“EACH occasion and each achievement in life should be marked as distinctive and as individual as you are.”
So says renowned performing artist Amanda Neri, who has sung for presidents and ambassadors.
Based in Kinsale, Amanda has founded VIP Celebrant Services to mark the important meaningful milestones in our lives.
“Live, Love, Celebrate, is the motto,” says Amanda, who has performed in arenas, theatres, and concert halls all over the world.
Amanda now also officiates at weddings, commitments, elopements, personal achievements, gender reveals, baby naming, transitions, adoptions, graduations, coming of age, communions, confirmations, new job, milestones, divorce, house blessing, memorials, funerals, and life celebration memorials.
“I think my role as an opera singer can only compliment a unique, special event in people’s lives,” says Amanda. “In fact, the role of Ceremonialist came about due to many requests I received to officiate as a celebrant both at home and abroad, leading to me founding VIP Celebrant services.”
So can we expect a verse from The Marriage of Figaro, or Maria Lanza’s Neapolitan Love Song at the family wedding if Amanda is willing to perform?
“You can have whatever music or songs that you want!” says Amanda.
“Incorporating beautiful songs and music greatly enhances any occasion.”
Amanda is a passionate opera singer. Performing for appreciative audiences here and abroad is her forte.
When did she find her ‘voice’?
“There was nothing else in my head when I was young,” Amanda says.
She kept her dream of singing alive growing up.
“Due to life circumstances, I was a mature music student before I performed in public as an opera singer.
“At school, it was recognised that I had a powerful voice. I entered and won a few competitions even though I was quite shy,” says Amanda.
“It didn’t look like I was destined for the stage.”
But being involved in drama, Cork Arts and in the Irish School of Performing Arts on George’s Quay, Cork, writing two musicals, it seemed that Amanda’s stars were aligned to step into the limelight.
“That led to me opening my own school to coach performers,” she says.
“One of the teachers there, Mary Wilson, knew I loved to sing. One evening when a student failed to turn up we locked the doors to the dance studio. ‘We’ll have a session’ Mary said, and I left off some steam!”
Amanda hit the high notes and when Mary suggested she should close the school and take up singing professionally, Amanda knew her friend had struck the right chord.
“I didn’t think that was realistic,” says Amanda. “And there was a shortage of grants.”
But where there’s a will and a way; the passion will win out.
“I started singing with Aileen Scriven in the Cork School of Music,” says Amanda.
“Both Aileen and musical director, Mary McSweeney, were hugely supportive to me. Recognising I had no musical background, they encouraged me to take the entrance exam and study for a music degree.”
Amanda was living her passion and she proved a diligent student.
“I gained huge confidence during that time and mostly by word of mouth, I was asked to perform on stage at concerts and musical events. I had some wonderful experiences and I met some fantastic people,” says Amanda.
“I sang with the Colin Block County Choir, I was invited to sing at operatics and oratoricals; I was even invited to sing at Chekov House in Russia!”
Amanda hits the right note nearer home too.
“I sang at the Lusitania Memorial event, and with the cast of Riverdance,” she says.
“I sang for Mary McAleese. I feel very lucky. And I feel lucky to be able to support great charities like the Alzheimer Society. It is heart-warming to see people with dementia or Alzheimer’s respond so positively to music and singing. I value and appreciate the great responsive results. It can be a humbling experience too when you see these people enjoying the songs and remembering the words. They become themselves again in those moments.”
Then, last year, she completed her diploma with the, IIOC — Irish Institute Of Celebrants.
“I got 100% full marks,” she adds proudly.
Now she’s going full steam ahead with a song in her heart.
“I believe that each individual has one chance to make one day the most special day of their lives,” Amanda says.
“And if I can facilitate that, making people happy, making memories; then that’s what I really want to do.”
She works closely with the individuals and their loved ones to carve out that special memory forever. She celebrates the beginning of life, the end of life and the memorable journeys going through life.
“Celebrating the joy of life is a wonderful event everywhere,” says Amanda.
End of life is as significant as the beginning of life.
“It is important to get correct closure within the person’s belief system validating their life,” says Amanda.
“The healing process is important. A life tribute ceremony for the family helps with that.”
It is important that our loved ones’ wishes are carried out.
“When loved ones’ last requests are carried out, the family are at their happiest,” says Amanda.
“It gives them a sense of acceptance and of ease.”
How do people celebrate important milestones?
“There are various ways. One group of friends hosted an afternoon tea to celebrate their friend’s life. Another family wrote their dearest memories and put the notes in a vase to give to the nearest relative of a loved one, while others held a candle ceremony, each carrying a candle representing the miracle of life.
“Often, comedic pieces are performed too. It all depends on people’s state of mind and how they want to celebrate/ remember their loved one.”
There is no template to celebrate life, love and happiness.
“Everyone has their own unique story,” says Amanda.
And she brings each unique story to life.
During the Covid-19 restrictions, Amanda has been offering services online, to funeral homes and families, as celebrant or singer.
And as Covid-19 restrictions are relaxed further this month, it means summer weddings may happen in 2020 after all.
See www.vipcelebrantservices. com