May 16th 2016
The Journey & The Gospel (2 weekends – Gospel Rising 2016 & Karen Gibson, Sharlene & Vaughan weekend)
The last 4 weeks I’ve been on a journey.
I’ve had things rise up from the depths of my heart that I thought were issues I had dealt with, but alas, no, or at least not fully.
It’s somewhat commonly known around my friends and family the spiritual journey I’ve been on my whole life, the hurts, pains, questions. The feeling lost and alone and living without purpose. Not knowing where I fit in or if I could in fact fit in. Now I’m asking myself the question ‘Why would I want to fit in’?
I’ve felt so awkward for years. I feel like I’m different and I think I’ve always been uncomfortable with that. Truth is that none of us are the same. We are all different. I’ve got something you need and you’ve got something I need. I’m only now becoming comfortable (albeit in an awkward kinda way) with just simply being myself.
I feel most vulnerable when my life and what I do comes into the spot light. When I allow others to see what I’ve been working at all these years. In 2008 I started a wonderful choir. It’s a little bit of choral, a joyous bit of gospel, a heart full of soul and I’m surround, weekly, by the most amazing people and it’s so true, we all need each other.
We had a beautiful team come visit us 3 weeks ago. Karen Gibson, Sharlene Morris and Vaughan Larmond, all the way from London. It was the biggest event I had ever undertaking for IGNITE (My choir)
A little on my background – I work night shift so I finish 6am Friday morning but start 10pm Sunday night, so weekends are hard for my body and jetlag. On top of that I’m suffering a bit with exhaustion at the moment so it all adds up!
To say I was tired this weekend is an understatement. These beautiful people came in and taught us some very important life tools, tools for our learning, songs we could sing and left us feeling full to over flowing with encouragement. For me I was looking at all the things I hadn’t done right. I was looking at my life and seeing all the inconsistencies, seeing all my weaknesses and partnering even then with the lie that I had failed my choir. I hadn’t been the best I could be. But here’s the thing, I HAVE been the best I could have been all along. You teach from what your informed by! It’s NOW that I’m beginning to learn new tricks, tips and tools and needing to apply them. Coming out of a comfort zone of what I know into what I don’t know and the truth is I need help in the areas that I’m weak on. So I’m being stretched and I’m growing and I’m giving and then growing some more. It’s simply a new time in my life.
Two weeks later, (the weekend just gone May 13th-15th) it was down to Ennis to the Gospel Rising Festival 2016. My 3rd year involved. 21 IGNITERS came with me and I believe everyone was blessed. I feel something of a shift in my heart where this festival is concerned and it’s mostly for and about myself. More self-acceptance, more vulnerability, more encouragement and then more change. IGNITE sang this year. This year I hosted the open mic night and I had 15 singers and then more came for the mass where we sang the communion song. People were just beautiful. They complimented us – saying on Friday night when we wrapped up that we were “Good Fun” – I’ll take that! And the Sunday mass, people were gracious and loving in their support. This is unchartered waters for me as I’m the one afraid to fail or afraid that I am not good enough. All these feelings come from the heart of a musical director of a choir. We may stand in the front and lead but we will always need support and love from our choirs and each other, building each other up and cheering each other on.
The directors meeting for me was especially nice. I sat there amongst some of the MD’s I truly respect and admire and instead of feeling envy at their achievements I felt a kindred spirit and the longing to both help where I can and to learn. In fact, the most important aspect for me on this journey so far is that I’ve made friends. I am different, I approach things from a different angle, I appreciate the spiritual aspect in our music as well as it’s deliverance to a congregation/audience but I’m passionate about building confidence in people so they can grab an opportunity to change something from a negative into a positive. The “I can’t” becomes “I’ll try” that becomes “I will” which then becomes a victorious “I DID!!!”
So I now know what I’m most passionate about and always have been. I’m all about people’s lives, their hearts, their everyday lives. Those things in their lives that have discouraged them over the years can be changed and growth and healing blossoms. Singing from the heart is so healing. We face our fears, our past, our failures, our ill-conceived ideas of inability, we stop (as Sharlene rightly said) Partnering with a lie. The “I can’t” Must become “I Can” and that is the journey!
Gospel Rising for me this year was allowing myself BE myself. To stop fearing criticisms, stop being ashamed of myself, stop feeling fear when I should be rejoicing in the 9 years of success I’ve had with an amazing choir. We are who we are, we are all different and the beauty in that is diversity. I’m beginning to see the beauty in Diversity and allow myself to be available to help others outside of my own choir.
The journey starts with one person. You.
