On 5 August 2019, eight young singers from the Midlands travelled to Bergen, Norway to take part in the first ever youth choral exchange between Ireland and Norway. Each of the singers is a member of the Singfest Senior Choir, one of three regional choirs catering for young people aged from 6 to 18 in counties Offaly and Westmeath. The Singfest Regional Choirs are run by Music Generation Offaly/Westmeath (MGOW) in partnership with Sing Ireland, which also manages Ireland’s flagship youth ensemble, the Irish Youth Choir.
This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with Ung I Kor – Norway’s national organisation dedicated to encouraging youth participation in singing – came following a successful application to Léargas. MGOW and Sing Ireland collaborated on the application with Ung I Kor to establish SING, an Erasmus+ funded project.
SING – Singing to Inspire the Next Generation - is a project designed to provide young people who are involved in MGOW/Sing Ireland and Ung I Kor’s singing activities with the chance to explore the wider benefits of being involved in singing activities together, across countries and cultures.
Margaret Broome, MGOW Development Officer told us: ‘the positive benefits of taking part in choral singing are being increasingly documented, pointing to the positive impact singing has on a person’s wellbeing, the development of critical thinking skills, resilience and empathy. Research has also indicated that participation in music and singing activities promotes a sense of connection and community, and are of course a valuable creative outlet, qualities that are also held by the Erasmus+ programme.’
When asked about the choral exchange experience, one 15-year-old singer told us: ‘it was amazing! I’ve been part of Singfest since I was 11 and love it. The tutors and other singers are great, we’re all super friends now. We couldn’t believe it when we were told we were going to Norway. While we were there we kept a learning diary just to record everything we did and learned - which was loads - and we made tons of new friends. We’re looking forward to sharing what we learnt when Singfest starts back again and can’t wait for the Norwegians to visit us next year.’
In total, 32 young people aged from 13 to 19 were selected by Ung I Kor and MGOW to take part in the youth choral exchange. Activities in Norway included singing and a range of social and cultural activities intended to deepen the young people’s knowledge and understanding about each other’s background and country.
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