Albert for a night.

After the tour of the Palace we san three songs at the steps of the Palace.  That’s right; we sang at a palace and site of the stone of destiny replica! Following our impromptu performance, we made our way to another exciting stop—Blair Castle.  The castle, composed in both Georgian and Scottish styles, was filled with firearms, swords, and other weapons of warfare, as well as beautiful decorations and furniture.  The grounds there were just as beautiful.  It had a richly wooded area, a small creek, and it too housed peacocks.

We spent a few hours there and then continued to the city of Stirling, our new home for the next four days.  The city is quaint and old with stone buildings abounding.  I know we all were excited to explore it over the next few days.  As it was, we didn’t do much exploring today as we checked into our marvelous hotel (The Highlander of Stirling) and then went to our 7:30 concert.

The concert this evening was a joint concert with the Heart of Scotland community choir and it went phenomenally.  Heart of Scotland is a charity group, which was started for cancer research, and they were the most gracious and loving audience and choir (and talented to).  We performed for each other and they were so amazing to listen to.  Poppy and upbeat, they blew us away with their energetic performance.  They taught us one of their songs, titled, “Whatever Is There.”  It was so beautifully written and being able to learn and sing with them was such a beautiful and heartwarming experience.  Both our choir and their choir encountered something magical tonight.  A woman from the Heart of Scotland approached Mrs. Wilner after the concert and said, “This is one of the most beautiful moments of my life.”  We are all excited about the moving experience we had tonight, and we are also thrilled at having learned a new song—which we sang almost all the way home!!  Something deep happened tonight, and I know we are all pumped for our concerts at Stirling Castle and the Church of the Hold Rude tomorrow.  Thought limited, our time in Stirling has been extraordinary; we cannot wait for what is to come!

~Mary Cunningham

Today we attended a self guided tour at Scone Palace. This stone building was absolutely spectacular. We were able to view a replica of the Stone of Destiny and learn some interesting information about Macbeth, which was fabulous for me considering I am a theatre major. After we sang for the employees of Scone, we headed to Blair Castle. This castle was quite odd looking from your typical idea of a castle, it was solid white. The inside of the castle contained hundreds of taxidermy animals and skulls, as well as various family weapons. The grounds surrounding the castle were filled with brightly colored flower gardens and luscious bright green fields. We closed our day by heading to Stirling, where we sang with a local choir, who taught us some traditional Scottish songs.

~Emily Queen


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Day 5: St. Andrews

Day 5 Reflections:
After a great night in the fun city of Perth, some of us woke up to breakfast, which is gradually becoming one of my favorite parts of this trip. After breakfast, a couple of us went to St John’s which is where John Knox once preached. Another group went on a walking tour of Perth while some others went shopping.

The rest of the day was spent in St. Andrews. Upon our arrival, we had about two and a half hours to get lunch and explore the area. Meandering along the paved sidewalks filled with shoppers, a lot of dogs and Americans (not just us), we stumbled into a building with a familiar green and yellow sign…You probably guessed right, SUBWAY!!! Unfortunately, we had taken off our American hats and immersed ourselves in the Scottish culture that we walked passed it to Frittos, a fish and chips restaurant where we had the best fried haddock. After lunch, we got to see the ruins of the old St Andrews Church surrounded by tombstones and leading to a beach. It was probably one of the prettiest sights I’ve come across since we embarked on this journey.

The most amazing part of today though wasn’t something pictures could capture or words could express. You just had to be there to, in the moment, as the choir‘s notes filled the entire chapel. Today, it didn’t matter if you were Scottish, American or African. It didn’t matter if you were old, young or in the middle because the music transcended all boundaries.  After songs like In Remembrance and MLK, you could notice tears streaming down the cheeks of many in the audience and even choir members such as myself.  At the end of the concert, an old lady sought out all the choir members and gave us all a hug and with tears in her eyes she couldn’t stop thanking us for the experience.

Knowing how touched everyone was by the concert, I decided to ask a couple of choir members how they felt after the concert so that you could have more than one or two perspectives from the choir and this is what was said.

Ashley Abbot: It was awesome; I wish I could express tears drops on paper
Chelsea Williamson-Barnwell: There was such a great connection with every piece
Jade Watts: This has been the best concert I’ve had in all my years in concert choir

Hopefully you can all tell how we felt about the musical magic we created today. Personally, I felt more than privileged to be able to sing in a place with so much history and share the gift of music with so many people that irrespective of whom they were or what background they came from they were touched.

~Onyeka Ononye

Today, we started the day off once again with a traditional English breakfast. Following breakfast, some members of the choir decided to attend a church service at St. John’s Church in Perth, while other members traveled along the streets of Perth to enjoy a historical walking tour. After enjoying the views of the River Tay and learning many facts about the historical significance of Perth, we embarked on our trip to St. Andrews. We all enjoyed the market-like atmosphere that St. Andrews had to offer. Many members enjoyed visiting the Old Course at St. Andrews, the birthplace of golf, while others went shopping on St. Andrews store-front filled streets. After enjoying lunch and shopping, we arrived at the Holy Trinity Church where we gave our second performance of the tour. The interior of the church was beautiful and looked like the Great Hall from the Harry Potter movies. During this performance, we performed most of our choir set list, including “Lux Arumque,” “Ain’t Got Time to Die,” and “Emerald Stream.” The Lads, Lassies, and Off-Kilter also performed songs during the show. This performance was definitely one of the best we have had all year, which was a good thing because we used it to record our tour CD. After the performance, we were greeted by the smiling faces of the alumni, friends, and family on the joint tour, who had been touched by the performance. We had the blessing to meet a lady who walked into our performance and was so touched that she hugged each and every member of the choir. After this, we recorded some of the songs that we did not cover in the performance due to time restrictions. The Lassies, Lads, and Off-Kilter also recorded pieces they were unable to perform. We then boarded the bus and headed back to Perth for dinner, and our last night’s sleep in the Salutation Hotel.

