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The 2018/19 season for Ballyclare Male Choir could not have had a better start. It was a very busy weekend beginning on Friday 21st September with a successful charity concert in the Halfway House in Ballygally.

But the next day, Saturday was an occasion to be remembered for some time. In the evening the choir hosted a joint concert with the award winning Whitland and District Male Choir from South Wales, which was on a weekend tour break in the province. However, on Saturday morning the Deputy Mayor, Alderman John Smyth of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council had kindly hosted a reception for the Welsh choir and its supporters in the council offices at the Mossley Mill and then the visitors took the opportunity to visit the Titanic Museum in Belfast

For the concert, the main assembly hall in Ballyclare High School was completely full and the audience was not disappointed with the choral fare on offer. A rich blend of popular secular and sacred items from both choirs sent everyone home well entertained.

But is wasn't over yet. The visitors had the opportunity on Sunday to visit the Giants Causeway and return via the coast road before joining their Ballyclare friends for a farewell party in the Ballyclare Golf Club. Again, another excellent musical evening where some of the individual talents from both choirs were to the fore.

The new choral season has been well and truly launched but now a look back at the events in 2017/2018

From September 2017 until the end of May 2018 the choir fulfilled 21 engagements, mainly a mix of church services and concerts. The ethos of the choir committee, its chairman Trevor Forsthye, and the musical team of conductor Paul Briggs and accompanist Sheelagh Greer is to entertain audiences. The repertoire is now a balanced mix of traditional and popular pieces and includes the frequent introduction of new pieces, both sacred and secular.

Some engagements are worthy of special mention. In October a sell out audience at The Theatre at the Mill enjoyed a musical spectacular hosted by Conor Taggart and his invited guests, the Ballyclare choir, other soloists and local community groups.

From the left: Les Simms, Trevor Forsthye, Conor, Dick Grey and Hubert Greer

A first for the choir was an NSPCC fundraising event in December where, beneath the Christmas tree in the Victoria Shopping Centre Belfast the choir entertained the passing Xmas shoppers.

In March it was Bangor Castle to entertain a black tie audience at the Mayor’s charity dinner. The event having been organised by the Percy French Society.

In April, another unique occasion in the Market Place Theatre in Armagh. An event, organised by Dungannon Methodist Church where the choir performed specially selected sacred items in a number of drama sketches. These were dedicated to five people in history who had played significant roles in the advance of Christianity, such as Christopher Columbus and Martin Luther.

Then it was back to the Theatre at the Mill for the choir Annual Concert where the choir was joined by its special guest, Very Reverend Eugene O’Hagan of The Priests fame and performing again to a sell out audience.

May was the busiest month of the season. Conductor Paul, his wife Esther and other family members played the lead in organising joint fundraising events in Donaghadee Parish Church and Ballyclare Town Hall for Macmillan Cancer Support. The choir played a major role in Ballyclare and an overall sum of £5000 was raised across the two locations.

Ayr was the destination for the annual weekend away. The choir shared a concert with the Largs Amateur Operatic Society on the Friday evening and another concert in St Columba Church Ayr on Saturday evening. The visit concluded with the morning service in the same church on Sunday. There were visits to National Trust properties at Dumfries House and Culzean Castle. Returning home on the Monday just gave the choir enough time to catch its breath before taking part in its final concert in support of the Ballyclare May Fair.

Neil Paget was very busy with his camera throughout the trip, producing a video for members and here is a trailer.

The 17/18 season was finally wrapped up with the AGM in the last week of May. This was an opportunity for chairman Trevor to present a £1200 cheque to Ruth Woodfield from Alzheimer’s Society. This was his selected charity for the 17/18 season and the choir members had contributed at each and every Wednesday practice.

Trevor Forsythe is again leading the way as chairman. David Hewett has stepped down as choir President and Dick Grey was elected in his place.

Sadly, the choir has in the last few months lost 4 past and prominent members. Cec George, passed away in early March closely followed by Denis Boyd. Both had played important roles in the management of the choir over many years. Naomi Hughes, who recently passed away in England was the choir accompanist during many years of Billy Thompson’s tenure as conductor. Then in June, Jim Wilson a long time member of the tenor section passed away after a long illness.

As can be seen the choir engagements page is filling up with already eight confirmed for this year. However, now is the time for any churches, or other organisations, considering future events, especially in 2019 and who may wish to engage the choir, to get in touch with the secretary Hubert Greer or telephone 02893323696.