Island of Ireland Peace Choir’s visit to Poland to be screened
Thirty-six members of the Island of Ireland Peace Choir will feature in a one-off special edition of RTE’s Nationwide this Friday, January 26th, on the eve of International Holocaust Day.
Hi-Lite Television productions (for RTE) and RTE’s South East Correspondent Damien Tiernan, South East Correspondent, followed the Choir to Krakow in Poland last July.
Amongst other places, they visited and sang at the infamous WWII Nazi concentration camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Wieliczka Salt Mines, Oscar Schindler’s factory and Holy Cross Cistercian Abbey in Krakow.
Members of the Choir were drawn from all over the island of Ireland and further afield in the UK.
The pilgrimage to Poland saw performers travelling from Waterford, Omagh, Belfast, Edinburgh, Gorey, Kilkenny, Tullow, Dublin and Middleton, and they arrived in Krakow on July 4th and departing on July 9th.
Key highlights in the programme will show the Choir visiting and singing at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp where at least 1.1 million Jewish men, women and children were exterminated in the camp’s gas chambers.
The Choir pay a very poignant and moving tribute to all those who suffered unimaginable horror at Auschwitz, where they sand ‘MLK’ by U2.
In keeping with the theme of WWII remembrance, the Choir were honoured to be allowed to perform in the court yard, of Oscar Schindler’s factory, in Krakow.
Schindler is the Nazi industrialist credited with saving around 1,200 Jews from the death camps by employing them directly in his Polish occupied enamelware factory.
This story is arguably best known and told through the 1993 Academy Award winning, Steven Spielberg film, ‘Schindler’s List’, starring Liam Neeson and Ben Kingsley.
From Krakow, the Choir travelled to the salt mines at Wieliczka. There has been mining here for over 700 years and this historical site now features as a UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage list. Integrated into the mines are literally hundreds of kilometres of tunnels, rooms, performance spaces and religious chambers.
Some 110 metres underground, the Choir performed in one of the many cathedrals/chapels, which would have been hand carved out of the rock face, by local miners. These performance spaces have unique acoustics that blended seamlessly with the harmonies of the Choir.
Their last concert was performed on the final night of the visit, in The Sanctuary of the Holy Cross Cistercian Abbey in Krakow.
Founded 10 years ago, the Island of Ireland Peace Choir, formally known as the Waterford Omagh Peace Choir, was born from the shattered lives that were left from the 1998 Omagh bombing.
Claire Bowes (nee Gallagher), who was blinded in the Omagh tragedy, asked Phil Brennan to create the music for her wedding day. During the evening Claire enquired if Phil could keep the group of assembled singers and musicians together. The rest is history. Claire has gone on to open the Omagh Music Academy and complete her Master in Music Therapy.
The Choir, under its two names, has performed, amongst other places, at the 1916 Commemorations in the Garden of Remembrance, giving a haunting rendition of “The Parting Glass”, singing the National Anthem at the Aviva Stadium, visited and singing at the Messines Gate in 2014, marking the 100th anniversary of the WWI Christmas Truce.
Based at the Edmund Rice Centre in Waterford, the Choir meet and sing in the Chapel on the first Friday of every month for a Taize Vigil. They visit places synonymous with persecution and deliver a message of hope, through song and music.
* The Choir would like to thank Damien Tiernan of RTE, Brian and Suzanne of Hi-Lite Television productions, The Packaging Hub, Causeway Properties, Harvey Travel, Comeragh Coaches, Cracovia Travel in Krakow and the Edmund Rice Centre.