Tour Blog

Welcome to the Princeton Girlchoir and Princeton Boychoir Tour Blog! This blog is updated every summer while the boys and girls are traveling to perform across the country and around the world.

Day One

Good morning from the "Land of Enchantment"! Now that I've gotten a full night of sleep in, it's time to fill you in on our great first day. 

It all started with a bus ride at 4:30AM to the Philadelphia Airport, and it was clear that we were all pretty excited to be on our way as the girls were (perhaps startlingly) chipper for the early our. I dozed in and out of sleep, but it felt like no time before we arrived at the airport--it's amazing how close it feels when there's no one else on the road! We quickly and efficiently unloaded all of our suitcases from under the bus (in record time, I think!) and, in contrast, got our tickets one by one from the automated ticketing machine (a perk of being over 18 was you could do it yourself!). We got through security with time to spare, so we took advantage of the terminal's culinary offerings before boarding our plane. 

Our flight was relatively uneventful, aside from some turbulance over Ohio and southern Michigan. We landed at around 11AM, and then I had a moment of panic when I realized our next flight would be boarding at around 11:05AM. That's when I figured out that we were in a different time zone, and it was only 10AM, and we had plenty of time to enjoy the airport mall and all of the lumberjack and moose trinkets it had to offer. We all fueled up with some early lunch (it felt like lunch time anyway), boarded our plane with minimal seat switching (as per tour tradition), and enjoyed a smooth flight and some beautiful scenery on our way to Albuquerque.

After disembarking from our plane, we could already feel a shift in culture evident from the southwestern architecture and artwork all around the airport. We met our tour guide and collected our luggage (it was all there!), boarded our bus, and made the hour-long drive to Santa Fe. Along the way, we were treated to some amazing scenery that was completely foreign to those of us who spend most of our time in New Jersey. We arrived at our hotel (a pretty high-quality Quality Inn), had just enough time to unload our luggage, and then it was back onto the bus to head to the Santa Fe Opera.

Situated in the mountains outside of town, the Santa Fe opera is actually an outdoor venue, with the back of the stage open to the beautiful mountain scenery behind it. We were treated to a very cool backstage tour of all aspects of the opera productions: we saw how they loaded huge set pieces from the workshops to the stage via a huge lift, we saw the shops where they were working on building and painting huge set pieces for upcoming productions, we saw the prop shop (which included some creepy severed heads) and costume department, their orchestral rehearsal space, and the huge warehouse that stores all of the set pieces for their current productions. It was amazing to see all of them in action, as they're currently in season. We were amazed to learn that it isn't unusual for them to stage three DIFFERENT operas in the span of 24 hours (rehearsing, staging, or performing), complete with full set changes. In fact, in just the time we were there we saw a set being set up and taken down. It was great to see all of the moving parts that work together to put on an opera, and surely gave a lot of us a new appreciation for their work!

We then headed to Maria's, a local Mexican restaurant, where we had dinner with the founder of Princeton Girlchoir, Jan Westrick! The girls were very excited to meet her, and she was very thrilled to see what the seed she had planted in 1989 has grown into. The food was amazing (and authentic, so a bit spicier than some of us were expecting--especially if you opted for the green sauce)! After dinner, we headed into downtown Santa Fe for some time to freely roam around and check out the local sights and sounds. Santa Fe is a very artsy place, and I'm not really sure how to describe the architecture other than "beautiful". Overall it had a very hippy/new-age vibe, with sample overheard conversations such as, "But how are we sure that the cavemen were really men, man?" and (as I was taking pictures of him playing an accordian and singing) "Dude, I'm not a bear in a zoo, man." Colorful, to say the least. But we're looking forward to heading back there this morning to check out some of the local artisans who sell their work in the main square during the daytime.

So that was the first day--we're looking forward to what today brings, as well as our first concert of the tour tonight! Until later, have a good one!



Hello everyone! I am sorry to have to do this, but please check back TOMORROW for the summary of today's events. Seeing as we just got back to our hotel a half hour ago and I fell asleep before I could even turn my computer on, I think I'm going to set myself an alarm and go to sleep for the night. I know I'm not alone in my exhaustion--it's been a long (but awesome!) day.

