|Adventures in Ireland
January 5th, 2007
A very happy and blessed New Year to all of our family and friends, especially to all those we have met while performing! You are all very dear to us and we wish you much peace and joy in 2007.
Celtic Spring had a wonderful trip to Ireland to do the photoshoot for our CD, "Cornerstone." Once we had the name, we knew that the perfect location for our photos would be the beautiful, old, stone, ruined abbeys that are a part of the scenery of County Clare. For us, Ireland is the cornerstone of our music. It was my Irish grandparents that deeply instilled a love for the Irish culture in me that made me want to pass on this love to our children through the music and dance. Furthermore, the abbeys were the original centers of the Catholic faith after St. Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland, and our Irish grandparents passed on a love of their Catholic faith to my parents who then passed the faith on to me. Our Christianity is the Cornerstone of our family's life. Thus, we were incredibly happy and honored to be visiting the old, hallowed, stone edifices that were the foundation of Ireland's faith.
We flew into Shannon Airport on the afternoon of Thanksgiving Day, and after all the hard work of recording our CD all through the fall, it was wonderful to just be together to have time to explore and relax for ten days. We were happy to be in Ireland during a very quiet time of year, when we would just be with the Irish people, and the weather would be wild, gray, wet, windy, with rainbows across the sky several times each day. We left the airport in pursuit of the first Abbey, Quinn Abbey, in the little town of Quinn, near Ennis in Clare. This 15th Century Franciscan Abbey loomed up massive and beautiful set against the countryside. We crossed the meadow, found the gate open and walked in, delighted to find an intricate, well-preserved cloister with rows of arches, around a central courtyard. We explored all over, finding stone stairways up to rooftop views. Eventually, someone came and told us that the Abbey was closing, so we parted, determined to return with our photographer. When we returned a week later with the photographer only to find that the abbey was locked up. We were dismayed but I immediately went across the street to the pub to see if anyone there had a key or knew how we could obain one. I was told to ask at a store a few doors down. I ran there and inquired and was told, "Walk down the street, past three houses, a garden, and then knock on the next door. I knocked, was happy to have an answer from a woman who did have a key but she told me that the abbey had been locked up since October. I told her that we had just visited the abbey the week before and were back again to take photos of our band there. She insisted that the abbey had been closed since October, so I realized we were very lucky to probably have found the abbey on a day that a worker was there. The woman very graciously escorted me back to the abbey with the key, unlocked the gate, and watched us do the photos
We spent the first two nights at the gracious Old Ground Hotel in downtown Ennis, right across from the Cathedral. The first night our older children heard Tommy Peoples and his daughter, Siobbhan, performing in Brogan's Pub, and the next night, our children joined in a session at Cruise's Pub. A group of Americans recognized Celtic Spring from America's Got Talent. Cruise's Pub ended up being our favorite place for dinner, where we had our own little stone room in front of a stone fireplace.
On Friday, we set off to find more abbeys, Clare, just outside Ennis, and Killone, also near Ennis. We found the first one easily, but could not get close to it since a housing tract had been built nearby and there seemed to be no road to access it and the bordering terrain seemed boggy. We ventured on to Killone, and had a very hard time finding it. We drove through the countryside appearing to be following the map, but could not find it. Finally, we flagged down a local and he refined our directions. We took a small country road and ended up at a worksite. A large bulldozer cleared a path for us and the driver told us that we were at the right place. We now had to hike to the monastery. (It was nowhere in sight.) We hiked through fields of cows, sloshed through mud, and came upon another beautiful monastery above a lake. This monastery had been founded by the Augustinians,(our parish at home is run by the Augustinians,) and it was full of graves. A young man who had drowned in the lake had been buried there recently. Though we thought the monastery lovely, we could not see us hiking with a photographer and his equipment to the remote location. We explored one more monastery that day, Dysert O'Dea, an 8th. century ruin with a high cross from the 12th. century.
The next day we set out for more abbeys, Kilmacduagh in Galway, and Corcomroe in Clare, next to the Burren. Kilmacduach, founded in the 7th. century and rebuilt in the 11th. century, rose massive out of the Irish countryside set against a backdrop of the Burren. Kilmacduach proved to be our favorite of all and we ended up returning two times with the photographer. We loved the stone, arched, intricate windows, the stone relief of St. Patrick, and the stone altars. We were very moved to think of Mass having been said on the altars 1000. years ago. There was a very tall round tower that was leaning slightly and when we looked up it appeared to be falling. When we discovered that, it appeared to be falling away from us, but when we moved to the other side and looked up, it appeared to be falling on us.
