Saturday 20 April 2019

Four countries, fourteen cities and one Mass for the Choral Society!

Enniscorthy Choral Society at St Bavo’s Cathedral in Ghent
Enniscorthy Choral Society at St Bavo’s Cathedral in Ghent

Pádraig Byrne

The recent baggage handlers strike at Brussels airport played absolute havoc with the very best laid plans for Enniscorthy Choral Society, leading them to embark on an adventure that involved four countries, fourteen cities and one Mass!

The group were travelling to Ghent in Belgium over the bank holiday weekend to perform the Saint Oliver Plunkett Mass by Belgian composer Ernest de Regge in St Bavo's Cathedral. While some of the early travellers made it to the destination and were enjoying a coffee at the hotel, reports began to come in of irretrievable luggage and frantic visits to various retail clothing outlets in Ghent. Those still to travel, at this stage, were advised to bring carry-on luggage only. The Friday saw the remaining choir members make their way to Dublin Airport.

'Most were en route when the email arrived to say that flights had been cancelled,' said Choral Society chairperson Judy Pomeroy. 'Eventually gathering at Desk 11 in Departures, discussion took place with regard to the alternatives. A couple of resourceful members were swiftly using up their phone credit on hold to the airline and soon had organised flights to Dusseldorf and Frankfurt the following morning. Some, understandably, decided to go home and one lucky soprano who had forgotten her passport, had time to nip back home to retrieve it!'

Aer Lingus provided the group with a hotel room and evening meal and at 4.15 a.m. they were shuttled back to the airport and were on their way. Arriving in Dusseldorf, one group travelled by train, via Cologne, Aachen and Leuven to Brussels and onward to Ghent arriving at their hotels by 3 p.m.

The group due to have travelled on Saturday morning were also cancelled and rerouted first via Amsterdam and then via Dusseldorf. They arrived in Ghent at 9 p.m. The Frankfurt pair followed, only to have their train from Cologne to Aachen cancelled so they were diverted via Neuss, missing their connection but eventually arriving in Ghent at 10 p.m. There was an audible sigh of relief when the choir gathered for dinner in Ghent on Saturday night and on the Sunday, they delivered a wonderful performance of the mass in the iconic St Bavo's Cathedral, gaining some fantastic feedback from their Belgian audience.

More difficulties awaited for the return journey, however. 'Fifteen members had a hair-raising taxi ride to Brussels Airport, and, as there was no Aer Lingus desk there, phones were getting hot on hold again as re-routing was organised by members,' Judy said. 'This group travelled to Amsterdam, via Antwerp, Breda (where the train was diverted due to a fatal accident up the line) Dordrecht and Rotterdam and stayed overnight in Amsterdam. There was talk of kissing the ground when we finally landed in Dublin the next day!' By Tuesday of last week, almost everyone had returned to Enniscorthy, however, some are still waiting on their luggage to follow!

Enniscorthy Guardian