— Proudly celebrating rich cultural diversity —
It’s a choir with a difference and it won’t be silenced. The Fermoy International Choir, established in January, 2019, has just released a unique recording of the Simon and Garfunkle classic ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ and a powerful video of raw portraits to signify the emergence from Covid-19 to a bright and unified future.
With choir members from Ireland, France, Poland, the Netherlands, Belarus, Lithuania, Italy, Portugal, Latvia, the Czech Republic, Germany, the UK, Nigeria, South Africa, French Polynesia, China, the Philippines, Romania, Ukraine, Finland and Brazil, the Fermoy International Choir, conducted by Lisa Dunphy, has brought so many together to sing, get to know each other and develop close friendships in a town where 23% of the population has a nationality other than Irish.
But since the arrival of Covid-19 the colourful choir has had to curtail its activities.
“We were determined to do something for Culture Night and so came up with a plan to record the song ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ to signify that as long as we stick together in unity and respect, we can be that bridge to overcome Covid-19 – in this case the troubled water,” explains Graham Clifford, of the Together Ireland project which helped establish the choir.
The significance of the majestic and historic Kent Bridge in Fermoy spanning the River Blackwater was also a focal point for the Culture Night Project.
A representative group of the choir rehearsed while social distancing outdoors and recorded the track in the Blackwater Studios in nearby Glanworth.
Lead soloists were Vincenzo Pennone, from Naples, who works in the nearby Moorepark Agricultural Research Centre and Kasia Sosnowska, from the Polish city of Lodz, who runs a cafe in the town.
“The rehearsals in the rain were particularly unusual, but fun,” explains Graham Clifford, who told how the choir members took every precaution in recording the song.
“We recorded individually or in groups of no more than two. Our pianist Deirdre Foley and Vincenzo, who also played the guitar, laid down the music and the rest of us did our bit, layer-upon-layer. We had a military-style running order which we had to stick to and everyone did their bit safely.
We were all astonished to hear the final recording. We think it’s sensational and full of emotion at this difficult time. Some of our members have lost loved ones over recent months, others are so far from home and can’t return, while others still are being especially careful because of Covid-19 and it’s been tough on people – so our song was chosen to lift spirits and to offer hope.”
‘IT’S BEEN REMARKABLE’
Sean Sharpe, a local portrait photographer, spent days shooting choir members at different locations across the town and the final video reflects the evolution of the song – from the sombre black and white images to mirror the serious tone of the opening verses … before transitioning to colour shots of choir members smiling and looking to the future with positivity.
“I also think that the transition from the original photographs to those in colour is symbolic of how this choir has enriched all of our lives. It’s injected so much colour into our lives, those smiles are real, those friendships are strong. By coming together to sing we’ve all been lifted. It’s been remarkable,” explained Lisa Dunphy.
The song and video will feature on a virtual Culture Night in Fermoy on the evening of Friday, September 18th. The video is available to view on YouTube, or you can watch it here.
Choir member Herehau Blaise from French Polynesia, some 15,000 kilometres from Fermoy, described the initiative as “a lullaby for the heart”, while local Heather Fleming said: “as a Corkonian I feel so enriched to be part of this multinational gathering where we sing with one voice and as one group of friends. Together we cross troubled waters.”
The Fermoy International Choir came about as an initiative of the Together Ireland project, which enables and encourages community integration in towns and communities across Ireland.
“Our hope in the future is to work to establish similar choirs in other towns across the country. We work hard and we play hard – but at the end of the day there’s nothing quite like singing together to build that sense of togetherness and unity,” said Graham Clifford, adding “and when it’s safe to sing together in numbers again, we’ll sing our hearts out as one.”