Music society marks 25 years

Youghal Musical Society celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. CHRIS DUNNE catches up with members, who are aged seven to 80, to hear about the highlights of the past two decades.
Music society marks 25 years
Members of Youghal Music Society.

THE hills were very much alive 25 years ago, when the Youghal Musical Society staged The Sound of Music. This year, the Black Hills of Dakota provided the back-drop for Calamity Jane, staged at the Mall Arts Centre, Youghal. Young and old alike aged from seven to 80, received rave reviews.

Geraldine Hearty, society member, is an old hand at wowing audiences.

“I played Maria back then, in 1993,” says cast member Geraldine, who was busy applying her make-up back stage, when I met her at the Mall Arts Centre.

“Now, 25 years later, I am playing Adelaide Adams in Calamity Jane!

Treading the boards, delighting audiences for a quarter of a century, is no mean feat for the society.

Geraldine said: “The main-stay has been the commitment of the many committee members over the years and the enthusiasm of the crew and the cast.

“On stage, and back-stage, everybody gets involved and it all comes together.”

So she hasn’t walked off into the sunset just yet?

“I’ve loved every minute of it,” says Geraldine.

“I am a singer and I’m Involved in the local parish choir. Due to family commitments I had a break from the Musical Society a few years ago, but I couldn’t wait to get back on stage. I’ve made great friends here and we have great fun.”

No stage-fright either?

Geraldine laughs.

“I’m often a nervous wreck before going on stage. But I do like it. The music is fabulous and performing never feels like work.”

The entertainment streak is in Geraldine’s genes.

“My aunts were involved in the Musical Society at the beginning, says Geraldine.

“They both played nuns in The Sound of Music.”

Youghal realised what could be done in the theatrical sphere following the success of a community event, the Blessed Dominic Collins pageant in 1992.

“The pageant was a wonderful experience, says Eileen Hunt, who is the present Chairperson of Youghal Musical Society.

Eileen was among the 50 plus attendees at the meeting convened at the Holy Family Church Hall when everyone was eager to form a musical society.

“The pageant was a wonderful experience,” says Eileen.

“Straight away we had camaraderie and cráic. The theatrical talent was obvious and we decided to hold a meeting with a view to forming a musical society in Youghal.

“Our President was Canon John Thornhill, PP, says Eileen, who was elected Honorary Secretary of the Musical Society in 1992.

“We had the backing of the clergy which was a great start and important for financial backing. Fr. Thornhill said ‘don’t let money stop you. I will get support for you’, and through his connections; he did. Edmund Fitzgerald was elected PRO,” says Eileen.

“Edmund said, ‘I’ll direct the first show if you’ll be my assistant’, and I agreed.”

The Sound of Music was a community triumph.

“The local dedication and commitment from all involved, both on the stage and off the stage, was the factor that made the show such a success,” says Eileen.

“The Youghal Brass and Reed band were magnificent.

“We garnered support from local businesses who continue to support us and to sponsor us, as well as other musical societies in the area, like Aghada and Cobh.

“We are very proud of our long theatrical traditions stretching back to our first production in 1993. We’ve been very fortunate with the tremendous support over the years.”

While nobody broke a leg, the props could prove shaky at times.

“I remember during our production of Oliver! in the community hall, we plugged in the kettle and all the lights went out!” says Eileen.

But the maestro put things right.

“Pat O’Connor has been our light man and our electrician for 25 years,” says Eileen.

“Austin Brosnan is our sound engineer since the beginning.”

Pat is often in the wings.

“Sometimes, I’m up way up above the stage, managing the stage lighting,” says Pat.

“Years ago when the shows were staged in the community halls I supplied the lights and we used the old light dimmers.”

The Musical Society prides itself on their artistic sets and creative effects.

“Our props are very good,” says Eileen. “Once, for a fire effect, we had bulbs in the middle of red tissue paper to give a fire effect. “There was nobody on stage when the smoke appeared. The tissue paper was set alight! The back-stage crew were quick to put it out and avert any danger.”

Bright, dancing red ribbons did the trick for the camp fire this year, at Deadwood, deep in the Black Hills of Dakota. Everything went like clockwork.

“The rehearsals go on for three months every year,” says Eileen. “The amount of work and effort involved is amazing.”

Of course the show can’t go on without those beavering away in the background. “

The success of Youghal Musical Society depends on team work,” says Eileen.

“Our committee are second to none, really hard-working individuals who pull together to make it all happen.

“There is huge work done behind the scenes, including costume, hair and make-up, set design, and stage management.

“Sponsorship is of major importance as is producing the programmes and selling tickets. Our producers, our musical directors and stage directors do Trojan work.

“This year our director was John Daly and musical director, Dominic Finn. MC Tommy Collins provided the interval act.

“Tommy is with us since the beginning,” says Eileen. “He is hugely popular.”

Eileen stays out of the spotlight. However her daughter, Valerie, played Katie Brown in Calamity Jane, who wins the affections of Lieut. Danny Gilmartin.

“Yes, Valerie really enjoys being a member of the Musical Society and a member of the committee,” says Eileen.

The energy and enthusiasm of all involved in the Youghal Musical Society is to be applauded. Throughout the production of Calamity Jane, audiences were thrilled with the high jinks of Wild Bill Hickok, (Frank Moloney), and Calamity Jane, (Theresa Kane.)

“The children are a big part of our productions and they all enjoy participating,” says Eileen. “Youghal Musical Society has survived and thrived over 25 years, thanks to the energy and enthusiasm of all who have contributed to its continued success.”

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