Thousands of competitors from Derry, the wider North West border region and further afield will converge on the city during the Easter break to take part in the annual Féis Dhoíre Colmcille.
Since 1922, Féis Dhoíre Cholmcílle has welcomed thousands of young people and adults through its doors, and in turn sent many of these out into the world with added confidence and expertise.
Past competitors include Josef Locke, Dana, Charlie Sherrard/Patrick O’Hagan, Bronagh Gallagher, Fergal Sharkey, Glenn Simpson, Nadine Coyle, Wendy Ferguson, Cathal Breslin and Ruth McGinley.
Indeed, a number of the stars of the ‘Sons and Daughters’ concert which heralded the start of Derry-Londonderry’s year as UK City of Culture 2013, were former Féis winners, including singer Mairead Carlin and saxophonist, Gerard McChrystal.
Thousands of people, many of them children and teenagers, will take part in a range of competitions ranging from traditional events such as poetry recital, public speaking, history, Irish dancing, singing events and classical music to more modern events like hip-hop dancing.
This year’s event will feature an all-local adjudication team for the first time ever.
Adjudicators include acclaimed opera singer Doreen Curran and director of Birmingham Royal Ballet, Paul Murphy, alongside other Derry natives Dermot McLaughlin, back in the city as Project Director of Culture Company 2013; Grainne McCafferty, Anita Robinson, Debbie Hannaway, Jennifer McCay and Sheila Carlin.
A warm welcome has always characterised the Derry Féis which is now in its 89th year. It had a three year break during The Troubles in the 1970s.
In past years the event’s main venue was The Guildhall but in recent years it has branched out to other landmark venues in the city.
Competitions will be staged again this year in the Millennium Forum, St Columb’s Hall and The Playhouse.
The city’s main stages will be alive with the sound of music, song, dance and recitals of various genres, for five days during Easter week.
The Féis opens on Easter Monday with competitions taking place each day from 9.30am, finishing around midnight next Friday.
There is even more reason for competitors to up their game this year with thousands of pounds worth of bursaries to be won to mark this special City of Culture 2013.
Pat MacCafferty, music secretary of the Féis committee, said: “Because of City of Culture we have endeavoured this year to bring in all local adjudicators for the very first time. And in conjunction with the Culture Company we are awarding a number of bursaries to the top individual Feis winners.”
This year’s Feis, which gets underway on April 1, will be awarding bursaries totalling £8,000, including four bursaries of £500 each presented by Culture Company 2013 – the Maureen Downey Cup & Bursary (drama over 14); the James MacCafferty Cup & Bursary (piano over 16); the Father McDaid Cup & Bursary (solo singing over 16) and overall senior dancer (over 16).
Two new Cups have been presented to this year’s Féis – the Seamus Heaney Cup (senior poetry recital) and the Celine Quigley Memorial Cup (girls champsionship 8-10 years).
All the accompanists this year are also respected local musicians.
Pat MacCafferty estimated that this year’s Féis would potentially attract up to 10,000 competitors, taking in to account all the local school entries for competitions such as the Primary School Choir event which took place earlier this week in St Mary’s College.
As well as the families and friends of the competitors who will be supporting them in their droves at the various competitions, thousands of people are expected to flock to the Féis venues to savour the rich abundance of talent on display during the week.
Visitors to the city can expect to be wowed with the cultural offer.
Showcase to be staged
Meanwhile, Féis Dhoíre Cholmcille is to stage a showcase of winners past and present as part of the City of Culture celebrations.
Starring a host of acclaimed former competitors as well as current prizewinners, it will be held at the Millennium Forum on Sunday, April 7, starting at 3.30pm.
Performers will include ‘Phantom Of The Opera’ and ‘Oliver’ star Wendy Ferguson, international classical crossover soprano Margaret Keys, and renowned composer, conductor and record producer Frank Gallagher.
Other performers will represent the Foyle School of Speech & Drama, the MacCafferty School of Music, the McGinley School of Music, Comhaltas Doire, local choirs and dance schools.
Tickets for the showcase, at just £2.50, can be purchased at the Millennium Forum Box Office.
The showcase promises to be a truly memorable finale to this year’s Féis Dhoíre Cholmcílle.
Further information on the 2013 Feis can be found on its website, www.derryfeis.com.