SELDOM was a standing ovation more deserved than that accorded to the Cill Aodáin Choral Society and guests who presented ‘Bygone Days’ in the Church of the Holy Family in Kiltimagh last Friday night. This was a magical night in the church that has been at the heart of the community down through the decades - a beautiful occasion of music, song and memory.
For two weeks in advance, not a ticket could be sourced for the show with in the region of 700 sold within days, ensuring a capacity congregation for the show. The candlelight lent exquisite atmosphere to the night’s proceedings and special designs and decorations were coordinated by Ita Malee, Sally Lavin and Michelle Armstrong.
Based on an idea by local man Seamus Corry, ‘Bygone Days’ was scripted by Seamus and told the story of an elderly man from the parish of Kiltimagh looking back on his life with all its twists and turns, a life that could be mirrored in many a family home in the county of Mayo. It made an immediate connection with the audience and was superbly narrated by Henry Kelly.
The Musical Director for the show was Finola Higgins-Cosgrove who brought her own interpretation and guidance to the entire production. It worked a treat. From their opening medley to the rousing finale with ‘May We Never Say Goodbye’, they delighted the appreciative audience with their inspiring and uplifting performances.
Back in the town which was home territory to her father, Irish-American fiddle player Eileen Ivers cast a magic spell with her rendition of ‘Bygone Days’, a beautifully evocative and haunting melody, the kind which captured the essential nature and lonesomeness of many an Irish home in the days when emigration across the broad Atlantic was part of life. You could almost sense her heart and soul emanating from the bow and strings as she captivated the audience with the artistry of her talents.
Later in the show, she swung into a rollicking few tunes as she lifted the place with her brilliance and infectious good humour, a lady who knew she was among her own at last and responded accordingly.
Rosemary Scallon, better known as Dana, received a very warm welcome from the appreciative gathering. She treated the audience to her own composition, ‘Lady of Knock’, ‘The Hiding Place’ by Liam Lawton and the Charlie Lansborough song, ‘What Colour Is The Wind’. That sense of ease with her audience and the professionalism gained over the years oozed from the lady who comes from lovely Derry on the banks of the Foyle.
English-born tenor Sean Ruane has endeared himself to the Cill Aodáin Choral Society with a number of shows in recent years. Sean’s parents hail from Straide and Foxford and he is always very much at home in Mayo. His enchanting renditions of ‘Danny Boy’ and ‘She Moved Through The Fair’ rested gently alongside his powerful performance on the Brendan Graham song, ‘Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears’ where he was joined by the Cill Aodáin group in a moving dramatisation of the Ellis Island story. How poignant it is in these days to think that the first girl through the gates of Ellis Island in 1892 was Annie Moore from Cork, just 15 years at the time.
The other featured guest was Michael English who has become a firm favourite with members of the Cill Aodáin Society in recent weeks. They are featured on his new single, ‘Vision of Knock’, which will be officially released on Friday, and which he performed to much acclaim during the show, together with his other song, ‘Windows Up in Heaven’, which fitted perfectly with the script of ‘Bygone Days’.
The Mayo School of Music Youth Choir made an impressive debut with ‘Tomorrow’ from ‘Annie’, while Vivienne Lee and Louis Heneghan filled the roles of Mary and Michael in ‘All I Ask Of You’. John Kitching’s interpretation of the Phil Coulter number ‘Scorn Not His Simplicity’ was from the heart and beautifully delivered by a man who feels at home on the stage.
A special hometown welcome was reserved for Eamon Reilly who came all the way from Connecticut to take part in the show and his rendition of ‘This Is The Moment’ drew sustained applause for the popular Eamon whose family have been associated with the Post Office in Kiltimagh for many years.
The poetry readings, ranging from Raftery to Yeats, and including an old Knock prayer, were performed by Michelle Armstrong, Ann McNicholas, Brendan McCarrick, Cian Gallagher, Sile Burke, John Raeburn-Smith and Marina Rice.
The members of the Choral Society/Choir who featured in the show were Aileen Shannon, Angela McHugh, Ann Melia-Kenny, Ann McNicholas, Avril Forde-McGreal, Bernie Campbell, Billy Walsh, Brendan Donnellan, Brendan Heneghan, Brendan McCarrick, Brent Mooney, Christine Cosgrove, Delia Cummins, Don Dillon, Evelyn Walsh, Geraldine Conroy, Gerry Meyrick, Grace McLoughlin, Mick Higgins, Helen Higgins, Ita Malee, John Kitching, Henry Kelly, John Raeburn-Smith, Kathleen O’Hora, Mick Thornton, Karen Gallagher, Louis Heneghan, Marion Dunne, Marina Rice, Martina Lavelle, Mary Johnson, Mairead King, Marian Thornburgh, Mary Whittington, Michelle Armstrong, Monica Rowley, Monica Heneghan, Nell McNicholas, Patricia Burke, Peggy Byrne, Phil Walsh, Rebecca Farrington, Sally Lavin, Seamus Corry, Sile Burke, Richard Heneghan, Teresa Glynn, Teresa Mulligan, Finola Higgins-Cosgrove, Frank McNicholas and Vivienne Lee. Good wishes were extended to member Berni Dwyer who, due to an injury sustained the previous night, was in Castlebar hospital and missed out on the show.
Choreography was in the capable hands of the experienced Marina Rice from Islandeady. The excellent orchestra comprised of John Flatley, Tom Lyons, Donal Hoban, Aiden Staunton, Ron Thornburgh, Jonathan Staunton and Marianne Knight. The stage manager for the show was Billy Dunne, while Declan Cosgrove was in charge of the special effects. Oisin Herraghty looked after the lighting and Liam Feeney took care of the sound.
Chairperson of the Cill Aodáin Choral Society, Mary Johnson, had special words of thanks for everyone associated with the presentation of ‘Bygone Days’. She said it had been a tremendous community event and they were also most thankful for the marvellous contributions of their guest performers, Dana, Michael England, Sean Ruane and Eileen Ivers. “I would particularly like to thank Fr Paddy Kilcoyne for allowing us to put on this show in the Church of the Holy Family and for his patience and encouragement. A special word of thanks also to sacristan Jack Wilkinson for all his help and co-operation,” said Mary.