A unique and inspirational choir moved many people to tears as they performed on Ireland’s Got Talent in 2018. The DeafTones, an all-female choir comprised of eleven deaf singers and two hearing members, took to the stage to perform a memorable version of Ed Sheeran’s “Photograph”.
The Dublin choir had been started by conductor Shirley Higgins seven years previously, and the members ranged in age from 13 to 39. Of the deaf members, they experienced a range of different hearing abilities. Higgins explained that some members could hear the music and the words, some could just hear the music, and others couldn’t hear anything. They experienced the music in different ways, either through vibrations, lip-reading or a combination of the two.
As Higgins also stated, the idea of having two hearing members in the choir was to show that hearing and deaf communities should mix with each other, and shouldn’t be seen as separate entities. One of the hearing members, 14-year-old Ciara McLoughlin, explained that she was the only person in her family who could hear, so she had a deep connection to the deaf duty because of this. Her sisters, 20-year-old Leah and 19-year-old Aimee, were also members of the choir.
On stage, the group wore royal blue to promote awareness for Irish Sign Language (ISL). The two hearing members took the vocal duties, while the others swayed and signed along to the lyrics using ISL. This created a hugely poignant display, giving a sense of the unity of these women and girls, as well as the beauty of the signs being performed. At the end of the song, the judges and audience immediately rose to their feet. The judge Jason Byrne was in tears following the performance.
Denise Van Outen was the first to give her verdict, saying, “I love the song, and it was just so, so beautiful ladies, beautiful.” Byrne echoed this sentiment, commenting, “The entertainment world is about emotions, and so much just flowed out of you there towards us.” Michelle Visage gave the final comment: “I’d like to say thank you for sharing a bit of your world with us and allowing us in.” Van Outen then asked, ‘Can your lovely teacher show us how we can sign yes?’ On being shown by Higgins, all four judges gave the sign, and The DeafTones were through to the semi-finals.
The inspirational choir performed John Lennon’s “Imagine” in the semi-finals. In the Judge’s Save, they were given the by Van Outen. The other three judges unfortunately didn’t agree, and so The DeafTones’ run in the competition came to an end.