Hundreds of eager competitors took the three stages of this year’s Feis Dhoire Cholmcille this week as the 92nd year of the annual Easter event got underway.
Hair was brushed, Sunday best put on and children reminded to smile as they traipsed onto the stage at the Millennium Forum, the Playhouse and St. Columb’s Hall to take part in what has truly become a Derry institution.
On the go since 1922, with a two year gap during World War II, the Feis has seen thousands of would-be performers cross the stage to recite a poem, dance a jig or sing for their supper (or a well earned medal or cup).
A year in the planning, this year’s competitions attracted large numbers of performers but Feis secretary, Pat MacCafferty, whose family has been instrumental in keeping the Feis running, said there have been changes in the trends in competitors.
Now, he said, a large number of entrants come from private schools of speech and drama, or private singing teachers as opposed to, in previous years, when the majority of competitors came through the local schools.
Dancing is not as popular as it once was, but the Feis still manages to attract a large crowd, with a lots of last minute entries.
The Feis has, of course, seen a host of famous faces grace the stage over the years.
Performers such as Roma Downey, ‘Dana’ Rosemary Brown, Frank Gallagher, Ruth McGinley and West End singer Margaret Keys all credit the Derry Feis with helping build their confidence.
In fact, current competitor in the ‘The Voice of Ireland,’ Ciaran O’Driscoll, whose live shows start next week, said the Derry Feis gave him his first taste of success and he credits it with giving the courage to pursue his career goals of being a professional singer.
The Feis has run through three venues since Monday and competitions will close at the end of today (Friday).
In that time hundreds of dancers, actors, musicians and singers will have given it their all in front of a team of esteemed adjudicators.
The most popular competition this year were the speech and drama events - open to all from pre-school age and upwards.
Irish language competitions also saw a resurgence in popularity.
Competitions ran each morning into the early evening.
Results from this year’s Feis Dhoire Cholmcille have been posted online at www.derryjournal.com with further pictorial coverage in today’s paper on Pages 30 to 33.