TO celebrate the life of John ‘Jack’ Feeney - the Mayo Nightingale - an evening of story and song will be presented by Mayo County Council’s arts service and Ballina Municipal District in Swinford Cultural Centre tomorrow (Friday, September 23).
To honour the great Swinford tenor, a commemorative bronze memorial plaque has been generously commissioned by Pat O’Connor, a solicitor based in Swinford, and this plaque will be formally unveiled on the evening by Minister of State Michael Ring. The event is open to the public and all are invited to join in the celebration, which will commence at 7 p.m.
Award-winning radio producer Harry Bradshaw, an expert on Jack’s work, will present an illustrated lecture on the life and times of the great Mayo tenor. In the 1970s, while researching Feeney, Bradshaw met with his wife Maura, who entrusted him with five boxes of Jack’s records, tapes and memorabilia. They have now become the established archive of the tenor’s voice and life.
Harry released a double CD - A Tribute to Jack Feeney - containing a cross-section of recordings and live performances from his early career in the 1930s through to the 1960s.
Harry Bradshaw’s lecture will be followed by a concert by renowned classical tenor, Frank Naughton, who will sing songs from Jack’s repertoire. Frank is a full-time classical tenor who has been singing since he could talk!
Jack Feeney was born on August 9, 1903, in Swinford, one of seven children in the family. His father Patrick and his mother Mary operated a grocery business from their house on Main Street and were landowners of a local pub.
Jack married Ballina native Maura Ruddy and after working in construction in England and Dublin, he emigrated to the US where he sang at weddings and social occasions. As a member of the Mayo Association, he sang at their dances and receptions.
Bohola’s William Casey and Bill O’Dwyer secured a place for Feeney with a voice coach at the New York Metropolitan Opera Company. By the '40s and '50s he had become the leading Irish-American tenor of his era, often heard on radio broadcasts and performing at venues such as Carnegie Hall, Town Hall NY, the Boston Symphony and the Philidelphia Academy of Music. On visits to Ireland he filled the Dublin Theatre Royal, the Olympia, Cork Opera House and Limerick Savoy Theatre.
Among his famous numbers with the Decca Label, recorded on 78 RPMs, was 'Moonlight in Mayo' and 'Galway Bay'. He was also a well-known radio personality on New York’s airwaves and performed in films. He retired from radio work in the 1960s and returned to Ireland, where he died in 1967.
This evening will be a wonderful opportunity to relive memories of a different time through the music and memory of John 'Jack' Feeney. The event is free and all are welcome to attend, but booking is advised and can be done through Mayo Arts Office at (094) 9047558 or firstname.lastname@example.org.