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Ballinrobe to honour famous musical son Courtney Kenny



One of Mayo’s best-known musical sons, Courtney Kenny, is to be honoured at a special ‘Ballinrobe Celebrates!’ concert in the south Mayo town – and the event will form a central element of the sixth annual Mayo International Choral Festival.
A great-nephew of the famous composer Percy French, Courtney gave recitals all over the world and had one of the largest operatic repertoires in Ireland and the UK. He was a Director of the Wexford Festival of Grand Opera and worked with them for 25 seasons.
Now Ballinrobe and the Mayo International Choral Festival will pay tribute to Courtney with a concert in St Mary’s Church on Wednesday, May 24, at 8pm. Courtney will travel from the UK to attend the concert along with his son.
“We are delighted to be able to recognise Courtney in this way. Apart from his countless international musical achievements, he is fondly remembered in Ballinrobe where he was Musical Director of many shows staged by St Mary’s Choral Society during the 1960s and 1970s,” said Tony Walkin, who, along with Patsy Murphy, is organising the concert of behalf of the Mayo International Choral Festival.
The line-up will include Seán Costello, another Ballinrobe man who has achieved renown on the musical stage; Headford woman Sandra Schalks, who has been a star with Ballinrobe Musical Society on many occasions; Michael Coen, a teacher at Ballinrobe Community School, who has also performed brilliantly in shows on the Ballinrobe stage and further afield. Ballinrobe Folk Choir and Ballinrobe Musical Society will also perform some numbers in what promises to be a memorable occasion in the church.
Musical legacy
Courtney’s musical legacy is immense at local, national and international levels. Ballinrobe has a proud musical tradition and Courtney was one of the leading figures in popularising opera in the town through his involvement in many shows.
Furthermore, the visits to Ballinrobe of his opera company are still warmly remembered in the town.
“Ballinrobe has always been proud of Courtney Kenny. He represented the town and Mayo on the international stage with distinction, and this celebration concert is our way of reminding people of just how significant a figure Courtney is. It is Ballinrobe saying thanks,” said Patsy Murphy.
Courtney began his career at the Theatre Royal in Bristol as Musical Director of the Bristol Old Vic. He was solo pianist with the Royal Ballet and toured with the Arts Council group Opera for All.
As well as being an experienced operatic répétiteur, he was an excellent accompanist and a chamber music player. As a solo and continuo harpsichordist, he played in all the leading festivals in the UK and Ireland. He studied at the Royal College of Music in London. One of his many achievements was studying at the world-renowned Glyndebourne Festival Opera in Sussex.
He formed his own opera company and brought it to Ballinrobe on occasions in the 1960s.  He was also Head of the Music Staff with the New Sadler’s Wells Opera in London.
Courtney’s mother Maeve Kenny was President of St Mary’s Choral Society in Ballinrobe for many years. Admission to ‘Ballinrobe Celebrates!’ is just €10. Master of ceremonies will be Liam Horan.

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