I'll tell you all about it after I get some sleep.

Until then, goodnight!



I just realized that my ride is coming in less than six hours and I STILL haven't put anything in a suitcase.

See you soon, hopefully with a hastily packed bag...


The Last Day

As I sit here at my own kitchen table for the first time in over a week, I find myself writing the final blog post of the trip. My first blog post of the trip was also written at my kitchen table. We’ve really come full circle!

So, without further ado, our final day of the tour!

In a move that may have been disappointing to some (but welcome by others—I include myself in that group), we were given the opportunity to sleep in rather than exploring Dublin in our free time in the morning. Some of the girls woke up at the normal time to get breakfast and then went straight back to bed for a few hours. I slept late (as you know) and went straight to McDonalds for my traditional trip to the golden arches in foreign lands (I like to see what’s different!). Apparently, “Breakfast All Day” is only an American thing—fortunately it was close enough to lunchtime that I didn’t mind having to eat Chicken Selects and Fries for breakfast.

Once we were all fed and dressed in our concert attire, we made our way to St. Patrick’s Cathedral for our final concert of the trip. With tired voices and tired choristers, we mustered up the strength and energy to put on our longest solo set of the trip, singing through the majority of the music we had prepared. We were well-received by our audience which was made up of mostly tourists who just happened to be there. In any case, it was a beautiful final concert! Afterwards, we headed outside for a group shot (including a couple of pictures with both Ms. Butler and myself lying in front of the girls in dramatic fashion) in front of the cathedral. We also sang one final number for the crowd of spectators that had gathered to watch us pose for said picture.

We then headed back to the hotel for a quick change of clothes, out of our concert dress and into our tour T-shirts. Quickly loading ourselves back onto the bus, we made the half hour drive to the fishing village of Howth, which is right on Dublin Bay. The girls loved seeing the seals that were swimming and playing off the pier, as well as all of the fishing boats and shops. We all walked to the end of the pier to check out the gorgeous scenery, posing for a few pictures along the way. Before too long, it was time to head to dinner.

Our final tour dinner was at the lovely Abbey Tavern (to quote Ms. Jenkins: “The ambiance is ON POINT!”). The dinner was appropriate, considering the fishing industry that we had just experienced: fish and chips! Our dessert was also lovely, but came with a warning from one of the girls: “I have an announcement to make: I thought the flower was made of phyllo dough, but it’s actually a flower. Don’t eat the flower!” As dinner ended, we all enjoyed the annual event of the Paper Plate Awards, where each of the younger girls receives an award from the older girls in celebration of the relationships which have grown throughout the week. It’s always a feel-good experience for all involved, and this year was no different. The evening concluded with the seniors singing a new arrangement of “Danny Boy” in honor of the wonderful time spent in Ireland.

When the girls got back to the hotel, they were encouraged to pack and go to bed—but you know how that usually goes. I opted to check out Saturday night in Dublin, which was a whole lot of crazy but a whole lot of fun. It was like a giant party, with fantastic traditional music being played in many of the pubs. I had one more pint of the national beverage, and headed back to the hotel to pack and go to sleep.

We all woke up this morning, ate breakfast, and headed to the airport. We had no trouble getting through ticketing, security, a second round of security, and U.S. Customs (yes—we went through Customs in Ireland, which should have saved us time in Newark and gotten us home early…but that’s another story for another time). The flight was on time, and seven hours later we arrived in Newark.

So that’s it. That’s the tour. It was a total blast, and it was an amazing experience for all of us. Thank you for reading! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our adventures!


The final push...

Good morning! As we pack and get ready for our return to the states, I thought I'd finally post an update to the blog. It will be slightly abbreviated because I still have to pack. I apologize--they've packed our days so well that I've been exhausted when I return to the hotel. I meant to write this last night, but after taking some time to take in the Dublin nightlife on a Saturday night...I kind of fell asleep as soon as I got back to my room. Whoops.

