More than 5,000 children taking part in the 2013 Feis Ceoil in Dublin

Choirs take centre stage on second day

Belvedere College Senior Choir at the Electric Ireland Feis Ceoil, in the RDS Dublin.
Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill.

Belvedere College Senior Choir at the Electric Ireland Feis Ceoil, in the RDS Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill.

Tue, Mar 12, 2013, 22:00

A nervous excitement hung in the air over the RDS in Dublin yesterday as children from all over Ireland took part in the 117th annual Electric Ireland Feis Ceoil. Violinists, pianists and chamber musicians were competing, but it was the choirs that took centre stage on the second day of the two-week competition.

Fifth class girls from St Louis High School in Rathmines were a little nervous when they came in yesterday and heard the boys from Belvedere College practising but after testing their own vocal cords they had calmed a little. “We’re all right now – you get used to the nervousness,” says Kirsty Chubb.

More than 5,000 children from the age of seven upwards are taking part in 180 individual music competitions in one of the biggest events of its kind in Europe. Flute, bass, cello, clarinet and trombone classes are scheduled for the coming days.

The numbers attending have kept up and this is down to responding to what participants want, including introducing music in the choir competitions from jazz, musicals and gospel, says Laura Gilsenan, chief executive of the feis ceoil.

It is St Louis’s first time to enter but other schools have been here before. Kevin Loftus (14) from Belvedere College says he intends to keep on coming.

“Choir is cool and there’s great camaraderie. You can listen to all the other choirs performing and you get to go to McDonalds and get the day off school.” Students may not have the songs they sing at the Feis Ceoil on their iPods but there is a draw to such a high standard of competition, says Belvedere student Conor Ginty (18). “When it all comes together and you pull it off on the day, it’s a thrill.”

The girls from St Finian’s College, Mullingar, give up their lunchtime during school to practise. “You always get the dedicated ones who work hard,” says teacher Helen Hassett. “A big focus for us every year is the feis ceoil.”

Over among the violinists, David Yau (11), who attends St Brigid’s boys national school in Foxrock, admits after his performance he is “not hopeful. I’m here for the experience.”

Not all are taking it as calmly after performances that didn’t go as well as planned. “It is a very high standard,” says his mother Gerardine Coyle, who adds that her son practises every day – on top of piano practice and swimming. Isabel Doyle (13) from Rathgar, who came second in the junior violin, knows this. She has been playing since she was four and practises for an hour every day, says mother Wilma Doyle.

“The feis ceoil is the one you have to put the most effort in for.”