Songs of joy as community choir takes on Europe

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Image: Open Arts Community Choir members Gareth Smyth and Dave Cunningham with guide dog Teddy and Bev McGeown, Open Arts Musical Director

The Open Arts Community Choir is set to represent Northern Ireland in the European Choir Games in Riga, Latvia, from July 16 to July 20, 2017.

Formed in 2000 by the arts and disability organisation Open Arts, the choir features 35 members from all over Northern Ireland who have a range of disabilities: physical disabilities, visual impairment and mental health issues.

Bev McGeown, Musical Director of Open Arts, said: “We are extremely proud and excited to be representing Northern Ireland at the European Choir Games, especially in Open Arts’ 25th anniversary year. Our participation in the event will give the choir increased visibility on a high profile European stage and will spread the choir’s message of inclusion, challenging the negative preconceptions about the artistic ability of disabled people.”

Open Arts is supported by National Lottery funding through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Head of Music, Ciaran Scullion, added: “The Arts Council is delighted to see the Open Arts Community Choir represent Northern Ireland at the prestigious European Choir Games.  Here they will have a valuable opportunity to showcase the arts from NI, take part in professional development and highlight the important message of inclusivity and creativity for all.”

During their visit to Latvia, the Open Arts Community Choir will have several opportunities to perform, compete and network with other choirs, plus the chance to have individual coaching and performance evaluations with well-known conductors and to compete in the European Champions Competition.

To help the choir on their way to Riga, a fundraising event was held in Rockmount Golf Club on Friday, June 23, with support from overall event sponsor The Medicare Group and many others, who contributed to the Golf Classic.

For further information on the Open Arts Community Choir and to keep up with their preparations for the European Choir Games, please visit www.openartsni.org or search ‘Open Arts Belfast’ on Facebook.

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