From: Kasidy Leggin
As soon as our double-decker bus had passed the “Welcome to Wales” sign, the grandeur of the Welsh country side became apparent. The valley that we now found ourselves in was immediately familiar to us, our choir’s “Voices of The Valley” namesake being reflective of the geography back in Pennsylvania. However, the main difference here comes in the sense of scale. The trees tower above in a dense canopy that completely surrounds you, and from top to bottom, every inch of the eye is greeted with a vibrant explosion of green. Despite Wales being only a fraction of the size of the United States, its undisturbed countryside feels larger than any American forest that comes to mind.
Our choir’s first stop in this seemingly endless sea of green was Tintern Abbey. An ancient church founded in 1131, Tintern Abbey now stands as a hauntingly beautiful, hollow ruin. Again, the sense of scale is apparent, with the medieval walls towering over the greenery. One cannot help but feel small while exploring this vast shell. Furthermore, the large scale of the country’s history is also apparent in this place. No building in the U.S. can claim to have such a long history, and every nook, cranny, passage, and rock seemingly has a story hiding behind its weathered appearance.
While I was appreciating this rich history, I came across a map on the wall of the Abbey displaying how its layout from thousands of years ago. I found that to the right of my current location was located the church Choir Room. With this, I remembered the reason behind the choir’s coming to Wales. Whereas losing myself in the mountainous trees evoked The Valley portion of our name, my exploration of the choir room brought to mind the other half of “Voices of The Valley”. A shared love and history of choral music is what has brought our two countries together for this tour. Soon after I saw the choir room ruins, the chorus regrouped and sang Amazing Grace and The Welsh national anthem for parents and spectators. Tears were shed by those of both American and Welsh nationalities. I believe it was in that moment that our “International Odyssey of Friendship and Song” had officially begun.