Friday was another trek through Ireland’s cities: we would begin in Limerick, play a concert in Wexford, and finally arrive in Dublin at approximately midnight. Yet, with such a busy day before us, we still managed to enjoy sightseeing in this beautiful country. In particular, we went to the renowned Rock of Cashel, an ancient structure which served the dual role of religious significance and administrative purposes during its usage.
In our guided tour through the Rock, we were presented with stunning architecture: staggering arches and pinnacles of magnificent towers, all sculpted from limestone and weathered through the ages. The legend goes that the Rock itself originated from St. Patrick, who banished the devil from a cave. The resulting conflict between the two ended with the Rock landing in Cashel from its former location, and thus it became a site of ecclesiastical affairs. The Rock’s importance for the faith is confirmed through nothing other than a cathedral situated there, its construction dating back to the thirteenth century.
The Cloigteach was also there, one of a series of bell towers throughout the country. With its only entrance situated about 20-30 feet above ground, it’s largely speculated that it would have served as a defensive or strategic location. Rope pulleys are actually what mostly allow people to navigate it; staircases and floors are infrequent within it. Still, it was a formidable building, jutting into the cloud-covered sky as we wove around its breadth.
After our tour of Cashel, we departed for a brief lunch and made our way to Wexford for the concert. However, our venue, the National Opera House, was not the typical stage I had expected to set my feet upon. Not only is it a relatively new institution (opened in 2008), but additionally, its auditorium is carved like the wood of an instrument’s interior. Gold lights on each level glimmered like stars, casting illumination upon a sea of blue seats below. Acoustically, the resonance of the hall itself was entirely distinct from any other area we’ve played before, which made our pre-concert rehearsal an exercise in adjusting to the unique ambiance it provided.
When the concert actually began, the air of enthusiasm was as tangible as the sonority of our tuning pitches. There was something reciprocal in our interaction with the audience: we loved to play, and they loved to listen. This mutual feeling elevated our music and made it so much more evocative. The emotional content of what we were doing corresponded to the caliber at which we played. It was one of the most rewarding experiences as a musician, and it also led me to ponder.
It’s fairly certain that some major cultural differences separate the U.S. from Ireland. That’s partially why this tour is so wonderful: because it allows us to engage in these traditions and experience these customs. Regardless, as we bowed, a standing ovation and the roar of applause washing over us, I realized that the other facet of this tour that is so important is also what unites us. Even with the split in beliefs and ideologies, when we were there, we were all joined through music and what it meant to every one of us.
And I consider that to be one of the most important expressions of what it means to be human.