Westport Children’s Choir was formed in September 2011 under the direction of Eriko Hopkinson; it is a secular, community-based choir for ages 6 to 18, and it was founded with the aim of giving the children of the Westport area the opportunity to experience the joy that comes from singing in harmony with others, and teaching them the skills and teamwork necessary for this. We also aim to open young minds to music they might not otherwise hear; thus the repertoire spans many musical genres including classical, traditional/ world music, and jazz.
Originally the choir was for ages 9 -14; this became the 'senior choir'. The junior (preparatory) choir for ages 6-9 was added in 2014, followed by Westport Youth Choir in September 2016, formed from past members of Westport Children's Choir, and auditioned singers. The Youth Choir is a small vocal ensemble for young people aged 14 and upwards, exploring the current music scene as well as diverse music styles, with members taking initiative for the musical direction of the choir.
An important element of our organization is the promise to keep the cost of attending choir to a minimum. Families with a lower than average income find it hard to take advantage of all the extracurricular educational opportunities available to children from a better-off background, and there is very little support available from government agencies for hard-pressed families in this regard. Thus we undertake to offer a high standard of musical training at a fraction of the cost of private lessons.
We also believe that formal musical training is under-resourced in Irish schools, in contrast to some other countries; so the musically talented Irish child runs the risk of missing out on the essential early training that forms the foundation of a possible career in music. We hope that Westport Children’s Choir goes a little way towards filling this gap.
Many studies have shown that an engagement with group singing has demonstrable benefits for both the individual and the community, and if children are introduced early to the enjoyment of singing in choirs, it will be something they can draw on throughout their lives. We also aim to promote understanding and sympathy with other cultures through the study and performance of different regional and national traditions of music, and by travelling abroad to perform and learn.
We hope to play an important role in helping our community’s children grow into well-adjusted adults who will make a positive contribution to broader society; to help give them a sense of belonging, an understanding of individual and social responsibility, and a spirit of generosity.
Eriko comes from the island of Okinawa, Japan, where music is a natural part of everyday life. Her family played and sang traditional music, and Eriko won many prizes as a young singer. She has been involved in choral music from the age of 11, when she joined Naha Children’s Choir. She has a vivid memory of performing with the Vienna Boys Choir when they toured Japan at this time! She studied Music Education (including piano, conducting and composing) and Singing at the University of the Ryukyus, Okinawa, and took further studies in acting, singing and dance at the Theatre Shiki Acting Institute, Tokyo.
She has also been privileged to study traditional Ryukyuan (Okinawan) dance under Japanese National Treasure Fusako Shida.
In 2011 Eriko studied choir conducting under Gabriella Thész, Artistic Director of the Hungarian Radio Children’s Choir, at the AOIC International Conducting Summer School in Limerick. In 2015 she took the CME (Choral Music Experience) conducting course under the guidance of Doreen Rao in Maynooth. In 2017 She completed AOIC International Conducting Summer School Level five under Hungarian conductor Zoltán Pad in Limerick.
Since moving to Ireland in 1995, Eriko has been involved as an actor, dancer and musician with many theatre and dance projects, including for Fluid Arts Company, Flock Dance and TheatreworksWest.
She teaches choir, singing and piano, and founded Westport Children’s Choir in 2011, with the aim of giving local children the opportunity to experience the joy that comes from singing in harmony with others, and teaching them the skills and teamwork necessary for this. She is also motivated by a desire to increase children’s knowledge and understanding of other countries and cultures, through the global language of music.
Ed grew up in the north of England. He was sent to piano and violin lessons as a child, but gave up as soon as he was allowed to! He played piano in the blues band No Strings, and tin whistle with Clann na Gael, an Irish music and dance group with whom he toured several times in Europe. He has taught tin whistle for the Folkworks organization in the North East of England, and has played traditional music widely in the US with various Renaissance Fair companies, and in Japan with Eriko’s band Maphé. Following his move to Ireland and marriage to Eriko he has been involved as a multi-instrumentalist and dancer with Fluid Arts Company, Flock Dance and TheatreworksWest. He has also taught band skills for Music Generation Mayo’s Jamband programme. Since joining Cór Mhaigh Eo (formerly Mayo County Choir) in 2010, he has become increasingly interested in singing, and has been involved in Westport Children’s Choir since 2012 as a teacher, arranger of music and administrator. He has twice been a participant in the Association of Irish Choir’s Choral Conducting Summer School at the University of Limerick. He believes strongly in the power of music to improve lives, and is still trying to understand precisely why he disliked his childhood piano and violin lessons so much, in order to improve the learning experience of the children he teaches.