Open Arts Community Choir to represent north at European Choir Games

Open Arts Community Choir members Gareth Smyth, left, and Dave Cunningham with guide dog Teddy and musical director Bev McGeown

THE Open Arts Community Choir is an award-winning, inclusive choir made up of 35 members aged between 18 and 60. What sets the choir apart, as well as the high standard of its music, is that it is equally made up of non-disabled and disabled singers, including wheelchair users, the visually impaired and those with mental health issues.

Next week the choir will represent Northern Ireland in the European Choir Games in Riga, Latvia, from July 16-20. Commenting ahead of the competition, 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."

During their visit to Latvia, the Open Arts Community Choir will have the chance to perform, compete and network with other internationally renowned choirs, plus the chance to have individual coaching and performance evaluations with renowned Australian conductor David Slater.

"This will be a tremendous experience for the choir and the individual coaching evaluation will help me as a conductor to up my game and achieve an even better sound for the choir," added a very excited Beverley, who describes these games as "the epitome" of the choir's 17-year history.

"We did The National Eisteddfod of Wales festival of competitive music and poetry in Europe four years ago, which was really tough, but this is up there in terms of the challenge."

During the prestigious European Champions Competition the choir will sing six songs, performing in both the adult open class and the folk song class, where they will singing songs from their home country, including the Percy French song Phil The Fluther's Ball.

Open Arts is supported by National Lottery funding through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, whose head of Music, Ciaran Scullion, said: "The Open Arts Community Choir will have a valuable opportunity to showcase the arts from Northern Ireland, take part in professional development and highlight the important message of inclusivity and creativity for all."

:: To follow the choirs adventures visit or search Open Arts Belfast on Facebook.

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