Friday, 10 November 2017

Voices of Limerick

Originally set up as a ter-centenary choir for the 300th Anniversary of the signing of the 1691 Siege of Limerick, the choir later evolved into Voices of Limerick in 1992.

In the early years Barra O’Tuama invited Voices of Limerick to join in his Opera Gala Concerts to sing many of the great Grand Opera Choruses, this provided the choir with the opportunity to perform with some of the finest singers ever to visit our shores including José Cura, Paolo Gavanelli and Sergei Leiferkus and also with some of Ireland’s leading singers including Cara O’Sullivan, Virginia Kerr, Orla Boylan, Mairéad Buicke, Frank Patterson and Suzanne Murphy. The choir has also performed with both the RTE Symphony and Concert Orchestras.

Voices of Limerick are invited to perform at many events including Limerick Sings International Choral Festival and also perform their own gala concert every two years.  In 2014 the choir was delighted to receive funding from the City of Culture which enabled them to perform the very successful Classics for Culture, an evening of choral music, solo songs and arias.  The accompanist was our good friend and honorary life member, Phillip Thomas.

Voices of Limerick enjoys singing many of the great choral arrangements and has also performed works that have been arranged specially for the choir itself.  In their 2014  Classics for Culture concert the choir premiered an arrangement by Colman Pearce and  dedicated to Voices of Limerick, of that lovely ballad ‘Where the Shannon River meets the Sea’, in recognition of Limerick’s year as National City of Culture.

Voices of Limerick are celebrating their Silver Anniversary with a Gala Concert in UCH on Saturday 11th November. Joining us on this occasion are the fabulous soprano Sinead Campbell Wallace and tenor Stephen Aviss.

Musical Director since the beginning is Colette Davis, whose extraordinary dedication & musical knowledge are a constant inspiration to the members will conduct, while
Internationally acclaimed pianist, vocal coach and conductor Phillip Thomas is accompanist for the evening.

The programme for the concert is a mix of some of our older, favourite repertoire as well as new pieces that we have done this year. These include Edgar’s Requiem Aeternam, Bell Chorus from I Pagliacci and Nessun dorma.

We are delighted that so many of our founding members are still with us and will be on stage with us on Saturday.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Teach na nAmhrán: The Song House

Teach na nAmhrán: The Song House
A stunning retreat centre for choirs and other creative groups, in falcarragh, Donegal

Can you imagine bringing your choir here, for some creative time away together?
Situated within the heart of the traditional Gaeltacht area of Donegal, Teach na nAmhrán is a perfect residential place for groups of musicians and singers to come away on creative retreat, and to connect with the vibrant traditional music scene of Ireland.
Over the past year, Candy Verney, a choir director herself, has renovated the house for her singing work: Singing on the Wild Side singing holidays, Community Choir Leader Trainings, and workshops. It is also available for hire to other creative groups as well as family holidays.
Originally named The Poets’ House, it was a centre of literary activity for over 20 years with regular visitors including Seamus Heaney.
The Song House has a beautiful sunny workshop space accommodating 35 people, with a fine singing acoustic. It can sleep 12-14, all rooms looking out onto the iconic Muckish Mountain, and there is also a B&B next door, accommodating another 6. We have had groups of up to 32 staying for the weekend, using extra local accommodation.
Lying on the Wild Atlantic Way, the drama and beauty of the local landscape takes your breath away- spectacular 3 mile sandy dune beaches, wide expanses of blue or stormy skies, the iconic Muckish mountain (the hogs back), Tory island surrounded by a skirt of turquoise sea glinting in the evening light. Historical sites, Glenveagh National Park, archaeology, the area has it all.
The local music scene is fantastic- music sessions go on most nights in local pubs, as well as music events connecting to the Gaeltacht, the Irish speaking area of Donegal. In June/July there are no less than 4 festivals going on in the area, including the Earagail Arts Festival which hosts international artists and musicians. You can still hear singers singing in the old style of ‘sean-nos’.
There are some beautiful places nearby to take a group to sing: check out my former choir Sounding It Out singing in the ruined Ray church. Our coach driver was in tears.
You can see why this landscape inspired Enya, who came from close by, and I can imagine being inspired to record an album here.

If you like the idea, but need a helping hand to work out the logistics, I can facilitate your trip so that you have the kind of trip that will stay in your soul forever.  I see it as part of my job to introduce you to local musicians, artists and contacts, as well as give you ideas of where to go for hikes, swims, ancient and historical visits.
More photos and information are available on our new website:

Contact me and we can make a time to chat further.

