A New Adventure!

The choral alumnae are on the move -- again! Our next adventure will take a group of about 55 singers and friends to China, someplace where many of us had never been before. Some members of the tour will be singers who also went to England and Wales during the summer of 2005, while others are joining us for the first time internationally. No doubt fun will ensue!


Arriving home...

A couple tie up notes from the “Blogmistress stand-in” Gina!

Today was a travel day, from Stratford to London to Boston to South Hadley to home, for most of us. Some of us left the group for further travel and adventures, while others peeled off for different paths home at Logan airport. In general, we are safely arrived and happy to be back. Our thanks to all the drivers, pilots, guides, agents and other people who ensured our safe travel.

Some future thoughts to know…
When Cynthia returns to the US (she is among those still traveling in the UK until the 20th of July) she has promised two things…

-A photo community of some sort will be set-up for the distribution and sharing of photos amongst tour-participants.

-A second blog will be established for the tour-participants to keep in touch with one another and to share stories and memories from the trip. Cynthia will create a username and password for tour-participants, as it will be a closed community of users, and will be in touch with the details when they are available!!

Until then…continue to enjoy the music, the memories, the stories and the energy that we shared with each other.

Gina ‘01

Sunday, July 10

Marilyn, Class of 1969

The denouement of a novel is that point where the main plot is resolved; all that remains is to tie up loose ends. That’s what today was. Eisteddfod is over, we’ve left Wales, and are on our way home or on to further travels in Britain.

But there were still a few events, and a few surprises….
Such as the 7:05 AM fire alarm at the John Milton resident hall, rousting us out of our rooms in various states of dress or undress (thanks to John Lemly who ran off to get college officials to turn it off; it turned out that steam from someone’s shower set it off)…
And the second hotel with a defunct elevator, the Falcon in Stratford…

But the real event of the day was the farewell dinner. Already, some have left the group for their own travels. But most of us remained to assemble for this very special dinner, with thanks to all tour participants!

We recognize Debby, Paula, and Jean, respectively, for the first, second, and third rounds of wine at the tables!

Bryn, our fantastic Welsh guide, presented the following ditty:

A choir from Mount Holyoke
Such friendly and talented folk
Did travel to Wales
(With just a few males)
And the Eisteddfod tradition did soak.

They traveled from London to Bath,
Cardiff was next in their path,
Chepstow of course
Where they sang themselves hoarse
Led by their conductress Cath (arine).

Llangollen was next on the list
The sun did shine in their midst
The check-in at Chester
Was a really big tester
But patience in the end did persist.

So to Catharine and all in the group
Jean, Judy, Lee, Emyr and troupe
To you all at this time
I dedicate this fine rhyme
Three cheers I request you to whoop!

MC Alicia introduced the 6 groups and their performances, along with a few other surprises…

The Bass Clefs presented the “2006 entry for Llangollen” in the Barbershop category, nursery rhymes with Jean conducting, waving Bryn’s Welsh flag.

The Quarter Notes performed a parody of rehearsal, with Mark conducting, complete with exaggerated Cathy mannerisms.

Connie “Everyone is a Queen (or King)” gave that title to everyone, culminating in Cathy’s being The Queen of Queens.

The Treble Clefs did the “Gong Show,” with Cathy as the gongmaster. The Erie Canal received a reinterpretation as the “Llangollen Canal.” John lectured on why fire engines are always red.

The Sharps presented “Sing What I Tell Thee,” a takeoff on “Go Where I Send Thee.”

A “musical” interlude featured Mark and Alison playing “Show Me the Way to Go Home” arranged for two kazoos.

The Double Flats presented “Sing a Song” with graceful sign language added.

The Triplets presented the MHC Goodnight Song, with an added verse for the choir and the trip.

There were many gifts!

Cathy presented Judy and Bryn, our guides, with the CD, MHC Glee Club Christmas Concerts, Volume 3. She presented musical-themed socks to Alicia, the MC. Joan and Debbie each received a wine coaster.

Bambi and Tina presented a Shakespeare finger puppet and a painting of the Shakespeare statue to John Lemly.

