Musical tribute to mark World Cancer Day


Jack Lukeman, Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh, Anne Randolph, Celine Byrne and Sive joined six choirs from around Ireland on February 04 in a musical tribute to those whose lives are touched by cancer.

Choirs performing include those comprised entirely of cancer survivors; Sea of Change and Sing for Life Choir as well as Mount Sion Choir, Dublin Gospel Choir, The Mellow Tonics and the UCD Community Choir. 

Many choirs had joint performances with the guest musicians. Everybody performed songs with special meaning to them. The event ended with a combined performance of ‘Brave’ by Sara Bareilles when more than 250 people took to the stage in O’Reilly Hall, University College Dublin.Choirs for Cancer 2023Tip: Click on image above to access Choirs for Cancer 2023 photo album on Flickr

John Wall, a patient advocate and one of the event organisers, initially performed at Choirs for Cancer 2020 with the Healthy Harmonies choir, a staff and community choir from the University of Limerick Hospital group and also shared the story of his cancer journey. 

”Since the first event in 2019 & despite many challenges in the interim, Choirs for Cancer continues to unite the wider community through music, song & the shared lived experience of others. This gathering, apart from any other, has had a hugely positive impact on my own life and has led to friendships and collaborations that will last a lifetime. It has been a magically memorable afternoon.”

Maia Dunphy was Master of Ceremonies for Choirs for Cancer 2023. A supporter of many cancer charities and the Hospice, Maia lost her darling mum, Helen to cancer in February 2022.

The event kicked off with Sea of Change Choir singing 'Don't Give up on me' and 'This is me'. This group of cancer-survivors and supporters raise awareness of cancer and provide survivors and patients alike with hope and encouragement. The choir earned their way to the semi-finals of Ireland’s Got Talent 2019. Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh was joined by fellow Altan musician, Mark Kelly to perform a set of traditional Irish music. 

Dublin Gospel Choir sang ‘Together' and were joined by Jack Lukeman for a joint performance of ‘Hallelujah’. Jack Lukeman had the audience on their feet with a rendition of ‘Little Man’.

Karl Corcoran and Kay McKeon both spoke about their own cancer journeys. Like many young teenagers, Karl Corcoran was sports mad but was unable to play after developing  aches and horrendous pain in his knees, hips and shins. It took 12 months before he was finally diagnosed in January 2021 with high grade large B-Cell lymphoma. After surgery and chemotherapy, Karl is in remission and has become a member of CanTeen, a patient advocacy and support group for adolescents with cancer.

Graphic designer, Kay McKeon was diagnosed with breast cancer while living in New Zealand in 2017 aged 39. Today, Kay is a patient advocate, designer, and researcher. Her story has been used in campaigns to promote the celebration of survivors and their lives after cancer.

The Mellow Tonics, led by award winning composer and musical director Norah Constance Walsh, sang ‘Arclight’ before being joined on stage by a joint performance of ‘Higher Love’ by Sive. This young songwriter and musician who has been dubbed 'one of the most inspiring and exciting artists of our time' by Female First UK then sang one of her own compositions entitle, ‘I Don’t Know’.

During the interval, the audience had an opportunity to speak with young researchers who created plain English summaries of their work for the event. They also got to see three small exhibitions from artists, Vincent Devine, Lorna Donlon and Navin Hyder on cancer related themes. 

Vincent Devine, who created the Vicky Phelan triptych, is currently undertaking a residency in UCD Conway Institute and displayed some of the initial concepts he has created to date. Lorna Donlon, a previous artist in residence in the Institute display portraits and a cabinet of objects from her STEP Through The Looking Glass; Stories Told of Experimental Processes exhibition. Navin Hyder displayed a selection of the operating theatre drawings from ‘Memento Vivere: Navin Hyder at the Mater Hospital’. These can also be seen now as giant graphic displays on the windows of the hospital providing a unique glimpse inside the surgical world.

UCD Community Choir, comprised of current and retired UCD staff and directed by Ms Caoimhe O’Neill, sang 'Treat People with Kindness' before being joined on stage by folk singer, Anne Randolph for a joint performance of 'The Water is Wide'. Anne released her first EP in 2019 after raising her family who include Ireland international goalkeeper Darren Randolph. She sang a beautiful rendition of ‘It’s Only Love’.

Celine Byrne, the lyric soprano from Kildare who has been performing on the international stage since her operatic debut in 2010 with world-renowned tenors like José Carreras, gave breath-taking performances of 'O Mio Babbino Caro' and 'Nella Fantasia'.

Sing for Life choir travelled from Northern Ireland for the event and performed 'Somewhere Only We Know' and 'Viva La Vida'. They were joined by singer, songwriter and prostate oncologist, Joe O'Sullivan who is a Professor of Radiation Oncology from Queen's University Belfast. They sang ‘Still the Warrior’ with Joe who then performed his own song, ‘Before’.

The final choir to sing were Mount Sion Choir from Waterford led by an inspirational teacher, Collette Kearney. They have been involved with Choirs for Cancer since 2019 and are very proud of their work in cancer awareness that includes recording a charity single called ‘This is Your Song’ with Ronan Keating to raise funds for the Marie Keating Foundation. 

Additional choirs from cancer support groups, Purple House as well as community choirs, Song Martins and the Mater Hospital staff choir sang in unison during the final song at the event.

UCD Professor William Gallagher, Co-Lead, All-Ireland Cancer Research Institute; and Deputy Director, Precision Oncology Ireland who organised the event in conjunction with The Patient Voice in Cancer Research, thanked all those who generously gave their time to take part. 

“Choirs for Cancer is an amazing event that inspires the heart. It centres on raising awareness of cancer but also providing an uplifting experience for all who attend. The sound of all these singers from around the island of Ireland stays with you.”

World Cancer Day 
Each year on 4 February, World Cancer Day empowers people across the world to show support, raise our collective voice, take personal action and press governments to do more. The theme for 2023 is ‘Close the Care Gap’; an empowering call-to-action urging people to unite their voices and taking action against inequities in cancer care around the globe.