Candy Verney
Singing towards Change

I have also published a group of inspiring songs for choirs- Songs from Life. 

Thursday, 6 April 2017

50 Years of Tallaght Choral Society

This was the heading in the Sunday Tribune of Ian Fox’s review of the special concert in the National Concert Hall  to celebrate Tallaght Choral Society’s 21st Anniversary of major performances. By that time the choir had given performances of  major  choral pieces such as Messiah; Creation; ElijahRequiems by Brahms, Mozart and Fauré; Vivaldi’s  Gloria, Bach’s  St John’s Passion and by now had performed regularly in the Concert Hall.  From its humble beginnings as a church choir in Dominican Priory Tallaght in 1967, the choir had far exceeded the dreams and expectations of its handful of  founder members.

Fr Dónal Sweeney founder TCS

Liam Fitzgerald, who succeeded Fr. Dónal Sweeney OP as Musical Director in 1969 had embarked on a project to perform the Messiah  in the Tallaght Priory. His extraordinary vision, drive and teaching ability coaxed the small choir to progress from singing part-songs to learning more challenging music. His enthusiasm was shared by choir members and a very active committee. The first performance of Messiah in Tallaght  with the Dublin Baroque Players and leading soloists on 25th Nov 1971 to a packed Priory Church,  was the first step  in the musical story of TCS. During the next ten years Liam introduced the choir to the major choral works for the annual performance in the Priory with repeat performances at provincial venues.
Today’s choir is proud to have inherited a proud tradition of choral singing and choir development thanks to the great experience and encouragement of each of its  past   Musical Directors : David Jones ( 1982-85); James Cavanagh (1985 – 1995; 2001-2002) Gráinne Gormley ( 1986- 2001); Mark Armstrong ( 2002-2015).
It was David Jones who first introduced the choir to competition – Navan (Ist Prize) and Cork -  and  followed this with  the first visit to perform in the NCH with Bach’s St. John Passion with the Irish Chamber Orchestra.

TCS in the Square Tallaght circa 1988

James (Jimmy) Cavanagh was responsible for the major  development and transformation of the choir  by introducing two concerts per year, with regular performances in the NCH and accepting regular invitations to sing in RTÉ concerts and others. The ‘Mahler Tour’ of Waterford, Cork and NCH as guests of the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland with Albert Rosen was an exciting highlight, followed by the ‘Messiah for Somalia’ at the Point with massed choirs. During this period new compositions  were commissioned  and performed: Gloria by Rhona Clarke (1991) and De Profundis by John Buckley (1994).
“A Tenner for a Tenor” was a slogan for a major recruitment campaign when Gráinne Gormley (1996-2001) proposed a performances of   Israel in Egypt (Handel) and Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with choruses for large choir. With an increased membership of 120+ it was now possible to perform works for large choir and orchestra.  Annual concerts in the Concert Hall continued with numerous invites from RTÉ for ‘Theatre Nights’ etc.
Mark Armstrong (Director in 2002 – 2015) with his  expertise  and  brilliant teaching skills brought the choir to a new level of competence. Collaborations with other major choirs followed and  provided memorable occasions and opportunities to travel and perform in other cities e.g.  Verdi’s Requiem with Liverpool Welsh Choral Union; Brahms Requiem with Royal Edinburgh Choral Union; Carmina Burana with Belfast Philharmonic and East Cork Choral Union; Elijah with Sligo Choral Society; Messiah with Tokyo Choral Society and Mahler 8 with massed choirs in Tallaght’s Basketball Arena.  A trip to sing in Vienna as part of the Adventfest in the Rathaus and  invitations to take part in Croke Park events - Special Olympics Opening Ceremony and ‘Stars, Choirs and Carols’ for massed choirs were fun events for all involved.   Mark’s farewell concert in collaboration with Bel Canto Chorus from Milwaukee, featured a performance of Lux Aeterna , by Morten Lauridsen, a living composer, another new experience  for the choir.
Because of the extraordinary bond formed between the members of Tallaght Choral Society and each musical director, changes when they occur  bring  sadness at the departure followed by a period of re-adjustment to a new style and pastures new.