As the song says, “I will be with you, if you would only trust me”. As a lady who believes in God, I’ll be leaning on this a little more than yesterday. It’s “All I ask” ….
My daily thought ….
“Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love? These are the real questions. I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now will bear many fruits, here in this world and the life to come”. Henri Nouwen
MAY 11, 2015 · 5:27 AM
I nearly feel a year is too long before I can get to that oasis that inspires my soul……
The first 5 years of running my choir (IGNITE), I had enough zeal and energy to inspire and give. Last year was our first trip to Gospel Rising (2014) and by the time I was returning home I understood the importance it would have for my heart & soul in terms of receiving and learning.
For me, inspiration and encouragement are a package deal. Inspiration is the lock to potential, encourage is the key. I can safely say I was encouraged to engage the things that inspired me and set new challenges for myself as musical director and teacher.
It can be very daunting to step outside your comfort zone, to make yourself vulnerable in front of your peers. I love my choir and everything I know and have known about church music and worship I have put into our music. It’s a safe space where people look up to me and look for direction.
Then director becomes the directed and it’s refreshing and most welcome.
This weekend I basked in the rich, sincere and nourishing sounds of Gospel music, engaging on new levels and experiencing something very real.
I had never considered needing a mentor, but if the privilege was ever offered to me, I would sit (or get my gospel groove on!) under the ever watchful presences of Karen Gibson. The lady doesn’t miss a beat, she hears all and sings all and she encourages all. Everything she taught & spoke off I either learned something new or felt the wonderful sense of confirmation that I was doing something right. It was something of a kindred spirit and I’m grateful for it. She spoke of fear, peoples fear to try. She spoke words of hope and encouragement, gently bringing people forward to at least “try”. She spoke about faith and that our attitude and how we feel should be “Yes and Amen” instead of shying away. I just love that. If ever I would choose a mentor, if she would have me, I would choose her. The accountability, the ability to learn so much more, constructive criticism & encouragement, one could only grow and excel, dispelling darkness and radiate fantastic light.
But there was a little more. A balance that complemented my experience.
I’ve always cherished my relationship with my father. Everything I know and grew up knowing came from hanging out with my dad travelling with him to churches and meetings singing. It was an amazing foundation to grow from. I know his style & his groove! I imagine that he has watched his little girl grow up and take on the same passion and mission that he himself continues to live.
I learned from the beginning that worship was a life style and even through my days of self-doubt and worldly rejections, I found my place in this world.
Watching Bazil Meade and his son work together as a team was a beautiful reminder of how lucky I’ve been on my journey & that I would love to do more father daughter music. They brought a gutsy gospel sound and flavour to the songs they taught and I was inspired by their own arrangements of old popular songs such as Louis Armstrong “Nobody knows my sorrow”.
This year I felt a sense of family. Karen & Bazil brought a wealth of experience and knowledge, leading the way, giving opportunities, bringing discipline and structure and teaching with amazing clarity. Their teams Sharlene & Vaughan (With Karen) and Leonn, Bazils son, brought their awesome talents and abilities to the workshops. Everyone worked together in an inspiring and humorous way bringing joy and light to each event.
I don’t think the Gospel Rising team realise all they have achieved in the last few years. This festival is so important for so many reasons. It shakes you up and gets you out of “your” box. It shows you a bigger picture and provides and facilitates opportunities to explore new and more challenging avenues in Gospel music. It creates an atmosphere for people to meet and build bridges, make contact and get really good advice. It’s inclusive, dynamic and relevant to the Gospel culture that is growing in Ireland and so we need it. Sometimes we shop around to see where we want to invest. Invest our time & talents, resources and friendship. I’m invested. I’m all in and I believe that Gospel Rising will grow and achieve more than it ever dream of achieving.
The fore runners are to be commended, encouraged and loved but most of all supported.
Gospel Rising 2015 has reassured me that the heart behind the purpose beats strong and vibrant and that all things are possible, all we must do is say “Yes and Amen”
Gospel Rising 2014
Keara Sheeran Musical Director of the IGNITE Gospel Choir Galway
I was brought up in a family that loved church music. Folk, gospel and traditional styles were the norm. Moments of joy and moments of reflections, songs that brought laughter and songs that silenced your soul and moved you to tears. It brought people together, brought unity and brought healing; it built bridges between those with different opinions and spiritual points of views. Music, it can be said, was what we had in common and all the rest we left outside the door.
I grew up in a home that was of a charismatic catholic influence. It was a home of prayer meetings and sing songs, where a large pot of chilli con carne was on the hearth and the people dug in, chatting and laughing and sharing their stories.
