Some of those involved in the Mullahoran Community Voices Choir

Choirs set for appearance on Townhall stage

Excitement in Kilcogy Hall on Thursday nights is building as Mullahoran’s Community Voices Choir look forward to their forthcoming performance on the Townhall stage.

Directing rehearsals is Claire Crehan. The professional music teacher is the driving force behind the choir in the parish that’s been her adopted home since 2017.

Claire’s also the sister of the singer Eimear Crehan and who pulls into the Townhall Theatre for the Cavan limb of her Grá Mór national tour on Sunday, April 14.

Making the most of the opportunity, Claire is bringing her Mullahoran Community Voices Choirs together with their Belturbet counterparts to provide support and accompaniment for Eimear’s concert. Combined there will be fifty-plus choir members on stage.

The seeds of the groups were sown in the aftermath of Covid when Mullahoran GAC organised the first of a series of annual health and wellbeing programmes in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

“They do different activities to get people out and about in the winter time. I imagine a lot of that is to do with mental health and getting engaged with other people and doing activities to combat loneliness, depression and different things - it’s an amazing GAA club,” praises Claire.

When the club came up with the choir idea, Claire, who organises community choirs through her profession was the obvious choice. She runs a music school in Kilcock in County Kildare, along with her sister Eimear.

“We ended up focussing a lot on choirs - so we have nine choirs in the town of Kilcock,” says Claire, who is also in charge of the school’s piano department.

Initially Claire had spent quite a bit of time on the road travelling to work, but with the arrival of her 18 month old son, Beau, she struck on a happier work-life balance.

“I had 52 students online at one stage during Covid.

“After that I decided I didn’t want to be travelling - so I go [to Kilcock] one day a week now and my Mum comes and looks after my little baby.”

With less time on the road, Claire has more time to invest with her local choirs. After the initial six-week programme the Mullahoran choir eagerly continued to meet up for a second six-week series and the Community Voices Choir was born.

The choir has helped to further deepen Claire and husband Johnny Walsh’s ties to the parish.

“The Mullahoran community have just been incredible - the people on our lane even had a barbecue to welcome us officially to the lane. They’re wonderful people - we found a real community there,” she says.

Separately last year a groundswell of interest had built up in Belturbet to set up a choir there. While many in the border town had expressed an interest in singing, they struggled to find a choir director. Claire’s name came into the conversation last September, and having said, “sure I’ll give it a go”, she found herself taking charge of her second Community Voices Choir.

“The first night we did Proud Mary in three-part harmony and it was mind-blowing,” Claire enthuses of the group which routinely draws circa 30 people to rehearsals.

Aware that praising the singing ability of the group might give the wrong impression of where their priorities lie, she adds: “The ethos is about connection through singing - they’re both non-audition choirs. It’s personal development through singing.”

Claire is eager to stress that the choirs are open to new members at all times, especially men. “We always want men,” she emphasises.


The Celt wonders if there is such a thing as someone who can’t sing?

“I don’t think there is. This separation between singer and non-singer - there’s cultures in the world where that doesn’t make sense. They think if you are able to speak, why would you not be able to sing? I think it’s time that we embrace the fact that everyone can sing.

“Of course some people can sing better than others, and some people find it easier, but it’s a muscle that you train: your ear’s a muscle, your vocal chords are muscles and your lungs are muscles. You just have to train, there’s things you can do to help it.

“I think a lot of the time the restriction is emotional or societal, it’s not necessarily that you are not musical. It’s just we don’t believe we can.”

As such, the opportunity to sing as a group can be a step towards attaining that belief. Claire is eager to help nurture their confidence as singers by asking individuals if they would like sing a couple of lines solo.

“We do that a lot: just for tonight, to sing two lines on your own - it’s amazing what happens to people’s confidence.”

She insists that singing as a part of a choir can literally be life changing.

“I’ve seen that over the years the transformation that happens in people’s lives when they are part of a choir. It’s not just for the night that’s in it, they become empowered when they start to sing.”

While Claire spends much of her time helping others pursue their musical dreams, she also tries to carve out some time to compose songs.

“I’m working on a new piece which will be performed in the Ramor Theatre in October, so getting my foot into the Cavan arts world is great.”

She compares the style to that of the late Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin, mixing an Irish flavour with classical technique.

“I have a classical choir, and classical soprano, but a lot of the melodic ideas would be from the Irish landscape,” she says, cringing a little with how that might sound. But she is sincere when she says she can find the spark of a melody while out walking in her Cavan surrounds.

“Where we are we have a couple of acres and like any friendship it takes time to develop friendship with the land you’re on, and when you’re quiet enough you can hear things - whether that’s down at the river or sitting in your garden.

“This piece I’m working on I wrote part of it and performed it last June, it’s a song for my son and it’s about going out into nature to ask the beings of the forest to listen for his unique song and sound.

“We would have walked the lanes a lot and then would have sat at the piano - being together with nature and him was the inspiration for that piece to start.”

Ahead of performing her own work in October, Claire is looking forward to her sister Eimear’s show with the choirs in the coming weeks.

“I have to say her music is pretty spectacular. Her show is beautiful. All of her songs come from her own experiences and therefore she is very honest, so it’s a nice mix of humour and heart.”