TCS circa 1990

All the popular choral works have  been performed by each generation of the choir  e.g., Messiah; Creation; Elijah;  Requiems by Brahms, Mozart, Fauré; Vivaldi’s Gloria; Bach’s St John Passion; Carmina Burana, Mahler Symphony No.2;  Rossini’s Stabat Mater, and choral works  by Handel,  Schubert, Puccini, Mozart, Haydn etc. in addition to music by Charpentier, Starvinsky, Bruckner, Duruflé, Dvorak, Rutter etc . In all, the choir has performed in  150+ concerts.
The choir was fortunate to have performed with other  conductors e.g.  Albert Rosen, Alexander Annissimov; Gerhard Markson,  Mark Shanahan, Stephen Barlow, Proinnsias Ó Duinn, David Brophy, Gearóid Grant,  Michael Bawtree and others.
Memorable occasions  were provided by the  performance of the Mozart Clarinet Concerto by Brian O’ Rourke in 1978 in  Tallaght and Waterford;  the visit  of tenor Ian Partridge as Evangelist in 1980  in Bach’s St. John Passion in Tallaght and Sligo and the performance of two trumpet concertos by John Wallace in 1993 in  Tallaght and Waterford.
The founder members could hardly have imagined that the choir would go on to perform so many  of the great choral works.  Current members would be surprised to hear how the choir and its leadership negotiated the uphill struggle of those  early years: weekly rehearsals without an accompanist; weeks learning the notes of  one chorus; the excitement of performing with orchestra  and reading  reviews of  music critics after performances in  Tallaght Priory; heavy lifting involved in transporting, building and dismantling of the sturdy choir stand which served the choirs needs for forty years. The  invitation to repeat the Messiah in the famous Embankment Pub (famous venue for folk music etc  in Tallaght area) was gracefully declined! The decision to  purchase a new ‘state of the art’, easily assembled,  choir stand provides us  with an invaluable resource for the future.

The choir in Vienna 2008

The choir has always been closely linked to activities in Tallaght; providing music at the opening of the present Priory Church in 1969; St. Aengus’s Church in 1975 and St. Martin’s Church in 1975; an Annual Carol Service in Dominican Priory; Annual November Mass of Remembrance in the Priory;  Christmas Music in the Square; Opening of Rua Red; Tallaght composers workshop; Tallafest . Local establishments – Cuckoo’s Nest; Penny Black and Molloys Fox’s Covert (table quiz and Christmas music) have all hosted enjoyable choir extra-curricular activities

Lynsey Callaghan current musical director TCS

 Our present Director, the youthful  Lynsey Callaghan with her passion, energy and musical ability has committed herself to the task of leading  Tallaght Choral Society  into the future. Her weekly ‘musicianship classes’ contribute to the enjoyment on Monday nights. The  composer Ola Gjeilo b.1978 whose ‘Sunrise Mass’ which was composed in 2010, was part of our recent concert and was enjoyed by singers and audience alike -  the composer  sent his  best wishes to the choir in advance of the concert.

In concert with Mark Armstrong conducting Christmas 2014

The present choir members will resonate with accounts of shared passion and enthusiasm for choral singing, friendly ‘family’ atmosphere and good humour in the choir along with dedicated and hardworking chairpersons and committee members and the enjoyment shared at Monday night rehearsals in the familiar surroundings of  Dominican Priory in Tallaght.
DS March 2017

At Tallafest 2016

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

UCC Choral Society Celebrates 80 Years!

UCC Choral Society is a mixed voice choir (SATB) of UCC students of all disciplines, ranging from music to medicine. One of the oldest societies in UCC, the choir rehearses every week preparing for various competitions and performances. As of 2017, UCC Choral Society celebrates its 80th birthday. With this, the beginning of February marked a weeklong celebration of our society with 'Choral Week', beginning on the 30th January and concluding on the 4th February. We included many choral based events in this week, including the choral 80th birthday party and rehearsal, Strauss Ball, which is the creative societies ball in UCC, featuring the Cork Pops Orchestra, Choosical the Musical- a singalong cinema and our final event of the week, our first ever UCC Choral Workshop day.

This workshop, held in the Aula Maxima on the grounds of UCC, allowed all attendees to learn in a very interactive manner with 4 workshops throughout the day with different speakers, which included our very own Daniel Beuster, Dr Geoffrey Spratt, Dr Trish Rooney and Dr Eva McMullan Glossop. We concluded the day with a very interesting talk by Dr Paul Mealor, a professor of composition in the University of Aberdeen, whose piece, Ubi Caritas, was commissioned to be performed at the royal wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William in 2011. 