My father taught me all he knew about having a choir. Before I was born, he led music and a choir in the Jesuit community in Galway; it was there I learned the value of community and expression of faith through music and song, where it was felt that singing was praying twice and that there was power in it.
I hadn’t planned on running a choir or starting one. But I know when an opportunity arises, we can look at our strength and choose to open a door to a path, unexpected, and see where the journey leads us. This is what happened to me.
Having sung and played music in church my whole life and having a deep understanding of its importance in the community, I could not turn a blind eye when I was approached.
It wasn’t by a priest or church elder; it wasn’t by a person of position or power. It was by a beautiful young woman who quietly and gently said to me one day “If you are ever looking for singers, I’d like to get involved. At that time I was singing on my own at mass on a Sunday evening, just me and the piano. She said to me “I use to be able to sing and somewhere along the way I lost my voice”.
I took pause (a few days to reflect on the commitment I would have to give to such a venture) and I knew in the depth of my heart that if I could help this girl find her voice then that was my soul’s duty. I had not expected that my surrendering to this call, that I would find “myself”.
That I would truly discover what I am here for and what I was meant to do. That would be my IGNITING. That was in 2008.
In 2009 I had the great honour of meeting many people for all sorts of reasons. I crossed paths with people in the Gardiner Street Gospel choir and made friends there that would last our life time.
My little choir of 5 grew within a year to a choir of 24.
I knew about Gospel Rising when it was just an idea. There were people who felt so passionately about gospel choirs and music, that they felt a festival should be had to celebrate it. Years later they have turned that idea into a great success and something Gospel choirs can really enjoy.
For my part, the reason I didn’t get involved in Gospel rising until its fifth year was only a reflection of where I was at on my journey. So many brilliant choirs out there that I wasn’t yet ready to bring what we had to the table. Over the years I’ve learned a great deal not only about community music but about people.
The greatest achievement of my life is IGNITE and I was delighted and confident bringing them to Limerick for Gospel Rising 2014 not only to part take but to also sing at the 12pm mass in The Redemptorists church. I originally didn’t want us to perform and sing at a mass ~ I wanted us to get use to the bigger community of choirs, to find our feet and make friends and learn allot, but we also had the chance to share our voices and so we took it.
Members of IGNITE that couldn’t make the weekend travelled down from Galway to sing in the mass. I couldn’t have been prouder and I believe we brought the best of our hearts and spirits that day.
I was very moved by the weekend. For me it was a validation that I didn’t realise I needed. It burst my bubble of the “comfort” of singing at home and opened my heart to sharing IGNITE further afield, should we be welcome. Though I have worked hard with IGNITE over the 6 years since it’s founding, I could never have imagined being made to feel excepted for the director I am. In truth, I have felt like a chancer all these years, making it up as I go along. Now, I feel proud and I feel I’ve arrived at a new level with fresh perspective with new friends on common ground.
Gospel Rising, its team, its leaders and its organisers, along with valued patrons and choirs that have attended the festival over the 5 years made me and my choir feel so welcomed and valued. I was remarkably humbled by the simple kind words and people’s openness towards me and their interest in my choir and how we do things.
I joined the choir in Jan 2013 and have not regretted a minute of it.
I had sang in our local Church choir growing up, so when I had some spare time I decided to try out Gospel singing. I was very impressed with the group who were very friendly and inclusive at all times .Keara was always full of energy encouraging
us all the way ….so dynamic . I look forward to our practice every week and our Church singing every second week. So far I have been part of ; Galway sings Gospel Manuela Foundation , Gap light it up Blue for Autism 2013 ,The Gift in aid of Ability West ,Western Alzheimer’s , Jigsaw ,Galway Simon ,Mass in St Josephs ,The Jesuit Church ,The Cathedral ,.Weddings in Galway ,Dublin ,.G M S Cabaret in Clayton Hotel Feb 2014, Sound of Music with Twin Productions 2013. The activee Retirement April 2014 The Ignite Gospel Choir July 2014. Marian Beatty (IGNITE Choir Member)
I had enjoyed singing in the Gift choir at Christmas for two years so I decided to join Ignite this year. I’ve had great fun learning lots of new music and singing well known songs in a gospel style. Thank you to Keara and the Ignite choir members for making a “new girl” feel so welcome. Allison Dunne (IGNITE Choir Member)
There is always some event to look forward to with Ignite gospel choir which I love! The variety of singing material Keara
carefully chooses is so uplifting and well put together in part harmony. It’s lovely to be part of this friendly group!
