By Suzanne Pender
AN UPBEAT, uplifting song about friendship has scooped the Pan Celtic National Song Contest 2023 – and best of all, it’s from Carlow!
The song Cion Cairde, sung by local group enCÓRe, was announced as the winner of the Pan Celtic National Song Contest last Saturday night in Visual, the first time a Carlow song has won the prestigious event.
“We’re over the moon, absolutely thrilled,” said Aoife Doyle from enCÓRe. “We went in with the attitude that we wanted to do the song proud and enjoy it. We were hoping for the best, but not expecting to win, so it was genuine shock when our name was announced,” said Aoife.
The choir, formed in 2021, is comprised of a group of friends who had first met while part of Mary Amond O’Brien’s Carlow Young Artists Choir and later Aspiro.
“We all had remained friends over the years, and then in 2021 decided that we wanted to get back singing again, so we decided to form a small group of female singers. We’re going on our second year now,” explained Aoife. “Mary is very involved with us as a mentor and a guide – she’s really helped us.”
The music for Cion Cairde was composed by enCÓRe member Claire Dunne, a teacher at Scoil Mhuire gan Smál, Carlow, while the lyrics are by Melíosa Breathnach, recently retired from Scoil Mhuire gan Smál.
“We are very lucky in the group that not only have we singers but we also have musicians and songwriters, so Claire did a lot of work on the song with Melíosa and we were delighted then to work on the arrangement and the harmonies,” said Aoife.
Cion Cairde was chosen as one of 16 newly-composed songs in the Irish language, shortlisted for Saturday’s final from a total of more than 30 entries. The judging panel for the national final was Emer O’Flaherty, a former winner of both the Pan Celtic national and international song contests, singer/songwriter and musician Fiach Ó Muircheartaigh and Aoife Scott of the famous Black family.
The Carlow group received the top prize of €1,000 on the night and will represent Ireland this April at the Pan Celtic International Song Contest.
“The reaction from everyone on the night was brilliant. We had so much support from family and friends – the atmosphere was just amazing,” said Aoife.