Mark Duley was born in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, and studied at Auckland University, the North German Organ Academy and Amsterdam’s Sweelinck Conservatorium, where he was an organ pupil of Jacques van Oortmerssen.
Mark came to Ireland in 1992 and has held several major posts in the country, including organist and director of music at Christ Church Cathedral Dublin, chorusmaster to the RTÉ Philharmonic Choir and artistic director of the Irish Baroque Orchestra. As conductor and organist he has appeared with most of the major Irish ensembles, including RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, RTÉ Concert Orchestra, the National Chamber Choir, the Irish Baroque Orchestra, Opera Theatre Company, Orchestra of St Cecilia, and his own chamber choir Resurgam. He has performed at many of Ireland’s premiere festivals, including the Wexford Opera Festival, the Cork International Choral Festival, the Kilkenny Arts Festival, the East Cork Early Music Festival and the Killaloe Chamber Music Festival. He has given organ recitals in all the major Irish venues as well as in the UK and his native New Zealand.
Mark is one of Ireland’s most well-known choral specialists, and has led workshops and masterclasses for choirs and conductors in Ireland, the UK, and continental Europe. Aside from a busy freelance career, Mark holds the posts of Pipeworks artistic director, organist of the Collegiate Church of St Nicholas, Galway, founder-director of St Nicholas Schola Cantorum, and artistic director of Resurgam.
Cherry Hartshorn is a BABS (British Association of Barbershop Singers) Singing Judge, Music Services Team Leader for IABS (Irish Association of Barbershop Singers) and Musical Director of Ireland Unlimited and lives in beautiful West Cork. She first heard barbershop close harmony singing in Birmingham in 1985 and was amazed at the full rich sound which is so characteristic of the style. That first experience inspired her to set up Coventry Ladies Barbershop Harmony Chorus and later Coventry Men’s Barbershop Harmony Chorus. In 1996, she was awarded a BABS scholarship to study directing in USA and from that time onwards has served on the faculty of many Harmony and Directors Colleges.
She came to Ireland 18 years ago and founded Ireland Unlimited, an award winning national ladies barbershop chorus who have represented Ireland in Spain, Holland and UK. Sherry is delighted to serve on Irish Association Barbershop Singers Executive who work hard to encourage and develop this very particular art form. She has had the privilege to perform and compete many times at Sligo Choral Festival and it is with great delight that she returns in 2017 as an Adjudicator.
Charles O’ Connor
Charles O’Connor, a native of Sligo, has been organist and director of music at Sligo Cathedral since 2001. He has a background in both classical and Irish traditional music. Charles started playing the organ in the cathedral at the age of 12. He subsequently gained a BA in Music and Irish and a Bachelor of Music degree from UCD. He also studied organ with Professor David Lee and piano with Anthony Glavin at the Royal Irish Academy of Music and holds a Masters Degree in Organ Performance and Musicology from NUI, Maynooth. He is an Associate of the Royal Irish Academy of Music and a Licentiate of Trinity College London.
Charles was awarded numerous scholarships for organ including the Vandeleur and Marchant scholarships at the RIAM. He was also awarded the Dunleath Organ Scholarship, a cross-border scholarship for young organists. He won the Senior Organ competition at the Dublin Feis Ceoil in 1999. He has attended masterclasses with renowned international organists, Ben Van Oosten, Joan Lippencott, Thomas Trotter and David Briggs to name but a few. Charles has given organ recitals at Christ Church Cathedral Dublin, Pembroke College Oxford, St. Lorenz Basilica, Germany and elsewhere. He has also played during choral vespers at St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome.
As director of Sligo Cathedral Choir he has composed and arranged music, including for the recent broadcast of Mass on RTÉ Raidio na Gaeltachta on the occasion of Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann. Under his direction, Sligo Cathedral choir with a membership of around forty choristers continues a long tradition of choral singing in the cathedral and is going from strength to strength with members from all age groups. The choir endeavours to provide a high standard of sacred music for cathedral liturgies from Gregorian chant through 16th century polyphony to music by contemporary composers. The choir have broadcast on radio both local and national and have recorded with Liam Lawton on his album ‘Courage can cry’.
