Sligo alive with song as International Choral Festival programme launched

Note-Orious4 rehearsing for the Choral festival in Alfie’s Barber hop, Sligo.                         Pic: James Connolly



  • 49 choirs to travel to Sligo for the 28th annual festival
  • High Hopes homeless choir will headline event
  • Festival runs in various venues from November 11 – 13


Almost 50 Irish and international choirs are set to bring Sligo to life during the three-day Sligo International Choral Festival, which runs from November 11 – 13, 2016.

Now in its 28th year, the festival is one of the largest of its kind in Ireland and events will be taking place in venues and pop-up locations all across the town.

The festival includes competitive and non-competitive singing across a wide range of styles, ages and ensembles — from school choirs and jazz orchestras to gospel and barbershop choirs.

“With many events taking place in venues around the town of Sligo there will be great opportunities for audiences to engage with all forms of choral music over the three days of the festival,” said festival Chairman, Sean Larkin at the launch of the festival today (Thursday, November 3).

“There are the core competitions which the choirs will be taking part in but choirs will be popping up in pubs, restaurants, shopping centres and even barber shops over the three days, bringing right onto the streets of the town,” he added.

The festival was launched today by local Barbershop quartet Note-Orious 4 who last month won gold at the Irish Association of Barbershop Singers annual convention in Cork.

The Sligo International Choral Festival was established in 1988 by local businessmen, John Ryan and Joe Kelly. The first festival was held in Summerhill College, Sligo. It was a one-day event and featured 12 Irish choirs), three competitions and the prize money totalled IR£1,000.

Since then, 1,200 choirs, including 45,000 singers, have performed at the Sligo International Choral Festival, with choirs travelling from 33 different countries over the years. Over the years, it has added some 110,000 bed nights and €15 million to Sligo’s economy and is now the second largest event of its kind in the Republic of Ireland.

The 2016 Sligo International Choral Festival Committee                              Pic: James Connolly

Competitions for the 2016 event will take place in both the Gillooly Hall and Sligo Cathedral on Friday, November 11 and Saturday, November 12. The themes for this year’s competitions include, Barber Shop Choirs, Young People, Text by WB Yeats and Secondary School Choirs. A new edition to this year’s competitions is one reflecting the music associated with the 1916 Rising and the First World War.

The High Hopes Choir will open the festival on Friday 11 November, at the Gala Concert in the Knocknarea Arena at IT Sligo from 8pm. This will be the first time that the High Hopes Choir performs in Sligo and a civil reception is being planned to welcome the choir to the town. Sligo’s Orpheus Choir and friends will join High Hopes in song.

The High Hopes Choir is Ireland’s first choir to be made up of people directly affected by homelessness. Founded by David Brophy, former principal conductor of RTÉ Concert Orchestra, the choir aims to help change the public perception of what it means to be homeless in Ireland today.

On Saturday evening, the Sligo Academy of Music Jazz Orchestra will perform a concert at the Gillooly Hall before the Sligo Champion Grand Prix, Prize Winners competition.

Outside of the competitions and formal concerts, the singing will also spill out onto the streets with the festival fringe events.

Acapella in the City, which takes places throughout Saturday, is a fun way for audiences to engage with choirs who will perform throughout Sligo town in pubs, restaurants, shopping centres, various stores and barber shops.

And the music will continue at the Festival Club, which will take place at the Sligo Park hotel from 10.30pm on Saturday. This is a chance for audiences to meet the competitors and for the singers to let their hair down.

On Sunday, Sing Alleluia will see the choirs fill several churches around Sligo with their voices, enhancing various religious services. Seven churches across the town, including the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and St John’s Church of Ireland Cathedral, will see their services transformed through song.

Tickets to the Gala Concert can be purchased online at and are available from tourist offices nationwide and in Liber bookshop in Sligo town.

Sponsors of the festival include Sligo County Council, Wild Atlantic Way/Faille Ireland, the Western Development Commission (WDC), IT Sligo and Tourism Ireland. Our media partners are The Sligo Champion.