Music lovers have got used to online events during the pandemic.
Final preparations are being made for a major music festival in Derry later this month.
After 17 months of the absence of live group singing events, the opportunity to experience open air music on the streets of Derry is just one of the highlights of the locally-run Every Voice Festival which is adopting a hybrid format when it takes place from August 16-22.
Now in its fourth year, the festival is managed and run by local arts organisation Allegri.
It engages local communities by offering dynamic music experiences for singers and audiences in the region under the ethos that 'every voice matters'.
After the success of last year’s fully virtual format, the festival line up will showcase newly recorded content from both the Every Voice Cloud Choir and local young singers.
It will also deliver in-person creative arts workshops for ages 8-14, premiere an online sacred music concert celebrating 1500 years of Colmcille and host an exciting programme of live singing on the city’s Walls.
The festival will welcome two workshop leaders of vast experience to deliver in-person Covid-safe workshops tailored specifically for local adult amateur singers.
Dr Roísín Blunnie is Director of the MA in Choral Studies at Dublin City University, conductor of award-winning Irish chamber choir Laetare Vocal Ensemble and a highly respected Kodály practitioner.
Aga Serugo Lugo is a London-based multi-instrumentalist and director/music educator specialising in jazz, soul, funk and musical theatre and works with various music organisations including the English National Opera, Royal Opera House and Streetwise Opera.
As well as group singing and learning, the workshops will create a narrative based music-making experience using vocal styles from different continents around the world. They will be held in the Holywell Trust, strictly adhering to government guidelines.
There are also youth workshops running.
The programme includes group singing, African drumming, drama, Chi-Me, visual arts, two day-trips and a performance showcase.
Places are limited for both adult and youth workshops as a result of Covid guidelines and you can register for any of them by emailing email@example.com
The impact of Covid-19 on choral singing has been devastating but local choirs and singers have shown an admirable determination to adapt and endure, finding ways to meet online and share music performances in a virtual sphere.
“The last year has been an extremely uncertain time for the arts with serious concerns being raised about the long-term future of collective singing in particular,” said Festival Creative Director Maurice Kelly.
“Allegri has remained extremely busy since March 2020 finding new and creative solutions to continue collaborative music-making for local choristers.
“We have worked closely with local groups to present an exciting programme of online and live community music-making, ensuring we reach our audience while adhering to the guidelines that are currently in place.”
One element of these lockdown activities is the Cloud Choir made up of over 100 community singers who have been meeting online via Zoom since April last year.
Having produced a number of virtual videos throughout 2020, the festival will showcase the third edition of Cloud Choir projects - the production of a virtual performance of a medley from The Beatles’ Abbey Road Album and a recorded live performance of Greg Gilpin’s aptly titled ‘Awaken the Music’.
For this second piece the group are excited to be meeting face to face for the first time to record it live. The performance will be aired across Allegri’s online platforms on Friday 20th August.
Some of these singers will also be taking part in ‘Sing in the City’, the live open-air public performance in the city centre on Saturday 21st August.
This will be an especially poignant event, as local audiences can once again experience the thrill of live singing on the streets.
Maurice said: “While we have all faced many challenges, the joy of singing unites singers, audiences and communities in a way that few other activities can, and our festival will be a true celebration of the transformative power of singing together. We can’t wait to share it with local people.”
The Every Voice Festival will run from 16th to 22rd August. All live performances and online content are free of charge and will be available to view across a number of online platforms including Allegri’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.
This festival has been funded by Derry City and Strabane District Council, Community Foundation for Northern Ireland, the National Lottery Community Fund and Colmcille1500 Grant Scheme which is funded by the North West Development Fund, in conjunction with and supported by The Executive Office and The Irish Government.
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