Flinging Their Green and Gold Across the Emerald Isle

October 16, 2023
Bella Voce in Ireland

Bella Voce Choir at Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland.

It’s one thing to say you traveled to Ireland, but it's another when you get to travel with a group of friends from your choral ensemble. This is exactly what 35 members and chaperones of the Baylor Bella Voce choral ensemble were treated to in late spring 2023 when they boarded a plane and flew across the pond to the Emerald Isle.

“I believe that touring as an ensemble and sharing the talent and the music of our students is truly a transformative experience,” said Lynne Gackle, Ph.D., retired director of choral activities and lead chaperone. “One of the most wonderful aspects of this trip was the opportunity to perform for and with other choirs from Ireland. We sang with the Allegri Women’s Choir in Derry (Northern Ireland) as well as Vox Orbis Women’s ensemble in Galway. These experiences were wonderful musical opportunities which provided the students with the opportunity to meet, sing and talk with singers from this beautiful country.” 

Gackle also said because those choirs were community based, the experiences were generational and allowed our students to interact with singers both their ages and older.

“We also had the opportunity to perform for the audience at the Celtic Steps production which is a professional Irish musical and dance troupe from Kilarney, and Bella Voce was invited on stage to perform with them before the second half of their performance,” said Gackle. “The audience was thrilled by the singing of Bella Voce and many came to our concert the following evening, allowing us to sing before a standing-room-only audience.”

Listening to Irish folk music and watching traditional Irish dance of Celtic Steps was a treat, but as sophomore Bella Voce member Katie Chakmakjian explains it, taking part in singing with other female choral ensembles was a highlight she will not forget.

“It was really special to get to sing in such a beautiful country and some really beautiful churches, but I think one of the best parts of the trip was getting to sing with two local women's choirs, as it was a beautiful reminder of the unity, that people with such different backgrounds, can experience through music,” said Chakmakijan. “I also loved getting to spend extra time singing with Dr. Gackle, as she is really special to the women of Bella Voce.”

When asked why she feels traveling abroad is important for Baylor students to experience, Gackle said it isn’t just about taking photos or touring castles but it’s the feeling of immersing oneself in a wholly transformational experience.

“The opportunity to visit another country—to experience the culture, the customs, the food and the people, is life-changing and is an invaluable educational experience,” Gackle said. “Traveling, performing and living as one unit allowed our students to bond together as a group and to form friendships and have experiences which created memories of a lifetime.”

Gackle was quoted in a May 2023 article regarding her retirement saying, “Students are the reason why we’re here. They’re the highlight for me and they always have been—just the joy that I've gotten from watching them grow. . . [Educators] plant seeds and we might never see some of those seeds grow, but when you see them begin to sprout and develop and you know that they're now touching other lives—that's the joy and that's the blessing of teaching."

As for the seed growing, Bella Voce member and senior writing major Terry Isabelle hopes to return to Ireland to study literature and writing after graduating from Baylor because of her trip with Bella Voce.