THE 79th session of the Ballyclare Male Choir is now well under way. However, the beginning was unlike any of the previous years.
Throughout the summer the choir committee was seeking a new conductor and accompanist. By the beginning of September the positions had not been officially filled and with two engagements in Newcastle and Killead the choir was grateful to former conductor, Brian Agus and accompanist Sheelagh Greer for stepping in to take charge for the month.
Then, at the beginning of October the choir was delighted to welcome Paul Briggs as its new conductor and Sheelagh Greer as its new accompanist.
Paul Briggs B.Ed is a retired teacher, Headteacher and Director of Education. Originally from Newcastle Upon Tyne, he currently lives in Ballywalter, County Down.
Paul started his choral music career as a boy soprano, aged 11, and has sung with and directed a number of choirs of different musical genres.
For ten years he was the Musical Director of Lemington Male Voice Choir, having first joined the choir as a singer and deputy accompanist aged 17. He is currently Musical Director of Bangor Ladies Choir and is also a church organist.
Sheelagh Greer B.Mus ATCL Dip.ABRSM is no stranger in Ballyclare, and is best known as a mezzo soprano.
However, she began her musical career at a young age, playing the piano.
As a freelance musician, private music tutor and church organist she combines a busy schedule of singing, with directing and conducting. She is also recognised for her singing, not only throughout the province, but it has also brought her engagements across the UK, Italy and India.
Sheelagh has strong ties with the choir, since her father has been a member for many years, and she now counts it a great privilege to be amongst the ranks.
Paul and Sheelagh are now reviewing the choir repertoire in preparation for the engagements already in place for 2013.
Apart from engagements in Ballynahinch and Brookeborough to begin with, the choir has been invited take part in a Massed Male Voice Choir Concert in the Ulster Hall on March 16 - a centenary celebration for the Queen’s Island Victoria Male Voice Choir where the podium will be shared with guest conductor Alwyn Humphreys from Wales.
2013 will see the beginning of the Ballyclare choir’s 80th anniversary celebrations and these will start with a visit to Tenby, Pembrokeshire in May for a weekend hosted by the local male choir. One of the highlights of the trip will be a short concert in St David’s Cathedral.
A choir sub committee is now in place to make plans for the rest of the choir’s anniversary celebrations.
The choir’s first conductor in 1933 was Albert McClenahan and it is hoped that his grandson will be travelling from Australia to visit his roots around Ballynure and Ballyclare and to meet up with the choir during the year.
A tradition of the choir members each year is to financially support, through a weekly voluntary donation, one or two worthwhile charities as chosen by the chairman.
This year the emphasis is on children and young people and Eric Boyd has chosen the local Children’s Hospice and a lesser known charity, Stand By Me. The latter is a global movement of people committed to rescuing children in crisis situations.
It provides them with care to meet their individual needs brought about by conflict, poverty or by being orphaned etc. The charity is currently caring for over 3,000 children in some of the world’s poorest countries.
Meanwhile, with its ever increasing age profile and the scarcity of first tenors taking its toll, the choir is always on the search for new blood and would especially welcome any budding or mature tenors to come along to Ballyclare High School any Wednesday night at 7.30pm.
Further details about membership, future engagements, concerts or church services can be obtained by contacting Secretary Dick Grey on Tel: 9336 7134, email firstname.lastname@example.org or through the choir website - www.ballyclaremalechoir.com