It was 1991 when the film The Commitments burst onto our movie screens and into the hearts and souls of music lovers across the world. More than 12 million people have a copy of The Commitments movie soundtrack in their music collection, and now, for the first time, the band is getting ready to perform a series of full concerts together to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Ireland's favourite film. Locally, you can see the show come to life again at the TF Royal Theatre in Castlebar on March 14 next. Tickets go on sale next Friday, October 15, starting from €59.80.
A donation will be made to the Irish Cancer Society for every ticket sold and the cast hope to raise over €30,000 for the charity. The concerts will be full-blown soul extravaganzas with songs from the movie and many added extras.
A few of the members of the band, recognising the impending anniversary, started looking into the possibility of a series of reunion gigs. Pretty soon a team was coming together including Paul Bushnell, who was the music director on the movie and co-produced the soundtrack CDs with Kevin Killen and Alan Parker.
There was a united feeling that it could be a really good thing, that a burst of Irish soul might bring a glide back into people's stride and raise morale a little in the midst of this climate of doom and gloom.
"We gathered together in Dublin a month ago" says Bushnell, "performed a few songs as a band, then sat down over pints and thrashed it all out between us to see if we could make it work. And we did. So here we are."
Of the upcoming shows, Andrew Strong (Deco Cuffe) said: "The Commitments has inspired so many people all over the world, which in turn has given me a career and the respect and ability to do the one thing I love to do the most – sing.
"So for that reason alone, to take a few evenings to relive and perform this memorable occasion, is not a lot to ask considering the amazing journey my life has carved for itself due to my involvement in The Commitments."
Bronagh Gallagher (Bernie McGloughlin) added: "I have been through many emotions regarding The Commitments' reunion but after I met everyone in Dublin last month and we sang and played and then had a good chat about how we all felt, the decision was just there in front of us.
"I was so happy to see everyone again and I believe it's a new time and a wonderful opportunity to celebrate such a special film with all the Irish people who loved it so much too.
"With our performances next year we aim to stimulate positivity, pride and happiness back into our beautiful country and people after the very hard road the Irish people have been on."
It was Robert Arkins, who played Jimmy Rabbitte, who talked the talk in the film. Of the reunion, he said: "When I first heard someone was trying to get the cast/band together, well, I ignored it. How many times have I heard that one? But this time it did seem somewhat different... it just seemed auspicious, I guess, what with the 20th anniversary.
"It became apparent pretty quickly that everyone was behind the idea to mark the occasion, so who was I to say no."
The rehearsals were a blast, according to Michael Aherne (Steven Clifford), while Angeline Ball (Imelda Quirke) said it was great to be making amazing music again.
She added: "Also, in the current climate, it's great to participate in a gig that will have such a feelgood factor and will hopefully resonate with the public...I am delighted that we are getting together again after 20 years."
Glen Hansard, who played Outspan Foster in The Commitments, is probably the most famous of the original cast thanks to his success with The Frames and as a solo artist. He, too, is looking forward to next year's gigs.
"Andrew's voice is on fire and the girls sound better than ever. It's a real joy to stand behind him and the girls and watch them make us all look good. I'm just happy to be the guitar player again. We're all older and hopefully wiser now and I look forward to getting down to work and catching up with everyone."
Felim Gormley (Dean Fay) is simply 'excited and delighted', while Ken McCluskey (Derek Scully) said that for him, the reunion is 'a chance to thank the fans and for the all the good will and support I have received over the years'.
Finally, Dick Massey (Billy Mooney) said: "Over the years, we've all had thousands of people asking if and when and maybe and please would The Commitments play a show together. Now that everyone is able to work these shows into their schedules it's great. I think a lot of fans will be very happy."
For more information, see the Royal Theatre website at www.theroyal.ie or the Ticketmaster website at www.ticketmaster.ie.