Cork Choral festival voices funding fears as it holds fundraising concert

One of Europe’s largest choral festivals has to stage a fundraising concert to offset what has been described as “savage cuts” to its core funding.
Cork Choral festival voices funding fears as it holds fundraising concert

Leading soul and gospel singer Karen Underwood and her band will headline the soul-themed Christmas gig at the Everyman Theatre next week to ensure the Cork International Choral Festival can stage another high-quality event again in 2016.

The festival, Cork’s oldest, staged its 61st event last May, attracting nearly 5,000 participants from all over Ireland and the rest of Europe.

Almost 1,000 performers attended, with choirs from Finland, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, the UK, Poland, Sweden, Estonia, and Canada, among those performing during the five-day festival.

Worth an estimated €4.5m to the local economy, the festival features a string of top-flight competitive performances in City Hall, a choral trail, fringe concerts, and dozens of free events.

But its core Arts Council funding has been slashed by up to 70% over the last decade — down from a peak of some €65,000 to just €20,000 last year.

Festival manager Sinéad Dunphy said funding cuts, coupled with the decline in private sponsorship during the recession, has made it difficult to stage the event.

“The decline has puts pressure on the ability of our small team to deliver a good programme year-on-year,” she said.

“This isn’t just a choral festival anymore. It’s a cultural festival. It’s about Cork.

“We bring up to 4,500 national participants, up to 1,000 international participants, and an audience of up to 50,000 to Cork for those five days.

“We are in talks with the Arts Council and can only hope that in 2016, they will see our efforts have been stalwart.”

Ms Dunphy said she was delighted with the standard and quality of the 2016 programme, some of which will be unveiled on December 13 when its box office opens.

But she said next week’s fundraising concert will ensure the festival can continue to operate in a sustainable way, from April 27 to May 1 next.

Meanwhile, Ms Underwood will headline the Soulful Christmas fundraiser, featuring an eclectic mix of gospel songs, hymns and Christmas favourites, at 8pm on December 9.

Musical direction will be provided by pianist, conductor, director and composer John O’Brien, the former music director of Opera Works and the Cork Children’s Chorus, who has worked on more than 40 productions of opera and musical theatre in Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, and Canada.

The gig will also feature the Voiceworks Studio Group, a dedicated vocal tuition centre based in Cork city that welcomes singers of all ages, levels and styles.

Tickets for the concert, which are priced €20, are on sale from the Everyman Palace Theatre, Cork, on 021 4501673 or www.everymancork.com.

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