Cork mum’s ‘homeaoke’ nights lift community

Gurranabraher mother-of-three and part-time singer Melissa McCarthy tells CHRIS DUNNE how her karaoke events are raising spirits — and money for the Mercy Hospital — during lockdown
Cork mum’s ‘homeaoke’ nights lift community

SINGING SESSIONS: Melissa McCarthy and her three boys, Callum, Kai and Mason

YOU’VE heard of karaoke — now, with the restrictions of the Covid-19 lockdown, here comes homeaoke!

The idea was dreamed up by Melissa McCarthy, a mum-of-three from Gurranabraher, and aims to showcase the spectacular singing talents of Cork.

“Homeaoke is something I thought of doing to cheer people up during the lockdown to help them cope better,” says Melissa.

“Singing is really good therapy and everyone likes having a connection with others. They are being entertained as well!”

And the keen karaoke singers enjoying their five minutes of fame are also helping to boost vital funds for the Mercy Hospital.

“My granny was looked after in the Mercy,” says Melissa, who with her sister, Trisha, makes up the singing duo, The Diva Sensations.

“The doctors and nurses at the hospital gave granny the best medical care possible. “They were all so nice to her there. It’s nice to be able to give something back to the Mercy Hospital, who help so many people and their families. Homeaoke has raised in excess of €4,000 for the Mercy so far.”

Melissa’s efforts also create a sense of connection in times when people can be feeling lonely.

“Initially, I created a Facebook page inviting people to sing a song live for Mother’s Day,” says Melissa of its origins. “I thought it was something that everyone, especially the mums and the grannies who were missing their families, could enjoy.”

The infectious enthusiasm went viral.

“Most of my music pals joined in, now we have a whole community singing and dancing, enjoying a bit of light-hearted fun!” says Melissa.

“We decided to keep Homeaoke going during the pandemic and now we have more than 5,000 members who tune in!”

Melissa explains: “They make a video of themselves, dedicate a song to a loved one or make a request for somebody else to sing their favourite song.” Corkonians are all aboard the Homeaoke bandwagon.

“Local Cork musicians do live shows for us too,” says Melissa. “The audience reaction is fantastic and we all have a bit of a laugh.”

Melissa, a talented singer who gave up a career in hairdressing to look after her three boys, one of whom has special needs, recognises natural talent when she hears it.

“The undiscovered talent is unbelievable!” she says. “Who knew there was such amazing talent in Cork? I never knew there were so many great singers here.”

The Eurovision Song Contest this month has been postponed and Melissa’s favourite Eurovision song is Linda Martin’s Why Me? She might explore another career as a talent scout?

“There is definitely scope for that!” says Melissa.

Everyone loves a bit of a sing-song.

“You feel instantly uplifted and happy,” says Melissa. “Taking your mind of the day’s troubles and lifting your mood is a good thing to do.

“People living on their own tell me they can’t wait for Friday night”.

Homeaoke is a way to socialise too.

“People tuning in to Homeaoke at the weekend get connected, pour a glass of wine for themselves; they get ready for a bit of cráic. It’s great fun,” says Melissa. “And Homeaoke, live every weekend, provides entertainment all week long.”

It provides a bit of nostalgia for the good old days too.

“Some of the songs bring back happy memories and everyone can join in. Older people love it.”

Does anyone get stage-fright?

Melissa laughs.

“I think in a circle of friends no-one gets stage fright. Singing boosts their confidence.”

The people doing essential work on the frontline battling Covid-19 tune in to Homeaoke too. “The nurses send messages to say they are watching ‘the show’ and the performers in their break in the early hours at the hospital,” says Melissa.

“We have a couple of medics on the night-shift who regularly check-in to enjoy Homeaoke. It gives them a bit of light relief while they are working hard for us on the frontline.”

Melissa has her own panel of judges at home on the couch.

“My three boys, Callum, 13, Kai, 7, and Mason, 4, clap along and cheer along the performers. They get a great kick of Homeaoke.

“Callum, who has special needs, lights up when the singers are singing. He claps along and the other two clap and sing along together. All the kids and teens who participate in Homeaoke are having a ball!”

Everyone brings something to the party. “There is a great atmosphere in the house,” says Melissa. “Our neighbours and friends get into party mode.”

Gurranabraher’s neighbourly atmosphere is really coming through.

“My neighbour, May Aikenhead, is running long-distance bingo in the locality,” says Melissa. “It is another form of entertainment for people.”

She adds: “I miss gigging in our usual venues in Cork. I love the music circuit and I miss it. Trisha and I are looking forward to getting back out there singing again.”

In the meantime, Melissa producing Homeaoke has got the people of Cork singing and sharing songs, and is offering people who are isolated a space to disconnect with the news and connect with others.

Melissa, taking centre stage at home in Gurranabraher, should take a bow. “Ah, it’s great to cheer people up and get them to have a bit of fun,” she says. “And they are supporting the wonderful Mercy Hospital at the same time.”

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