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Louisburgh’s Night at the Opera


EVOCATIVE ‘The Spirit’, played by Danielle Cox (centre) surrounded by the Witches (played by members of Louisburgh Voices) pictured ahead of their performance on Friday, June 28. 
Pic: Michael McLaughlin

Local music school will perform the first ever opera in the area, ‘Dido and Aeneas’ by Henry Purcell

Ger Flanagan

A SMALL chink of history will be written in Louisburgh at the end of the month when the opera comes to town for the first time ever.
Louisburgh Music School will be showcasing the talents of 40 local singers on Friday, June 28, when they perform Henry Purcell’s ‘Dido and Aeneas’ in the Parochial Hall on Bridge Street.
A poignant tale of love and betrayal, ‘Dido and Aeneas’ is set in Carthage – or present day Tunisia – post the Trojan War, where the Trojan prince, Aeneas – played by Des Grealis – is sailing for Italy to fulfill his destiny and find the city of Rome. However, his ships are blown off course towards Carthage, where he meets and falls in love with the Queen, Dido – played by Louise Noble.
Michael Quinn of Louisburgh Music School told The Mayo News that they feel that local people will really be able to relate to this particular story. “It’s really entertaining and the people will be gripped right from the start,” the internationally renowned musician said. “We also wanted to choose something people can identify with, being the first opera in Louisburgh, we wanted it to be accessible and a fun night out.
“This is being performed by local people, in English and although the story is from the 17th century, it is something we can all relate to – a struggle between love and duty.  There’s a tragic ending, but lots of drama.
“One of the most expressive moments musically is Dido’s lament at the end, where she’s expressing her grief for what she’s lost. It’s a really powerful piece of music and if you’ve never heard of [Henry] Purcell before, you will just go ‘Wow’ – it really touches people.”
Quinn established Louisburgh Music School with the opera’s director, Pauline Graham, back in 2017. From that, Louisburgh Voices was formed – a mixed-voice adult choir that will play a major role in the production.
The solo roles will be performed by members of the Louisburgh Voices, such as 12 year-old soprano Danielle Cox – a sixth class student in Louisburgh National School – who plays the part of the Spirit. There will also be performances from Áine Trophy (playing Dido’s attendant), Sharon Cusack and Carmel Cox (both ladies of Dido’s court), and Mairéad Hegarty (the Sorceress).
So far, Quinn says, the reaction to the opera has been very positive around Clew Bay.
“Because this is a local event, it has really brought the community together,” he said. “So much happens in Louisburgh, but it has definitely surpassed our initial expectations. We have some reserved seating in the hall and they are all sold out already, and it’s probably because of all the local singers performing.
“People want to see what it is about because it’s on their doorstep; the ticket prices aren’t high because we want people to come and enjoy it.
“It really is a community based thing, with so many helping out with costumes behind the scenes and playing their part to make this happen.”

Early days
ORIGINALLY from Dublin, Quinn’s mother is from Louisburgh and his grandparents once owned a shop on Bridge Street, so he always felt attached to the area.
Together with Pauline, originally from Scotland and also an internationally renowned musician, they moved out west and established Louisburgh Music School two years ago, where they’ve been blown away by the local talent.
Their aim is to encourage the local national and secondary students, as well as adults, to pursue and develop their passion for music.
“The music school is going really well and we’re expanding and moving just up to road to Long Street in September,” he said. “We’ll have more teachers and instruments on offer, like string instruments; but we’re delighted that we’ve found the local people so welcoming and such an amount of talent in the area, we are really, really impressed with all our students.
“The choir performed recently at Mayo International Choral Festival and they got a great response. So many people were surprised to hear that they were only around since last September.
“There’s always a bit of risk when you are setting up a music school and taking on something like an opera,” he continued. “But you just got to try it and see how it goes. After what we felt with our students progressing so quickly, and the same with the choir, we felt it was worth going to work on an opera. “Initially you might be wondering how it will play out, but we felt they were so talented, so enthusiastic, they’ve worked so hard already, that it’s going to work and now we really feel we were right about that.”

Future plans
AFTER months of rehearsals, the evening will open with music for flute and harpsichord by Handel and CPE Bach, performed by Julia Dickson and Quinn, which will be followed up by a brief introduction, to set the scene.
Following on from what is sure to be success  for the town’s first opera, Louisburgh Music School is hoping they can further intertwine in the fabric of the town’s rich musical culture.
“I think music should not be underestimated in Louisburgh,” he added. “There’s the Féile, Irish dancing, a good drama group, an interest in literature and books, such as Books@One who are selling our tickets, and Anthony O’Brien, who designed our posters and fliers.
“I feel we’re fitting into something there and adding to it. I think this part of Mayo in general has a particular affinity with the arts and a wealth of talent.
“Opera is storytelling with music and I think everyone here can identify with that because we have a great history storytelling and a great interest in music. The voice is the most natural installment of all and opera is a way of using that to tell a story.
“We’re doing it will local people, performing at a really high level, but it will be fun and engaging too.”

Louisburgh Music School presents Dido and Aeneas on Friday, June 28 in the Parochial Hall, Louisburgh at 7.30pm. Tickets can be booked through Books@One, Bridge Street, Louisburgh at 098 66885. Tickets are a25 for reserved seating; a16 for unreserved and a10 for concessions – advanced booking required.