International flavor for Isle of Man’s inaugural Festival of Choirs

Choral groups from England, Northern and Southern Ireland, and the Isle of Man will add an international flavor to the inaugural Festival of Choirs to be staged in the Royal Hall of the Villa Marina later this year.

Eight choirs from the UK and Ireland will be up against six from the Isle of Man, all bidding for the top prize of £2,000. The event – which runs from October 15-17 – has an overall prize fund of £4,000. There will be classes for men’s, ladies and mixed choirs with checks for £500 and £200 being awarded to the first two in each class. Section winners then compete in Sunday’s final for a further prize of £1,500 as the champion choir.

Such has been the support for the initial event that the organizers, Isle of Man Tourism, have already announced a date for the 2011 event – September 23-25. Political member for Isle of Man Tourism, Geoff Corkish, who conceived the idea, said he was delighted by the entry for the first event which ensured healthy, but friendly, competition.

Mr.Corkish, a former Cleveland medalist and local chorister, added: ‘We were very pleased with the level of support received and as a result have already started making plans for next year.

‘It was very much a suck-it-and-see situation for the first Festival of Choirs. The title is distinct from a Choir Festival and the intention is to celebrate singing via a friendly event, although there will obviously be keen competition. Visiting families and friends are just as important to us as the competitors themselves and we hope they will experience and enjoy the Manx way of life and culture.’

Entries have come from west and north Yorkshire, Northern and Southern Ireland, Lancashire, Norfolk and Essex. Six ladies choirs will be taking part together with five mixed and three male voice. A total of 320 people will be travelling to the Island for the occasion.

The Festival begins with a welcome evening and social on the Friday night, incorporating a community sing-song, and next morning facilities will be made available within the Villa Marina complex for the choirs to rehearse. Competition proper gets underway on Saturday afternoon with the section winners taking to the stage again on Sunday afternoon for the title ‘Choir of the Festival.’ The curtain comes down on Sunday night with an evening of Manx entertainment designed to give the visitors a glimpse of the music and dance of the Isle of Man.

Internationally-renowned television personality, conductor, arranger and composer Dr.Alwyn Humphreys MBE will be the adjudicator for the weekend while Scottish singer and long-time Isle of Man resident Moira Anderson OBE has the role of patron. Moira’s international career has embraced television, stage and concert tours as well as various Royal Command Performances.

Said Mr.Corkish: ‘The Isle of Man has a long history of making music and producing choirs and singers. It is therefore an ideal venue for promoting choral singing through friendly competition, which in turn lifts standards, and all within the fraternal meeting of like-minded people. My idea was to provide a vehicle for bringing choirs together and give them a reason for singing, as well as letting them see what attractions the Island had to offer.’