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Côr CF1 from Wales takes home the international title as the 2018 City of Derry International Choir

05 November 2018

Following a hugely exciting Awards Ceremony in St. Columb's Hall on Sunday evening, the 2018 City of Derry International Choir Festival drew to a close. Over five song-filled days, Europe’s fastest growing choir festival hosted over 2,000 talented singers from across Europe and beyond, and welcomed more than 15,000 music-loving visitors to the city and surrounding area.

One of the festival highlights came at the Closing Gala Concert and Awards Ceremony when the very excited Côr CF1 from Wales emerged as overall winner of the prestigious Oak Tree of Derry International Trophy. UIS University Singers from Colombia were runners-up, with Irish choir Laetare placed third.

A sold-out Guildhall last Wednesday night was the setting for the festival’s Opening Gala Concert, with a performance of the Mozart Requiem by the Ulster Orchestra and a 130-strong Festival Chorus, drawn from more than 20 choirs throughout Derry, Donegal and Tyrone.

Another capacity audience enjoyed Thursday night’s concert in St. Columb’s Hall, which featured special guest artists VOCES8 from London, who received multiple standing ovations for their a cappella performance of classical, jazz and pop favourites. A very special performance by The Marian Consort in the atmospheric surroundings of Christ Church gave the audience the chance to hear music from across the ages, ranging from Palestrina to MacMillan, with Derry-based Codetta Youth Girls joining the group to perform a new work by Gabriel Jackson.

The festival also focused on emerging vocal talent in its primary & post-primary competitions. Holy Family Primary School, Derry took first place in the primary unison competition, with Holy Family Primary School, Omagh winning the primary partsong competition. First place in the post-primary unison/2-part went to St Mary’s College, Derry, the 3/4-Part was won by Thornhill College Senior Choir, Derry, with St. Louise’s Comprehensive College, Belfast taking home the Bernadette Kelly Memorial award for the most promising school choir.

One of the most memorable moments of the entire festival was a moving performance by Ardnashee School and College, Derry in the primary competitions, and at the awards ceremony its conductor, Brid Cutliffe, collected the Bishops Daly and Mehaffey Award for an outstanding performance in the school competitions.

Dublin choirs took home two of the festival’s major prizes, with The Park Singers winning the female voice competition and Ardú A Cappella Chorus winning the vocal ensemble competition. The male voice prize went to Close Shave Chorus from Glasgow and the mixed voice competition was won by Strabane Chamber Choir. The Lynn Singers from Mullingar were worthy winners of the sacred music competition, while first-time entrants Octavoce from Edinburgh won the vocal ensemble competition. The Cross Border Youth Choir blew the audience away with its prize-winning performance in the national youth choir competition. This year’s festival saw the introduction of additional special awards, with Latvian choir Blagovest winning the Visit Derry special award and Côr CF1 of Wales winning the City Hotel special award. The remaining special awards went to Laetare, Ireland and UIS University Choir from Colombia.

In partnership with local choir Allegri, there was a busy programme of activities organised in the run-up to this year’s International Choir Festival as part of the Every Voice Fringe Festival. Allegri also facilitated an extensive programme of choral trails alongside the sacred trail in the city during the week of the International Choir Festival.

Created as a joyous celebration of choral music-making in Derry~Londonderry, this year’s impressive list of international choirs from around the world, along with the large number of local and national choirs and capacity audiences for all the events, have now firmly established the City of Derry International Choir Festival as a key fixture on the international choral calendar.

The festival is only possible because of the very generous support of funders and sponsors. Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, says ‘The City of Derry International Choir Festival is a great success story for the city. It has created a resurgence of interest in choral singing and music and, with top choirs attending from across Europe, has helped to confirm Derry’s place as an international centre of excellence for choirs. As principal funder through our National Lottery funds, the Arts Council is delighted to support a festival that is helping to grow audiences, and provide inspiration and opportunity for an emerging generation of singers and musicians’.