Daryl Simpson BEM
OCYC Musical Director
Who we are-
The Omagh Community Youth Choir was formed in October 1998 in the wake of the Omagh Bomb atrocity of August 15, 1998. This devastating act left a town of shattered dreams and a community in need of comfort, healing and solace. Local music student Daryl Simpson, together with other local musicians and youth leaders set up the choir. His vision was to bring together young people from various backgrounds and traditions, to raise a positive awareness of a community working together for peace and reconciliation, and to provide some comfort in those dark days.
The choir has since gone on to receive international acclaim and have had their music reach out to people all over the world. They continue a busy schedule of rehearsals, performances, and recordings in attempt to open hearts and minds across the globe. Within weeks of its inception the choir was involved with some of the biggest names in the music industry. The choir was asked to record the title track from the Omagh Fund CD, ‘Across the Bridge of Hope,’ along with numerous other stars. TV appearances on UTV’s Kelly Show, GMTV and a special Omagh tribute ‘Late Late Show’ on RTÉ alongside the likes of U2 and Bob Geldof provided a suitable platform for the choir to send its message of reconciliation. It wasn’t long before Omagh Community Youth Choir were given the opportunity to take their message further afield.
In August 1999 the choir travelled for their first stateside trip to Chicago performing at St Patrick’s Cathedral and sports ground ‘Soldier Field’. During this time they met with other like minded groups, most notably The Milwaukee Irishfest Choir. By 2000 The Omagh Community Youth Choir was firmly established as a top class musical act. They were personally chosen by Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber to record the song, ‘To Love in Peace,’ from his West End Show, ‘The Beautiful Game’. This led to performances in London’s Millennium Dome, Westminster Cathedral, The BBC’s National Lottery show and finally The Royal Variety Performance with The Prince of Wales in attendance. All proceeds from the CD went to the Northern Ireland Memorial Fund.
The choir links to Milwaukee led to another trip to perform at the Milwaukee IrishFest in 2001 receiving great critical acclaim at their packed shows. An ongoing relationship MIFC has seen both groups host each other on several occasions and included a joint recording also released in 2001. In this year OCYC also received the prestigious International Award for Peace from St Angela’s Urseline Convent in Waterford, being honoured alongside international Human Rights Journalist John Pilger.
Over the next few years several more high profile tours followed. In 2003 the choir undertook a tour of the US, singing at Ground Zero and St Patrick's Cathedral, New York. From there they travelled to Washington D.C. performing at the National Cathedral. Then a whistle stop visit to Philadelphia before another performance again at the Milwaukee Irishfest.
Two years later the Omagh Community Youth Choir returned to the USA, this time undertaking nine performances across Texas and Louisiana, organised with the help of longtime choir friend Matthew Robaskiewicz. The Texas and Louisiana tour finished in the home of Jazz, New Orleans where the choir recorded a live CD in the National Jazz Museum. Whilst there, they also performed with the interracial Gospel choir “Shades of Praise” who themselves have been guests of OCYC in Omagh. Tragically, only weeks after the choir left New Orleans, hurricane Katrina struck, devastating the Jazz capital. After receiving so much generosity in Louisiana the Youth choir organised several local concerts to raise some much needed funds for their friends in NOLA.
As well as so much touring in America the choir has performed across the length and breadth of Ireland to critical acclaim. Over the years OCYC has performed with the Waterford Peace Choir, raising money for housing initiatives in Boaco, Nicaragua. One particular concert in Waterford which was jointly headlined by the choirs, and The Celtic Tenors raised nearly 100,000 Euro in aid of new homes for families in Boaco.
Their most recent work has included working with producer Mark Johnson and Playing For Change. A CD/DVD compilation Playing For Change: Songs Around The World was released in 2009 on the Concord Music Group label. The CD has 10 songs and reached No.10 on the US Billboard Charts. They performed solo on 'Love Rescue Me', and added vocals to 'War/no more Trouble'and 'Biko'. In Dec 09 they participated in the PFC recording of 'All you need is Love' for the Starbucks (RED) joint campaign to highlight Aids in Africa. Also as part of their work together they performed at Glastonbury 09 as Saturday headliners on the Jazz World stage performing with the likes of Baaba Maal, Grandpa Elliot, Vusi Mahlasela, Tinariwen and of course the Playing For Change Band. The choir also feature on the Live CD/DVD which captures a live performance of Tinariwen's track Imidiwan Afrik Tendam with Tinariwen and the Playing For Change Band at Glastonbury Festival.
The choir received Charity Status from the Northern Ireland Charity Commission in February 2016 and operate under the following Charity Number NIC 101955.
Our Musical Director Daryl Simpson was awarded a BEM (British Empire Medal) for services to Community Relations and Peace & Reconciliation in N.Ireland in the Queens 2018 New Year Honours list.
- Candace Toler
- Elizabeth Reed
- Al Hentsch
- Licienne Benedetto-Sodano
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