John presented a Welsh dragon to Cathy.

The tour gave Mark two tickets to a Broadway show of his choosing. Each group presented mementos to Cathy, including Roman bath salts, the book, “The Right Way to Sing,” a Welsh lovespoon in the shape of a treble clef, a Welsh dragon apron hat, and pin, a Llangollen 2005 plate, and a framed photograph of the choir performing at Llangollen.

Altogether a wonderful, memorable evening, and a fitting end to a terrific trip! It was unforgettable! ---Marilyn, ‘69


By the Way

Festival people said that photos of our group performing should be available for purchase on the web in about one week. Address: www.fotofire.com

More Competition Notes

Hi everyone! These notes are from Nathalie, '88. Thanks for checking in on our latest progress. We were pleased with our performance at the Eisteddfod, but we didn't win. Or place. Here's what I think happened to us.

We have come to embody what our Alma Mater calls us to do, and we represent the ideals of the Llangollen International Eisteddfod. Truly.

Consider these few lines from our Alma Mater:
"So from east and from west now we gather
And united in firm love to thee
All years are as one
And their loyal pledge
Mount Holyoke forever shall be."

That's us in a nutshell.

The village of Llangollen started this festival in 1947 "to create a haven of peace and friendship through music... a place where people from all over the globe come together in harmony and share in the music of the world." I couldn't describe it any better myself.

When we got "the call" from Cathy, we all jumped at the chance to participate. Many devoted alumnae spent countless hours working out all of the details. We were excited, but nervous, as we all learned our music alone. Could we really pull this off? We came from 26 states and 50 years of graduating classes. How could this come together?

But it did, starting in South Hadley. Each rehearsal tightened our technique and every performance strengthened our confidence. So on to today.

We had a great warmup in the Chester College Small Hall -- so great that we didn't want to let the moment go. Cathy spoke of past Glee Club t-shirts saying "The toughest job you'll ever love" and "When Cathy says 'sing,' we say 'how high?'" We were pretty high.

We learned on the bus that our newest friends in Chepstow had called in their best wishes for a great competition. Another boost.

When we got backstage at the festival, we applauded the German choir as they came off the stage and we were going on. 'Cause we know good stuff when we hear it and we celebrate it.

We processed on stage feeling really good and gave a strong performance. But the judges thought that other choirs had even better performances. If you look at the scores, they were all in the 80's, so I guess all of the choirs got "B's." There were only 5 percentage points separating first (one of the Czech groups) and sixth (us).

So, are we disappointed? Of course we are. We are Uncommon Women and we want the world to acknowledge and celebrate it.

But here's the thing -- challenging ourselves with something this big shows just how common we are. I haven't checked with the Eisteddfod PR folks, but I bet that there haven't been very many competing choirs with our circumstances!

Perhaps our finest hour was when we kicked off the Choirs of the World concert -- a packed house of 4,000 plus, broadcast live on the BBC -- with a rousing "Go Where I Send Thee!" spiritual. What a rush. And the Welsh lullaby "Suo-gan," sung in Welsh. Not a bad end to an international festival.

I am proud to be singing with the most Uncommon group of women I have ever known. They have brought the meaning of the Alma Mater and Eisteddfod to life.

Thank you to everyone who responded to Cathy's call to help with her dream -- a host of alums, their families, and all of you supporting us at home. What a wonderful adventure.

Respectfully submitted,
Nathalie, '88
Alto 2
American Studies, International Cultural History
VP Account Strategy at
Yamamoto Moss, Minneapolis, MN

July 9 -- The Competition Day

(First, from the blogmistress -- we've been WICKED busy! Not to mention without email access for days, so no postings. Sorry to our loyal friends and family! We hope to get all of the relevant updates down today. We're currently in Stratford-Upon-Avon, birthplace of Shakespeare, and the tour is winding down. See you soon! --Cynthia, '00)
It's Lee, '78 from Portland, Oregon, writing today.

It's a beautiful summer day. We walked "down the lane" to Small Hall at Chester College in England (our sleeping space for the festival) for our morning warm-up.We are sounding good... and excited.

