Cork sisters record a Christmas song to support struggling musicians

CHRIS DUNNE talks to three Cork sisters who recorded a Christmas CD to support musicians whose income has been severely hit by Covid-19
Cork sisters record a Christmas song to support struggling musicians

The Ryan Sisters: Bandon’s Sister Act ‘The Ryan Sisters’ launch debut CD for Christmas 2020. Left to right, Ella, Mary-Jo and Angela Ryan. Picture: Ivo Yotov,

THEY won’t be able to sing at gigs, markets or church this year — so they recorded a Christmas CD instead.

The Ryan sisters; Angela, Mary Jo and Ella Ryan from Bandon, have released their debut CD, A Christmas Collection, for the festive season.

“It’s a compilation of 10 favourite Christmas songs,” says Mary Jo, who works in PR in Cork.

“Although we are used to performing together, we never actually recorded anything together. So once we had this idea we knew that this was the perfect time to do it.

“We are funding the CD ourselves as we wanted to support other musicians whose income has been savagely affected this year,” says Mary Jo.

“Conor O’Sullivan, of Currahy Studios, and Tony Flaherty, of Sonas Recording, had a huge part to play in the recording of this fabulous album and thanks to modern recording programs, we were able to do everything remotely.”

The singing trio enjoyed the song and dance process recording A Christmas Collection.

“We really enjoyed doing it, especially when we’d usually be so busy playing gigs and concerts in the lead up to Christmas. This was a great way to keep singing together.

“Understandably, things are different this year. We can’t even sing in the church choir! Our mother loves singing with us in the local church in Gaggin at Christmas. She loves music and her party piece is On Top of the World by the Carpenters. Her mother, Granny Kitty Walsh from Pedler’s Cross was very musical too.”

Dad likes to tune in too, doesn’t he?

“He is very musical,” says Mary Jo.

“When we were teenagers, dad used to sing with our neighbour Joe O’Sullivan, who always enjoyed a session.

Singer Ella Ryan.
Singer Ella Ryan.

“It was dad’s idea to record the CD. He thought it might be something different for us now there are no live shows. So we went for it!”

The girls created their own sing-song.

“We’ve been working remotely with the help of some musician colleagues and friends to create A Christmas Collection. We’re really happy with the result.”

What’s their favourite track on the CD?

“Collectively we all love Driving Home for Christmas,” says Mary Jo.

That song will have significant resonance with people everywhere this year.

“Yes, it certainly will,” says Mary Jo.

“There are so many people looking forward to being reunited with their families this Christmas after long periods apart.”

The musical sisters who joined forces earlier in the year, digging deep, located to the family’s garden shed, conducting music sessions for Marymount and Cancer Connect, and raising a total of €3,260 for the two charities.

“It was a perfect place to isolate after being allowed to leave the cruise ship I was working on when Covid broke out,” says Ella Ryan, the youngest of the trio.

She found herself marooned on the luxury liner for 10 long weeks when the pandemic broke out across the globe.

Swapping her salubrious surroundings for the garden shed, she was joined by her siblings to support two charities close to their heart.

“My sisters, who are singers and musicians like me, joined forces with me to ‘go live’ while I was quarantining in the garden shed,” says Ella, who works as a secondary school teacher in Waterford.

“We played a series of music sessions every Thursday night as a way of saying thank-you to all the people who sent me kind messages while I was marooned aboard the ship. Every day on board was like Groundhog Day!”

So she was delighted to get nearer home?

“I certainly was!” says Ella.

“Playing my music helped keep me sane while I was marooned on the ship.”

She put all her music and singing rehearsals to good use.

“First of all I did two performances from the caravan in the garden and they were a huge success with people tuning in from Scotland, Brazil, Nova Scotia, Florida, New Zealand, and South Africa,” says Ella.

Singer Ella Ryan.
Singer Ella Ryan.

Ella’s sisters got in on the act too.

“I asked Angela and Mary Jo to join me performing every week to play music and sing songs from the garden patio or shed,” says Ella.

More people joined in.

“Local musicians began to join with us.”

The gigs gathered legs.

“Because of the massive response we got broadcasting live on Facebook, we decided to set up an iDonate page for Marymount and Cancer Connect,” says Ella.

“Cancer Connect is a wonderful service to be able to provide for people who need it most and we felt it appropriate to donate to Cancer Connect.

“And everyone in Cork and Cork county knows about the wonderful work the staff and volunteers do at Marymount.”

Angela, Mary Jo and Ella Ryan were productive in more ways than one during lockdown.

“It’s been a long eight months since any of us did a ‘normal’ gig,” says Angela, the eldest of the Ryan sisters.

Angela is a full-time musician and voice coach with Voiceworks Studio.

“We accept that it’s going to be quite a long time before we get the opportunity again,” she says.

“We love Christmas and the thoughts of not getting to sing any Christmas songs this year, either at gigs or at Christmas masses in our local church, was something that we were disappointed about. So we recorded this CD.”

Now the sisters have connected to others, making friends all over the world, and they hope people will continue to appreciate and enjoy their music at the most wonderful time of the year.

“We received an overwhelming amount of support from the media, friends, family, neighbours, and even total strangers when we did our Facebook live gigs,” says Angela.

“We thought that by recording this Christmas CD, hopefully people will continue to enjoy our music and remember that Christmas is such a special time, even if it is going to be very different this year.”

The sisters won’t be celebrating Christmas in their familiar location, the garden shed, will they?

The girls laugh with mirth.

“Ah no! Even though we are from different households, and so is our brother who lives in Clonakilty and who has three kids, we’ll be able to mingle some bit.”

And they’ll sing some bit too?

“That’s for sure!” says Mary Jo.

A Christmas Collection by the Ryan sisters is available for purchase from Farrells Newsagents, Bandon, Warren Allen Cafe, Bandon, Ho Kee Chinese Restaurant and Take-Away, Bandon, Enniskeane PO, Timoleague PO, Scannells Pharmacy, Ballineen, and the Opticians Boutique, Clonakilty. The album is also available on iTunes.

More in this section

Sponsored Content


Catch up on the latest episode of Annie May and the Hit Brigade written and read by  Mahito Indi Henderson.

Add to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more