Top Choir Hits Charity High Notes

One of Europe's top male voice choirs will swell the coffers of two local charities by thousands of notes when it sings in the Island next year.

The famous Warrington Male Voice Choir will perform a gala concert at the Villa Marina on Friday, July 22.

Warrington Male Voice Choir

Accompanying it will be former Beirut hostage Terry Waite CBE, its patron for the last eight years. His links with the choir began after the IRA bombed Warrington town centre in 1993 and the choristers began taking part in peace-promoting events which have seen them singing in Ireland.

Concerts for Peace, involving guests from Ireland, have also been held in Warrington, London and Manchester. Through Mr Waite, the choir has sung in prisons in Ireland and the UK. The choir encourages reconciliation initiatives with the young people of Belfast through its own fund.

Choir chairman Barrie Johnson, who has retired to the Island and has a home at Handley's Corner, Kirk Michael, said Mr Waite had never visited and is 'keen to join us'.

The choir was formed in 1898 and survived the two world wars. The youngest of its 110 singing members is 15 and the oldest 88. Jointly, its members rehearse for 15,000 hours a year, singing a wide repertoire of songs, from pop to classical. Each of those hours is converted into a pound raised for charity.

Honours include becoming National Male Voice Choir Champions from 1994-97, prize-winners at the last five Llangollen International Eisteddfod Competitions and Sligo International Male Voice Choir winners in 2002.

The concert will jointly benefit the Isle of Man Families and Friends of Ronald McDonald House and St Bridget's Hospice, Douglas. The former charity raises money to help equip and run the residential unit in the grounds of Alder Hey Children's Hospital, Liverpool, where many sick children from the Island are treated.

Between 70 and 80 choir members and their families are making the trip to the Island at their own expense, staying at the Castle Mona Hotel in Douglas for six days and sightseeing as well as taking part in an open-air songs of praise event at Rushen Abbey on Sunday, July 24 and an evening concert at St German's Cathedral, Peel, on Tuesday, July 26.

With Steam Packet communications manager and well-known singer Geoff Corkish compering proceedings in the Royal Hall on the Friday, the choir will, the next night, perform as part of the ferry firm's 175th anniversary celebrations at an event at the Masonic Hall in Douglas.

There will be a number of informal performances too, including at Peel Castle and Castle Rushen.

Among the singers making the trip will be Manxman Bob Atherton, who was born and brought up in Douglas.

Mr Johnson has been singing with the choir since 1972 and has chaired it for 21 years. He hopes a sponsor can be found to meet the 2,000 cost of staging the concert the cost of the hall hire and programmes and fliers so that all the 12,500 proceeds of the sale of 10 tickets will go to the two charities.

The choir last visited the Island in 1995 when it performed at the Villa in aid of the hospice and the Friends of the Gaiety Theatre.

This time it will be joined by Manx Concert Brass, the talented older 'offshoot' of the Manx Youth Band.

Guests will include Lieutenant Governor Ian Macfadyen and the Mayor of Warrington.