Rams Across the Pond

The Owasso Rams are going international! Students from Owasso High School Fine Arts programs such as the Pride of Owasso Marching Band, Voice of Owasso Choir, Visual Arts and Theatre are embarking on a Spring Break trip to Ireland & London to experience the arts and also show off their talents on the international stage. This unique full Fine Arts trip includes performances by the Pride of Owasso at St. Patrick's Day Parades in both Dublin & Celbridge, along with a performance by the Voice of Owasso at Christchurch Cathedral in Dublin.
Check back with us throughout the journey to see and read some of the highlights from this exciting opportunity for our Rams students! For additional insight into the journey, follow the Pride of Owasso and Owasso Choirs on Facebook.

Top of the mornin' ... or evenin' ... or, well, we're still adjusting to the new time! Our journey began late on Sunday night as the Pride of Owasso and Voice of Owasso packed up and headed from the high school to Tulsa International Airport for a charter flight to Shannon, Ireland. This charter flight was a first for most in our group and for those who had never flown at all before, we had to inform them that the experience of flying is rarely this easy!
We took off shortly before 11 p.m. on Sunday night and tried our best to ignore the entertainment options offered on the seat-back screens or our phones. Sleep, as we would later find out, was vitally important since we had a full day ahead of us waiting in Ireland. In all, the flight lasted 9 hours and we touched down in Shannon, which is located 224 kilometers (roughly 139 miles for you folks stateside) southwest of Dublin, just prior to 12 p.m. local time.
From there we proceeded through customs, received a passport stamp, collected our belongings and boarded buses for a drive of almost an hour and a half to Blarney Castle in southern Ireland. A fitting start to our trip, Blarney Castle is one of the more famous landmarks in Ireland as it is home to the Blarney Stone. Legend has it that kissing the stone endows the kisser with great eloquence, and who couldn't use more of that? The kiss is not easily obtained though. With the help of an assistant, students looking for an additional dose of eloquence leaned backwards over the edge of a parapet and clung to a set of guardrails to plant a kiss on the Blarney Stone. You can get a better idea of what that process looks like in the photo gallery below.
With plenty of extra eloquence now in tow, we headed another hour west to Killarney, where we will stay for two nights. We were excited to check into our hotels, grab a bite to eat, settle in and adjust our internal clocks to a new sleep schedule. What a way to start the trip!

It was a cool & windy day here in Ireland! Add in some scattered rain showers and we experienced another typical early Spring day in these parts. However the sun shone on us for most of the day, which gave us many opportunities to enjoy this beautiful country.
Split into six different buses, our group staggered departure from the hotels and traveled part of the Ring of Kerry. The Ring of Kerry is a 111-mile tourist route through County Kerry that features some stunning scenery. Seeing the green pastures, one can understand how this land earned the nickname, "The Emerald Isle." After taking in some of the sights, we stopped in the town of Kenmare to see the town, hit up some souvenir shops and take in more of the local scenery. 
From there we ventured on to Kissane's Sheep Farm, which is a Large Mountain Sheep Farm that is home to hundreds of sheep, lambs and energetic sheep dogs. The farm has been owned by the Kissane Family for almost 200 years. Students enjoyed watching sheep dogs round up a flock of sheep. The dogs are trained to herd the flock in whatever direction is communicated to them via whistle and they were the stars of the show ... until the lambs made an appearance. In the gallery below, you’ll see lots of smiles from students as they hold and pet the lambs. For many of our Rams, the opportunity to see and interact with these animals was the highlight of the morning and early afternoon.
"Seeing how well trained the dogs were and how they followed commands even from really far away was my favorite part," senior Emily Powers said. “The sheep dogs and baby sheep were so cute!”
The buses made two stops for photo ops of the countryside following Kissane’s Sheep Farm. The first stop was Ladies View, a scenic viewpoint that is known as one of the most photographed places in all of Ireland. Queen Victoria once have proclaimed it the most beautiful view she had ever seen. Our second stop was the Torc Waterfall. The waterfall is 360-feet long and lies at the base of a mountain, and it provided another memorable background for photos and selfies.
We returned to Killarney for a late lunch and then made our way to Ross Castle. The castle, which was built in the 15th century, sits in Killarney National Park. Students then had additional time to experience the town and find the perfect souvenir to remember their stay. 
The sights that we experienced today were extraordinary, however the highlight of the day for many, including some citizens of Killarney, was hearing the Voice of Owasso perform at St. Mary's Church. Under the direction of Mrs. Mindy Bettridge, the choir filled the stone church with wonderful music for about 45 minutes. It was an amazing first performance on our trip and one that the students won't soon forget.
“I felt so happy about it and I’m really proud of them,” Bettridge said. “They really worked hard and their hard work was obvious in what they’ve done tonight. For them to come in and sing and put their hearts into it was just a really wonderful thing for them.”
"I think it was awesome," said freshman Jaxon Sivils. “It’s just a great experience to be here, in a different country, and it’s a lot of fun to be here. It was a great concert.”
With that, activities on our second day in Ireland came to a close. Time to rest up and prepare for tomorrow's very early departure and journey to Dublin!