The main events of the choir’s year are the annual Christmas concert "Carols by Candlelight", which runs for 3 nights each year and is always a great success, the Spring concert in the second term and the international trip during the Easter break. There are also a multitude of other events that the society conduct, including charitable performances, caroling on campus, sing-along cinemas and much, much more. We sing everything from Mozart to Elton John, so there is something to suit everyone's musical tastes. New members are welcome at all stages throughout the year whether you are a musical prodigy or you just like to sing in the shower, so come along and join one of the most fun societies in UCC.

We also have a competitive choir, UCC Singers. Formed in 2014, UCC Singers have enjoyed great success in various national competitions. This includes most recently first place in the mixed voice category at the City of Derry International Choral Competition with a mark of 94 and first and second place in Feis Maitiu in the chamber choir competition and mixed voice competition respectively. The choir consists of 28 members, again from all faculties throughout the college. With new members added and graduated every year, we have been very lucky to maintain such a consistently high standard throughout the past three years.

Both of these choirs are under the direction of the very talented Daniel Beuster. Hailing from Galway and a graduate of CIT Cork School of Music, Daniel joined our choral family in September 2015, bringing both choirs up to a higher standard of performing and choral singing. Since 2015, the lowest position in which we have placed in competition is 2nd place with both choirs, a true reflection on how Daniel's direction has improved our wonderful society.

Not only have we a wonderful conductor but we're very lucky to have our incredibly talented accompanist, David King. David is currently studying a Bachelor of Music of Clare and can only be described as a truly wonderful musician when it comes to playing the piano. Most recently, David won 'The Bridget Doolan Memorial Perpetual Cup and Bursary' at Feis Maitiu, which is again a real testament of the calibre of musicians we are so lucky to work with.

In 2016, UCC Choral Society had the greatest honour of travelling to Verona in Italy to compete in their annual international Choral Festival in which we received the gold standard award and performed with the fantastic talent that is Dr Jeffrey Redding. This year, we hope to replicate that gold standard award as we travel to Budapest over the Easter break to compete in their annual international choral festival from the 8th-13th April. 

Friday, 20 January 2017

Cois Cladaigh Celebrates 35 Years

Way back in June of 1982, a small group of singers got together in the Ladies Club in the then UCG to start a new choir in Galway. The musical focus of the choir was from the Renaissance including composers such as Monteverdi, Marenzio, Gesualdo, Lassus, Victoria, Byrd, Dowland and Morley but also Irish composers such as Bodley, Ó Gallachobhair and Buckley. This was the start of Cois Cladaigh. Little did the singers realise that 35 years on, they would still be together to celebrate this birthday.

This 42 mixed voice choir specialises in contemporary choral music and European music from the late 15th and early 16th centuries. Since its foundation, Cois Cladaigh has travelled  widely throughout Ireland and has performed in Counties Galway, Mayo, Donegal, Clare, Limerick, Kerry, Cork, Waterford, Dublin, Westmeath and Roscommon. It makes regular tours outside Ireland including France (3 times), Italy (3 times) Germany (twice), Holland, Portugal, Spain, Poland, U.S.A., Estonia, Belgium and Iceland.The Estonian trip was a great success and the choir was greatly honoured by Arvo Pärt who came to our concert in Tallinn and met with all the singers after the event.

The choir has been very successful in competition over the years and in 2009 was awarded the Lady Dorothy Mayer Memorial Trophy for the performance of Molamís go leir an tAon-Mhac Criost by Br. Ben Hanlon in the International section of the Cork Choral Festival. At the same festival in 2007, it won the Premier National Competition for Mixed Voice Choirs, the National Competition for Light, Jazz and Popular Music, the Trofaí Cuimhneacháin Philib Ui Laoghaire, the National Choir of the Festival – Victor Leeson Perpetual Trophy and the Perpetual Trophy for the Performance of Irish Contemporary Choral Music – an astonishing sweep of trophies that is unlikely ever to be equalled.

Cois Cladaigh takes an active role in commissioning contemporary composers and these include John Buckley, Micheál O Súilleabháin, Hugh Kelly, Marion Ingoldsby, Martin O'Leary, Peter Michael Hamel, Jenny Walshe, Eamonn Murray, Br. Ben Hanlon, Ann Hoban, Máire Ní Dhuibhir and the contemporary New Zealand composer, David Hamilton. The Basque composer, Javier Busto wrote a piece to celebrate the choir’s 20th. anniversary. Its most recent commission “Three Plums”, was by the U.S. composer Matthew Harris and the premiere performance was given December ‘08.

