Donaghadee Male Voice Choir Members

Our next performance is on the 26th September 2015

Concert with Margaret Keys & Festival Brass, Ulster Hall

Robert Wilson MBE

Robert Wilson came from a musical background. His father David was a distinguished tenor soloist and Conductor of North Belfast Male Voice Choir. In his youth Robert was a boy soprano, singing at church services, concerts and Musical Festivals, before becoming a member of Victoria Male Voice Choir, where he attained the position of Deputy Conductor.

In 1968 the committee of Donaghadee Male Voice choir appointed Robert Wilson as their new Musical Director. At his first practice there were 18 members present. Robert immediately instilled a new enthusiasm in choir members and within 6 weeks the number had grown to 38. Today there are well over 70 members in Donaghadee Male Voice Choir, making it easily the biggest male voice choir in the island of Ireland.

One of Robert’s first tasks was to maintain and improve the choir’s success at music festivals and within 6 months of his appointment he guided the choir to success in the 1969 Belfast Music Festival. This was the start of the choir’s illustrious period of accomplishments as they went on to win an amazing total of 47 first places over the 1970-2014 period at festivals in Morecambe, Whitby, Cheltenham, Chester, Wharfedale, Cork and New Ross in addition to the local festivals of Belfast, Carrickfergus, Portadown, Bangor, Portstewart and Coleraine. In 2013 the choir won the Male Voice Section at the Navan Choral Festival, and repeated that success by retaining the Male Voice Cup in 2014. It should be remembered that this success came about as a result of the dedication and commitment of the members and the Musical Director during “the troubles”, the most unsettled time in Northern Ireland’s history. That the choir continued to expand in both success and numbers over this period is a remarkable achievement, and a credit to Robert’s leadership and enthusiasm.

One of Robert’s goals for the choir during this period was to achieve success in Festivals in mainland UK. The choir entered and won the Morecambe Festival in 1970; the Eskdale Festival of Song at Whitby in 1972, again in 1973, and more recently in 2014; the Wharfedale Musical Festival in 1978; the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1980 and again in 1990; and the Chester Choral Festival in 1996.

Participation in The National Male Voice Choir Championships in Huddersfield in 1992 and 1993 was a learning experience for the choir where the adjudicators were placed in a “box” and unable to either see or identify each performing choir. Another of Robert’s ambitions was realised when the choir’s application to enter the International Eisteddfod at Llangollen was accepted in 1991. Robert returned with the choir to compete in Llangollen in 1997 and 1999.

In May 2009 Robert led the choir to the Cornwall International Male Voice Choral Festival where there was a magnificently organised competition and series of concerts for participating choirs. This was followed by a return to Eskdale In April 2010 for the Festival of Song competition.

Another of Robert’s goals was to undertake a concert tour further afield. In 1987 Robert led the choir to Georgia and South Carolina, USA, for a 2 week tour of twenty-eight public performances. The choir was proclaimed Honorary Citizens of Georgia by the State Governor in recognition of outstanding achievement in the music field, and was also presented with the Ceremonial Key to the City of Columbia, State Capital of Carolina, by the City’s Mayor. The choir returned to Georgia in 1989, 1995 and again in 2005. In addition to these USA tours Robert took the choir to Ontario, Canada in 1998 and 2000 for extensive concert tours.

In between these festivals and USA/Canada tours Robert took the choir to several overseas Music Festivals. In 1981 the choir took part in the XIV International Choral Festival in Varna, Bulgaria; the Malta International Choir Festival in 1992 and 2002; the Athens International Choir and Lyric Soloist Festival in 2007; and the Lake Garda Music Festival in 2010. More recently the choir competed in the Krakow International Choir Festival in June 2012 and June 2013, and the International Music Festival in Barcelona in October 2014.

In 2008 Robert led the choir to New York where it had the honour and privilege of performing in Carnegie Hall and singing in St Patrick’s Cathedral.

Robert was in his 47th year as Musical Director at the time of his passing. His dedication and determination were undiminished, his vision for the future of the choir was without equal and he remained THE inspirational driving force, striving for the excellence which continued to take the choir to greater heights and further horizons. In 2008 Robert was awarded the MBE for services to music.

The current well-merited esteem by which Donaghadee Male Voice Choir are held today in the world of Male Voice Choirs is a reflection of the hard work, supreme skill, leadership and dedication of Robert Wilson

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