Pupils will take centre stage at Opera House

The annual Christmas Concert at Cork Opera House has sold out — 1,000 tickets! MARIA ROLSTON talks to the schools involved
Pupils will take centre stage at Opera House
Shauna Jane Kenny, Bella Las Heras and Lauren O'Mahony, members of the St. Columbas GNS School Choir, during rehearsals for the Christmas Concert.EEjob 30/11/2017.Echo Features.St. Columbas Girls National School with facility for Deaf Children School Choir, who will perform in the Christmas Concert at Cork Opera House, at St. Columbas Girls National School, Douglas, Cork. Picture: Jim Coughlan

IT’S fast becoming a Cork Christmas tradition and is already drawing comparisons to the Late Late Toy Show due the high level of competition for the chance to take part in the show — never mind the demand for tickets!

Now in its third year, the Cork Opera House Christmas Concert will see choirs from two Cork schools — St Columba’s Girls National School with Facility for Deaf Children, and St Francis’ College, Rochestown — join professional musicians including Molly Lynch, Cara O’Sullivan and Paul Dunela, on stage to perform with the Cork Opera House Orchestra and Cork Chamber Choir, after being selected from schools all over Cork who auditioned to take part in the concert.

St. Columbas GNS School Choir during rehearsals for the Christmas Concert.Picture: Jim Coughlan
St. Columbas GNS School Choir during rehearsals for the Christmas Concert.Picture: Jim Coughlan

And according to teacher, Laura Lomasmey, the reaction of the fifth and sixth class pupils from St Columba’s Girls National School was “absolutely priceless” when they were told they had been chosen as the primary school choir.

“It’s a really big deal to take part in the concert. We submitted a video clip of the choir singing for the audition and had two weeks of anxious waiting before we heard anything, but when we finally found out we’d been selected we did a bit of a twist on things when telling the choir,” said Laura, who says she has an equal role in the choir along with teachers Geraldine Canty, Karen McKevitt, Jennifer O’Leary and school principal and accompanist, Karen O’Sullivan.

“We were having a regular Thursday after- school rehearsal and once we gathered the choir together, we told them we had some very sad news, that we hadn’t been selected and there were lots of very sad faces in the room for a few seconds... until we told them we were only joking and that we’d actually been selected! Their reaction was absolutely priceless. They were jumping up and down and hugging each other with excitement!

Sisters, Arden and Arissa Mallari, members of the St. Columbas GNS School Choir, during rehearsals for the Christmas Concert.Picture: Jim Coughlan
Sisters, Arden and Arissa Mallari, members of the St. Columbas GNS School Choir, during rehearsals for the Christmas Concert.Picture: Jim Coughlan

“This is the biggest event we’ve ever been invited to perform at and I think the girls realise how special it is to have been selected. We’re the only primary school in Cork to be part of the concert, which we were delighted with and we’re really looking forward to it.”

The choir of 56 girls and one boy, Callum Hourigan-O’Shea, from the schools deaf facility, will sing two songs during the concert, When Christmas Comes To Town from the movie Polar Express and A Winter Song, and are fairly accustomed to performing in public.

“Christmas is always a busy time for the choir. We usually sing in nursing homes in the run up to Christmas and provide entertainment at the Cork Chartered Accounts annual dinner in Maryborough House Hotel, and we sometimes sing in the AIB Bank at Cork Airport as well. We enjoy spreading the festive cheer and we’re deeply honoured to have been chosen for the Cork Opera House Christmas Concert. We’re very proud because we feel it’s a big achievement for the school,” she said.

Not far from Douglas, the choir of neighbouring all boys secondary school, St Francis’ Capuchin College in Rochestown, were also celebrating their selection for the concert.

The-25 member male voice choir of fourth, fifth and sixth year students are gearing up for the already sold out concert in the 1,000 seater Opera House.

“This is a really big occasion for the choir. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for the boys and their families and an incredible chance for them to perform with professional musicians,” said school choir mistress, Marion Leen.

Senior choir; Pupils of St Francis College, Rochestown, practice with teacher Ms Marion Leen. The choir will be taking part in the Cork Opera House Christmas concert.Pic; Larry Cummins
Senior choir; Pupils of St Francis College, Rochestown, practice with teacher Ms Marion Leen. The choir will be taking part in the Cork Opera House Christmas concert.Pic; Larry Cummins

St Francis College is the only all boys school in Munster offering Music to Leaving Certificate level and Ms Leen explained that all the choir members are studying music as a Leaving Cert subject.

“We have a very strong tradition of music choral singing in the college and we attract a lot of students to the school for that reason, particularly to study music for Leaving Cert. Quite a lot of past pupils have gone on to teach or perform music professionally,” said Ms Leen, who has been teaching in the college for 20 years.

“The Opera House Concert really is a big opportunity for the boys and I just want them to get the most out of the experience,” she added.

The St. Francis College choir will sing three pieces, Little Drummer Boy, Fairytale Of New York and Do You Hear What I Hear during the Christmas Concert which will be hosted by Corkman and former TV presenter Joe O’Shea, who said that the Opera House has been “at the heart of Christmas in Cork” since his childhood.

“This will be my first Christmas back home after many years away and for me, Christmas in Cork has always been about music — from the sounds of carols on our streets and in our churches to sing-songs at home and in the places we socialise. I’m looking forward to a special night, the season’s highlight for all music lovers on Leeside,” he said.

Senior choir; Pupils of St Francis College, Rochestown who will be taking part in the Cork Opera House Christmas concert.Pic; Larry Cummins
Senior choir; Pupils of St Francis College, Rochestown who will be taking part in the Cork Opera House Christmas concert.Pic; Larry Cummins

Molly Lynch, star of the Opera House’s 2016 pantomime, Cinderella, who is currently wowing audiences across the UK starring in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard, will also perform in the concert along with Faye and Sophia Herlihy, who starred as Annie and one of the orphans in the venue’s sell out summer musical.

Cork Opera House CEO Eibhlín Gleeson said: “We’ve got an absolutely super line up for this year’s concert, which in many ways reflects the range of wonderful artists we’ve had on our stage this year. We’re particularly proud of the number of homegrown artists and musicians of genuinely international quality that we can put on our stage.”

The sold-out Cork Opera House Christmas Concert takes place on Monday, December 18.

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