Bolivar High School students — and a few alumni — experienced the trip of a lifetime early last month after visiting Ireland for a choir festival.
The group was in Ireland from June 5-12 and performed at Limerick Sings International Choral Festival in Limerick, alongside choirs from Missouri State University and Kickapoo High School in Springfield. Twenty people in total from Bolivar were in attendance, including current students, one BHS alum, chaperones and parents.
Bolivar’s choir, led by instructor Morgan DeClue, had planned the trip for well over a year, with plenty of fundraising along the way. The group stayed in Limerick and Dublin, and toured several castles and ruins.
Attendee Madalyn Jenkins, BHS 2018 graduate and current Mizzou student, said most days on the trip followed a general routine.
“We would have rehearsals in the morning until around noon, and then we would go do different sightseeing things,” she said.
In addition to castles, the group saw The Book of Kells and went to the Cliffs of Moher when they weren’t rehearsing.
Then at night, the group got “the true Irish experience,” incoming junior Colton Rainey said.
“We ate like kings wherever we went,” he said. “Every night was exactly out of an Irish movie.”
The singers heard live music “nearly every night,” and saw Irish dancers and folk singers. In almost everything the group did, music was involved.
“Everybody in Ireland loves music,” Rainey said.
Rainey and Jenkins both chose the cliffs of Moher as their favorite part of the trip, and described it as “quintessential Ireland.”
“You could just turn around and see the ocean (at the cliffs),” Jenkins said. “You would hear Irish folk songs and you’d see the Irish countryside go for miles. I feel like that was the culmination of Ireland.”
The group also learned valuable lessons on the trip. Rainey recalled something that he learned from Cameron LaBarr, their conductor, who they described as “the Yoda of music.”
“LaBarr said, ‘It’s cool how amazing music teaches you things about all music,’” Rainey said, referring to a Mozart piece they studied.
The attendees were also in close proximity to the president while in Ireland. Donald Trump was visiting Limerick at the same time the choir was there, and his secret service agents even stayed in the same dormitory.
“We never saw him, but he was there,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins and Rainey both have fond feelings about their time in Bolivar’s choir. Jenkins was involved all four years of her high school education, while Rainey has only been a BHS singer for one year now. But both parties recognize the value in the group.
“It’s something that a lot of people from a lot of different walks of life do. There’s not really another organization like that at the high school,” Jenkins said. “Mrs. DeClue really focuses on making us a community, and she does a really good job with that.”
Rainey agreed and said, “There are other clubs that are diverse, but I don’t think any are as diverse as choir.”
Rainey and Jenkins also expressed their appreciation for DeClue and admired her leadership on the trip. The group faced multiple dilemmas with flights being delayed, canceled and rescheduled, and Rainey said DeClue “kept her cool the whole time.”
“She did so much for us, and she handled it so well,” Jenkins said. “Each time we had a problem, she didn’t even bat an eye.”
“I never felt like we were in a situation where there wasn’t a solution. She would always figure it out,” Rainey added.
The two choir members described the trip as “surreal,” and were often in awe of Ireland and all it has to offer.
“The entire trip, everybody was so nice and our experiences were so wonderful overall, that it felt too good to be true,” Jenkins said.
Rainey agreed and added that the trip was “a warm and fuzzy feeling the whole time.”