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The choirmaster of acclaimed Co Down ensemble since 1968

By Eddie McIlwaine

Published 20/05/2015

Devoted: Robert Wilson
Devoted: Robert Wilson

The devoted musical director of an internationally acclaimed choir would have insisted that "the show must go on" after his death.

The Donaghadee Male Voice Choir will honour its commitment to perform at a concert this weekend despite the death of Robert  Wilson, the man who led it for the last 47 years.

Mr Wilson, who had a lifelong passion for choral music, died at the age of 75 last Saturday.

The choir that he regarded as a family will also perform under the baton of renowned composer and conductor Ivan Black at his funeral tomorrow in 1st Bangor Presbyterian Church.

The concert in the Ardhowen Theatre, Enniskillen, on Saturday night will go ahead as a tribute to Robert.

Mr Black, his friend and accompanist, will take the baton for the evening. He said yesterday: "He wouldn't have wanted us to cancel."

The choir posted on its Facebook page ahead of its regular Monday night practice: "This won't be an easy practice tonight but, as Robert always said, 'the show must go on'."

Mr Wilson once said of his choir: "We aren't just a choir, we are a family and the 70 members enjoy the craic as much as the singing. We go where the music takes us."

He was also director of the King's Chorale in Belfast until two years ago.

An accountant by profession, he was a native of Ballysillan in Belfast and an old boy of Everton Primary and Belfast High schools.

He and his wife Maureen celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last year. He is survived by Maureen, their son Neil and daughter Lesley, and eight grandchildren.

"My father made an impact with people both as an accountant and as a man of music right to the end," said Neil.

He began his career as a conductor at 16, and before joining Donaghadee in 1968 was deputy director of Victoria Male Choir.

Under his guidance the choir, which had only 18 members when he took over in 1968, built an international reputation.

It was the first choir from Ireland to sing behind the Iron Curtain in Russia, having also performed in the US, Canada, Malta, Poland and Bulgaria.

Donaghadee Male Voice Choir has chalked up more than 40 first prizes at festivals in Britain, with two more in 2014-15.

"Without his commitment and initiative the choir would have folded in those early days," said choir secretary Raymond Gregg.

Mr Wilson was awarded an MBE in 2008 for services to music.

Belfast Telegraph

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