One Voice in Bern calls out to the world

One river

I’m so impressed by the inspiring work of two Irish women in Bern that I want to share their achievement here. Clíodhna Ní Aodáin and Shirley Grimes, both professional musicians and long-term residents of the Swiss capital, conceived the idea of recording a song with an international choir to send a message of tolerance and love. 

“In the face of a world building walls that create separation, fear and helplessness, we want to encourage connection through the joy of music,” they write on the project website – One River Voices.

After putting together a team of volunteers, including the talented music video director Roman Droux, Clíodhna and Shirley chose a date in May and started to spread the word.

They were hoping for 200 voices. More than 350 people from 40 different countries turned up at Köniz Castle in Bern to join the one-day choir. A group of strangers, they spent the day together, learning and rehearsing the song, and getting to know each other. Here is the result of their combined enthusiasm and commitment.

Clíodhna and Shirley would like to encourage others, anywhere and everywhere, to create similar multicultural choral projects. All the material is available for free on the One River Voices website – lyrics, sheet music, the full score, and playback tracks. 

“Invite your friends. Invite your neighbours that you haven’t met properly. Invite people from a refugee community. Be brave! Whether it’s a small gathering around your kitchen table or even a big event at a local community centre, talk, eat, have fun together and learn the One River song.”

Just a note about the background of the two artists behind the project. Clíodhna, who arranged the music, is a cellist and conductor who teaches at the Bern Music Conservatory, and Shirley, who wrote the song, is a singer-songwriter with seven albums under her belt. Both perform regularly around Switzerland.  You should be able to spot them in the photo above – Shirley with the guitar, and Clíodhna in a red cardigan.

If you know of anyone with the kind of experience and creative spirit needed to make an event like this happen, please let them know about One River Voices. It would be wonderful to hear more joyful voices carried far and wide.

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