The Sligo International Choral Festival was the brainchild of local businessmen, John Ryan and Joe Kelly and the first festival was held in 1988 in Summerhill College, Sligo. It featured a 1 day event, 12 (Irish Choirs), 3 competitions and the prizemoney totalled £1,000.
Since then,1,200 choirs,45,000 singers,110,000 bednights and €15,000,000 to Sligo’s economy – surely, those statistics speak for themselves!
Choirs have travelled to Sligo from 33 countries worldwide, not forgetting all the Irish Choirs that have also taken part. The festival has grown to be the 2nd largest event of its kind in the 32 counties. This is attributed to the hard-working voluntary committee, who give freely of their time and talents to foster and nourish the festival to its present stature.
Major sponsors to date include The Norwich Irish Building Society, The Bank of Ireland, Independent News and Media, I.P.B. Insurance, The Arts Council, Sligo Borough Council, Sligo Co. Council, Failte Ireland, The Western Development Commission, I.T. Sligo, The Sligo Tourist Development Association, as well as our many local patrons, sponsors and advertisers. Our Media Partners are The Sligo Champion.
Categories of competition include Mixed Choirs (3 categories), Female Voice, Male Voice, Sacred Music, W. B. Yeats, Gospel, Barbershop and School Choirs. Choirs compete for €4,000 in prizemoney and many for many splendid trophies. World-famous poet, W. B. Yeats, so closely associated with Sligo, was the inspiration for The W.B. Yeats Trophy and in 2016, the committee have a special competition for songs associated with the 1916 Rising and The Great War 1914-1918. The committee also organise concerts, workshops, cabaret and other fringe events.
Venues used include Summerhill College (old and new), The Church of Ireland, The Mercy College, St. Anne’s Church, I.T. Sligo, The Hawks Well Theatre, Sligo Cathedral and The Gilooly Hall.
Two novel ideas were introduced some years ago, with choirs, when not in competition, perform for Sligo’s shoppers on the Saturday of the festival and then enhance the various religious services on the Sunday, where they are enthusiastically received and applauded by the Sligo public.
The festival committee under the leadership of its chairman, Sean Larkin are currently engaged in begininng the process of formulating a choral development plan for the next five years. Discussions have taken place with many of the festival partners and arts organisations in Sligo and the North West in recent months and these will continue as the year progresses. As we look towards the 2017 the choirs who are the foundation of the festival will be engaged in plans for the future of a vibrant Sligo International Choral Festival.