So on Friday, we had a quick breakfast at the hotel before heading out to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells. For those of you who don't know, this is a VERY old Gospel book that was created by monks c.800. It is stored in the library of the college, along with an exhibit that was actually quite interesting to see. We saw how the old books were created, as well as learning the history of the Book of Kells and the symbolism in the artwork. If you were patient enough to make your way up to the book through the throngs of people, it was actually quite beautiful. We then headed upstairs to the main library, which was pretty darn amazing to see. Apparently, they based the library in Harry Potter off of this one. You could see why!

After that, we had a bit of free time to wander the streets of Dublin with our groups, grabbing a take away lunch to bring to a Stephen's Green Park picnic. We enjoyed eating together and taking in the sight of a beautiful pond with a whole lot of birds. Some of our girls bravely fed said birds, which caused much screaming by those of us who may or may not have a fear of said birds. One chorister bravely fed a swan some Pringles. The swan enjoyed them.

We then headed over to Christ Church Cathedral for our Gala Concert dress rehearsal. Everything went well, aside from some very loud tourists who seemed oblivious to the fact that we were rehearsing. At one point, a very cute toddler stood by Dr. Galvan's podium and swayed to the music. It was kind of adorable. We then headed off to dinner at a cool little restaurant called Brasserie Sixty6, and then it was back to the church for our final concert. It was just the thing that we needed, especially after learning the news of the shooting in Dallas. Something to give us hope in such a dark time--it was a beautiful show. We then said many tearful goodbyes to our Australian friends before heading back to the hotel, where we turned in early and subsequently slept in late.

So that was Friday--and if you can wait till tonight, I'll give you yesterday. Until then...I'd better pack!


Wow, I think we were tired!

Hi everyone! I'm sorry that I haven't yet posted a post about yesterday's activities, and I'm going to have to keep you in just a little bit more suspense. I just woke up and it's 11:15AM. I need to be showered, fed, and ready to roll in a half hour. You can look forward to an extensive post about yesterday and today this evening!

Until then, have a good one!


Quick post

Our gala concert went beautifully tonight, so we are celebrating by going to bed early and sleeping in tomorrow. I'm taking advantage of this situation, too. So goodnight--I'll post a detailed blog post tomorrow!


Goodbye, Belfast; Hello, Dublin!

Hello from Dublin! I'm once again up late writing the blog after another eventful day that should have exhausted me; alas, I'm restless as usual. Lucky for you, I've got a lot to write about!

I suppose I should start with yesterday, seeing as I didn't really post a summary of the day's activities. I need to look through my photos to even remember what we did--it seems like ages ago! We started the day by heading over to Belfast's City Hall for a tour, which was actually pretty impressive to see. It's a beautiful building whose construction started in the late 1890's and finished in 1906. When we entered the building, we were greeted by the sight of the beautiful marble grand staircase, as well as the interior of the dome which is illuminated by a huge chandelier. Heading up the staircase, we arrived at the first floor rotunda and learned all about the history of the city as it was illustrated in a huge mural. We then headed into the council chambers, where we were able to sit in the Lord Mayor's seat--but we were NOT allowed to sit in the very old chairs on which the current Queen's grandparents sat. We wouldn't have wanted to anyway, as they've seen better days...

Next, we were treated to the sight of our dear Campbell donning one of the councilor robes in the robing room. We learned why the sleeves had extra bits of fabric on the end (hint: sewage used to run down the street right in front of the hall), and also saw some older ceremonial robes. We then headed to the reception hall, which features gifts from many ethnic minority groups that live in Belfast. The banquet hall had a Titanic theme, with many replica items from the Titanic as well as a memorial plaque that had been taken down to the wreck and brought back up to the surface. Finally, we made our way to the great hall, which was HUGE. This room, like nearly every other room, contained beautiful stained glass windows. Interestingly enough, during WWII they were removed and stored in the basement of a local home to protect them from bombings, being replaced once everything was safe.

After the tour, a large group of girls made their way over to Victoria Square to take in the view from the top of the dome--and to do a bit of singing as well! Once their impromptu concert was over, they found themselves some lunch and then headed by to St. Patricks for a dress rehearsal for the evening's gala concert. When the rehearsal was over and we had figured out the logistics of moving from our seats to the "stage", we headed back to our hotel to change into our concert attire and eat a delightful buffet dinner.