In September 2000, Cois Cladaigh launched its first CD called “Lux Aeterna” which is a selection of the choir’s of Renaissance and Contemporary spiritual music. The second, “An Equal Music”, focuses more on contemporary secular and religious music and to a lesser extent, Renaissance music. The third cd “Beatus Vir”, is a live recording of a concert in Cork, 2007 and the fourth “Puer natus” is a recording of Christmas music.

As part of its 25th anniversary, Cois Cladaigh organised a 3 concert tour to Ireland by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir who performed music by Estonian composers which was grant-aided by the Arts Council and 2010, the choir collaborated with Pipe Works to bring Chanticleer to Ireland for the choir’s first Irish visit.

For the choir’s 30th anniversary in 2012, Cois Cladaigh commissioned works by the Estonian composer Urmas Sisask , the Spaniard Albert Alcaraz, the Icelandic-based duo Oliver Kentish and John Speight and three Irish composers Benedict Schlepper Connolly, Emily Magner and Eamonn Murray.

The choir did two workshops and subsequent concerts with the following conductors: Mark Duley who concentrated on 16th/17th century chromaticism by composers e.g. Vicentino, Lotti and Gesualdo while Donal Doherty focussed on contemporary North American repertoire e.g. Lauridsen, Giejlo and Whitacre.

We gave concerts in a number of Ireland off the west coast including Clare Island, Inishbofin and Inisheer. Programmes for all the 30th anniversary concerts featured composers listed above, as well as early Irish chant, Bassano, Jacquet of Mantua, Chesnokov, Bessarabov and some of Cois Cladaigh’s early repertoire. A selection of existing Cois Cladaigh commissions will also be featured some of which will be second performances.

A collaborative performance including the eminent U.S. volcanologist Professor John Delaney who has carried out extensive underwater HDV of Pacific spreading zones harpist Kathleen Cannon and uileann piper Eugene Lamb was presented in St. Anne’s Church, Dawson Street, Dublin as part of the International Science Conference that was held in the National Conference Centre, Dublin, July 2012.

The choir also collaborated with Dr. Michael Fenstrøm, UL, in a concert of choral and electronic synthesised music, the Carl Hession Jazz trio in a concert of Renaissance religious and secular choral music and with Con Tempo as part of its10th anniversary celebrations.

The choir visited Paris in March (16th – 19th) and stayed at the Irish Cultural Institute where it gave 1 of three concerts. The choir also attended St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the Irish Embassy.

Over the last 35 years, Cois Cladaigh has organised several workshops to expose the singers and the conductor to different choral practitioners. These include voice training, musical interpretation and sight singing with Mark Duley and Alan Leech, experimental and aleatorical singing with Gunnar Eriksson and plain chant and early polyphony with Angus Smith of the Orlando Consort.

Cois Cladaigh has worked with many different choirs and musical groups including the Galway Baroque Singers in a performance of Thallassa by Philip Martin, Resurgam, New Dublin Voices and Mornington Singers in a performance of Renaissance motets and as part of a Pipe Works concert, Orlando Consort to perform Tarik O’Regan’s Scattered Rhymes, Mícheál Ó Suilleabháin accompanied traditional Irish songs and the NUI Galway orchestra for a performance of Vivaldi’s Gloria.

Brendan O’Connor, the choir’s main conductor, has a Ph.D. in marine science and is Director of Aqua-Fact International Services Ltd., an environmental consultancy company based in Galway. He has been associated with choral music since secondary school. He began conducting the University College Galway choir in 1972 and kept this post up to 1981. In 1982, he was asked to conduct a newly formed choir, Cois Cladaigh, and has remained its principal conductor since then. He has adjudicated at two Oireachteas Festivals and twice at the Cork International Choral Festival and the Sligo International Choral Festival. In 2008, he adjudicated at the Jersey International Choral Festival in October. He was on the adjudication panel for the All Island Secondary Schools Competition in 2010 and 2011. In 2011 and 2012, he adjudicated at the AIMS Festival in New Ross. He was chair of the adjudication panel for the Galway Choir Factor competition in 2014, 2015 and 2016 and also chaired the panel for the recently formed Schools choral festival in Galway in 2016.

He attended and contributed to all the think tank sessions organised by Fergus Shiels as part of the Arts Council strategy to support and develop choral singing in Ireland which culminated in the Arts Council publication “Raising Your Voice”  in October 2008.

In 2007, he was presented with the Galway Mayor’s Award for Arts and Culture and also Galway Person of the Year Award for music by the Chamber of Commerce. In 2009, he received an Alumni Award for his contribution to music in NUI Galway.