Another busy day in Ireland! The day started very early, with the band beginning to load its bags at 6:15 a.m. before a 6:30 a.m. breakfast. The band and choirs checked out of their hotels and the first group of buses pulled away at 7:45 a.m. to leave Killarney for the last time on this trip.
We are extremely grateful for the hospitality extended to us by the people of Killarney and the staffs at the Gleneagle Hotel and Scotts Hotel. Particularly at the Gleneagle, the efficiency displayed by the staff to seamlessly feed 200+ students, parents & administrators twice a day was truly impressive and greatly appreciated! Thank you all for making our stay in Killarney a memorable one!
Our first stop of the day was at Bunratty Castle, located just less than two hours north of Killarney. The castle in its current form was built around 1425 and included several huts, shops and areas for sheep, chickens and other small farm animals to roam. Students walked up to the very top of the castle using a very narrow and steep winding staircase from the main hall. Only one way up and one way down made for a traffic jam of Rams at times!
After some time exploring the castle, we loaded up again and headed west to the Cliffs of Moher. The cliffs are on the very western edge of Ireland, where the land meets the Atlantic Ocean. These cliffs stretch 9 miles along the coast and are 700-feet tall at their highest point, which is marked by O’Brien’s Tower. 
It was a breathtaking experience, both figuratively and literally, as the cold winds howled in from the west. The wind, driving rain and cold temps made for a challenging trek up to O’Brien’s Tower, but the students braved the elements and were able to peer through the fog at these magnificent cliffs and the Atlantic Ocean below. 
At that point, it was once again time to load the buses and make our way up the rocky coast before heading east across the country to Dublin. If you’ve ever driven on Highway 1 in California, this was a similar experience, except it was the Atlantic Ocean closely off to our left as we traveled north before turning east. Along the route we saw an abundance of limestone rock, quaint coastal towns and Dunguaire Castle, which is one of the most photographed castles in all of Ireland.
Overall, the trip was a long one through the rain and we were happy to reach Dublin after 6 p.m. We checked into our hotels, ate dinner and were able to relax after a fun, but tiring day.
Thursday is setting up to be another big one for us! We will be joined by our friends in the theater and visual arts groups (who should be in the air or very close to it by the time this entry is posted); the band will have a chance to practice for the first time during the trip in the morning; and the Voice of Owasso choir will perform at Christ Church Cathedral in the afternoon.
Now it’s time to rest up and get ready for another exciting day!

