22 August 2012

Local people ready to ‘Sing Out’ at Omagh

Members of the Bluegrass Festival Singers (l-r) Ena Rafferty, Janet McAlister, Walter McFarland, Noel McAlister, and Briege McClean prepare for their first concert at the Festival on Sunday 2 Sept.

Thanks again to Andrea Kennedy of JPR for this news:

Around fifty-five Tyrone and Fermanagh people, ranging in age from 16 to 80, have formed a community choir which will take centre stage at this year’s Ulster American Folk Park’s Bluegrass Music Festival.

The Bluegrass Festival Singers have been rehearsing all summer for a special ‘Sing Out’ event on Sunday 2 September, the third and final day of the festival, now in its twenty-first year. Led by well-known Omagh-based singing tutor Valerie Whitworth, members will perform a range of music including bluegrass, gospel, and shape-note traditions.

The initiative has been organised though Live and Learn, a Big Lottery Funded project, supported by Age NI in partnership with National Museums Northern Ireland. It aims to provide creative learning opportunities for over-fifties using collections and exhibitions of National Museums Northern Ireland.

Organiser Briege McClean, Live and Learn project officer at the Ulster American Folk Park, said: 'Local people of all ages, many of whom have been coming to the Bluegrass Festival for years, have embraced the opportunity to be part of a new group and to work with Valerie to form a collective powerful voice.

'Learning something new is an exciting challenge no matter what age you are and our members have been hugely successful in learning all songs and parts by ear. The Ulster American Folk Park is proud to support such a creative and fun project, which is very appropriate this year as it is the European Year of Intergenerational Solidarity.'

Valerie Whitworth added: 'The Bluegrass Festival Choir is really looking forward to performing as part of the Bluegrass Festival in the Ulster American Folk Park. This is an experience not to be missed!'

Choir members say they have greatly enjoyed the summer’s rehearsals and are looking forward to their performance. Seventy-six-year-old Annie McClean, from Beragh, said 'I just love the fun, meeting new people, and the amazing sound we all make together.' Sixteen-year-old Ena Rafferty from Loughmacrory, said: 'I didn’t know much about bluegrass music before I joined the choir but it has been a great experience. I’ve met such a lovely group of people who are so committed to their music. The choir makes such a lovely positive sound when we are performing and for me that’s what music is all about.' Janet McAlister from Blacklion in County Fermanagh said: 'Seven of us travel from Fermanagh every Tuesday and we wouldn’t miss it. These bluegrass songs are beautiful.'

The choir performs at 4.00 p.m. on Sunday 2 September. For more information on bluegrass events and pricing, go here. Tickets can be booked online or on the telephone booking line on 028 8224 3292. You can also follow the Ulster American Folk Park on Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date with all the latest festival announcements and behind the scenes preparations.

L-r: Janet McAlister, Ena Rafferty, Walter McFarland, Noel McAlister and Briege McClean

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