I waited in the breakfast line this morning next to a man from Brittany. A little international mingling, but not much conversation. The real question: was he among those dancing until 1:30 last night to 80's tunes?

The bus to the festival was much too hot and it wasn't just the dresses.

At the festival, we were escorted into a locker room to wait for our turn to compete. We're going to be fifth out of six groups. Cathy was interviewed by festival personnel just before we went on, so that the presenter had plenty of things to say about us as all 65 of us took the stage.

The stage at the festival is beautiful, filled with flowers, but the lights are hot. We wait for the special bell that tells us we may begin our performance. It's over like that. I thought that we sounded great and we were all pleased with our performance, especially considering that we had never sung on the stage before the performance.

Off to another mysterious English meal after changing. The contents of my plate are a roll, a pat of butter, some lettuce, and a small whole onion, topped by a slab of cheese. The only utensil provided is a knife. Oh wait, it's a sandwich.

At our adjudication later, one judge speaks for all of them... We are disappointed with the results, it's true, since we didn't even place. However, we all agree that the experience of performing at the festival was what mattered most and that the trip was about more than that one specific performance. A judge from the US who was not on our panel told us that he thought we did wonderfully and that he was proud to be American when he heard us sing. We're grateful for that!

Later, some of us took a trip down the local canal, though not pulled by a mule named Sal (instead, a horse named Sam). The weather is still beautiful and it feels great to sit and do nothing. We can hear other choirs competing as we float past the Eisteddfod site.

Tonight is our last night singing together as we open the Choirs of the World concert. We got a great intro from the MC, telling the audience that our coach for learning Welsh was Bryn Terfel, a famous Welsh singer... from his CD. (Which earns a laugh from the audience.) The audience was packed at the evening concert and we sounded great since we were so relaxed.

All in all, it was a really great day! --Lee, '78

July 8

I'm Alison and I hail from Seattle, WA. I graduated from MHC in 1994 with a BA in art history. I now work at a community college and am loving the vacation I'm getting from work right now!

Back to the tour--- after an exhilarating concert with the Chepstow Men's Choir at the beautiful St. Mary's Church last night, we set off for Llangollen early in the morning. Most of us were so fatigued (we didn't get back to the hotel until sometime past 11p), that the rolling motion of the bus easily lulled us to sleep.

We stopped for a brief rest in Rhayador, Wales, and I finally began to awaken.

The scenery around us during the ride was just lovely: lush, rolling hills dotted with sheep and an occasional castle.

We stopped outside Llangollen for a spot of lunch. The buses parked down the street as they were too huge to go lurching about on the barrow streets of the town. We walked our way up to the Golden Pheasant, set in an idyllic Welsh village, to eat sandwiches and drink tea.

We rolled on to Llangollen arriving around 3pm. The festival was crowded and set with the main pavilion in the center surrounded by various craft and food vendors. I sat in on one set of performance and adjudication; the judges dished out the good with the bad, reminding me that we are in a competition! I've just been happy so far to perform with this fabulous group, never mind competing.

We ate the food the festival had prepared for the competitors dinner: no mixing of hot and cold items, please. Then, we moved on to our last full rehearsal in the Town Hall. Cathy gave us her last inspirational talk after an accurate and beautiful rendition of our test piece, Fact Ut Ardeat.She compared our singing of three pieces in the competition to the three actors who acted nine parts in the "Tempest" production some of us saw back in London; we are one choir singing three very different pieces, and we should engage the audience with these differences, both overt and subtle.

Now, we are rolling towards Chester College, looking forward to some much needed rest before we compete tomorrow. According to the program, we are competing 5th in the female choir division, which begins at noon. We are also first on the program for the evening concert tomorrow slated to begin at 7:30pm. --Alison '94

July 7

This morning we were greeted with the unpleasant news about the bombings in London. Many of us wept and we are all deeply saddened by this tragedy. Our hearts and prayers and blessing go out to the people of our recent host city. How fitting it is the we journey to the Eisteddfod, a festival promoting world peace through music.