We followed the signs to head north to the coast to reach our destination of Corcomroe Abbey. After driving for about 15 minutes a huge abbey loomed into view, and I was puzzled, because there were no other abbeys in this vicinity. We kept driving to realize that we were right back where we started from. What was really funny for us was when we returned with our photographer and it was time to leave, we decided to let him navigate since he was Irish and might have more success, and the very same thing happened to him. Apparently, the locals like to keep the visitors at their monastery. We successfully navigated on the second attempts. On our way up to Corcomroe Abbey, our family made a visit to Coole Park, the home of poet William Butler Yeats' friend, Lady Gregory.
We ended up at Corcomroe right before sundown. (which was around 4:30) A Cistercian Abbey founded in the 12th. century, Corcomroe is in a beautiful valley right on the edge of the Burren. It was very cold and blustery during our visit and we were trying to imagine a photoshoot in those conditions. We joked that maybe our photographer could take the shots of the abbeys, and then shoot us indoors and photoshop us in. We do not like gimmicks and would have withstood just about any conditions to avoid such an event. (Which we did!) At the end of our stay we were joined by the foreman of a work project going on at the abbey, and he recommended another abbey in Galway, just north of Kinvarra. We added that to our list of sites to explore.
That night we were headed to Doolin to spend the night but first we had a quick stop in Kilfenora to look at one more 12th. century abbey with some beautiful high crosses. We added that to our list of abbeys to return to with the photographer.
Doolin is a little town right on the ocean in Clare and we arrived on a cold, windy night. We decided to stay in the Doolin Hotel, since we were to meet the photographer there a few night later. The hotel was brand new, with lots of tile and modern decor, which would be quite nice in Southern California, but felt a little cold and not cosy enough for Ireland. But any lack was more than made up by the gracious hospitality of the staff. Fiona, a young woman from Australia served us our absolutely wonderful breakfasts and dinners. The hotel made a special vegetarian menu for us and on the days of the photoshoot gave us wonderful scones and pastries, which were deeply appreciated when we did not even have time to stop for lunch.
In Doolin we played music one night in McGann's Pub and were very warmly received. Another group of Americans recognized us! We had two more days to explore before we were to meet our photographer back in Doolin, so we headed to our favorite city, Galway, where we listened to music in a pub, ate fish and chips, and then drove around Connemara, visiting Kylemore along the way.
Our only adventure in Galway was when when we were leaving Connemara and I wanted to make a brief detour to the Ashford Castle. We drove up the long drive in the night , viewed the impressive castle, and then took what we thought was the road that continued back out to the main road. Well, the road wound on for miles and finally brought us out far back from where we had entered. We thought that would be just a quick detour.
On Monday night we made it back to our hotel in Doolin, met with Mike O'Toole, our photographer from Dublin, and his assistant, Hugh, made an itinerary and planned to meet for breakfast at 7:30 and leave immediately after for Kilmacduach. The next morning we sat down for breakfast while the rain poured down, the wind roared, and the sky was still black. We wondered how our day would unfold.
Mike and Hugh proved a delight to work with. The weather was constantly changing, so we had enough breaks from the wet and wind. Mike could always tell when rain was imminent, so we would make it to cover just in time. We ventured all over Clare, from monastery to monastery, stopping also in the countryside for a shot of the children dancing on a stone wall and in the burren for beautiful sun down photos. Mike took over 1000 photos over the course of the two days. We have since seen the results and are very pleased.
We returned home from Ireland to immediately have to attend a rehearsal in LA for the Dorothy Chandler Christmas Eve Performance. From then on our lives were whirlwinds of long days at the recording studio finishing up our CD, preparing for Christmas in any free moments, and preparing our house for a house full of relatives at Christmas. Christmas was a glorious celebration for our family as we kept our tradition of performing on Christmas Eve, followed by a peaceful dinner next to the theater, and then crossing the street to the Los Angeles Cathedral for Midnight Mass. We had a much needed vacation, and now begin a busy performing schedule. As I write, the family is packing up the car for performances up in the Bay Area. We hope to have the CD finished soon but we still have the mixing, mastering, and graphics to complete. We look forward to announcing the release of "Cornerstone"!