THE LIMERICK Gospel Choir, in all its colourful, musical glory, has become a much-loved part of special celebrations for hundreds of local and not so local people.
And this year, the choir has something of its own to celebrate, having reached 20 years of singing together.
The choir’s chairperson, Marion Prior, told the Limerick Post that the group was originally founded in 2003 as a youth choir and developed organically from there.
“We’re gospel with a twist. We do old gospel and contemporary music, church music, there’s a range and we perform at lots of events and venues as well as in St Michael’s Church in Denmark Street.”
Marion and her daughter both joined the choir in 2005.
“We saw it advertised and we went for an audition. If you could sing a scale, you were in. They gave you time to find your feet in the choir. It was so uplifting. I was hooked from the start.”
Marion has some very special memories of singing at events with the choir but one of the most special she shared with the Limerick Post.
“It was during Covid and a family contacted us to say that their mother had been diagnosed with a terminal illness. They asked us to sing for her and we went to her house in the county.
“She was inside in the stable in her yard, it was all lit up with fairy lights and decorated with snowmen. We sang for her in the courtyard. It was very moving.
“I’m happy to say that lady is still alive today. It was the only in-person event we did during Covid,” she recalls.
Musical director Mary O’Brien also has fond memories to share.
“We were singing for a wedding and the bride requested a special song for her walk up the aisle. As she walked in, we started to sing and, whatever that song meant to that couple, the groom just burst into tears. It was so special.”
Marion says that one of the things that makes the choir special is the huge spread of people involved.
“We have 44 members on the books at the moment and it’s wonderful that they come from every walk of life and across every age group. We have people who are 18 and a member in her 70s.”
Mary adds that the choir has brought has musically broadened the range of gospel normally heard in churches.
“Our former director was African and we went from doing traditional gospel to including African songs.”
“We do church music, secular music, pop songs – a huge range. The most requested song when we do wedding is Christina Perri’s ‘A Thousand Years’.”
The choir is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a concert in the Lime Tree Theatre on Saturday November 4.
The mixed-voice, not-for-profit choir has members from both city and county and from different ethnic backgrounds and countries.
They have won many awards over the years, including in the Limerick Choral Festival, where they came first three times in the Gospel Choir Category and won Best Limerick Choir twice.
They have supported the Harlem Gospel Choir, sang for President Michael D Higgins, and brought the house down live on RTÉ.
They also perform at a tremendous number of charity events including fundraisers for Pieta House, NOVAS, Focus Ireland, Simon Community, Limerick Treaty Suicide Prevention, Milford Hospice, and Thomond House.
Both Marion and Mary agree that people become involved in the choir for many reasons.
“Singing is so good for mental health. Some people come to take their mind off things, some come to find a hobby, and some just come to sing and let it all out.”