Island Voices

We got a chance to catch our breath and talk to Hilary Bailey, one of the driving forces behind the Island Voices Community Choir from Islandmagee. The choir has risen to the challenge of learning new music and working with new performing groups as part of the Opening Doors project over the past year. Discovering this wonderful bunch of singers in Islandmagee has been a real highlight of the project for us and we’re delighted to be working with them

So Hilary how did Island Voices Community Choir get started?

Like many of the ladies in the choir I’ve always loved singing. My interest is influenced by my parents love of music. They met while singing with Belfast Operatic Society and my Dad played the piano in a jazz band that played at The Rinkha. At school I sang in the choir and was a Can Can girl in the Merry Widow performance put on by Larne Choral Society as a teenager. That was fun. I kept singing in Larne Choral and then joined Mossgrove Singers so was in two choirs for a while until other life priorities kicked in. At one point when working in Belfast I auditioned and was accepted for Belfast Operatic but it wasn't for me. I really couldn't wait to be home.

So I settled in Islandmagee, volunteering in the community whenever I could. The choir got started through the generosity of an anonymous individual who donated some money to pay our current choirmaster, Colin Swan to do a series of eight workshop over Saturday mornings and those of us who got involved decided to keep going.

What have you been doing as part of Opening Doors?

Well we’ve decided to take on learning a new commission by Sarah Murphy and Colin Hassard and performing it with the Whitehead Community Orchestra alongside some of our own music in the McNeill Theatre in Larne. As the choir is fairly new this has been a real challenge which has meant lots of extra practices, but we don’t like to admit defeat!  

What can people look forward to in the Opening Doors performance on 9th March?

Enthusiasm, close harmonies a walk down memory lane (for those of a certain age) and new vibrant music that while (hopefully) lovely and pleasant to listen to was not the easiest to get to grips with. Many people will enjoy the story and recognise the places from the past mixed with current influences now present in our lives.

What are your greatest hopes for the Choir in the future?

That we continue to sing for the sheer joy of it; to challenge ourselves while still maintaining our enthusiasm and the thrill that we get when we get things right. We want to entertain our community, meet new friends and go new places. We were lucky to get a Big Lottery Funding award recently to support the choir and set up an Island Drums group to widen music within our community. It would be lovely too to host our own concert with a celebrity guests to sell out to a full house in our own Islandmagee Community Hall. Ultimately we want to continue to enjoy each others friendship.


The Opening Doors Performance takes place on Saturday 9th March at 7.30pm in the MacNeill Theatre Larne.

Join us for a celebration of new music and song written by composer Sarah Murphy, poet Colin Hassard and others, inspired by material gathered over the past year from people across Ballymena, Carrick and Larne. The evening will be full of local flavour with references to Slemish, the Rhinka and the Black Arch and feature The Whitehead Community Orchestra, Island Voices Community Choir (with members of Larne Concert Choir), Music Yard Larne, soloists Sarah Richmond and Steven Irwin and members of the Ballymena Inter-Ethnic Forum.  

Admission is Free. Tickets are available from Larne Visitor Information Centre on 028 2826 2495 or online at Donations accepted in support of local performing groups