Last night's concert was truly special--the girls were totally on in their solo set, and all of the hard work in the rehearsals paid off in the festival choir portion of the show. We had the audience in the palms of our hands! We ended the program with two gospel pieces, "Take Me to the Water" and "Total Praise", adding a drummer into the mix. To say we brought the house down is an understatement; I think we blew away even our own selves. It was a very spiritual experience, with many tears being shed. I know for a fact that I was not the only one feeling the way I was feeling last night, or even during our whole time in Belfast. It was one of those experiences that will definitely stay with us for the rest of our lives.

This morning, we arose at a reasonable hour, ate some breakfast, loaded our luggage back onto the bus, and headed down to Dublin. Stopping in a lovely rest area along the way, many of the girls spent their first Euros of the trip on coffee and oodles of candy; some of them just played around on the playground. In any event, we all managed to find our way back on the bus and complete the journey to Dublin. And my, what a change of pace!

First off, Dublin has WAY MORE people. Our first day in Belfast, we were lucky to see other people walking on the streets with us. In Dublin, we were greeted by throngs of people on every sidewalk in the city. There are also a lot more street performers, which is very cool to see--musicians, magicians, people pretending to be statues. We were dropped off on Nassau Street (how appropriate!) for some time to wander and find some lunch, and then headed over to Dublin's St. Patricks Cathedral. While getting a short tour (we'll be singing there on Saturday so we'll have more time to explore!), we learned about St. Patrick's two symbols: the clover and the Irish cross. We also were able to see the death mask and skull cast (kind of creepy) of Jonathan Swift, who aside from being an author and satirist found time to be the Dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral.

As we made our way to our hotel and past "The Stiletto in the Ghetto", Ms. Butler made an exciting announcement: after checking in, we were going on a special surprise excursion in celebration of Emma and Nora's birthday: a visit to the National Leprechaun Museum! Not entirely sure what to expect, we found it to be a really fun and interesting place to visit. We learned facts about leprechauns (Did you know that it was Disney and Lucky Charms' fault for making the "normal" look of the leprechaun a green-clad, red-headed creature? In folklore, leprechauns actually wore brown coats and a pointy red hat!), walked through magical tunnels, visited the land of giants, learned about the history of folklore in Ireland, traveled through a rainbow, found a pot of gold, and heard stories and legends from our awesome tour guides. At the end, we performed for the museum staff ( and posed for pictures as leprechauns.

Our evening ended at a very cool restaurant called (appropriately enough) "The Church". It was a hip bar and restaurant that was housed in an actual church that they had gutted and retrofitted. It was quirky and cool to be eating our awesome dinners (salad, lamb and potato, and apple pie--gluten free and vegetarian options available!) while looking at stained glass windows and a large pipe organ that Handel (yes, the "Messiah" guy!) had played when he was in Dublin. After we sang "Happy Birthday" and "She's a Jolly Good Fellow" for Nora and Emma, we all headed back to the hotel for an early night in. I, of course, went for my evening walk, wandering all around the city and taking in the sights and sounds. It's amazing how musical this place is--as I walked the streets, I could hear live music coming from nearly every pub. It was also very cool to be in town during the EuroCup--when France scored for a second time, I happened to be standing on a bridge over the River Liffey and could hear a collective roar from the whole city. It was a very cool moment!

So that's all for now. We have our second gala concert tomorrow night (or tonight, actually, seeing as it's 2AM). Until then, hope you're all doing well! It's hard to believe it, but we'll be seeing you relatively soon!


A few words before bed

I've just gotten back to my room after a great time partying after tonight's first gala concert. I am very tired, so will only offer a few words before heading to bed.

Speaking personally here, it's been a particularly heavy trip. Between learning about the history of this city with The Troubles while walking the very streets where so much senseless violence occurred, the reality of the horrors of the Titanic sinking and its human toll that was made so vivid yesterday, and the current state of the world, I've just been feeling all sorts of feelings that I wouldn't normally be feeling on a typical concert tour.

