A packed auditorium saw the Accolade group hold their AGM in the Sean Hollywood Arts Centre earlier this month where they recalled their many achievements over the year.

Over 50 members attended representing Newry and Banbridge Accolade Choirs, Orchestra and Ukulele group.

Chairman Pat Cunningham welcomed everyone especially the new members.  In his report he spoke of the appreciation and gratitude that members felt for the dedication and hard work of Vessie and Nikolay Ivanova, the directors of Accolade over the last 5 years.

Secretary Brea Mc Keown reminded the group of some of the highlights of a very busy year in Accolade. These included the Lidl event in Newry Market which involved musical and choral performances and dance.

Another highlight was when Newry  Accolade Choir and Ukulele Group performed in St. Brigid’s Church in Newry during the St. Patrick’s Festival. Social evenings have proved quite successful with Accolade Community in terms of members getting to meet and form new friendships.

One such Social Evening was held in Banbridge Hockey Club. The Accolade choirs were entertained by members of Sharon Carroll’s Harp School and the Accolade Community Orchestra. During the year there were many performances for charitable organisations including Chest Heart and Stroke, Parkinson’s Society, and Newry Soroptimist’s Society.

There were also performances in the Seamus Heaney Centre and The Armagh Market Theatre where the Newry Accolade Choir sang in Bulgarian at a cultural celebration of the Bulgarian School in Armagh.

An event that brought the most delight and excitement to all of the Accolade performers was the bringing to fruition of a project, sponsored by the Arts Council of NI  called “Tell me a story and I’ll sing you a song”.

The newly Elected Accolade All Community Arts Committee back row l-r Mary Conlon, Rosaleen Moore, Colin Barr, Mary Cunningham and Sandra Parker, front row l-r Janet McAlister, Pat Cunningham, Brea McKeown and Cliff Cartwright.
The newly Elected Accolade All Community Arts Committee. Back from left: Mary Conlon, Rosaleen Moore, Colin Barr, Mary Cunningham and Sandra Parker. Front from left: Janet McAlister, Pat Cunningham, Brea McKeown and Cliff Cartwright.

Vessie and Nikolay Ivanova whose brainchild Accolade is, had arranged three songs from the famous Sands family -  Colum Sands song ‘Around the Corner’; Ben’s song ‘The Hug’ and Tommy’s song ‘County Down’ for the choirs. The two choirs, the orchestra and Ukulele players were thrilled to be performing with such world renowned artists and talented musicians as Tommy, Colum and Ben Sands, Anne Sands and Brendan Monaghan. The concert was held in a packed Warrenpoint Town Hall and brought the Accolade year to an unforgettable close.

The treasurer, Cliff Cartwright, read the financial report and stressed the need for continued fundraising. A new Committee was elected.

Secretary Brea concluded by thanking the funders and Stakeholders of Accolade, The Arts Council NI,  Big Lottery, the NMDC and ABC Councils for their continued support.

 For the Love of Music

The great bard once said: “If music be the food of love, play on” and while William Shakespeare knew nothing of the work of the group Accolade, his words could well have been written for its members.

Five years after it was set up, with groups in Newry and Banbridge, Accolade is going from strength to strength. People who thought they’d never learn a musical instrument or sing as part of a choir, have found new confidence and made new friends.

Accolade’s aim is to promote equality and sharing between communities by providing music and arts activities.  It now has choirs in Newry and Banbridge, a Ukulele Group in Newry, a Chamber Orchestra in Banbridge and a Bulgarian Traditional Dance group.

Newry Accolade Choir began in Tesco Training Room 5 years ago with about ten members. It has now over 50 members who meet every Tuesday night in the Arts Centre at 7pm. At present the choir is looking forward to travelling to Derry at the end of the month for the Festival of Music.

Barbara  Cummings on what being in the choir means to her

The Accolade Choir AGM 2017.
The Accolade Choir AGM 2017.

Barbara loves coming to sing and relax and learn new songs. She enjoys meeting new people from different cultural backgrounds to share music and musical experiences. She particularly felt privileged to sing at the Famine Celebrations and singing Christmas Carols in Stormont.

For Barbara, singing lifts her mind and heart and she especially enjoys the moment when she feels that the singing resonates with the audience.

Newry Accolade Ukulele Group Established in 2017

Twenty members of Newry Accolade Ukulele Group gather in the Sean Hollywood Arts Centre each Thursday afternoon to have fun learning new chords and new songs. For the majority of the members the ukulele is their first musical instrument and they are enjoying this new experience.

They have already shared the stage with the choirs and orchestra. In their own right they have really enjoyed the interaction with audiences that Vessie and Nikolay arrange when they play with various organisations and visit retirement homes in Newry and Mourne.

Mary Conlon is a member of the Accolade Ukulele Group. Mary joined the Ukulele class three years ago. She says she joined because the idea of learning to play a musical instrument intrigued her as she never saw herself as musical.

Growing up, her family never encouraged her in this area and she was directed instead towards elocution. Mary says what she particularly likes about the group is the friendship and respect for each other and how members look out for each other.

“Playing the ukulele and chatting to friends gives me a great lift in my heart”, says Mary. She reflects that being able to play a couple of tunes at home for her grandchildren gives her great confidence and happiness. She looks forward to her class and if she can’t get to class she feels there is something missing out of her week.

If not now then when?

Perhaps you have thought about joining a choir or learning to play a musical instrument but have used all the usual excuses: too old, not musical, wouldn't know anyone to stop you. But why not come along and find out what it is like at a choir or ukuele session? A woman who has just joined our choir recently said: “ I know people were encouraging me to come, but I always had an excuse. Now I wonder why I waited for so long?”

Newry Accolade Community Choir meets in the Sean Hollywood Arts Centre on Tuesdays at 7 00pm

Newry Ukulele Group meet every Thursday in the Sean Hollywood Arts Centre at 3 30 pm.

They look forward to seeing you soon!