Notes from our 2018 European Tour

by Christine Gill


After more than a year of anticipation and rigorous planning, the Northwest Firelight Chorale departed Seattle for a two-week-long, multi-city European tour. On June 25th, almost eighty Firelighters and friends congregated in the Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport wide-eyed and eager to sing, spread joy, and connect with new communities.

Under the direction of our wonderful tour director, Alain Rinckwald, our journey started in the city of Tours and the Loire Valley. We visited stunning châteaus and tranquil gardens, dined with local Benedictine sisters, and joined the Institution St. Martin children’s choir in a benefit concert at the St. Martin Basilica to raise money for schools in Haiti.

The next stop was Brussels, where we connected with Notre Dame du Perpétuel Secours and were graciously welcomed by host families. Our performance at the parish benefited the renovation of their building, which was built in the 1960s. In between exploring historical landmarks and admiring exquisite architecture, we also had the rewarding opportunity to sing at a local hospital in Brussels for the patients, families and staff.

After saying our goodbyes to Brussels and our host families, the second week of the tour took us to an unusually balmy Ireland. On the way to Galway we discovered sights such as the Rock of Cashel, Bunratty Castle, and the Cliffs of Moher. We performed mini-concerts at the St. Joseph Catholic Church in Clifden as well as the Gothic Church in Kylemore Abbey. At our final destination of Galway, we collaborated with local chamber choir, Cois Cladaigh, for a concert at the St. Nicholas Collegiate Church followed by a shared meal that featured a boisterous sing-off challenge!

The joyous sounds of traditional Appalachian songs followed us out of scheduled concerts and into countless impromptu sessions. Wherever we stopped to sing, a crowd would gather around us and their hesitant curiosity would quickly be transformed into captivated delight. Whether we were singing for a formal church performance or under a tree by a château, the most memorable and heart-warming moments were the reactions from our audience. Every conversation proved that despite language barriers and cultural differences, we were fulfilling the choir’s mission statement. The tour not only brought us closer as a choir, but also spread a message of love and healing beyond our borders. It was a reminder that although the world is large and often weighed down by conflict and injustice, the joy we can bring to others through music is both meaningful and universal.