Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Community Choirs in West Cork led by Caz Jeffreys

For more than twenty years I’ve been working with a cross section of the community, leading music workshops and also with my involvement in community events. Most of my work has been with the setting up and on-going running of community choirs and vocal performance groups in my own area of West Cork. Performance has taken my work into events such as the Cork International Choral Festival, Ballydehob Jazz Festival and also in collaboration with visiting choirs from abroad. I love to travel and meet new communities and so from time to time my work takes me further afield.

Singing for community wellbeing
Since graduating from the MA in Community Music course at the University of Limerick, I have sought opportunities to broaden my experience in working with the different groups within the community with who I have had less contact. This has taken me into a wider section of health care settings as well as working with children and young adults.
In 2015 I was invited by the West Cork Mental Health Services to get involved in a new festival in my area dedicated to promote community wellbeing, and so my long standing desire to bring many voices together to sing a common repertoire found its’ platform in the culmination of a ‘BIG SING!’ However as soon as the event was over it was apparent that this was much more than a one-off event and that a new project had been born, bringing together much of my work and personal desires – a project bringing all walks of life together in song for the mutual benefit of the individual and wider community.

And so the West Cork BIG SING! - ‘Singing for Community Wellbeing’ project was born.
In this project I work with local choirs, community groups and individuals through teaching a common repertoire of songs at workshops and through collaborations. The songs chosen are a mixture of popular and the unknown, some from other countries and walks of life, some I have written and some written as a group effort for the event. They are all chosen with the consideration for suitability of the lyrics... to be acceptable to all age groups and ethical backgrounds, and to have a meaningful message. So far this has brought me working with groups such as Co-Action, the National Learning Network, the COPE Foundation and secondary schools. Members of eight local choirs have also engaged and in many ways have become quite the backbone of the singing, providing vocal strength and support to the rest of the community at the BIG SING! events. Two such events have taken place so far at local community festivals and we are preparing now for the third to mark Mental Health Week 2016 in Bantry.
This time I have taken the project another step further by involving a brass section and drumming group made up of individuals who were inspired to work with me on the project. Their music will be arranged and interwoven within the songs....we will see how this experiment turns out! I think involving local community music groups in the project could prove to be inspiring and rewarding in many ways.
Take a look at this short video which really helps to portray what this event is at:

Community Choirs in West Cork
Kinsale Voices – Kinsale, Cork, Ireland

KINSALE VOICES is a group of enthusiastic, local people who enjoy group singing without musical accompaniment (acappella style). We enjoy preparing songs for performance and taking them out into the local community. We meet weekly on Mondays from 7.30pm – 9.30pm in the Blue Haven Cafe singing in a variety of styles and genres.

AcapellaBella – Ballydehob, West Cork, Ireland

ACAPELLABELLA began in 2003 and has reached out having sister branches in both Clonakilty and Kinsale over the years. We currently meet in the side room of Ballydehob Community Hall on Thursdays from 8pm-10pm and new members are welcome all year round. The styles and genres we sing vary from term to term.

Ceol Na Laoi – Ballincollig Community Choir, Cork, Ireland

An inclusive new choir which is open to everyone in the community. We aim to provide a relaxed space for people to explore the simple pleasures of singing together. The songs we sing include both the familiar and the new, and we also like to explore songs from different countries.
We meet on Tuesdays 7- 9pm in Coaliste Cholilm School, Ballincollig.

I welcome collaborations, meeting and sharing musical opportunities and experiences with others and would be delighted to bring more of my work out to more areas. If you would like to explore any possibilities and discuss options for working with me please feel free to get in touch.

You can find out more about Caz’s work and projects by visiting her website at:
Join her and sign up to newsletters on her ‘Caz Jeffreys Music’ facebook page for regular updates and items of interest at:

Call her on:083 1425599 or get in touch by email at

Monday, 3 October 2016

Nothing activates as many areas of the brain as music. Singing is a stimulating experience which triggers all sorts of positive energy in the mind and body. Social interaction is the best way to shake off the blues. Put it all together and you get Choral Singing at its best.

This is the philosophy that underpins Singing For The Health Of It. This is an adult Rock ‘n’ Roll choir, open to men and women of all ages. Since starting up in 2013, it has built gradually into a focussed and committed team. New members are welcomed and included, building on the positive energy, fun and friendship that are well established in the group. To join, a new member needs to be able to sing in tune and to make the time commitment to the team. Learning CDs and sheet music help the individual learn their part, but only rehearsing together makes the choir. This is where the team gels and the sound blends, as the singers listen to each other, rely on each other and are led to a unified sound by their conductor (me!).

Exploring the Rock ‘n’ Roll genre is fascinating. Choosing songs that translate well into a choral setting, finding or writing the arrangements, bringing out the character of each song, its message its jokes and its energy, making it interesting to sing for each voice in the room, all contribute to the success of the choir. The best fun is had in identifying the vocal techniques required to sing these songs, then teaching them to the choir, sometimes with hilarious results. The Buddy Holly hic-cup, for instance, is not as easy as it sounds!

Now in its fourth year, SFTHOI will perform and workshop in RehabCare, Sandymount during National Choral Singing Week for Mental Health in October. National Choral Singing Week is a great innovation by the AOIC. It gives us the opportunity to focus on the many physical, mental and emotional benefits of choral singing and to share it far and wide. We all know there’s nothing like a good oul’ sing in the bath or the car for letting off steam. In a choir, working with other people in a team adds the focus and social connection that everyone needs, but because there’s work to be done, there’s less pressure on the individual to interact socially, it can happen gradually in a safe environment. National Choral Singing Week is only one of the many initiatives of the AOIC, but like all such things it only works if the members ourselves get involved and do our bit. They provide the Facebook page – we should be posting on it!

Next on the SFTHOI calendar will be one or two Christmas performances for charity. We love to perform in fund-raisers and charity concerts, as it usually means sharing our music and joy with other music groups and musicians as well as with the audience. All invitations are seriously considered.

Singing For The Health Of It does exactly what it says on the tin. Every rehearsal ends with myself and the choir members tired, but fizzing with energy and standing around chatting for ages before going home. Every performance likewise - I have a great time, the choir members have a great time and, most importantly, the audience has a great time. What more could you want?

Liz O Connor- Conductor, Singing For The Health Of It