The city was treated to a night of magnificent singing on Monday, April 18, when visiting choir, Washington & Lee University Singers, from Lexington, Virginia, joined forces with ladies vocal group, Allegri, for an event in First Derry Presbyterian Church.
Over 250 people attended, and were treated to an eclectic programme of choral music.
Under the direction of Mr Maurice Kelly, the Allegri ladies opened the concert, performing a polished selection of pieces including Irving Berlin’s Always, ‘Blackbird’ by the Beatles, the rousing gospel hymn, ‘The Storm is Passing Over’, and Benjamin Britten’s beautiful setting of ‘The Salley Gardens’.
Since its formation in 2013 during the city’s Year of Culture, the group has become a vibrant addition to the city’s highly regarded music scene, gaining a reputation for performing a challenging mix of styles, while inviting audiences to share in the joy that choral singing brings.
The 50-strong Washington and Lee Singers then took to the stage, treating the audience to a stunning programme which included repertoire from composers such as JS Bach, Eric Whitacre and Ola Gjeilo.
Led by Dr Shane Lynch, who is the Director of Choral Activities in Washington and Lee University, the group is recognised as one of the finest a cappella choirs in their region, and this concert was the second date of a week-long tour during which they performed in Belfast, Clones, Galway and Dublin, as well as the city.
The Irish section of their programme had been prepared specifically for the tour and included pieces by Michael McGlynn, a beautiful arrangement by Joseph Flummerfelt of ‘Danny Boy’ and an original piece by Dr Lynch, set to lyrics based on the fabled relationship between Joseph Mary Plunkett and Grace Gifford.
The finale of the concert saw the ladies and string quartet from Washington & Lee University Singers joining with Allegri to perform Gjeilo’s stunning ‘Tundra’, a piece inspired by the landscape of his native Norway.
At a supper provided by the First Derry ladies, Allegri made a presentation to Dr Lynch and his wife, the choir’s accompanist, Lacey Lynch. The visiting choir were also presented with a goodie bag which included souvenirs donated by Derry and Strabane District Council, Visit Derry, locally baked shamrock shortbread and a hand crafted fridge magnet by local company, Piecemakers.
Reflecting on the trip on their return to the United States, the Washington and Lee Singers remarked that the concert was one of the most memorable highlights of their trip.
At the request of Washington & Lee University Singers a retiring collection was held and over £1,200 was raised for the Pantry Project, a food bank charity run by the Churches Trust, to help those in our city in need (see photograph).
The Churches Trust is an interdenominational organisation, established over 20 years ago by leaders of the then mainstream Christian churches to seek to address deprivation in this area, with a united voice.