Our day began with a very enjoyable coach tour through Belfast, led by Molly Bird. She is quintessentially Irish, but lives in Orem, Utah and visits and brings tours frequently back to her home country. As we were on the coach quite a bit or in rehearsal, there are not a lot of people photos today. I invite you to enjoy Belfast as much as I did, whether through raindrops or in sun. We’ve had each equally today. This gives you a taste of a day very full of activities.
The parliament building is reputed to be the most beautiful in Europe, and I would agree. The tree-lined walk up to it is a mile, and it is situated at the top of the hill, which gives it even more prominence.
We passed a store called “Wee Dotes” at which I didn’t aim my camera fast enough. Molly explained that it’s a children’s store: children are doted upon, so “wee dotes” are children.
We passed City Hall often as it was near our hotel and concert site. Rain, clouds or sun, it is a beautiful building. I particularly enjoyed the statue of Queen Victoria, who was seldom amused, backed by the Ferris Wheel. The wheel itself was meant to be a temporary structure, but was left when it proved to be very popular.
Some of us rode the Ferris Wheel and got some great views of the city through raindrops. From it we could see “Samson and Goliath,” two 100+ year-old cranes that built many a ship in Belfast’s heyday. In fact, the Titanic was built here, and set sail from Cobh, which we visited last week. There is a Titanic memorial that the entrance to the wheel wends around. The cranes are still in use today, though the parts have been replaced as needed through the years.
The Queen’s University in Belfast is the premier university in Northern Ireland, and was built during Queen Victoria’s reign. Indeed, Belfast is a Victorian city.
The Prince Albert clock is tilting like the Tower of Pisa, and for the same subsidence reasons. People here say an untrustworthy person is like the clock: a different face for every situation. (There are four faces.)
The Ulster Hall where the Singers rehearsed and performed Saturday night is an incredible hall. It has a very impressive history since its opening in 1862. In this hall, Charles Dickens and Randolph Churchill spoke; Elgar and Paul Robeson performed; and Led Zeppelin premiered “Stairway to Heaven”. Quite an eclectic history. Bedford Street was bombed in 1992, when Ulster Hall sustained serious damage. A major renovation was undertaken, and the hall was rededicated just this last March.
The choir absolutely loved singing in this hall, and the concert reflected that. We are so grateful to the Belfast sponsors who went to such effort to secure the hall and sponsor the concert. Singers opened and closed the concert; a Belfast choir, Capella Ceciliana, performed several numbers quite beautifully in the middle. The two choirs sang Monteverdi’s “Cantate Domino” together. It would be difficult to pick the audience’s favorite piece of the concert as they responded so enthusiastically to all. The concerts all end with “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain,” which is a perfect way to end with smiles and excitement. There has been at least one encore every concert to this point.
The students met up with their host families again after the concert, and headed home for a night’s rest and to pack up for leaving Belfast on Sunday. Those of us who knew Lyndsey Stewart-Howell in Singers a few years ago were very happy to meet her delightful family. The girls who stayed with them didn’t really want to leave.
I’m not sure any of us were eager to move on—this has been a wonderful stay in Belfast. Everything has been so well organized, and we have felt very welcome and well taken care of.