Putting the bad news aside, we had a morning free and full of choices. Some of us went to the beautiful Cardiff Bay with its pretty scenery, many shops, and pubs. Others made their way to St. Fagan's, an historical village similar to Greenfiled Village in Dearborn, MI or Sturbridge Village in MA. Still others chose to go to downtown Cardiff. Once there we fanned out across the city; to the National Museum and its impressive collection of Impressionist painting and a spectacular display on evolution or to patronize the local shops and eateries. Downtown Cardiff has its castle at the center, quaint stone buildings housing shops and pubs, and lovely Victorian shopping arcades. We learned about the Welsh tradition of Love Spoons and I was among those filling our backpacks (or bum bags as they are called here) with gifts and goodies.

Upon the recommendation of the shop owner, a few of us lunched at one of the local pubs and enjoyed authentic Welsh Rarebit---yum! As expected, the tea is the best. This unseasoned traveler even tasted clotted cream-- heavenly!

In the afternoon we headed towards Chepstow. Once there, we were greeted by members of the Chepstow Men's Choir, and taken to Abaty Tyndyrn (Tintern Abbey), ruins of a 1300 Cistern abbey. The abbey's Gothic remains stand tall against its pastoral surroundings. Sun streams in from its absent roof casting beautiful light patterns across its massive stone columns and arches. We gathered for a picture, wearing our cornflower blue tour-shirts, and sang g a bit. John Lemly read lines from William Wadsworth's poem "Tintern Abbey," which was written on July 13, 1798.

Continuing on to Chepstow Castle, we posed for another photo-- and had a quick stint as a marching band!

Our hosts for our evening concert were extremely warm and welcoming. The concert at St. Mary's benefit ted the St. David's foundation, a hospice care in Chepstow. Here we were billed as "the Mt. Hollyaoke Ladies Chorus"--- has a bit of a British ring to it, doesn't it? Our concert was well received and our hosts from the men's chorus were most hospitable. We were welcomed to a social at a nearby athletic club, where the Welsh truly opened their arms and embraced us fully. The folks sitting with me were genuinely surprised to see some of us women drinking pints of beer--- apparently not a "ladies drink." The men sang more informally and if we weren't concerned about our bus drivers' need for sleep, I'm certain the revelry would have gone on until the wee hours of the morning.

Off to the Llangollen festival in the morning! --Anne FP '05


Additional News from the Blogmistress

We've received additional information about our upcoming competition and would like to share it with you. It turns out that we are one of only 6 choirs competing in our division of the festival. The other choirs are from the Czech Republic (2), Trinidad and Tobago, Germany, and England. We are one of only 3 choirs from the United States competing at the festival -- the other two entrants were children's choirs.

We will compte on Saturday morning and we will be 5th in line out of 6 choirs. For those of you who may be interested in watching our performance live on the Llangollen webcast, we expect to be in our competition performance at about noon. For those not interested in getting up that early (especially you West Coasters), we will also be performing in the Choirs of the World concert that evening -- we will be performing FIRST and the concert begins at 7:30 pm local time. (That's 5 hours earlier than Eastern Daylight Savings time, if you are confused. So, we would be performing in the evening concert at 3:30 pm South Hadley time.)

The Blogmistress apologizes formally for the lack of photos in these recent entries. Although computer access is consistent, Internet access with that computer is not as regular since our arrival in the UK, making the process of transferring digital photos to the blog nearly impossible. We promise that we are taking lots of photos to share with friends and family back home and we will be sure to post these photos when we return to the States.

We are starting to get used to the weather here in the UK. It seems warmer in Wales than it was in London. The weather today in Cardiff (Thursday) is especially beautiful, with sunshine, warmth, and a light breeze, just like your favorite South Hadley spring day.

All over the news this morning is the hype of London winning their bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics. People seem to be mostly ecstatic, with a few negative comments from the locals mixed in for good measure. For those who may be watching the news today, there seems to have been some sort of accident in the Tube in London -- please do not worry about us, since we left London yesterday. We are looking forward to singing in Chepstow tonight! --Cynthia, '00

July 6

Riki here, class of '75 from Brunswick, ME covering July 6.

