In Antrim town lives a lady called Marie who loves music, is friendly, kind, and modest, and who says, “Don’t talk about me too much – there is no “I” in Team!”
But to hear how Antrim Community Choir started, you have to talk about Marie.
After attending the special concert in London for the 50th anniversary of Songs of Praise, Marie was sufficiently inspired by the performances to vow that she would finally fulfil her long-time dream of starting a community choir in Antrim; an all-inclusive choir that would be open to any adult with a love of music and a desire to sing, irrespective of ability. The famous line from Funny Girl: “People, people who need people are the luckiest people in the world”, came to her as she thought about promoting a sense of togetherness in our community.
She immediately put an advertisement in the newspaper, and very soon the seven founding members of the choir met to sing in Parkhall Integrated College, Antrim. The choir moved to the Eyre Studio at Clotworthy House in Antrim Castle grounds in January 2012, when the refurbishment was completed.
As word spread, membership grew rapidly, and there are now 43 members on the books, with a regular attendance of around 38. Every Wednesday evening we sing, “Many men, many men, many men, men, men”, as a sort of spell, to attract more male choir members! Our half-dozen do a sterling job, but would like more support, please!
But the choir members felt they needed direction. Marie says, “We had started, just doing our own wee songs, and talking about what we wanted to do, our dreams and aspirations, but we had no knowledge of how to proceed, so I phoned Open Arts, an arts and disability organization based in Belfast, and told my story.” She was shown nothing but kindness and helpfulness, and given advice on approaching the Arts Council for funding.
It was now apparent that if the choir was ever going to sing at Carnegie Hall, a musical director was needed! So advertisements were put into local papers, the Job Centre and around town, asking for an “experienced, enthusiastic, creative, committed, fun-loving musical director, to develop and help fulfil musical styles and aspirations for the future.”
Ten minutes before the application deadline, a phone call came from an applicant who had just seen the advertisement, asking if she could still apply, and bring her CV with her, as there wasn’t time to email it. How glad we all are that she was told yes.
When Una McCann started answering the interview panel’s questions, Marie thought she’d died and gone to heaven. Then she read Una’s CV for the first time, and knew she had!
Una had been wanting to lead her own choir for quite a while and, having worked with our choir briefly as part of the interview process, she felt that we were It. And in turn, the interview panel felt that Una was It!
Just over a year after the choir met for the first time, it had its first concert on 21 November 2012 in the Old Courthouse in Antrim, where donations from the audience went to Assistance Dogs Northern Ireland, whose chairman is a member of the choir.
The sky, or Carnegie Hall at the very least, is now the limit!