But let me say this: being able to work with the BEST of humanity (your daughters, Ms. Jenkins, Dr. Galvan, and the amazing parents who are along for the ride as chaperones) and seeing the beauty that they bring to the world on a daily basis gives me such joy and hope for the future. We are living in some crazy times, but to see everyone coming together with the common goal of sharing their beautiful music with the world--and sharing it so beautifully!--I'm just overwhelmed and in tears. It is an honor to even be here to experience this, and I am so happy to call PGC family. I love you all, and thank you for helping to bring so much joy and beauty to a world that so needs it.


A day of Titanic proportions!

Now that we're all a little bit more rested, I suppose you'd all like to hear about yesterday's activities! Well then, here you go!

After another delightful breakfast at the hotel, we made our way (maybe SLIGHTLY less groggy than the previous day) to our bus and headed down to the waterfront. Our first destination of the day was the Titanic Belfast museum, which was an amazing sight to behold. The ultra-modern building was designed to reflect the city's history of ship making, with the building being as tall as the Titanic's hull. Inside, we were treated to a fascinating exhibit that not only focused on the Titanic, but also the industrial history of Belfast. It was very interesting for all of us to learn about how the ship was built, from planning to actual construction. Many of the girls took a ride that took us through a simulated shipyard, learning about the conditions that the ship builders endured--and concluded that we would not have fared well in that line of dangerous work.

Of course, a large part of the museum was dedicated to the sinking. It was extremely poignant to hear actual survivors talking about their memories of that night, as well as reading distress messages sent via morse code which were displayed. I had a particularly difficult moment when looking at an interactive exhibit about the people who were on the Titanic when it sank, listing both those who died and those who survived. You could narrow things down by age groups, male or female, survived or perished. When I came across name of a young child who perished, aged 4 months, it really hit close to home (I have a one-year-old at home) and I was unable to continue at that particular exhibit. Suddenly the tragedy became a bit too real for comfort. We tend to view the Titanic and its sinking in a very romanticized way, but I think after this exhibit we all left with a new view of how things were and the scope of the tragedy.

After posing for some group shots in front of the museum, we headed to St. Ann's Cathedral for our first performance of the tour. We had a dress rehearsal to familiarize ourselves with the acoustics of the space (and it was a FANTASTIC space in which to sing!), and then headed behind the scenes to change in to our concert dress. After some issues with locking doors (we managed to find a way around this involving shoes--mine included), we were all changed and headed back into the sanctuary for the concert. Though the audience was small (who goes to a concert at 1:15PM on a Tuesday?!), they were appreciative of our beautiful performance. When the concert was over, we changed back into our street clothes, boarded our bus, and went to the center of the city for a well-deserved lunch break.

When we had all filled our stomachs (some more than others--Ms. Jenkins was in awe of my Peanut Butter Stack dessert!), we got back on the bus and made the short trip to St. Patrick's for our second festival rehearsal. I should note that something happened at this rehearsal that has never happened to me in my entire life--we had a 10-minute "corpse delay". Being in a church, our rehearsal did not supersede church business, and so we had to stop for ten minutes of absolute silence while a casket was carried in on the shoulders of the pall bearers. I'm sure some of the girls might have been a bit put off by this (for the creepy factor), but it was actually sort of interesting to see the funerary practices of a different culture. Once we got the "all clear" it was back to rehearsing for the next two hours.

We then headed to the Villa Italia for dinner with the other festival choirs. Everyone being so sociable, I'm hoping the girls didn't realize how long it took us to get our food after ordering. I'm not exaggerating when I say that my dessert arrived two hours after I had ordered it. The girls actually seemed more worried about certain logistical concerns: "Ms. Butler--our curfew is 10PM, but it's about 10PM right now. What are we supposed to do?" Fortunately, curfew was changed to a time later than when we finished dinner, much to the relief of many of the girls.

Tonight we will be having our first festival gala concert, so we are awfully excited. I look forward to summarizing today's events (hopefully) later tonight.



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