The Sligo Champion - - FRONT PAGE - By CIARA GALVIN

Yeats’ County will be alive with the sound of cho­ral mu­sic from Novem­ber 16 th to 18th as the an­nual Sligo In­ter­na­tional Cho­ral Fes­ti­val comes to town.

This year will be an ex­tra spe­cial fes­ti­val for all in­volved as it marks the 30 th an­niver­sary of the fes­ti­val’s es­tab­lish­ment.

From hum­ble be­gin­nings and com­mitt­ment from a hand­ful of vol­un­teers, the fes­ti­val is now a firm favourite for choirs across Ire­land and Europe.

Over the years the fes­ti­val has played host to choirs across 20 coun­tries, in­clud­ing Rus­sia, Ukraine and Hun­gary, putting Sligo on the map as a cul­tural tourism des­ti­na­tion.

Re­count­ing those early days of the fes­ti­val, former chair­man Joe Kelly tells The Sligo Cham­pion that they were spe­cial times get­ting it off the ground.

Founded in 1988 by businessman John Ryan with a view to hav­ing the only cho­ral fes­ti­val in the coun­try held in the au­tumn, the fes­ti­val was seen as a way of bring­ing peo­ple to Sligo in Novem­ber to do some early Christ­mas shop­ping.

“We started off the fes­ti­val that year with a one day event in the old Sum­mer­hill Col­lege in Fr Flana­gan Hall and we had three com­pe­ti­tions, with 12 Ir­ish choirs.

“We raised about 1,000 pounds for the prize money. In recent years, we had 62 choirs from coun­tries all over Europe. The fes­ti­val has grown im­mea­sur­ably,” notes Mr Kelly.


Over the 30 year run there has been some dra­matic and colour­ful events tak­ing place, with Joe cit­ing a group pos­ing as a real choir be­ing one of the most mem­o­rable in­ci­dents.

“We had a group pos­ing as a real choir, from Ro­ma­nia, prob­a­bly in the mid to late 90s.

“They were in­ter­cepted at Dublin Air­port.

“They com­plied with all the rules but they were sent pack­ing back to Ro­ma­nia.

“Five years later the real choir came and com­peted and en­joyed their time in Sligo,” Joe ex­plains.

Joe says the choirs’ pub­lic per­for­mances around Sligo are ‘fan­tas­tic’ and al­lows the peo­ple of Sligo to en­joy the ar­ray of tal­ent that de­scends on the city each year.

From former pres­i­dent Mary Robin­son, to English hu­man­i­tar­ian and author Terry Waite, Joe says many pub­lic fig­ures have at­tended the fes­ti­val through­out the years, but adds that for it to con­tinue to pros­per it re­quires the sup­port of the com­mu­nity.

“There’s a great bunch of peo­ple on the new com­mit­tee and I’m ab­so­lutely con­fi­dent that it will be passed on to the next gen­er­a­tion, “con­cludes Kelly.

Sum­mer­hill Col­lege stu­dents at the 2017 In­ter­na­tional Cho­ral Fes­ti­val. In­set: Joe Kelly.

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