Every Voice Festival returns to bring choral music to the streets and venues of Derry

The Every Voice Festival, a grassroots community singing festival for singers of all ages and backgrounds, is returning for an exciting week of live music-making from June 20 to 26.

The festival is managed by local arts organisation Allegri and sponsored by DCSDC and Arts Council NI, the Festival team, under Maurice Kelly as Creative Director.

The team are delighted to present an exciting and diverse return to fully live singing and performance opportunities in an event for local singers, representing 40 choirs from Derry and throughout Northern Ireland, designed and programmed by local singers.

In 2020, the festival was fully virtual and included a Drive In Concert as well as workshops with international facilitators. Last year the Festival had a hybrid format with some small-scale outdoor events being held, but most of the programme continued to be virtual. One of the pandemic initiatives was the Every Voice Cloud Choir project which drew members from the island of Ireland, UK, Europe and as far as North America, Asia, South Africa and Australia in online workshops and virtual performances and the festival team is delighted that some members of that will be singing in person as part of the Every Voice Chorus.

The Every Voice Festival takes place later this month.

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    “Our passion for the festival is to engage local communities by offering dynamic music experiences for singers and audiences in the region under the ethos that every voice matters”, comments Maurice Kelly.

    “Under the tagline, ‘staying connected through music’, we strove to innovate and reimagine our provision as the pandemic brought immense challenges to in person singing and performing.

    “However, one thing that the virtual sphere couldn’t provide was the indescribable magical energy created by those engaged in the activity of singing in the same physical space. In this year’s festival programme we want to reflect the need for healing as well as celebrating the return to the joy of live connection.”

    The Festival team believes that one of the highlights of the week will be the Youth Concert ‘Coming Back’. The concert, taking place in the Millennium Forum on Thursday 23rd June at 7pm and featuring 200 pupils from nine post-primary schools from Derry, Strabane, Limavady, Carrickmore and Coleraine, Allegri Junior Choir, and the 60-strong Orchestra NorthWest is planned as a musical showcase of hope, reflection and celebration, reflecting the resilience of young people and the positive power of music.

    As well as Allegri-commissioned pieces, ‘Beauty’s In Your Singing’; by Shane M. Lynch (USA) and ‘Only Child’; by local composer Seán Doherty (commissioned, written and recorded during the pandemic in 2021), the programme will feature the works ‘Refuge’ by Howard Goodall and

    ‘Everyday Wonders: The Girl from Aleppo’ by Cecilia McDowall about population displacement and refugee crises brought about by conflict, themes which are particularly relevant in the world today.

    Maurice comments, “it has been wonderful and humbling to witness the spirit of engagement of these young people and their teachers throughout the preparatory workshops. The schools have been very supportive and appreciative of this exciting opportunity, along with the chance to perform in a professional civic venue, especially considering the absence of live and collaborative music-making as a result of the pandemic.

    “What is unique about the programme is that the works are all by living composers and poets, offering these young people the inspiration which just might nurture their nascent creativity and poetic ambitions. The subject matter is also very timely.”

    On the night, in celebration of a return to the magic of live performance, Orchestra NorthWest will perform an exhilarating selection of music from stage &; screen, including ‘Pirates of The Caribbean’, James Bond classics and some Andrew Lloyd Webber favourites.

    Another highlight will be the Stand Up and Sing Gala Concert, being held in the Guildhall and bringing together over 100 local and north of Ireland based singers. As well as the Every Voice Chorus and the Allegri ladies’ choir, the Festival is looking forward to welcoming Gathered

    Voices from Dungannon and Lisburn Harmony Ladies Choir.

    First recorded virtually as part of last year’s festival, members of the Every Voice Chorus are keenly anticipating the opportunity to come together in live performance of the highly enjoyable online medley of popular Beatles’ songs that was recorded as part of last year’s festival. The audience is in for a musical treat as Orchestra NorthWest perform Khachaturian’s beautiful

    Adagio from Spartacus (which some might remember as the theme from The Onedin Line) followed by Bizet’s much-loved Carmen Suite No.1 which will include the ever-popular rousing

    Toreador Song by singers.

    Other events on the festival programme include the opportunity to avail of free community concert performances. The TunedIn Project which uses the digital and creative arts, media and music to support people with learning disabilities will host a lunchtime event on Monday 20th at

    1pm at their base on Balliniska Road. Their choir, the TunedIn Collective, will feature along with the Doire Calgach Singers.

    On the Wednesday evening four other community choirs - MellowDEEDS (DEEDS - Dementia Engaged and Empowered in Derry & Strabane), Momentum Community Choir, Voices of the Foyle and Allegri will take part in a shared concert in the Waterside Theatre.

    On Sunday 26th at 8pm, the festival will finish with the uplifting Joy! Sacred Music Concert in First Derry Presbyterian Church - a free inter-denominational event presented by five local choirs - Allegri, First Derry Presbyterian Church, One Voice Ensemble, St Columb’s Cathedral

    Choir and St Eugene’s Cathedral Folk Group. Come along and join in with come hymn singing as well as inspirational sacred and praise music.

    There is also a fabulous line up of pop-up city centre events throughout the week as well as a music and mindfulness workshop in St Columb’s Park House.

    The full programme can be accessed on Allegri’s Facebook and Twitter accounts and at

    www.allegri.co.uk.

    Tickets for the “Coming Back” Youth Concert at 7pm on Thursday 23rd are available from the

    Millennium Forum and those for the “Stand Up and Sing” Gala Concert on Saturday 25th can be purchased on Eventbrite. All other events are free admission and open to the public.

    The festival is funded by Derry City and Strabane District Council and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.