Charles was head of Music at St. Joseph of Cluny Secondary School, Killiney for seven years and currently teaches Music and Irish at Coláiste Muire, Ballymote. He has formed and directed a number of school choirs and, under his directorship the St. Joseph of Cluny Secondary School choir from Dublin were the top secondary school nationally in the RTÉ Lyric fm Choir for Christmas competition. The St. Joseph Cluny choirs have also performed at Áras an Uachtaráin on two occasions and at the National Concert Hall under his direction. Charles has been musical director and chorus master for numerous highly successful school musical productions.
Charles also has a keen interest in Irish traditional music. He has travelled abroad with Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann on numerous occasions and was All-Ireland champion on both piano and piano accordion. He is currently pianist with the Innisfree Céilí Band, All-Ireland Senior Céilí Band champions, 2008. He collaborated recently for two concerts with Uilleann pipers Pádraig McGovern and Brian McNamara at Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Sligo.
Blánaid Murphy has vast experience as a Choral Director, adjudicator and choral consultant. She has been Choral Director of the RTE Children’s Choir Cór na nÓg and at the DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama. She is currently Musical Director of Dublin Bach Singers, Carlow Choral Society and the Royal Irish Academy of Music Chorale. In addition, she lectures on postgraduate choral conducting courses at the Royal Irish Academy of Music.
Her many recordings have included the record-breaking Faith of Our Fathers CD and Cór, arrangements of Irish melodies on the ARSIS label. She has released five CDs with the Palestrina Choir; the most recent of these, O Sacrament Most Holy, was released and formed part of the lead up to the International Eucharistic Congress which was held in Dublin in June 2012. In January 2013 following the prestigious invitation of the Sistine Chapel Choir, she directed the Palestrina Choir singing at Papal Mass in St Peter’s Basilica.
In May 2009, Blánaid was instrumental in the formation of St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral Girls’ Choir which she continues to direct. In Autumn 2013 she directed the rehearsal and performance of the ‘Messiah Project’ which brought together singers from 27 parishes of the Archdiocese of Dublin and beyond in a performance of Handel’s ‘Messiah’ to celebrate the ending of the Year of Faith. Since 2013 she has been director of Cavan’s county choir, as part of Culture Cavan.
Gerard Lillis is a native of County Clare and is Director of The Schola Cantorum at St Finian’s College, Mullingar, a national educational institution dedicated to the development of the musical talent of exceptionally gifted girls and boys at second level. The name of the Schola has become synonymous with all that is excellent in musical standards and since its foundation in 1970 to the present day, the Schola has made a remarkable contribution to the musical life of the country. Gerard is delighted to ensure the continuity of high standards that has always been a hallmark of the Schola, and testimony to this are the numerous prizes won by Schola pupils (both past and present) at competitions such as Dublin’s Feis Ceoil each year. In recent years, Gerard and the choirs from the Schola have secured first prizes in many of the SATB Choral Singing categories such as the Alice Yoakley Quirk and the Sacred Music competitions.
Gerard is a former scholarship student of The Schola Cantorum and is an honours MA (Music) graduate of NUI Maynooth, where he held the coveted position of organ scholar for two years in succession at the university. Gerard also holds a performance diploma from Trinity College, London, a Higher Diploma in Music Technology, and has served on the staff of the Irish Church Music Association summer school for many years.
Prior to taking up his position at The Schola Cantorum, Gerard taught Music at Our Lady’s Bower in Athlone from 1993 to 2003 where he directed many choirs and musicals, both in the school and also for the Athlone and Longford Musical Societies. He is a highly experienced Leaving Certificate Music Examiner and Advising Examiner with the State Examinations Commission.
In 1997 Gerard was appointed organist and Director of Music at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Mullingar, a position he held until September 2017. To date Gerard has directed and produced four CDs of Sacred Choral Music and in 2002 directed the Cathedral Choir which was selected as overall winner of the Lyric FM’s Choirs for Christmas competition. Gerard has directed the Cathedral Choir for several television broadcasts over the past two decades, and for many international performances in some of Europe’s finest venues including the Basilica of St Mary Major, Rome and Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris.
Gerard has served on various sub-committees for Dublin’s Feis Ceoil over the past ten years and has performed as an organ soloist in both the annual International Organ Concert series in Tullamore and Galway, as well as in Dublin’s National Concert Hall. Gerard recalls his first visit to Sligo over 20 years ago when he accompanied Carols from Sligo Cathedral on RTE television. He is looking forward to returning to Sligo and being part of this, the 29th Annual International Choral Festival.