“Of Stones and Stars”: England & Scotland Tour Features History, Culture and Music

“Of Stones and Stars”: England and Scotland tour features history, culture and music

Jan. 22, 2020

If you’ve dreamed of experiencing the history, culture and choral music of England and Scotland, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to participate in the “Of Stones and Stars” 2020 Companion Tour to England and Scotland May 5-15, a trip that parallels Maryville College’s Concert Choir Spring Tour. 

“Often folks think it’s the Maryville College Concert Tour to Scotland and England, but the companion tour is for anybody who wants to go,” said Kathleen Farnham, Maryville College director of church relations. “They are not only welcome, but we’d be thrilled if they came.” 

The companion tour is open to and designed for community members, faculty, staff, alumni, parents and others who want to accompany the choir, visit landmarks in England and Scotland, and build community with both travel mates and locals while enjoying incredible music. All ages will find something to appeal to their tastes. “When I went in 2012, it was a very diverse mix of ages,” Farnham said. “People brought their children or their grandchildren. It would be a great grandparent trip because it’s got a little bit of everything.”  

Music and more 

The 10-day itinerary includes London, York, St. Andrews, Stirling and Edinburgh. The tour includes visits to some of Scotland’s most famous castles, Stirling Castle and Edinburgh Castle. There will performance opportunities in locations such as Gresham Hall in London, Evensong at York Minster, a tour of King’s College, visit to St. Cecilia’s Music Museum and a joint concert with St. Salvator’s Chapel Choir in St. Andrews.

The tour is offered through Perform International Tours, which specializes in custom concert, educational and cultural group tours. The trip price includes airfare, accommodations, tour guides and excursion/entrance costs, all concerts, as well as breakfast and dinner daily. There are options for both double occupancy and single occupancy rooms. 

“We want to encourage anyone who has ever wanted to travel to England or Scotland and have not been able to, and folks who have been more than once, to come on the tour because this is such a unique travel experience,” Farnham said. “It is well-planned, and all of the logistical things are taken care of. It’s also flexible, which doesn’t sound like those things go together, but they do. It’s the best of both worlds. You don’t have to figure it all out on your own and they certainly hit the highlights, the spots everybody wants to see, but if you want to go out on your own, you can do that as long as you’re responsible for your transportation and the cost of what you want to do.” 

Trip of a lifetime

Stacey Wilner, director of choral activities at Maryville College, said, “The ‘Of Stones and Stars’ tour to England and Scotland will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for all participants, regardless of whether you are a performer, alumni or a friend who wants to travel, see the sites and experience beautiful art and music. Our goal is for everyone on this journey to experience both the earthly delights and spiritual insights of a musical tour of England and Scotland.”  

The tour theme, “Of Stones and Stars,” is a representation of the coming together of Heaven and Earth. “Part of the concert program will consist of American and British folk music that deals with topics of war, religion and redemption,” Wilner said. “Selections will include traditional music such as ‘Loch Lomond’ and an ethereal arrangement of ‘Amazing Grace’ by Swedish composer Eriks Esenvalds. The remainder will be music that is a bit more celestial in concept and inspiring to the spirit, such as ‘Northern Lights’ a musical depiction of the aurora borealis by Ola Gjeilo, and a setting of the chant ‘Ubi Caritas’ by Maurice Durufle.” 

She said stones often play an important role in societal development, especially evident in the mystical world of the Celts and Saxons. “From the astronomical wizardry of Stonehenge to the refinement of St. Paul’s Cathedral, stone work is an essential part of their culture,” she said. “The tour includes a tour and performance at Rosslyn Chapel, a well-known center for the Scottish Rite, or the Masons, and fans of the the Da Vinci Code. The cathedrals of Europe are indeed an engineering marvel that inspire a sense of awe, both historically and spirituality, for many who enter their doors.” 

Farnham said hearing the choir perform at any time is a wonderful experience, but hearing the music in such venues brings an added element. “When you hear them sing in these spaces, it’s so different from our traditional concert,” she said. “It’s ethereal—I think you’re touched and reached at a level we don’t get to go to very often. You can’t overstate what an impact it is, hearing this choir in these incredible spaces, in these castles and cathedrals, and how much of an almost out-of-body experience it is.”  

Building community

Wilner said British and American folk music greatly resemble each other musically in regard to tonality and structure as well as in instrumentation. “Participants on the tour will also have the chance to experience that style of music as part of the concerts as well as the opportunity to join with locals in pubs and other venues along the journey.”  

Farnham added, “The audience becomes a community, as well. We spent lots of time after choir concerts with the folks who attended the concert who want to talk to us and our students. 

“People are always so happy to see these bright, fun, talented students,” she said. “It’s a very hopeful kind of thing. I think that’s what the music adds that’s so different from a regular tour. It adds an artistic component, but also a spiritual and community-building component.”  

The parallel tour helps defray the cost of the student choir tour and makes it possible for choir students to have an incredible international experience and showcase their talents abroad. MC’s Scottish history also makes a trip to Scotland extra special for its students.  

In addition, the choir, directed by Stacey Wilner, will perform selections from the upcoming tour at 7 p.m. March 12 in the Clayton Center for the Arts’ Harold and Jean Lambert Recital Hall. The concert will serve as a fundraiser for the tour. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the Clayton Center Box Office at 865-981-8590.  

Written by Linda Braden Albert for Maryville College 

Maryville College is a nationally-ranked institution of higher learning and one of America’s oldest colleges. For more than 200 years, we’ve educated students to be giving citizens and gifted leaders, to study everything, so that they are prepared for anything — to address any problem, engage with any audience and launch successful careers right away. Located in Maryville, Tennessee, between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the city of Knoxville, Maryville College offers nearly 1,200  students from around the world both the beauty of a rural setting and the advantages of an urban center, as well as more than 60 majors, seven pre-professional programs and career preparation from their first day on campus to their last. Today, our 10,000 alumni are living life strong of mind and brave of heart and are prepared, in the words of our Presbyterian founder, to “do good on the largest possible scale.”