I am in Ireland now to see old friends and to attend the International Choral Festival in Cork, May 1st to 5th. Even though it rains entirely too much in this country, there’s no place I have been in the world where all the people are so friendly! Everything is “grand” or at least people act like it is.
Right now, I am listening to an Irish trio play trad music at the Old Town Irish Whiskey Bar in Cork while drinking an Irish coffee. Now I ask you: What can be better than this?
Here are photos of the inside and outside of this amazing whiskey bar.
Wednesday, May 1st, we attended the opening festival concert at Cork City Hall. The participating choirs performed the four-part symphony No. 1 by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius and two pieces by Danish composer Karl Nielsen. They both involved massive choirs with both adults and children. One piece was about spring entitled Fynsk Foraar and the other was in Latin. It was titled Hymnus Amoris and was about the different kinds of love that exist in the world. Check out how packed this stage is. Lots of folks!
Thursday I saw the choral group Azimuts perform. They are a French a cappella choir of about 30 young people based in Lille. They sang songs by several modern Irish composers. I had never heard of any of these young composers, all born between the 1960s and the 1980s. Their names were Michael McGlynn, Tariq O Regan and and Sean Foherty. It was great stuff, though, ranging from very modern pieces like It’s Strange About Starts to traditional melodies like Lux Aeterna.
On Friday, two choral groups performed at Goldie Chapel at Nano Nagle Place in Cork. The first performance was a mixed-voice group called the Hamburg (Germany) Academy of Music and Theater Choir while the other was by an all-female group from Sweden called Korallerna. The performance was free and the chapel was filled to the brim. Lots of sacred choral music lovers out there. Photo below shows the Korallerna group. Mostly they sang in Swedish but they also performed a beautiful English-language tune called A Spotless Rose.
On Friday night, a Danish choir called Ore-Sound performed a variety of music in the lobby of the upscale Imperial Hotel in Cork. Other choirs performed at other venues around the city earlier in the evening. One of the songs the Danish choir sang was the popular tune Vida La Vida. This was a big hit among the assembled group. Here is a photo of them in the Imperial’s lobby.
On Saturday, the festival was in full swing, both in Cork at multiple venues and in nearby towns. One of the most interesting events I attended was the Fleischmann International Trophy Competition. Extremely talented choirs from all over Europe competed in this event, held at Cork City Hall. Each choir had to perform one piece of early music, one contemporary piece and a third piece from their native country. What a joy it was to listen to this!
Outstanding early music pieces were: Miserere mei, Deus by Gregorio Allegri, performed by the Petroysan Chamber Choir of Ukraine, O Regem Coeli by Tomás Luis de Victoria, performed by Korallerna of Sweden, Fuggi, fungi, cor mio by Philippe Verdelot, performed by the Helsinki Academic Male Choir of Finland, and Fair Phyllis by John Farmer, performed by Bella Voce of Sweden. Finally, the sacred work, Ave Generosa, performed by the Dominanta Choir of Poland, was terrific. This work was by modern Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo.
I love everything by Ola Gjeilo and think he is going to become a superstar composer one of these days! Bella Voce also performed Ubi Caritas by Mr. Gjeilo. His compositions were the only ones to appear in multiple repertoires at this choral competition, so I rest my case.
Here are photos from some competing choirs. From top to bottom, here are choirs from the Ukraine, Sweden, Poland and Finland. Isn’t it great how, with the help of music, we all get along with each other and appreciate each other? And look at the fancy duds people are wearing! This event is obviously important to them.
This year is the 65th anniversary of this five-day International Choral Festival in Cork so if it’s sounds good to you, you can plan on coming next year or the year after that. If you like choral music and Ireland, this is the festival for you.