So you didn't know that the faculty and staff at NUI Galway had a competitive show choir? That's alright, neither did they. Not until they were approached about performing for the first year of what we can only hope is a new Galway tradition entitled, Choir Factor.
Liam Bluett, who is the General Manager of the Ballybane Enterprise Centre and Chairman of Corrib Lions Club, had the idea to host a competitive choral competition with the goal of raising money for a local organisation. Kilcuan Retreat and Healing Centre in Clarinbridge works with people with various needs from those who have Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Parkinson's, and cancer to those suffer from depression or have been effected by suicide. It's geared in a different way, says Bluett, "it's trying to provide something a bit lighter than the heavy stuff." In this vein there are day trips to the country side, lunches, talks on everything from knitting to the most recent equipment for various diseases, physiotherapy, and often full days devoted to the people who care for their loved ones who are ill. So with this organisation in mind and the support of many, Bluett set out to organise Choir Factor. Liam in addition has been a valuable commuity firend to teh CKI and NUI Galway for many years.
While perhaps daunting at first, with absolute enthusiasm Bluett approached various organisations around the Galway area with the idea, one of whom was Lorraine McIlrath in the CKI offices at NUI Galway. McIlrath wasted no time in spreading the word through the University and more than 30 staff volunteered to be part of the event. With that, lunchtime rehearsals began under the choral direction of Peter Mannion and the organisaiotn of Trish Hoare, Mature Studnet Officer at NUI Galway, and NUI Galway's staff choir was born.
The final showcase was held on April 12th 2013 and the Radisson Blu Hotel's Live Lounge and the room was filled to capacity long before the curtain went up. All in all, 6 choirs competed: Medtronic, Hewlett- Packard, NUI Galway, Galway University Hospital, Galway Bay Golf Club, and the Marine Institute, most of whom had never before had a musical programme but very much wanted to be part of the event. Each choir had just 2 months to put together one classical, one Irish or Irish themed, and one popular music song and they did so with gusto.
Fearless in front of a 700 person audience, a panel of experienced judges, and the fateful clap-o-meter, each choir took the stage with a different force and brought their own unique energy their performance. They sang, they clapped, they danced and choreographed, and each one left the stage brimming with excitement and anxious to see what the next group would do. In the end, the Marine Institute Singers came out victorious, though the competition all around was tough. All the choirs received a framed certificate and inscribed memento of the occasion, but most importantly they almost all want to do it again next year. "The challenge," says Bluett, "will be, do we just do one night with 6 choirs or could we get sufficient interest to have maybe 2 or 3 nights with a grand finale?" We'll have to wait and see, he says, how things are shaping up next year, but Choir Factor was an enormous success, and this year's inaugural event was an inspirational start to what could become a new Galway tradition.
NUIG was proud to be a part of it, and the choir brought the full force of the University's spirit for community engagement to the event. This is just one example of the many ways that those at NUI, both students and staff alike, are committed to being a part of the wider community and giving back to the city. There is a powerful sense of mutual belonging and appreciation that seems almost innate to many at NUIG, and CKI hopes to continue being a part of that civic engagement where ever it can, and continuing to build long-standing relationships between the University and the Galway community.