Members of Louisburgh Voices.

Louisburgh's big night at the opera

LATER this month the parochial hall in Louisburgh will host a historic first – its first ever opera – showcasing the vocal ability of 40 local singers, writes Tom Gillespie.

Dido and Aeneas, an opera by Henry Purcell, is set in the city of Carthage, north Africa, present-day Tunisia, after the Trojan wars.

Trojan prince Aeneas is sailing from Troy to Italy to fulfil his destiny and found the city of Rome. His ships are blown off course in a storm and Aeneas lands at Carthage, where he meets Dido, the Queen of Carthage.

Behind the three-act production are Louisburgh-based Pauline Graham and Michael Quinn who established Louisburgh Music School in September 2017, and a year later a mixed-voice adult choir, Louisburgh Voices.

They have been involved with music education for many years and their aim is to provide the guidance and encouragement each student needs to realise their true potential.

They currently offer lessons in singing, flute, piano and music theory. Their students have achieved notable success with music exams (both ABRSM and RIAM, including high achiever awards), Junior and Leaving Certificate music practical exams, competitions and auditions, but most of all in achieving their personal goals.

The opera will be staged on Friday, June 28, in the 190-seater parochial hall at 7.30 p.m.

The choruses will be performed by Louisburgh Voices, directed by Pauline Graham. The solo roles will also be performed by members of Louisburgh Voices. The youngest soloist is 12-year-old soprano Danielle Cox – one of Pauline’s students – a sixth class pupil in Louisburgh NS, playing the part of The Spirit.

The part of Aeneas will be taken by Des Grealis (baritone), Dido, Queen of Carthage, is played by Louise Noble (mezzo-soprano), and Belinda, Dido's attendant, by Áine Torphy (soprano). The ladies of Dido’s court are Sharon Cusack (soprano) and Carmel Cox (soprano), while Mairéad Hegarty (contralto) will play the Sorceress. Louisburgh Voices will be accompanied by Michael Quinn (harpsichord) and a string ensemble - Patrick Early (violin), Christian Cooke (viola) and Patrick Dexter (cello).

The evening will open with music for flute and harpsichord by Handel and C.P.E. Bach, performed by Julia Dickson and Michael Quinn. This will be followed by a short introduction to the opera, to set the scene.

Said Michael Quinn: "Our ideal is to encourage primary and secondary pupils and adults to pursue their own interest in music, give them an opportunity to develop their potential, build their confidence, and acquire lifelong skills.

"The singers are all drawn from the local area and in a sense the real star of the production is the choir, as the chorus plays a major role in telling the story and interacting with the main characters. The soloists are members of the choir, and many of them are taking lessons with Pauline.

"We see this as empowering the community, and we’ve received great local support for the production. We wanted local singers performing in Louisburgh and doing something at a really high level. The fact that the opera is in English makes it more accessible to an audience. We want people to come along, enjoy the music, enjoy the drama, and get a taste for opera."

Michael added: "The staging of this opera will also add to the artistic and cultural life of the area, complementing the strong links with traditional music, literature and visual arts which Louisburgh already has."

Both Pauline, from Scotland, and Michael, from Dublin, whose mother is from Louisburgh, are internationally renowned musicians.

In September, Pauline will give a recital of Haydn songs with pianist Niall Kinsella in Castletown House, Kildare, while Michael will give an organ recital next month at St. Michael’s Church, Dún Laoghaire, Dublin, as part of their annual summer series, and will be recording a solo organ CD at St. Patrick’s Church, Newport, later this year, supported by a music recording award from Mayo County Council Arts Office.

Tickets for the opera are available from Books@One, Bridge Street, Louisburgh, on (098) 66885, and advance booking is required. The tickets cost €25 for reserved seating and reception, €16 (unreserved) and €10 (concessions).

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