Thanks very much to Keara and the choir for their kindness to me after my Dad died recently. Imelda(IGNITE Choir Member)
I attended a concert with Ignite and was completely blown away by their energy and enthusiasm so I decided to join! I am grateful that I did. It is so up-lifting, fun and inspiring to sing together with so many wonderful people, that I might not have met otherwise. It is also great to be able to use our passion for singing to raise funds for charity and share the joy of singing with others. Victoria Thygesen (IGNITE Choir Member)
I joined ignite choir shortly after my husband died.It was a great help while I was grieving. The singing , and been part of a group of uplifting people was a great comfort.
AM Martin (IGNITE Choir Member)
We had the pleasure of having the IGNITE GOSPEL CHOIR perform at a recent Active Retirement Ireland event. They greatly contributed to the spirit of the occasion with their exuberant singing and joyful harmonies. The memory of their finale when all 350 of us stood holding hands, joyful and emotional, is one that will stay with me for a long time.
I can highly recommend the IGNITE GOSPEL CHOIR as a welcome addition to any event.
Betty O’Flynn Active Retirement Ireland.
Thank you so much for creating such magic at Stars in your Eyes, You guys were amazing,
It was clear from the smiles, the energy and the vibe ringing out in the venue that everyone was enjoying it. You guys were one of the highlights of the occasion and still to this day I get goose-bumps when I think of your rendition of ‘Joyful Jouful’
You were so easy to deal with in the run up so professional, so friendly and so willing when we asked for a song, as wen I was at you concert in ‘St Joseph’
ye sang this and I was left speechless,
A final thank you on your classic numbers that were sung at my Uncles Funeral,
It was soo beautiful, ye lifted the spirits of everyone , never did I experience tht at a sad mass, your choice of songs were so spiritual, yet, uplifting, everyone was talking about ye after,
Ye have ‘The gift’ to gve back tht spirit tht one may hve lost,
Thank you Keara& Ignite,
I will look forward to hearing ye soon
Yvonne Spellman, Maree Musical Society
“Galway Autism Partnership is a charity established by parents of autistic children since 2011 based in Galway City. Each year we do a huge amount of work in the month of April, autism awareness month and partake in the world wide ‘Light It Up Blue’ campaign. As part of this celebration we have had the absolute pleasure and support of the fantastic Ignite Gospel Choir at our functions. I can absolutely confirm that the music that the choir provided on each of these occasions made our celebration a top class affair. Keara, the Choir leader was extremely supportive of any of our many requests and both herself and the choir were extremely flexible and generous with their time on the evening of each of our events. They went above and beyond to provide music that was in tandem with our aims as an autism awareness charity and this fact was not lost on our many guests. I would highly recommend the choir for ANY function and would recommend that as many people as possible take the opportunity to hear the group sing, they certainly are a unique commodity in Galway City”
Galway Autism Partnership
Ignite Gospel Choir have been a great help and support to Galway Musical Society’s fund raising efforts over the past 2 years by holding their ‘Gift’ concert and participating in the GMS Cabaret show in February. A number of their female singers took part in Power Performance Academy’s 2013 summer theatrical show ‘The Sound of Music’ and helped our ‘nuns choir’ perform to a high level. Their commitment and dedication is inspiring and I wish them well in 2014 and beyond.
Thanks! Seán Power (Director Power Performance Academy)
Having organized the Ros na Rún Mock wedding on November 16th 2014 , I was stressed for a few days leading up to the event,that stress simply vanished the minute I walked into the wedding venue, The ignite Gospel Choir were practising and not only did they give me Goosebumps ,they completely lifted my spirits! I loved listening to the Ignite gospel Choir and seeing the effect it had on not only myself but the other wedding goers also!
Ní dhéanfaidh mé dearmad go brách ar an chéad uair a chuala mé an Ignite Gospel Choir ag bainis bréige Ros na Rún ar an 16 Samhain 2014,.Bhí siad tharr barr agus thaithne siad go mór le chuile a bhí ag an mbainis.Sheasfainn sa sneachta ag éisteacht leis an Ignite Gospel Choir! Dara Ó Cualáin (Ros na Rún)
I joined Ignite a few months ago on the advice of a friend. There is a lovely sense of belonging and community with this group and everyone if very welcoming. If you want to have some fun, join Ignite. Eileen (IGNITE Choir Member)
Even though I only joined a few months ago I feel really at home with Ignite as everyone is very friendly. Keara has an amazing voice and she is great fun. Singing at sunday mass with the choir is such an uplifting experience. We sing a wide variety of songs and the repertoire is quite adventurous. This is my first time in a choir and it is a really rewarding experience. Mary Nolan (IGNITE Choir Member)
I’ve been with Ignite for over four years now, and I love being part of it. We come from all walks of life; we’re all ages, sizes and many different nationalities.
