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May 2019
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2004-10-26 Sligo is rightly proud of how choral festival has developed

This week, the city of Sligo will once again be hosting the single largest cultural event in the North West of Ireland - the 17th Annual International Sligo Choral Festival.


Up to 2500 visitors will flock to the city, bringing around ¬1 million of business, not including the citys totally booked-out hotels, in an otherwise off-peak season. Forty-two choirs from all over Ireland, the UK, Norway, the Czech Republic and Romania will take part in the four-day festival which begins on Thursday October 28 at 8pm in the Aula Maxima at Sligos Institute of Technology.

The opening concert will be attended by the ever-popular MEP Marian Harkin, alongside our own Mayor Councillor Declan Bree, as well as the festival chairman Joe Kelly, and John Keegan  Regional Manager of the Bank of Ireland  the festivals principal sponsors. The Band of the 4th Western Brigade will perform, as well as the Dominic Graham School of Irish Dance, and the virtuosic Norwegian Choir  Voci Nobili. The four-day festival closes on Sunday 31st with a cabaret in the Sligo Park Hotel.

Sligo ought to be justly proud to be continually hosting such a huge international choral event such as this, and equally proud of how far the festival has progressed from its embryonic stages when it was founded back in 1988 by local men John Ryan and Joe Kelly  the present Chairman.

It is truly heartening to see that there are still many people in the world who value the joy, creativity and buzz of choral singing. Being a member of a choir is one of the best social outlets and means of meeting people, as well as the added fun and creativity of music-making as part of a team.

It can often seem disillusioning when one sees the average age of the typical church choir, despite the fact that a good church choir can enhance and enrich the liturgy, exalting it to a whole new level. But the place of music in the liturgy is a hobby-horse for this writer, so dont get me started&&.

During my four years in university I was part of the Tenor section in the UCD Chamber Choir, and ever since I have been heavily involved in other choral groups, including Dublins Camerata Singers, Musica Sacra, the RTE Chamber Choir, as well as a regular chorister on the London church service circuit. Even now I make my living as part of a 3-part ensemble of sorts.

One of the most memorable experiences of my musical life has to have been performing Thomas Tallis 40-part motet in Dublins Four Courts. Forty solo voices, each with an independent line, concentrated for the duration as if their life depended on it, in order to recreate this record-breaking polyphonic masterpiece. Everything about choral singing is positive  the discipline, the teamwork, the social aspect, and of course the creation of some of the worlds most sublime choral music from a truly bottomless musical reservoir.

Choral training and involvement from a young age needs to be looked at in a new and fresh way, so that school choir class will not be seen by the majority as a chore, something to endure or, worse-still a free period! The fun of choral singing ought to be introduced to children from an early age as part of the normal school curriculum, and as a means of teaching teamwork and discipline, as well as instilling a love of music.

I am often reminded of the difference between amateur and professional . The word amateur literally means to love to do, and there are many professionals in the business who need a little more amateur in their approach to music. There are a whole range of varied choral group-types, and Sligo has a wide selection for all you up-and-coming choristers out there  the Sligo Orpheus Choir, the Amaryllis Singers, the Golf Club Male Voice Choir, the Strandhill Barber Shop group, as well as the Cathedral and church choirs and folk-groups, and of course the Musical Society and Pantomime choruses for those of you who may crave that added thespian buzz!

In the meantime, go along to the 17th Sligo Choral Festival to whet your appetite. Have a look at, or call the Quay Street office on 071  9170733. Tickets can also be purchased from Whytes in John Street.