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The Festival of Voice is our annual celebration of singing in the historic coastal village of Glenarm, Co. Antrim.

It features public recitals and events, including three concerts in partnership with and broadcast by BBC Radio 3 and culminates in a vocal competition hosted by Northern Ireland Opera Patron and BBC Radio 3 presenter Sean Rafferty.

Five singers from all over Ireland are chosen after submitting a recording and they spend four days working with top opera and song professionals including former Director of the National Opera Studio, Kathryn Harries, Simon Lepper, and Ingrid Surgenor.

This year, The Festival of Voice took place in First Church Belfast due to the current public health crisis. Behind-the-scenes footage and highlights of the competition will be available to view for the first time via our YouTube channel from Sunday 13th September at 8 p.m.  This year’s finalists were David Corr (baritone), David Howes (bass baritone), Andrew Irwin (tenor), Sarah Luttrell (mezzo soprano) and Jade Phoenix (soprano).  Our accompanists were Frasier Hickland and Fionnuala Ward.

David Corr won the Deborah Voigt Opera Prize and becomes the Northern Ireland Opera Voice of 2020 and Andrew Irwin won the Audience Prize. You can watch interviews with the finalists, behind-the-scenes footage and highlights of the competition in our film, hosted by our Patron, Sean Rafferty, in the 2020 finale below.

This year’s BBC Radio 3 recitals feature Ailish Tynan (soprano), Anna Huntley (mezzo soprano), James Newby (baritone) and Simon Lepper (piano) and will be recorded in Belfast. As in previous years, these performances will then be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 at lunchtime on September 27th-30th.

The singers and pianists involved with the Glenarm Festival of Voice benefit from a highly focused experience and the opportunity to perform and make contacts with opera professionals. The winner of the competition is awarded the Deborah Voigt Opera Prize, also a monetary prize which is crucial at the stage they are in their careers, plus the opportunity to attend Bruno Caproni’s summer school in Tuscany, Canto al Serchio.

A pianist internship is offered as part of the festival and each year a young pianist is chosen to work closely with the coaches and play for rehearsals and during the Irish song section of the competition finale.

A regular outreach element of the festival is the ‘Glens of Antrim Singing Explorers’, which involves local primary school children in a week-long singing summer school. The children perform a concert at the end of their scheme as part of the festival weekend, helping develop the next generation of singers and promoting the festival to local family audiences in Glenarm.

The Festival of Voice 2020 was generously supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Belfast City Council, the Esmé Mitchell Trust, Canto al Serchio.  We are grateful to First Church Belfast for accommodating the Festival which could not take place as usual in Glenarm due to the current public health circumstances.