Many of us enjoyed yesterday's free afternoon and evening in London, visiting sites like the Museum of Science (Chris '71, Jean '74), Kensington Palace (Alison '75, Mark, our accompanist), and the London Eye (Suzanne '77, Betsy '78, and yours truly). Many of us went to many different theater productions in the evening, including "Woman in White," "Billy Eliot," "The Producers," "The Lion King," and "Far Pavilions." All this fun in London made today's 8:15 am departure from the hotel a bit of a challenge. Nonetheless, our new Welsh tour guides, Bryn and Judy, in two new coaches, emblazoned with the red Welsh dragon, had us rolling away from the Kensington Close Hotel on time, heading out the M4 motorway to the historic city of Bath.

Any trip to Bath must start with the Roman Baths. While in line, we obliged the staff's request for music in the restored Music Room with a few rounds of "Jubilate Deo" and "Dona Nobis Pacem." From there, everyone did her own thing, exploring Bath.

What was the best part?
-- "The silver, porcelains, and Wedgewood at the Holburn Art Museum." --Alison '75
-- "The Bath Abbey, where Edgar was crowned the first king of England in the year 793." --Susie '72
-- "The whole religiosity of the Roman Baths and their focus on Sulis Minerva, the Roman goddess of healing." --Boots '70

Lunch, wheather pasties, ice cream, or something more substantial, was on our own throughout Bath.

After two more hours of rolling countryside, we crossed the Severn River into Wales. Bryn welcomed us with "Croeso I Caerdydd" or "Welcome to Cardiff." A guided tour through the Cardiff Castle completed the afternoon. The castle, now owned by the city of Cardiff, still shows the Roman walls -- a lavish summer home was rebuilt for the Stuart-Crighton family around the original Norman "keep."

For the next two nights, we are at the Novotel Hotel in Cardiff. After dinner, we rehearsed. Guests visiting Jennifer '91, all native Welsh speakers, pronounced our Welsh fully satisfactory -- hooray! Then Deb and Cathy gave a preview of the next few days. The Llangollen International Eisteddfod officiall opened yesterday and today's news in Cardiff announced winners in the children's choir competition. The Eisteddfod is big news here, and we're looking forward to our chance to compete on Saturday. --Riki, '75

More Notes from July 5

Greetings from London! My name is Jamie, class of '01. I'm living in Portland, ME, working as a program coordinator for a small, wonderful company called Affinity that provides one-on-one in-home support for children with developmental disabilities. I sing in two choirs in the Portland Area, Women in Harmony and the Oratorio Chorale. Both are on break for the summer, so I am very excited about this opportunity to sing and travel with the Alumnae Choir. This is my first visit to the UK.

Today we performed at Grosvenor Chapel. We left the hotel mid-morning in concert dress to rehearse before the concert. Then we had time to relax and socialize over hearty bag lunches (the biggest you've ever seen) at the church. Cathy decided we would start the concert with the US National Anthem because there are American connections to the chapel. It served as a regular worship space for many American troops during World War II. Several people commented that this concert felt better muscially than did our first in South Hadley. We closed our performance with the MHC Alma Mater, and I was delighted to see many London area alumnae in the audience.

After the concert, everyone split up for free time roaming about London. After coffee with fellow choir members and Georgianna, '01, who now lives in Oxford, we went on to visit the Natural History Museum. I was happy to learn that most museums in London are FREE! I also got to reconnect with my friend Shradha, whom I met on a volunteer trip to Thailand last summer. She took some of us on a double decker bus ride to an Indian restaurant for dinner. It was great to have some free time to see a bit of London before moving on to our next destination. --Jamie, '01


July 5

Greetings from London!
I'm Gina, class of 2001, and I am bringing you Tuesday's update:
So, today we started our day with a dress rehearsal in Grosvenor Chapel in Mayfair (a small neighborhood within London) followed by a lunchtime concert there. Attendance was high and there was an impressive turnout from MHC alumnae living in the London area. Their appreciation and enthusiasm for our music was inspiring and touching. Musically, we continue to come together and find our blend as a musical ensemble. If we continue to improve at this rate, by Saturday next we should be stellar!

