ON Good Friday, 30 members of Castleisland Parish Choir took to the road and visited Glenstal Abbey in Murroe, Co Limerick.
The trip was organised by Ailish O'Connor and Julie Twomey in order to facilitate a workshop with singer and theologian Dr Noirin Ni Riain as well as to visit the abbey and participate in the Good Friday ceremonies there.
Ailish has in the past, worked and performed with Noirin Ni Riain both at home and abroad for various occasions and asked Noirin if she would share her expertise in chant and singing with the choir.
She was only too delighted to meet with the choir and to do a workshop with them on sound production and to teach them some new chant pieces. She suggested that they come to Glenstal Abbey on Good Friday to facilitate the workshop as this is now where she lives and works.
Having completed an MA in Chant Performance in conjunction with the monks of Glenstal and UL, Ailish felt this would be an ideal location for the choir to experience how chant can be used in liturgy today. Assisted by the monks of Glenstal both Noirin and Ailish organised the day, beginning with a workshop for an hour which was held in the magnificent library of Glenstal. Then the choir attended midday prayers followed by lunch and a tour of the icon chapel. Following this the choir attended the Good Friday ceremonies which are chanted by the monks and open to the public to attend.
The icon chapel is in the crypt of the church. It is a chapel with orthofaox icons designed by the architect Jeremy Williams. It is designed in traditional Byzantine style and takes the shape of a cross in a square with a central circle surmounted by a dome.
"Beneath the dome, in painted glass, the artist James Scanlon, a Brosna native, has depcited the mythical beasts of the Bible, the symbols of the four Evangelists. There are icons depicting Chirst, his Mother, the feasts of the Church and saints. It is a beautiful chapel and well worth a visit if you are ever in the area. It was made all the more special because of the talk Noirin gave while the choir were there. She explained what the icons represented and told the choir a little about their history and the interesting story of how the chapel was created," said Ailish.
"We had an absolutely fantastic day overall," said Ailish. "It went better than I could have ever hoped. I felt there were two main highlights - the workshop with Noirin and the visit to the icon chapel. Noirin was an excellent guide and hostess. We also met with Padraig McIntyre who previously worked in the Kerry Diocese with choirs and has now joined the Benedictine order in Glenstal. He was most welcoming and very kind to us. He was most impressed by the choir and has invited us back in the future," she said.
Various members of the choir have described the day as fantastic, excellent and an inspirational experience.
The choir would like to thank Julie Twomey for organising the transport to Glenstal and Fr. Dan O'Riodan for his help in supporting the cost of the trip and for his encouragement always. They would also like to thank Noirin Ni RIain and the monks of Glenstal for providing them with an uplifting and wonderful experience.