Vocal Chords

Vocal Chords is a music documentary series for The Lyric Feature on RTÉ lyric fm presented by one of Ireland’s most acclaimed sean-nós singers Iarla Ó Lionáird.  In a global exploration Iarla explores the question whether singing is mankind’s primary means of communication and why we sing in both times of joy and sorrow.  In a vocal landscape from the sean nós tradition in Ireland, to the Zulu Mbube music of South Africa. Iarla talks to outstanding performers like Peter Gabriel, Sinéad Ó’Connor and Maria Pomianowska to uncover the story behind song, singing and the  unique vocal styles of the world.  This series takes listeners on a rich audio experience  while addressing the simple but vital question, ‘What happens when you sing and why do we sing?’


The series features recordings and performances from the Warsaw Cross Culture Festival and the Oslo World Music Festival. Artists include South African singer Nomfusi, also known for her role playing Miriam Makeba in the film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, to Giba Ives, a member of the Brazilian body percussion group Barbatuques. Iarla visits Robert Hollingworth in the University of York which offers the only solo voice ensemble masters in the world. There we get an insight into the difference between solo and group performance and an introduction to Hollingworth’s vocal ensemble I Fagiolini.


The series initially ran in the Summer of 2015 and a second series of ‘Vocal Chords in Conversation with Iarla Ó Lionáird’ is currently in production for 2017 and is broadcast regularly on RTÉ lyric fm, with episodes featuring Paul Brady and Peggy Seeger now available to stream or download as podcasts. Upcoming guests for Autumn 2017 include Glen Hansard, Linda Buckley and Veronica Dunne.

Iarla Ó Lionáird in conversation with Maighread and Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill

Iarla Ó Lionáird in conversation with Maighread and Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill

The series producer is Helen Shaw. The audio editor is Pearse Ó Caoimh. Recordists are Robert Hope and Michael Gallen. Our thanks to the Dorota Kukieła and the Warsaw Cross Culture Festival and Anniken Gurijordet and the Oslo World Music Festival for their support. For more information you can view the press release here


The series has won several international awards, it won Silver in the New York Radio Festival 2015 for the Peter Gabriel special, (you can read more about the award here). Vocal Chords also won the overall Gold for Best Music Series in the New York Radio Festival 2016. It was nominated for a Celtic Media Festival Torc in 2016.


Vocal Chords is an Athena Media Production for RTÉ lyric fm made with the support of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland



How to listen?

You can listen to the series via:





vocal chords - audioboom channel
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