Last night was theatre and dinner night for many on the town! I joined about 20 other group members for dinner at the Globe Theatre restaurant with Cathy and her husband John, a professor of English, Theatre and African Studies at MHC. John did a skillfull job of introducing us to the themes, readings, and issues of Shakespeare's "The Tempest" over a delicious and fanciful dinner. The newly recreated Globe Theatre is a beautiful and historical reproduction of the original and the experience of seeing any Shakespearian production in it is well worth it! Most of us had the authentic experience of standing in "the pit" for the entirity of the play. This creative rendition of "The Tempest" starred 3 male actors, 3 female dancers, and a choir of 6 (mostly men, one woman) voices. Standing for 2.5 hours amongst a mob of people, in the light rain of an open air theatre in London makes you feel a bit like living in the 17th century, and nothing any of us will forget any time soon!

This morning, Wednesday, we are off to Cardiff, Wales via some sight-seeing stops in Bath. So, farewell London!


Additional Notes from the Blogmistress

One additional fun story from July 4 -- While in Windsor, some people stopped for coffee in a local shop. The person behind the counter recognized us as Americans and offered us 10% off our coffees, since it was "our special day" -- Independence Day!

For those with high speed internet access, you may be interested to know that we have heard that the competition will be broadcast live on the web via the Llangollen web site. Please check it out if you are able and interested, but for our fans in the States, don't forget the time difference! We expect to compete on Saturday morning, local time. We will post more information if we know it! --Cynthia, '00

July 3-4

Entering the log for July 3 and 4, 2005 is Jennifer, '91. Since these two days were as one for us, I'll be covering them in one entry.

July 3, 2005

A group of about '70's started the day by discovering they had been elfed by a classmate who gave them each a piece of candy. They were thrilled to be reliving one more MHC tradition.

The rest of us started Sunday at MHC with a morning of packing. By noon, almost all of our luggage was choking the lobby of Prospect. After lunch, we boarded the busses, practiced counting off to be sure we had everyone, and headed out just before 2 o'clock... we were ahead of schedule and thrilled to be on our way!

The ride to Logan was smooth due to light traffic. The new Ted Williams tunnel brought us right to the airport, we found our airline, unloaded, and began checking in. The process was very efficient and it all happened fairly quickly. As far as I know, we all made it through security without a hitch -- even the knitting needles made it!

Before take-off one of the flight attendants got on the intercom and welcomed our group and wished us luck in the competition. Then she wished Laura, '92 a happy birthday and we sang to her right there on the plane.

July 4, 2005

We landed in Heathrow ahead of schedule and quite early in the morning. We went through customs as a group, so did not get our passports stamped -- which was a disappointment to some. It was a trade off, however, since we didn't have to stand in a very long line with everyone else.

We loaded onto the busses and headed to Windsor castle. We got there before the castle opened, so fit in a lovely walking tour of Windsor first, seeing many interesting sights, including the place where Prince Charles and Camilla were married. The tour guide for one of our busses was actually invited to and attended the ceremony!

After a quick tour of Windsor castle, we had some free time on our own. We gathered at the busses and headed to Runnymeade Park for a picnic lunch. When we arrived, however, it started raining, so we had our picnic on the bus instead. I got to meet up with an old friend that I met while I studied at the University of East Anglia during my junior year. When the rain subsided, some of us hiked through the park to see the JFK memorial in the park.

Then it was off to our hotel to check in. We had a short rehearsal from 4-5 then went our separate ways for dinner. Rehearsal was great. I and my roommate Katie headed out to a nearby French restaurant and did a little window shopping on the way.

We all turned in early -- we have a rehearsal and concert tomorrow in London and are quite tired from our journey! --Jennifer, '91


We Made It

This is just a quick post to let all of our friends and family know that we arrived safely in London, and it seems that all of our luggage made it too! Our posting will be a bit more sporadic from this point forward, since we will probably have to pay for our internet access. We're having a wonderful time -- and we're tired too! We look forward to our first concert in England tomorrow in London. --Cynthia