Sunshine! The sun reappeared for us at the perfect time and it was a beautiful day in Dublin. The city was buzzing in anticipation of St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow, while the students got their first taste of Dublin and prepared for a pair of performances. 
Shortly after breakfast, the Pride of Owasso got in their first practice of the trip. Hotel staff, bus drivers and our tour guides stopped what they were doing and got a behind the scenes look at the band’s preparation for tomorrow’s parade. Marching in formation around the parking lot, anyone staying at the hotel who wasn’t awake by about 8:15 a.m. was gently awakened to the sound of “Oklahoma!” reverberating off the hotel walls. 
Meanwhile, the Voice of Owasso was busy prepping for its final performance of the trip. The group met at Christ Church Cathedral late in the morning before their 1:30 p.m. concert. The performance was the kind you want to go out on. It was flawless, moving, and performed in front of a standing room only crowd that included every single fine arts student on the trip. 
That’s right! Students in the visual arts and theatre groups arrived in Dublin in plenty of time to make it to the cathedral and support their fellow Rams.
As it did in Killarney, the Voice of Owasso opened with their rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” and followed with another 45 minutes of entertainment for those in attendance. Anyone who was fortunate enough to get a seat quickly rose to their feet for a standing ovation at the conclusion of the unforgettable performance.
“It really was such an amazing experience and really a life-changing experience,” Choir Director Mindy Bettridge said. “I’ve taught for a long time and just being in a cathedral that is 1,000 years old and thinking of the people who have been there, the things that have happened there, and for us to be a part of that was really an amazing thing.”
Other activities in the day included a trip to the EPIC Museum. EPIC stands for “Every Person Is Connected” and the museum tells the story of Irish migration and the impact of the Irish people on the world. It was voted as Europe’s top museum for three consecutive years (2019-21) and it gave our students another look at the Irish culture.
Students also had time during the afternoon to explore parts of Dublin. The city is definitely ready for Friday’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities! The crowds were large and it was amazing to see so many people from different parts of the world and know that we’ll be performing for them and all of Ireland in less than 24 hours.
The day was capped by dinner and entertainment at Taylors Three Rock. Every single person from Owasso on this trip was part of the fun and under one roof! Everyone enjoyed the delicious food, amazing music and authentic Irish dancing. The students had chances to interact with the performers and dance the night away. It was a truly memorable experience and incredible to see more than 400 people from our town celebrating together half a world away.
After that it was time to return to the hotels and rest up, for tomorrow is THE day! 
The Pride of Owasso will appear as the fourth act of the Dublin St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which will begin at 12 p.m. local time (7 a.m. in Owasso). We are told that the parade will be streamed by a local channel in Dublin and that you will be able to find the stream with this link
Following that performance, everyone will pack up, eat lunch and head to Cellbridge, a suburb of Dublin, to play in their St. Patrick’s Day Parade at 4 p.m. local time. Every student on the trip will have the opportunity to be in the parade, as the Voice of Owasso, visual arts and theatre students will march behind the band and through the streets of Cellbridge.
An exciting day is ahead! Good night for now and we’ll see you tomorrow!

Parade Day is finally here! After four days of seeing the sites and getting to know the wonderful people of Ireland, it was finally performance time for the Pride of Owasso. 
Following breakfast, the students put on their uniforms, loaded their instruments and made the 30 minute drive to the heart of Dublin to the staging area for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. There were people everywhere and all kinds of bands and other performers. We saw our friends from the Pride of Bixby and we were in close proximity to the Purdue All-American Marching Band, the Mountain West All-Star Band and a youth marching band from Dublin. It was amazing to see fellow band members of all ages together for this amazing event.
We arrived around 10 a.m. and waited for the 12 p.m. start time to the parade. A light rain fell during the late morning and, thankfully, the precipitation stopped before our march began. 
In all, the parade is a little more than a mile and a half (2.5 km) long and we played “Oklahoma!” and John Philip Sousa’s “The Thunderer” on a loop for the crowd. One thing that has surprised us during our time in Ireland is that so many people here know every single word to “Oklahoma!” It was fun to hear those in attendance sing along while we played and there’s no telling how many thousands of cell phone videos and photos that we appeared in today.
The fact that the students represented their school, city, state and country on an international stage was not lost on them. 
“It means a lot and I’m very grateful for the opportunity that was given to us,” said senior KC Hansford. “To be able to go and represent our town and our school district was really nice. The whole experience has been really beautiful. It’s a beautiful place here.”
“Not many high school students get to go to another country and represent their school and their state,” said fellow senior Julia Clingan. “It’s a surreal thing when you stop and think about it. Up until now we were just going to Ireland to do a parade, but it’s so much bigger and more exciting than that. It’s an honor that we all got to do this.”
The Dublin parade ran a little slower than we had budgeted for and we quickly had to load up and grab lunch before heading to Celbridge for their St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the evening. Celbridge is about a 20-30 minute drive from downtown Dublin and the town has a population of roughly 20,000. We were the only non-local act in the parade and the citizens there were incredibly welcoming to us. 
In fact, the parade organizers in Celbridge delayed the festivities about 30 minutes to allow for the Pride of Owasso to arrive and participate. The students were tired following the parade in Dublin, but with the combination of lunch and the energy from the people of Celbridge, they were ready to put on one final show here across the pond.
“One of the things that I’ve noticed in the 18-plus years in Owasso is that Owasso kids can turn it on when they want to and flip the light switch,” Director of Bands Chris Harris said. “Even if I’m a little concerned about their preparation, I have no doubt how it’s going to turn out every time.”
“It was really special and we were all so happy to be there,” Clingan said. “I almost got emotional because I was looking around at one point and everyone was so happy. We made it. We’ve been working up to this point since last year and I feel like it’s been hard, but so worth it.”
An added bonus to this parade was that every fine arts student was able to march behind the Pride of Owasso. The Voice of Owasso choir sang along to “Oklahoma!” as we made our way through the one-mile route and it truly felt like a full celebration and capstone performance of our trip. We stopped to play and sing in the middle of the route for the parade’s dignitaries at the grandstand and received cheers and waves from attendees. What an experience! 
“I expected them to be kind of tired, but they fed off the crowd,” Harris said. “When you’re going down the street and there’s all those people with phones out … you’re like, ‘this is going all over the world’ and it’s special.”
Two parades makes for a very full, but fun day! All the planning, practicing & hard work was, indeed, worth it. 
While eating dinner back at the hotel, Mr. Harris surprised the band with the news that they were named the Outstanding High School Band of the Dublin Parade! With so many amazing groups in attendance, it was yet another honor for our Rams and a testament to all of their dedication for nearly two years.
With that, an incredible day came to a close. We were so very grateful for all of the messages from family, friends and community members who got up early and watched the parade back home. It was an honor to bring Ram Pride to Ireland and we’re so very grateful for the support and everyone who helped make today’s unforgettable experiences possible!
Our trip is not done yet! Tomorrow the band and choir head into Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, for some time at the Titanic Museum, while the visual arts and theatre group will depart early in the morning for Wales. 
The time together as a full Fine Arts group is nearing an end, but our time was special and these are days that we will not soon forget!

