Taking inspiration from the very popular BBC series – ‘Choir’ & ‘Last Choir Standing’ John Ivory had the idea to form Voices of Bray Community Choir in March 2013. County Wicklow in Ireland, already had a wide and varied collection of excellent choirs – but seemed to lack a community choir focused on a repertoire of pop / rock / musical theatre. This was the niche which would be filled by Voices of Bray
A small number of people were initially approached, to gauge interest levels. Each interested person was asked to bring a friend along to an initial rehearsal. This took place in the ballroom of the Esplanade Hotel, Bray, Wicklow on March 6th, 2013. 50 people approx. turned up – some of whom had never held a sheet of music before. The first rehearsal introduced this fledgling group of singers to Elton John’s ‘Can You Feel The Love Tonight’. It went so well, everyone agreed to come back to a second rehearsal – a fortnight later.
Word got out and at this second rehearsal more people turned up. Over the next couple of months, membership swelled to over 100. However, we needed to do more than just sing for ourselves in a hotel ballroom. So the choir made its first public appearance on June 20th 2013 by performing our first recital of four songs in front of a small audience of family and friends. It was a great success – and so we all decided to come back in September after a summer break and see what would happen.
The next term brought some great new repertoire pieces, even more members, but also a few challenges. We needed to find a new rehearsal venue – not easy when trying to accommodate over 100 singers. However, somehow our problems always seemed to find a solution. We moved to St. Killian’s school hall in Ballywaltrim- Bray, which became home for a period of time. A very important period of time in fact, as we had decided to prepare for our first full public concerts which would take place in the Mermaid Theatre, Bray in June 2014. Then we realised that if we were to be ready, we would need to rehearse on a weekly basis. The members embraced the challenge and the extra work, with great enthusiasm.
So, 15 months after formation, Voices of Bray Community Choir performed its first public concerts. We had 3 consecutive nights to sell-out audiences. Each night with standing ovations. All the proceeds from these concerts went to charity. We raised monies for local charities (‘Meals on Wheels’ – local dinners for the elderly charity and ‘Be Well’ a teens mental health initiative)
Voices of Bray has made steady progress since those formative days. Since 2015 the choir performs three concerts in the Mermaid Theatre each summer, and an annual Christmas concert in St. Fergal’s Church, Ballywaltrim – a wonderful venue with a stunning acoustic and an extremely appreciative audience of over 700 people.
To accommodate our growing size as a choir, we needed to move rehearsal venue. Thanks to the generosity of the Sunbeam House Services organisation, 2015 saw us move to the Taylor Centre in Sunbeam House for our weekly practice.
Each year we add to our repertoire and focus on improving our performances. The choir organises or attends workshops where possible, and takes part in choral festivals at home (Wicklow Sings) and abroad (North Wales Choral Festival), with more such events planned. Musical Director, John Ivory, is constantly researching exciting new material and new challenges for the singers of Voices of Bray. The Choir looks forward to entertaining people for many more years to come.