O Happy Day for Sandymount Gospel Choir

Photo By Kathrin Kobus

About ten years ago, the Sandymount Gospel Choir came into being with just three songs for their very first performance. One of them, O Happy Day, is still part of their repertoire.
After a long (but not too hot) summer they are back practising and as is customary for their first get-together in September after the summer break, there was an open night to entice new singers to come along. There’s A Table in The Wilderness sounded loud and proud on their open night on September 5th.

Nearly a dozen potential new members accepted the invitation to audition and on arriving were strongly encouraged, given songsheets and quickly joined in, singing scales and songs.
Olga Keogh, librarian for the choir says “It’s a chance to explore new hobbies, new ways, once the kids are off to, say, secondary school and you have a bit more time available for yourself, to do something for yourself, improve your life a bit in maybe another direction.”
Cathy McEvoy is their director of music and joined them from Ballymun Gospel Choir. She plays fiddle, is a full-time musician in addition to teaching at Walton school of music and next to Sandymount Gospel Choir she also directs the Gardiner Street Gospel Choir. She was hoping some new male voices might be added to the group. She’s philosophical about it “It is a universal mystery that nearly all choirs have to deal with.”

The choir also has a choreographer on board in Sharon Kinsella. Her influence changed the arrangements of their concerts in to performances. So far, the female singers have resisted a change in costume from skirts and/or dresses into the traditional gospel gowns.
“We learn by singing and practising and since we got Sharon, we’ve started moving with the songs and clapping and it gives a wholly different, another, energy to the arrangements,” explains Cindy Carroll, who as events coordinator, looks after the schedule for bookings.

Up until last September, the choir had performed regularly at Sunday mass in St. Mary’s Star of the Sea Church. After the sudden passing of Father John Hyland in September 2016 this opportunity was gone and sorely missed. “Yes, it came as a great shock to all of us. We’ll hope soon to be part of Sunday Mass again,” says Cindy Carroll.
The wait for a new parish priest is coming to an end, with Fr Cormac McIlraith from Booterstown taking up his post. Hopefully, the weekly concerts will resume shortly. While the concerts at Mass from the Choir were missing for the past year, the singers were busy and performed regularly at various events in and around Dublin. They gave performances in nursing homes and were part of the Darkness into Light walk in May. Usually, they will sing 18 songs in pairings of two with a little introduction to each piece.

A valuable lesson was learned about selection and sequencing from the outset at their very first concert this became a guide for their choice of songs, according to Keogh. “We noticed suddenly that we had accidentally chosen songs that all related to the sixties civil rights movement. So, since then we try more of a variety when putting together or selecting the songs for an event.”
A cherished highlight for the ensemble was the trip to Bunratty Castle in January for the Winter Music Festival. Despite cold temperatures both outside and inside plus some frozen toes, it was an experience the group is looking forward to repeating at the beginning of next year. Cindy Carroll has the next Bunratty performance on her books already. “We will travel again from the 19th to 21st January. And this time we will not only sing in the great hall but also at mass.”

Now with the school year in full swing and the Halloween break just weeks away, the choir is busy with practise and upcoming concerts.
New members to the choir are always welcome. Just drop in on Tuesday nights, from 7.30pm onwards at Christ Church Hall or ring in advance mb: 087 9725220

by Kathrin Kobus