While the St. Patrick’s Day parades are behind us, there was still plenty to see and do over the last two days. Friday evening at the Celbridge parade was the last time that we would all be together as one large Fine Arts group, as we went our separate ways on Saturday.

Students in the theatre & visual arts group got the earliest start to the day with a 6 a.m. departure to catch a ferry bound for Wales. Upon arrival, we traveled another hour to Chester, which is a city that dates back to the 1st century AD. It was founded as a Roman fort and the students got an up-close look at the city, including its iconic red sandstone walls that have stood the test of time.
From there it was on to another 90-minute drive to the hotel. Upon arrival, dinner was served and then both students and chaperones enjoyed the opportunity to relax after a long day travel and sightseeing.
Meanwhile, the band and choir headed up north to Belfast for the day. The trip took a little less than two hours and we started our time in Northern Ireland’s capital with a visit to the Titanic Museum. 

Located beside the Titanic Slipways, the Harland & Wolff Drawing Offices and Hamilton Graving Dock – the very place where Titanic was designed, built and launched – the museum tells the story of Titanic from her origin, through her construction and launch, to her maiden voyage and subsequent place in history. It is a must-see for anyone who makes the trip to Northern Ireland!

Students then had some time to explore Belfast with a two-hour guided tour, where they soaked in the history and architecture of Ireland’s second-largest city.

The band was split into three hotels in Belfast, while the choir returned to Dublin for their final night in Ireland. At one hotel with band students, the group was able to watch the highly anticipated Six Nations Rugby Cup match between Ireland and rival England. Much to the delight of our bus drivers and tour guides, Ireland prevailed and claimed the event’s championship. It was fun to see their excitement as the match ended with the home squad victorious. 

On Sunday, the theatre & visual arts group traveled to Stratford-upon-Avon (commonly known as just Stratford). Stratford is the birthplace and burial place of William Shakespeare and the day started with a walking tour of the birthplace and the Holy Trinity Church. The tour concluded at the RSC/Swan Theatre and included a special behind the scenes look backstage.

Following the tour, it was once again time to hit the road! This time, a wee three-hour jaunt to London where we will (thankfully) stay for the next three nights. 

The band & choir’s itinerary for Sunday was simple. It was time to go home! The band traveled from Belfast and met the choir at the Dublin airport. The group’s charter flight took off shortly after 5 p.m. local time and landed back at Tulsa International Airport just before 8:30 p.m.