One of the most joyful things in my life is singing with this bunch of caring, talented and slightly bonkers people (or maybe that’s just me).
I have really grown as a performer and as a person in the choir. It has improved my confidence as a singer and a songwriter, and has helped me to reconcile my differences with the religion I was raised in. It’s a privilege to perform in support of charities and causes that give us as much as we give them. Singing with love and joy in our hearts is the most expanding, bonding and uplifting experience you could wish for. Come along and join in – you have nothing to lose but your fear!
Ann Marie Horan (IGNITE Choir Member)
IF you don’t have something in your life that you would miss if it was gone (other than the TV) then why not join a choir.
Ignite spells good music, great people and wonderful events. I’m glad I joined and am grateful to Keara for forming it and keeping it together. The choir makes the words and the music connects within me in a very special way. Thanks to all involved. Simply Magic.
Frank Keane (IGNITE Choir Member)
I decided to join Ignite after going to their Summer concert last year. And I am so glad that I did. A bunch of fun and friendly people,Thursday evening rehearsal and the 2 Sunday masses a month always leaves me smiling afterwards! I am also beginning to form good friendships along the way! Keara, the Director is so dedicated and helpful, extremely talented and always giggling away, I wish I joined years ago
Alison McComiskey (IGNITE Choir Member)
In April 2011 a friend asked me to come along to mass in St Joseph’s on a Sunday morning at 12. I cried the 1st time I heard Ignite Gospel Choir.
The following Thursday I joined the choir. We sing, we laugh, we cry, we sing, we laugh, we dance. (IGNITE Choir Member)
Joining Ignite was one of my better life choices. It has given me a lot of joy , friendship and a new way of raising the spirit.
Thanks Keara for allowing me in without an audition, as, otherwise, I would not have had the courage to join. Most of all, thanks for giving me the reasons and the confidence, to stay. Mary Greaney (IGNITE Choir Member)
Singing has always been a part of my life. Back home, in Italy, I sang in my church choir for several years and after I moved to Ireland I really missed it. Then, one Sunday, I was at Mass in the Jes and heard Keara invite new singers for The Gift, a Christmas concert she’d been organizing for a few years. I couldn’t resist. I asked to be part of it. I did The Gift for two years and after this experience it somehow felt natural to join the Ignite Gospel Choir. I found what I was looking for: to be part of a community, of a group where people share the same passion for singing. Being an Igniter also gives me the opportunity to repay the wonderful and welcoming Galway, for all the gifts I have received these past 8 years I’ve been living in Ireland, through all of the charity events, masses and concerts we participate in as a choir. And I even get to sing in Italian…. Could I ask for more?
Adele(IGNITE Choir Member)
My first sighting of Keara was at the Gift fundraising concert for Lily Mae back in December 2012. After meeting Keara that night I knew I wanted to become part of her choir. I dreaded showing up at rehearsals on my own so it took me until the Thursday after Ignite’s wonderful concert last summer to pluck up courage to attend.
The welcome from Keara and the choir was so heart warming that I never looked back.
In late January 2014 I underwent major surgery in Dublin. In the months prior to surgery Thursday night rehearsals were sacred, I sang away my worries, made so many new friends,laughed and forgot for a while always leaving with a happy heart, singing all the way home.
I got such an amazing send off in St Joseph’s at my last rehearsal before surgery. For the weeks I spent in Dublin and as I recover at home, the uplifting and comforting emails, visits, and messages from my singing family has meant so much. To sing away my worries with Keara and Ignite has been such an honour. …..
Stephanie Rea (IGNITE Choir Member)
I was delighted to have Ignite Gospel Choir participate in Galway Musical Society’s Fundraising Cabaret for 2014. They closed the show because how can you follow a group that lifts everyone’s spirits and demands audience participation. The entire company joined Ignite on stage and it was a fitting way to end our show and we left the audience wanting more. Ignite Gospel Choir are one of Galway’s most entertaining groups and I would not hesitate to have them participate in another event for Galway Musical Society.
Producer, Galway Musical Society Fundraising Cabaret
To be part of a team, a family and been on a journey is a marvelous experience. To see the impact and joy that music has on people and be part of that process is such an honorable and humbling feeling. Music heals, frees and liberates. It has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made to join ignite gospel choir and share my love for music and the gift god gave me. Brian (IGNITE Choir Member)