LAURA Plummer, the leader of the local folk group Voices of Lecale has extended her Yuletide greetings to everyone across the district.
Speaking just after a Christmas sing-a-long session with the Lecale Ramblers who were in great spirits singing their heads off and doing all the actions to the ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ working off some of the four-course dinner, Laura reflected on the group’s activities over a busy year.
She said: “As 2012 ebbs away and another Christmas is almost upon us, I’d like to thank all the lovely people who have sung with me this year for their company and music-making. The Singers’ Circle at Down Arts Centre is now in its ninth year with 39 people coming together to sing every Wednesday night.
“In March the Voices of Lecale community choir, formed from members of the Singers’ Circle, launched our second CD ‘Journeys‘ – a collection of songs and tunes from around the globe. We were delighted to have the talents of guest musicians Willie, Una, Denis, Bronagh, Declan and our special guest and Patron of the Choir, Tommy Sands, on the CD.
The CD helped us raise £4,000 for the local branch of the Alzheimer’s Society. Later in in May the choir was featured on BBC Radio Ulster’s ‘Your Place and Mine’ programme with live singing and interviews with choir members. Also in May I gave a workshop – ‘ Newry Sings’ – where 52 singers came to the town’s arts centre and raised funds for charities supported by the local Soroptimists branch.
“June saw Voices of Lecale appearing at the Turn of the Tide Festival in Portaferry and meeting up with Fil Campbell and her singers for a very enjoyable joint workshop in Rostrevor. In the summer Stephen and I were in Australia for the birth of our little grandson, Nathan.
“It was great to have the opportunity while there to take part in the Newport Folk Festival – I was one of two guest conductors leading a massed choir of 230 voices singing one of my own compositions, a setting of the Celtic Blessing (‘Deep peace of the running wave’). Come September it was back in Belfast for the Harmonia Mundi workshop where 20 of us got together to sing songs from Medieval France to Hawaii. Also that month I began working with a second Singers’ Circle for Downe U3A (University of the Third Age).”
Laura’s frenetic activity in the world of folk singing has continued as just this month the Voices had an informal daytime Christmas recital at the St Patrick Centre and they participated in the annual inter-denominational carol-singing at the Downe Hospital. Laura said: “Afterwards we went carol-singing around the hospital wards and it was truly heart-warming to see how so many of the patients responded to the music. We all came away feeling thankful and very moved.”
On an almost philosophical note, Laura added: “When people come together to sing and make music, something wonderful happens. A great deal of positive energy is manifested – literally we give off and feel ‘good vibrations’. All of us human beings are really just energy. You feel good when you are making a good sound with other people – in harmony with them. It can’t happen properly if you are a ‘passive singer’… you have to really give it your all to feel the benefits.
“So I would say to all singers always try to be generous in giving of yourself to the group. There’s no point in false modesty or holding back. Much better to sing out with gusto even if you hit a wrong note than hold back through fear of losing face.
“For me it has been a very busy and productive year and I feel thankful and happy to have had all these opportunities to make music and to be in the company of so many great people. We are all looking forward to singing again next year at events in the district.”