What a whirlwind of a trip for this crew! These students made memories that will last a lifetime. While a ton of fun was had by all, there’s just no place like home and no place like Owasso!

Our two days in London have been filled with fun, amazing sights and an exciting look at the arts scene in England’s largest city.
Monday started with a guided bus tour of London that hit on many of the iconic sights that most of us had only previously seen on television or in the movies. Among those sights were Buckingham Palace, St. James’s Park, Westminster Abbey, Parliament, Big Ben and the Tower of London.
While at the Tower of London, students had the opportunity to gaze upon the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom, which are a collection of royal ceremonial objects housed at the tower and include coronation regalia and vestments worn by British monarchs. Certain objects were not available for us to see, as they are being prepared for the coronation of King Charles in May.
From the tower, we took a river cruise to the London Eye, also known as the Millennium Wheel. It is technically termed a “cantilevered observation wheel” but it looks like a massive Ferris Wheel and we were excited to get a ride to the top and see this sprawling metropolis from above. When it opened in 2000, it was the world’s tallest Ferris Wheel at 443 feet and it remains the largest in Europe.
After dinner on the town, we enjoyed watching Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, which is the world’s longest-running play. This thrilling West End production is known as the genre-defining murder mystery from the best-selling novelist of all time. The students thoroughly enjoyed the show! Afterward, the main character made everyone in attendance promise not to spoil the ending for anyone who hadn’t seen it. It’s a regular “who done it?” show and you won’t get any hints from us!
Tuesday marked another trip to the theatre. This time it was Shakespeare’s Globe, which is a reconstruction of the original Globe Theatre. The original Globe Theatre was built in 1599, destroyed by a fire in 1613, rebuilt in 1614 and then demolished in 1644. It was the playhouse for which Shakespeare wrote his plays. The modern Shakespeare’s Globe is an academic approximation based on available evidence of the 1599 and 1614 buildings and we were fortunate to tour the space before returning for a show in the evening.
We enjoyed a long lunch and shopping in the Covent Garden district before dinner at the Hard Rock Café. We returned to Shakespeare’s Globe for our final show of the trip, The Tempest. The Tempest is the first of Shakespeare’s comedies and it was another hit among our group.
Following the show, we returned to our hotel to get one last night of sleep in Europe before returning home on Wednesday. Throughout these last few days in London, we have become quite experienced in navigating the London Underground, also known as the Tube, where it is always encouraged that you “mind the gap” between the train and the platform. 
Time to rest up for the long journey home. It’s been a fun ride, but we’ll be happy to see some familiar faces (and cars driving on the right side of the road) in Owasso once again!

It feels great to be back home! The theatre and visual arts groups safely returned to Owasso very late Wednesday night/Thursday morning. While the trip back was long, there truly is no place like home.
We savored our last hours in London and now that we are back and in the process of getting well-rested, we can reflect on this trip and thank the many people involved in making it such a success. It was a herculean task to successfully get more than 400 students, family members and administrators halfway across the globe and back, and none of it would have been possible without the efforts of all who contributed.
So here is a list, in no particular order, of those that deserve public thanks. None of these individuals or groups seek out the spotlight, but we’re giving it to them now!
•         Chris Barber, Director of Fine Arts for Owasso Public Schools
•         Debbie Taylor, Fine Arts Administrative Assistant
•         Mike Grueninger & Grueninger Music Tours
•         Chris Harris and the Pride of Owasso staff
•         Mindy Bettridge and the Voice of Owasso staff
•         Kay Bratcher and the visual arts staff
•         Ryan King and the theatre department staff
•         All of the parents, chaperones and patron organizations
•         All of our tour guides & bus drivers
•         OPS Superintendent Dr. Margaret Coates & administrators for their support 
•         The people of Ireland & England for their amazing hospitality
Lastly, but certainly not least, we must thank the Owasso Community for their support of our Fine Arts programs. That support came in many different forms throughout the last two years. Whether it was support by way of donations, participation in fundraisers, your time or your kind words on social media, all of it contributed to the experience of a lifetime and we are extremely grateful for you.
We did everything that we could on this trip to represent our school and community in the first class manner that each deserves. We are proud to call Owasso home and with each interaction, each performance, each sightseeing venture that we went on, our hope is that the people of Ireland and England came away with an idea of how special our home is.
So we say “Thank You!” and please know that it was an honor to represent you on the international stage!