Three Choristers at Charles Wood Summer School

Three choristers from St Fin Barre’s Cathedral Choir attended the Charles Wood Girls’ Choir residential course, part of the Charles Wood Summer School in Armagh, during their summer vacation.

Lucy writes:

On the 29th of August, the three of us drove almost five hours to the Royal School of Armagh to attend a week long course for the Charles Wood Festival. There were roughly thirty other girls from all over the island of Ireland participating. The week involved a lot of learning new music, performing, workshops with world famous composers and other fun activities.

There was a lot of new music to learn, which was a bit daunting at first but, as the week went on, everyone became more familiar with the music and each other and the rehearsals got a lot easier. We learned a great variety of music, from arrangements of Irish folk songs such as ‘Cockles and Mussels’ and ‘The Star of the County Down’, both arranged by Stuart Nicholson, to ‘Oculi Omnium’ which was a special commission from Jack Oades for the Charles Wood Girls’ Choir.

For me, the most memorable experience during the course were the two workshops that we attended, one with John Rutter and the other with Bob Chilcott. Both were so enjoyable and it was fascinating to listen to them tell us about their composing process, and we even got to perform Bob Chilcott’s ‘Be Thou My Vision’ for him!

Aside from singing, the week also included some other fun activities. We played team building games to get to know each other, we went to the cinema to watch Barbie, we had a movie night within the Royal School, went on a shopping trip to Sainsbury’s (the first time in there for us three), took some drama classes and participated in a talent show. I loved the talent show because I learned so much more about the other girls on the course and got to display some of my own talent too. 

Overall, the Charles Wood Summer School was a fantastic opportunity to improve my skills as a chorister. I was surrounded by great teachers from whom I learned so much. I also made friends with lots of like-minded people who shared the same passion for music as me. This week was definitely the highlight of my summer and I can’t wait to return next year.

Suzanne writes:

I had a wonderful experience in Armagh and I can’t wait to return next year. I learnt so much, both from our director Ian Keatley, and from the workshops we were so lucky to partake in, given by the living legends John Rutter and Bob Chilcott.

The program was interesting, challenging and of course fun, including both Stanford and folk tunes.  I made so many new friends and loved having other people from St Fin Barre’s with me. We had some very funny moments over lunch and dinner, the lack of phones forcing us to get creative. By the end of the week it might have been fair to say we had lost the plot a little but we were all very sad to leave.

I’ll miss the seemingly never ending juice and hot chocolate breaks as well as our little adventures out in to ‘the real world’, going to the Barbie movie and the ever exhilarating Sainsbury’s! I’m so grateful to the boarding team for giving their time so we could have this opportunity. They were awesome, once letting us stay up until midnight, a treat compared to the rigorously enforced bedtimes on cathedral choir trips. 

Niamh writes:

On the first day I couldn’t help but feel a mix of nervousness and excitement. Little did I know that the week ahead would be filled with new friendships and unforgettable moments. 

Every day was a perfect balance of hard work and fun activities. We watched the Barbie movie in the cinema, had an in-house talent show and we all also enjoyed a lot of ice cream. Additionally during the week, we had the privilege of meeting the renowned composers John Rutter and Bob Chilcott. Their insightful workshops and personal stories inspired us all.

Our performances were the highlight of the week. The first one was a mass at St Malachy’s Church, Armagh and the second was a lunchtime concert in St Mark’s Church, Portadown. The grand finale was a gala concert in St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral, where we performed in front of a packed audience. We sang pieces such as ‘A Song of Wisdom’ by Charles Villiers Stanford and ‘Oculi Omnium’ by Jack Oades.

In conclusion the week was an unforgettable experience, from the performances and all the new friends made. I hope to return next year!

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