~John Cole Kirksey

Also, check out a video of Off Kilter’s performance tonight here:
http://youtu.be/uM1JRKioago  (more videos to be posted soon!)

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Day 4: To Perth

Click on the link below to hear the commercial that was made for the Maryville College Concert Choir Sunday Concert at the Holy Trinity Church in St. Andrew’s.

Choir MP3

Day 4 Reflections
Our journey started with a hardy, delicious breakfast.  Then we loaded up our luggage, jumped on the bus and made our way towards Perth.  During the ride we occasionally stopped for a picture and some snack breaks.  At one point our tour guide began to tell us a story about the Massacre of the MacDonald’s by the Campbell’s.  There were so many beautiful sights my camera couldn’t click fast enough!  Through our travels to Perth we stopped for some lunch at Pitlochry.  There I had some of the best-grilled salmon I have ever tasted.  Once our lunch break was over, we got back on our buses and took a short drive to Perth.  When we arrived into the town of Perth, it reminded me of Downtown Knoxville.  Once we got settled into the new hotel room it was time to do some shopping.  It was like a race to see the stores; most of them closed at 5 or 5:30.  The styles here in Perth are colorful and very decorative.  After shopping, a nap was needed.  The long day of traveling wore us all out! Dinner is coming up and I can’t wait to see how the rest of the evening unfolds.

~ Courtney Eaton

Today, the choir continued its tour of Scotland by traveling through Glen Coe and Perth.  We were able to get some much needed rest last night, which alleviated some of the jet lag and lifted everyone’s spirits.  After a late breakfast, we left our hotel for a driving tour through Glen Coe, the sight of the infamous Massacre of the MacDonald clan by the Campbell clan.  We stopped at Rannoch Moor to take pictures of the rocky landscape, getting a shot of Torye MacDonald and Emily Campbell-Ferguson, choir members, who managed to make peace long enough for a humorous photo (see below).  We then drove on to a small town called Killin, where  we stopped for a brief amount of time before driving on to Pitlochry, where we took about one and a half hours for lunch and shopping in various stores. Although Pitlochry was a lovely little town, we had to leave at 3:15pm to drive to our new hotel in Perth.

We reached Perth with ample time to explore around town and prepare for a delicious supper at the hotel.  Perth is a busy city with beautiful buildings and lots of places to shop.  The shops closed at about 6:00pm, so we had free time until supper at the hotel.  After supper, was the alumni reception at the hotel, where choir members enjoyed time spent conversing with the alumni who are accompanying us on the parallel tour.

Although we spent quite a long time traveling today, the atmosphere was very relaxed.  All in all, it was a good day spent hanging out with our friends and alumni.

~Amber Roberts

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Day 3: Oban to Mull to Iona

Day 3 Reflections
After an anticipated night’s sleep and a classic Scottish breakfast at our hotel in Glencoe, the members of MC Concert Choir set off to Oban to board the ferry to Mull. On the top seats of the ferry, we passed the majestic view of Scotland’s lush and green islands, laden with ruins and lighthouses. After arriving to Mull, we once again boarded the bus to ride across the island, which was scenic, full of verdant countryside and sheep. Then we boarded another ferry to set sail for the isle of Iona to sing at Iona Abbey, which is a classic landmark and spot of pilgrimage, where the Book of Kells was composed. Our concert in the ancient stone church was somewhat unconfident, due to both jetlag and the absence of any meal since out early breakfast. However, our alumni group, as well as Scottish audience members who had ventured to Iona Abbey to see the choir sing greeted us with praise and a long applause. Directly after the concert, we bid the historic stone church and its tall Celtic crosses erected outside the abbey farewell, trekking back to the ferry to Mull, and then across Mull to the ferry to Oban. We ended the day riding back on the bus to our hotel in distant Glencoe to eat an extremely desired dinner after our full day  and go to bed.

~Mary Moates

This morning the sun was up at around 5am, so we awoke bright and early to a wonderful breakfast at the hotel.  A wide variety of foods were offered, including eggs, cheese, fruit, and porridge which is a traditional Scottish breakfast.  There were others including a Scottish dish called blood pudding.  After that, we loaded our buses.  Our journey trip to Iona for our concert consisted of two lengthy bus rides and two ferry trips.  The length of the travel gave us the opportunity to enjoy the lovely scenery.  While the landscape often closely resembles that of the Appalachian area, we saw lots of sheep and shaggy highland cows instead of the usual sort of cows we’re used to seeing at home.  While on the ferries, we watched the beautifully clear water, the mountains, and some ruins.  Some of us actually caught a glimpse of some dolphins.  Once we arrived at Iona, we walked to the sound of bagpipes to the Abbey.  Iona is a very peaceful place with many old stone structures.  The abbey is large and very impressive.  The amazing acoustics inside made it even more exciting.  We were all very tired and somewhat hesitant, but the audience—our alumni plus some other people who happened by seemed to enjoy our music.  “Ain’t Got Time to Die” was a hit as well as Off Kilter’s Loch Lomond.  After the concert, we took the ferries and buses back to our hotel for another delicious dinner and a good night’s sleep.

~ Cicely Babb

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