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Accolade, the local charity whose aim is to ‘connect people through music’ is spreading a message of courage, hope, determination and harmony as we approach Christmas. The musical collective has taken on a supportive role during these challenging times of Covid 19 restrictions and the looming uncertainty of Northern Ireland officially leaving Europe and how it will affect our daily lives and livelihoods. 

Accolade is based in Newry and Banbridge  and comprises two multicultural community choirs, a Studio choir, a chamber orchestra and ensemble band and ukulele group. Our members live mainly in Co Armagh and Down but we have members who originate from Bulgaria, China, Estonia, Ireland and UK, Mexico, Portugal, Russia and Spain.

Malachi Cush joins Accolade singing Silent Night.
Malachi Cush joins Accolade singing Silent Night.

At the onset of lockdown, the Accolade Committee, headed by Chair, Rosaleen Moore, realised ”we were acutely aware of the ongoing need to support all our members, over 80 people. In particular those who live alone, those far from their original home country, those who have lost or are missing their loved ones, Equally those with physical and mental health conditions. ” 

The group immediately linked up as many members as they could online, on Zoom, phone, email and text, in order to keep connected and learn new songs and music. Zoom was a totally new learning experience for all of them. Mastering technology and different internet speeds does not make for perfect timing where singing and music is concerned. Nor can anything truly replace being in the physical company of others or the uplifting power of singing and playing together. 

However, they adapted and persevered and have now added 6 new songs to their repertoire, including Bruno Mars ‘Count on Me’ which has a bright and uplifting theme, all about supporting each other in times of need.

Collaboration with Malachy Cush

As Accolade approached the festive season, they were invited by the highly acclaimed local singer songwriter, Malachi Cush to record some Christmas songs for the Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough council ‘s Georgian Day programme. This was another new and daunting experience for them as they had never made live recordings before and had to cope with very strict Covid 19 regulations. However they were very well rehearsed by Vessie Ivanova, their professional conductor who guided them through the recording process and for the first time in over 9 months, a tiny representative group actually got to sing together in a room that felt almost as big as an aeroplane hangar. However It was a truly moving and wonderful experience. 

Prior to Covid, the group had also hoped to do a series of community concerts , performing with Malachi Cush as guest soloist. Covid meant this was no longer possible. However, Accolade is all about connecting people and not giving up l, so they were delighted when Malachi agreed to ‘join’ them in the recording studio. That’s word ‘join’ in its broadest sense as they actually all had to make separate individual recordings of each performance. 

Sandra Parker, Accolade explains “This was another daunting and even nerve wrecking experience for us all. Being in a choir, orchestra or ukelele group, we are used to performing together as a group. Solo recording meant bearing your voice and soul or your playing skills to yourself and to the world. Listening to the sound of your own voice did not come easy and you get easily distracted by even the wee mistakes……learning to appreciate and value your God- given talent takes time….and lots of practice …..”

The musical genius

Musical Director, Nikolay Ivanov, showed phenomenal musical and technical expertise and patience coordinating all their efforts, editing any (slightly) out of key and lost notes, words or timing. He then matched all the audio recordings to the videos of everyone so that it was all perfectly synchronised. As Sandra says “He’s a musical genius.”

Courage and determination prevailed and they are so so proud of their achievements and final work. Two beautiful Christmas carols. ‘Deck the Halls’ and ‘Silent Night’ the modern festive song’ Winter Wonderland ‘. and the modern classic ‘ Bring Him Home’ from ‘Les Miserables’ 

One recording ‘Silent Night ‘ represents the Accolade family at it’s best. It features almost 40 members, from Arielle’ aged 4 (who steals the show) to Pat ( closer to a very youthful 84) singing and playing this beautiful Christmas carol with open hearts. 

Malachi Cush is guest soloist and his professionalism raises the standard of the groups work with his superb voice that sounds like melting chocolate. Sandra adds “He is also the perfect gentleman in every way and the ultimate professional to work with, combined with natural warmth and generosity of spirit.”

Accolade want everyone to know that if they can do it, you can do it too. Life’s journey has many ups and downs So cherish every moment and ‘seize the Day’. Sandra concludes “This recording is dedicated with love, courage and hope to everyone this Christmas. To family and friends near and far, to neighbours and to the community, to each other, to those who may be effected by Covid in any way, to the lonely, bereaved, ill….our precious NHS.

“May our small gesture bring some light to you in the winter days.”

Accolade are looking forward to working with Malachi in 2021 to make a choral arrangement of his Eurovision song, ‘Until We meet Again.’

Listen to Silent Night below

Receptionist/ Admin (Part-Time)spot_img

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