The voices of diverse nations are being lifted in shared song as part of the latest project to emerge from an award-winning, local social enterprise.
The Dromore-based Recovery Cafe’s ‘Voice of Recovery’ choir has embarked on the cross-cultural project, building towards a planned Belfast concert and a live CD recording.
The cafe and its choir operate under the auspices of The Right Key, a social enterprise launched in 2012 by Sheila Smyth, well known locally as the driving force behind Dromore’s Fresh Oil Ministries and Music Centre and its singing circle turned choral success story, Voice of the Bann.
Spearheaded by the Rev Jack Lamb of Townsend Street Presbyterian Church, off Belfast’s Shankill Road, and Fergus O’Hir of Radio Failte, the latest Voice of Recovery project involves a marriage of traditional songs, in English and Irish, to feature on a CD recorded live at an upcoming concert in Townsend Street Presbyterian.
At the first of a number of rehearsals, in the Radio Failte studio recently, singers from a range of cultural backgrounds assembled to sing songs such as Rabbie Burns’ ‘Ae Fond Kiss’, the romantic Gaelic song ‘Bheir me O’ and ‘Airde Cuain’, hailed as one of the finest songs in Irish Gaelic, as well as songs from the old linen mills.
“We also had a Spanish song, by one of the ladies who is from Spain,” said Sheila, a singer, songwriter and composer in her own right, “and some Polish traditional music contributions to learn in the weeks ahead.”
There are seven more rehearsal sessions scheduled at the Recovery Cafe ahead of the main event.
Said Sheila: “This is a great opportunity for singers and musicians to get together and share their songs and stories.
“These are lovely sessions, and great fun. It is great for us to meet new artists who also love music and who can see the power of music to heal and aid recovery to individuals, communities and nations.”
It was that power to aid recovery that moved Sheila, who earlier provided music therapy at a rehabilitation centre for alcoholics, to establish the Recovery Cafe, as a means for people to beat addiction and turn around their lives.
She said at the time: “The idea for the project is to bridge the gap between people coming out of a rehab centre where they have been in control for three months, but then coming home to an empty flat with maybe three months of bills waiting for them.”
As founder and chief-executive of The Right Key, Sheila celebrated last year after it won a special award at the All Ireland Pride of Place Awards, for which it was nominated by Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council.