By Adrian Keena
It’s hard to believe Michael is gone. He was a man of music, Mr. Music Man, Castlebar. Whether it be Castlebar Town Band, the Youth Orchestra, the Holy Rosary Church Choir or Mayo Male Voice Choir, Michael’s life was dedicated to music. It is important to record that he wasn’t one to delegate from on high, Michael was a worker, a man who had no difficulty being the first to arrive early in order to have instruments or stands set up and ready to go. He was also one to volunteer for committees. He served on the Mayo Male Voice Choir committee every year since the choir was founded.
He will be a huge loss to the choir which was his brainchild. Both Michael and Tony Conway approached Deirdre Lee way back in 2000 about the possibility of starting a male voice choir with Deirdre as the musical director. The choir has gone from strength to strength ever since and now up to 50 men take to the stage and sing in four part harmony on a regular basis under the name Mayo Male Voice Choir. It must have given Michael great satisfaction to see the choir grow. A room in his house is completely filled with copies of the music sung during the last sixteen years. He maintained his involvement with the choir to the end, attending meetings and performances right up to Christmas of last year. As a singer, his great knowledge of music, helped keep the first tenors in tow. Apart from his music knowledge, he was also blessed with a lovely tone to his voice. It was a joy to listen to him singing solo or in duet with Catherine Macleod from Louisburgh or our own Angela Gavin or Monica Conway.
On a personal level, Michael was the first to approach me about joining MMVC. He was also the second and the third. He didn’t take “No” to mean “No”, to him it meant try again later! Eventually, he wore me down and I joined in 2004. Since then I have travelled with the choir to Derry, Sligo, Hoechstadt, Prague and many more places. I have made many new friends and enjoyed my singing immensely, even the rehearsals, and all thanks to Michael’s persistence! On the committee, we didn’t always see eye to eye, as Michael would have been more conservative than I, but, no matter what we differed on, I always held him in the highest respect and valued the huge contribution he made and continued to make for MMVC right up to the end.
His great vision was MAPA – The Mayo Academy of Performing Arts – a space for orchestras, choirs, bands, schools to rehearse and utilise to the full. Michael was part of the driving force to ensure that this project reached a fruitful conclusion. Now a building has been purchased behind Monaghan’s Car Sales on the Claremorris Rd. Hopefully, the project will be completed and all music groups in town will benefit from it, as Michael envisioned many years ago. It would be a fitting tribute to Castlebar’s Mr. Music Man. To his wife Mary and his family, Justin, Paul, Marie, Michelle & Mark our choir would like to express our sincere sympathies at their sad loss. The huge turnout of the choir for the removal, the guard of honour and his funeral mass at the Holy Rosary Church showed just how important Michael was in MMVC. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.