This project is led by myself – Fergus Sheil – conductor and founder of Wide Open Music. With the help of many different organisations, I have recently created several significant projects in both music and opera – in 2010 I brought the State Choir Latvija to Ireland for four concerts. In 2011 I produced Shelter Me From The Rain – the first opera commissioned by an Irish local authority (Carlow). In 2012 I presented the first performances of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde in 50 years in Ireland – at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre – also last year I produced performances of Rain Falling Up by Brian Irvine in the Convention Centre Dublin involving 873 children, 110 older singers and the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra.
This year I’m planning a tour of the BBC Singers to Ireland to perform James MacMillan and I need your help.
Why this project? The BBC Singers are an amazing choir, renowned internationally for their skill, commitment, and versatility. They have not been in the Republic of Ireland since the mid-1980s. When I first heard James MacMillan’s Seven Last Words From the Cross I was bowled over and longed to find a way of performing this work. It is deeply spiritual; sublime but also questioning. The BBC Singers will perform alongside a 9-piece string orchestra including the Con Tempo Quartet and other top freelance musicians conducted by myself.
In the first half of the concerts we perform Benjamin Britten’s Hymn to St Cecilia (marking his 100th anniversary), Irene Buckley’s Sanctus and John Tavener’s Funeral Ikos. Tavener is an iconic composer whose works spring from his deep Russian Orthodox faith. He came to widespread prominence when his music was included in the funeral of Princess Diana. His Funeral Ikos, like the Seven Last Words, is a contemplation of death; involving regret, faith and uncertainty.
Concerts details: St Peter’s Church Drogheda (Thurs 21st March), St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church, Galway (Fri 22nd March) and St Ann’s Church, Dawson St, Dublin (Sat 23rd March). All at 8pm.
James MacMillan will attend the Dublin concert on 23rd March and will give a public interview in advance. The project also includes a vocal masterclass in the RIAM, a public choral singing event in the NCH and a composition workshop led by MacMillan also in the NCH.
To date we have received significant funding from The Arts Council as well as support from the National Concert Hall, the Contemporary Music Centre, Louth Co Council and the Association of Irish Choirs. The overall project is 85% funded, but there remains a gap that needs to be bridged by pledges from individuals. Your support here, at whatever level, will be vital.
Funds raised will help pay fees to the Irish participants – the orchestra, myself, the small logistics team, and allow us create this international partnership bringing something genuinely new to Ireland, and bringing our work to International audiences via a BBC Radio 3 broadcast and possible on-going relationships with the BBC Singers. Thank you.