The Mayo International Choral Festival, the brainchild of Edward (Eamonn) Horkan, was inspired by a concert for the Mayo Memorial Peace Park whereby several choirs performed in unison in the Royal Theatre. Eamonn, a member of the Mayo Male Voice Choir, attended many choral festivals worldwide and with this experience set about organizing the festival.
The festival takes the form of several international male/female adult choirs travelling to Mayo in late May each year, to partake on a competitive and non-competitive basis. Their visit includes a number of evening and daily performances county-wide, tours of Mayo and a gala concert on Saturday night. The theme of the festival is to allow choirs to meet with other choirs, relax and enjoy a great weekend in the beautiful West of Ireland.
The festival has the support of the Lions Clubs and local Mayo choral groups in the different towns, to coordinate concerts by the visiting choirs in each of the towns, and to act as hosts for the visiting choirs.
The festival is funded by Mayo County Council, South West Mayo Development Company, under the Rural Development Programme Â 2007-2013, and the Irish Government National Development Plan, 2007-2013, Failte Ireland and also has the support of numerous other sponsors.
The answers to Frequently Asked QuestionsÂ asked questionsÂ about the festival
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Whatâ€™s it all about?
The festival takes the form of several competing and non-competing choirs participating in a series of concerts, mini-performances and events that take place over four to five days, all over Mayo, the third largest county (region) in Ireland. All events are open to a public audience. There are many beautiful scenic locations and interesting attractions in Mayo and choirs are encouraged to visit some of these during their visit and to experience the friendliness of people from Mayo.
Whereâ€™s the best place to get every bit of information?
The entry form, which the rules and regulations, is the best source of information about the festival. In order for choirs to get the best experience from the festival, we canâ€™t stress enough the benefit of the choir reading the entry form in detail, at a very early stage in the participation planning. Entry forms can be downloaded from the festival website.Â Our Syllabus is also available for download.
Where is Mayo?
The county of Mayo is located on the west coast of Ireland. Geographically it is the third largest county (region) in Ireland, and arguably the most scenic!
How do we get to Mayo?
Mayo is serviced by Ireland West International Airport, Knock, located in east Mayo, with connections to all major UK airports (average of one hours flying-time to UK). There is good road access to Mayo from Dublin for choirs or audiences travelling by ferry.
There is a very good direct rail service to many train stations in Mayo from Dublin to Claremorris, Castlebar and Westport, and connections to Ballina.
How about transport while in Mayo?
Public transport is very limited. Choirs are advised to check in advance if they will need to hire transport during their visit. While the festival does not book or pay for transport, we will advise of reputable and good value local coach and taxi providers. Transport may be necessary for travel to evening concerts (various towns), and/or to and between competition venues (all in the one town), taking into consideration the distance between each competition venue and the times of the performances, and the unpredictable weather at this time of year.
Do we have to find our own accommodation?
Yes. However we do provide a full list of accommodation choices in our syllabus, almost a year in advance of each festival. There is a big choice of good quality and good value accommodation.
Do we have to pay for our accommodation?
Yes. We have visited all hotels and they have assured us that accommodation and meal costs will be at a very good value rate for visiting choirs â€“ please mention that you are taking part in the choral festival to avail of this rate.
How long should we come for?
The duration of stay is the choice of each choir. We encourage choirs to stay a few days either side of the festival dates, to experience the beautiful scenic locations in Mayo and the attractions and culture and heritage of the area. The festival programme starts on Wednesday, with a presentation honoring one of Mayoâ€™s heroes or heroines in song and music. On Thursday, Friday and Sunday evenings, our community concerts take place, each featuring a visiting International or national choir, a local adult choir and a local youth choir, in venues that are most suitable to singing â€“ from the quaint to the quirky!. Saturday is the day for competitions, starting early in the morning, and finishing Saturday night with the premier competition, featuring the winning choirs of each category. There are also mini performances throughout the towns on Saturday by the choirs. Sunday morning sees the Dawn Chorus at 8am. A full programme is announced in early March, once all entries have been processed.
How many events are choirs involved in?
Choirs are asked to participate in at least one other event, other than competitions, in addition to all choirs being asked to participate in the massed choir sing. Events vary from singing in formal concerts to mini-performances on the Songway Choral Trail – some locations in pubs!
Are there facilities available for special needs?
It is helpful if we know in advance of any requirements for members with reduced mobility or other requirements, and we request this to be noted on our entry form. All our venues are wheelchair accessible.
Can non-competing choirs enter the festival
We welcome equally non-competing choirs and we will involve them in our festival in whatever events they wish to participate â€“ and donâ€™t forget there is a category (and prizes!) for choirs who have never competed in any choral festival before – â€˜First Time Competitorsâ€™. There are two separate entry forms, one for competing choirs and one for non-competing choirs. Entry forms are available to downloadÂ www.mayochoral.com
How do the concerts work?
We ask on our entry form for choirs to indicate if they would like to participate in one of our evening concerts. At each concert, we strive to feature a visiting International or national choir, a local adult choir and a local youth choir. The duration of performance for the International or National Choir is on average 15 to 20 minutes. There are the customary complimentary light refreshments immediately after the concert and this gives a chance for choirs to meet each other and share their experiences. The box office proceeds, after expenses, go to a local charity and towards the running costs of the festival. The festival committee will advise in advance the locations and details of evening concerts. Choirs performing in the evening concert submit by email in advance a list of the songs/pieces that they will sing at the concert.
What does participation cost and how do we enter?
The Choir entry fee to participate in the festival is â‚¬75, which also includes entry to one competition category. Entry to each competition category thereafter is â‚¬75. There are two separate entry forms, one for competing choirs and one for non-competing choirs. Entry forms are available to download from our websiteÂ www.mayochoral.comÂ or emailÂ firstname.lastname@example.orgÂ and we will email a copy to you.
Compiled by Declan Durcan, Festival Director, 30.07.2015