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Seminar on Contemporary Choral Music

Ruth FleischmannCork International Choral Festival Logo                                                                                

Select links at the bottom of the page to access further information related to the Seminar on Contemporary Choral Music.

‌‌The Cork International Choral and Folk-Dance Festival was founded in 1954 to encourage music-making at local level by providing a forum for choirs from rural areas and small towns to present their music; to bring outstanding foreign choirs to Ireland and thus provide standards against which the national choirs could measure themselves; to safeguard standards by having panels of Irish and foreign adjudicators; to provide entertainment for a large audience by combining competitive with non-competitive performances interspersed with Irish and foreign folk dancing.

The Festival organisers soon began to create incentives for the production of new choral music by Irish composers and to encourage Irish choirs to perform this music. Since the beginning of the Festival, competitors had been required to sing one work by a living composer from their own country; new Irish music was urgently needed.

Aloys Fleischmann,1958-photo by Rory FrewenIn 1956 a prize for the best choral arrangement of an Irish folk song was anonymously funded; it was awarded to Seán Neeson for his Áirdí Chuain. In 1958 two competitions were introduced for Irish composers: one for a new part song; one for a new arrangement of the folk tune Rí an Domhnaigh, with text in Irish. In his introduction to the syllabus for the 1958 Festival, Aloys Fleischmann wrote:

‌In its attempt to deal with the dearth of Irish choral music for the use of our own choirs, the Cork Tóstal Council has been helped by the generosity of two patrons of the Festival, Signor Aldo Tanci of Milan, and another patron who wishes to remain anonymous, who have donated substantial prizes for competitions for the choral arrangement of Irish folk song, and for original choral composition. From the winning entries and from other compositions by Irish composers sung at the Festival it is hoped to make a wider repertoire ultimately available.

In 1962 came a decisive innovation with the establishment by Fleischmann of the Seminar on Contemporary Choral Music. It was as international as was the Festival: up to four Irish and foreign composers were commissioned every year to produce new choral works. One of the conditions of the commission was that the composer must attend the Seminar, which from 1962-2000 took place in the Music Department of University College Cork. The compositions were analysed and discussed during the Seminar sessions and then performed by the choirs of the composers’ choice. The first public performance was given that evening in CorkCity Hall. The commissions were funded by Irish corporations such as Clarke, Wills, Guinness, Pye; by the Festival’s patron, Lady Dorothy Mayer; and from 1976 by the Governing Body of University College Cork and the Ruth Draddy Memorial Foundation of New York.John Fitzpatrick

‌The Seminar was a unique innovation which greatly enhanced the reputation of the Festival among international choral experts. It has led to the creation of a significant corpus of new choral music: between 1962 and 2014, 128 works have been commissioned from 109 composers of 22 countries. It has provided an effective incentive and forum for Irish composers; it has had a remarkable educational effect on Cork audiences who have progressed from indifference, if not outright hostility during the early years, to appreciation of new music.

The current director of the Cork International Choral Festival is John Fitzpatrick (pictured on right). The following is a link to the Seminar Programme for the Choral Festival of 2014, written by Mr. Fitzgerald.
Cork International Choral Festival 2014: Seminar Programme (PDF)

Aloys Fleischmann and the Seminar on Contemporary Choral Music  by Séamas de Barra.
The Composer and the Problem of Modern Choral Music  by Patrick Zuk