In April 2016, the Presentation School Choir Kilkenny wowed the judges and received standing ovations for its performances on Britain's Got Talent. Since then, the all-female ensemble, under the direction of internationally renowned Veronica McCarron, has reformed to become Arís Celebration Choir and is currently working on its first album - all with the support of Allianz.
We commissioned Arís to sing 'Go the Distance' from the Disney film 'Hercules' for our latest 30-second TV ad featuring blind athlete Sinéad Kane. The music will be used for two additional ads. The choir has made this song its own and a four-minute music video has been produced, all filmed in Kilkenny. It has already had over 300,000 views on Arís's Facebook page.
This story is a prime example of how arts and business collaboration can benefit not just the art form, but can be used for commercial purposes to great effect and also as a way to give back to local communities.
What appeals to Allianz about choral music is that singing is so ubiquitous - anybody, anywhere can stand up and sing. It doesn't require a huge infrastructure to get a choir started and it is generally community based. People can achieve extraordinary things with this genre of art.
Allianz's investment in Arís has given it a new brand and purpose and is helping to position the choir to become successful nationally, and in time, internationally. Instead of simply writing a cheque, Allianz is partnering with the choir on its journey to achieving its objectives. For Allianz, it has allowed us to leverage community art in a commercial context and given us a creative way to engage with customers and staff.
Businesses that engage with local arts organisations in a collaborative way will as a consequence become better integrated in the communities in which they operate from. When this is married with a genuine social requirement - such as improving quality of life and opportunities for people - the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
This is one of the main reasons why the Allianz Business to Arts Awards and Northern Ireland's Allianz Arts & Business Awards are such an integral part of Allianz's commitment to the arts on the island of Ireland.
Throughout our 17 years of supporting the Allianz Business to Arts Awards process, we have witnessed the societal enrichment that comes about when arts organisations and businesses join forces. We have also seen the clear benefits to businesses of collaborating with the arts - it allows them to build empathy with customers, express their brand in a more creative way and better engage their staff.
Allianz has been serving people and communities since 1890. As part of this ethos, we see ourselves as privileged to be celebrating and supporting the work of contemporary artists who have the courage and daring to challenge expectation and convention and produce experiences from which we all benefit.
Over the years, we have supported Melissa Hamilton and Monica Loughman, two of Ireland's most prolific ballerinas. Internationally, we have collaborated with the world-famous pianist Lang Lang since 2011 and more recently as a partner of contemporary art at MoMA in New York. We want to encourage other businesses to think in the same way about arts partnerships. The opportunity is there to reap the benefits - whether it is through something as simple as a choir or a more complex artistic venture - and for all involved to reach their full potential.
If as a reader of this publication you are wondering how best to engage with arts bodies and replicate the success of those shortlisted at the Allianz Business to Arts Awards 2017, please talk to Business to Arts (www.businesstoarts.ie) or any of the businesses featured.