Sorcha Crowley attended The 'Spirit of Sligo' gala concert success
The very best of Sligo's musical talent came out in a tour de force at the Knocknarea Arena last Friday night to usher in Sligo's year as European Capital of Volunteering 2017.
Artists such as violinist Niamh Crowley, composer and harpist Michael Rooney and their orchestras lifted the ceiling with jubilant overtures, while local solicitor Edmund Henry provided some contrast with eloquent recitals of Yeats poetry.
Singer Niamh Farrell's haunting rendition of 'Amhráin na Feidearthachta' was a highlight of the 'Spirit of Sligo' show. The concert also featured local pianist Kieran Quinn, Sligo Gospel Choir and Tommie Gorman who introduced Michael Rooney's Sligo Suite.
An audience of over 1,000 people packed the arena, many of them volunteers and representatives of volunteer organisations from all over Sligo.
Guest of honour Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan shared his own personal connections with Sligo - he was married in Rosses Point over 30 years ago because his wife's family from Galway had a long tradition of holidaying in Sligo, one which Charlie and his wife continue to this day.
"I hope to be out early on Streedagh beach for a long walk," he said.
"Irish people have always helped their neighbours, it's a part of who we are," he told the audience.
In a little aside, Minister Flanagan made reference to the recent furore over hotelier Francis Brennan's comments about Sligo, by saying "I also believe Sligo people work very hard" which earned him a spontaneous round of applause.
MEP Marian Harkin gave an overview of the title of European Capital of Volunteering before the start of the second part of the show.
"This is a fitting start for what we hope will be a year to remember," she said.
The MEP, who played a pivotal role in the creation of the European Capital of Volunteering Programme, said volunteering "helps us find dignity as human beings as we know we can make a difference" in a world where there is little within our control. "For every €1 we invest in volunteering the return is between €7-8," she said.
Sligo takes over the role from London which held the designation in 2016 and aims to showcase and celebrate acts of volunteering in all its forms and encourage people across Ireland and Europe to volunteer.
Chief Executive of Sligo County Council, Ciarán Hayes, said: "The strength and resilience of a community reflects the range and depth of volunteering activity within that community.
"Starting with this spectacular opening event to acknowledge and celebrate volunteerism, it will continue throughout the year with events organised by both local and national organisations. And not willing to retain all the secrets to success, we will share the lessons learned so that other communities can similarly benefit," he said.