To broaden the Festival’s long-term commitment to the composition and understanding of new choral music a Choral Symposium was initiated in 2016 to more fully reflect, and enhance, the development of choral music and its composition and practice in Ireland.  The Symposium now offers a wider vision, and a more interactive platform, for composers, conductors, singers, practitioners, and students to meet, experience, and discuss.   To place no restrictions of access and cost to participants, the symposium is offered over three days and is free of charge to attendees. The Festival thanks CIT Cork School of Music for its collaborative support in making the facilities of the school available to us.

Central to the Symposium’s activities, and forming an important and highly regarded part of the Festival programme, the Festival again was honoured to welcome Paul Hillier, one of the world’s leading specialists on choral music, and the Festival’s choir-in-residence, Chamber Choir Ireland to present the Seminar on New Choral Music.  The style of seminar presentation offered attendees a more relevant and engaging approach to how texts are selected, the related process of composing music appropriate to the text, and the input of the singers as to its accessibility.  Two new works were featured, and given their world premières in Cork – a new commission, music for thomas bernhard, by Andrew Hamilton  jointly commissioned by CICF and CCI with the support of The Arts Council, and A Grain in the Balance, by Donal Sarsfield, winner of this year’s Seán Ó Riada Composition Competition, (supported by the Ó Riada family).  The Seán Ó Riada Competition is a composition competition which invites the submission, under pseudonym, of new works from Irish composers.  The première performances of both works are integrated into CCI’s Friday evening’s concert programme. In addition, the seminar presentation also featured a performance reading of When you are old, by Kenneth Edge, the runner up in the Seán Ó Riada Competition.  All the named composers and writers were present and played an active part in the symposium.  This seminar maintains the vision of the late Aloys Fleischmann who initiated the commission of new works to form part of a seminar in 1962. This year is the 50th occasion that the Festival has presented such a forum. To date over 150 works from 129 Irish and international composers have been commissioned. The full collection of these scores is housed in the Cork City Music Library and is available for consultation.  Digitised pages of scores are now also available for perusal on the Library website.

This year we were also honoured to welcome, Jean Sturm, Executive Director of Musica International, to present an illustrated, and informative presentation on the organisation’s online Virtual Choral Library as part of the Symposium. MUSICA came into being in 1983 with the ambition of creating a comprehensive database of the world’s choral music. More than thirty years later, MUSICA has amassed data on almost 200,000 musical scores.  It has become an invaluable and powerful search tool and a teaching resource for conductors, musicologists, schools, conservatoires and associations, libraries, music stockists and retailers – in fact for anyone, amateur or professional, with an interest in the world repertoire of choral music. Each score is described in a documentary record with 80 different categories of information (composer, arranger, title, publisher, genre and form, level of difficulty, type of choir, language, century, instrumentation, etc.)  To serve MUSICA’s international objectives, the database is multilingual (in English, French, German and Spanish); around 20 data categories are translated automatically using multilingual thesauri perfected by us in-house.  This presentation offered conductors of all types of choirs a not-to-be-missed opportunity to access one of the most comprehensive sources of choral music information in the world.

As an integral part of the Choral Symposium, organised in collaboration with CIT Cork School of Music, we also presented a related range of other interesting talks and practical sessions on choral practice over three days.  One of our guest ensembles, the acclaimed vocal ensemble Ardú Vocal Ensemble, hosted an interactive workshop based around a cappella singing and performance.  The masterclass session included warm ups, practical workshop with two selected Cork-based ensembles, vocal improvisation, and an inter-active, open session incorporating performance style, repertoire selection, arrangements, and the voice as a percussive instrument.  Composer Seán Doherty explored the compositional process and techniques in writing/arranging choral compositions for changing voices in The Composer Speaks. Practical sessions in the Alexander Technique, Voice Production, Choir Voicing, and an introduction to the relatively new holistic performance pedagogy, Core Singing™ offered attendees an opportunity of learning and upskilling.

Full information is available in the following pages.


2018 Festival Commissions



Choral Symposium Schedule

Thursday 19th April



11am – 1pm                       Curtis Auditorium, CIT Cork School of Music


CORE SINGING – Dr. Trish Rooney

5pm – 7pm                         Doolan Room (Room 217), CIT Cork School of Music


Friday 20th April

SEMINAR ON NEW CHORAL MUSIC – Chamber Choir Ireland & Paul Hillier

2pm – 4pm*                        Curtis Auditorium, Cork School of Music
*Interval included


Seán Doherty – Writing for Young Voices

4.15pm – 5pm                   Doolan Room (Room 217), CIT Cork School of Music


ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE WORKSHOP – Mary Shorten in conjunction with AOIC

5.15pm – 6.15pm             Curtis Auditorium, CIT Cork School of Music


Saturday 21st April

CHOIR VOICING WORKSHOP – Kevin O’Carroll in conjunction with AOIC

10am – 11am                     Curtis Auditorium, CIT Cork School of Music



11.15am – 12pm               Doolan Room (Room 217), CIT Cork School of Music


CANCELLED VOICE PRODUCTION – with Cara O’Sullivan in conjunction with AOIC

 2pm – 3pm                         Doolan Room (Room 217), CIT Cork School of Music