The Start of it All – The Founders
It all started in the year 2000 when Tony Conway and Michael Basquille felt the need for a Male Voice Choir in the County, it would a good way to start the new Millennium. During the summer of that year they set about getting like-minded persons interested.
With a background of choral music and having been members of choirs who won prestigious International awards at Chork Choral Festival, The Derry Feis and Birr C.I.M.S Competition.
Their first approach was to find a musical director who would fit the bill. As you can imagine not an easy task – it would have to be a person who ‘would have great patience, and a sense of humour’. They contacted Deirdre Lee a music teacher in St. Joseph’s secondary school to see if she would be interested.
Article in the Western People.Wed. 2 May 2001.
“The Mayo Male Voice Choir; was founded just a few months ago in an effort to encourage more men to involve themselves in choral singing. A shortage of male singers is one of the great problems of most choirs and with a nucleus of experienced singers, this is an attempt to persuade the less skilled to have a go. Musical Director Deirdre Lee’s (daughter of George mention above) experience and patience has guided the choir to its present standard and they all hope that this and future performances will encourage more males to come forward.”
Of the original members Musical Director Deirdre Lee, Tony Conway, Michael Feeney, Dan McGuinness, & Aiden Brett are still with us. Michael Basquill, Seamus Chambers who acted as Chairman and President for a number of years and John Lally have since departed this life, their memory still lingers.
The first public appearance of the choir, was in The Welcome Inn Hotel as guests with the Mayo Concert Orchestra, we only had 14 members at this stage.Members of the Mayo Male Voice At their first Concert 2001. Back Row Left to Right. Tom Lyons, Aiden Brett, Tony Conway, Seamus Chambers, Michael Shaughnessy, Luke O’Malley, John Lally, Michael Rice.
Front Row Left to Right Danny McGuinness, Noel Lester, Michael Basquille, Michael Feeney, Eamonn Horkan, Jerome Howley. Musical Director Deirdre Lee conducting.
This was an outstanding success and gave us courage to expand our numbers and repertoire. We had 23 members at this stage, and the need to increase was paramount.The Mayo Concert Orchestra has been a great inspiration to us and their Musical Director George Lee, George was always available to us for rehearsals and a accompanist at all our concerts.
At the start of 2003 the idea was to develop our skills and knowledge of choral music and concentrate only on four part harmony for men’s voice.. We ventured to have our own concert in The Linenhall Arts Centre in 2003, again a resounding success.
This encouraged us to continue to develop and hold our concert over two nights on the May Bank Holiday weekend , with David Durham, an internationally renowned English baritone. David is a regular visitor to Mayo and has performed for the past few Christmas morning masses at the church of The Holy Rosary, Castlebar. He has a holiday home in Borradruma outside Castlebar and during breaks from engagements abroad he returns to Borradruma to relax and rehearse before his next engagements.
President Seamus Chambers, Chairman Sean Gavin,
Hon. Secretary Eamonn Horkan, P.R.O. Aiden Brett, Hon. Treasurer Michael Basquille,
Committee. Ml.Reynolds, Pat O’Connor, & Eugene McCormack.
Danny McGuinness, Hubert Glynn, P.Lendel, Ml.Shaughnessy
Front Row: L to R. Danny McGuinness, Noel Lester, Tony Conway, Luke O’Malley, Ml. Basquille, Hubert Glynn, Eamonn Horkan, Center: Aiden Brett, Henry Garvey, Con Lucey, Pat O’Connor, Ml. Reynolds, Vincent Murphy Sean Gavin,
Back. Kieran Keena, Noel Filan, Ml. Shaughnessy, Paul Lendel, Eugene McCormack, Tom O’Hora, Seamus Chambers
Our first engagement in season, ’05/ ’06 was a concert at the Welcome Inn Hotel on Friday 16th September for the Luton Mayo Association who were visiting the West of Ireland, Our next engagement was on the 9th. December a concert for the final day of business at St.Mary’s Hospital, this was a great success and a great celebration of the work carried out at this dedicated hospital for mental health over many generations. Also in December our regular carol performances in Christ Church, Castlebar, and at the various hospitals, nursing homes and public performances for local charities around Castlebar.2006
We were invited to give two concerts in Luton, England, for the Irish Association, on the 16th and the 18th March ’06, in conjunction with their Irish Festival Week, we also participate at a performance of Irish music and song on St.Patricks Day in the Luton shopping centre and at a community hall that evening, The Irish community pulled out all the stops to make our visit worthwhile. I think the highlight for us was our visit to the Irish Community Centre where we met many Mayo exiles and we were able to mingle with them and talk about where they came from, my one observation was the large number of widows, more than 80 percent to 20 of men, the reason most of the men died at an early age was from hard work.
Our annual double concert takes place over two nights April/ May each year at the Linenhall Theatre Castlebar. We perform at other concerts in Mayo during the year and came second at the Sligo International Choral festival in October’06.
In 2007 we started with a performance of sacred music at Ballaghadreen Cathedral on Sunday 1st April, our Annual Double Concert was on the 18th & 19th April at the Linenhall Theatre Castlebar, a Concert in Ashford Castle, Cong on Friday 27th. April. Bank holiday weekend 5th May we took part in the Kilkenny Choral Festival, and during May we performed for the County Mayo Arts Council at various venues around Mayo.
Our choir gained eleven new members including some first tenors in Sept ’08, which we were glad of, with forty-six members we now have a great sound and the future looked good. Our new repertoire included some Irish favourites like Danny Boy and The West’s Asleep, with hits from the musicals and of course the great male voice coral numbers like ” Do you Hear the People Sing” from “Les Miserables” and “The Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves” from “Nabucco”. We are also rehearsing Handel’s famous “Hallelujah Chorus” and many more excellent numbers to add to our already large repertoire. This gives our Musical Director Deirdre Lee a great challenge, which she has proved she is well capable of handling.Our first outing this ’07/’08 season was a concert in Enniscrone, Co Sligo in October in aid of the Lifeboat Association, our Christmas programme consisted of open-air performances at various venues in Castlebar, carol recitals in Ballinrobe, Swinford and Castlebar at various Churches Our annual concert took place over two nights in the Linenhall Castlebar on 29th. & 30th.April. Our final concert was a fundraiser for Ballinrobe Community School which is now ably led by Michael Brett, a valued member of our choir.
We were barely back in rehearsal in September when we got an invitation to perform with Niamh Murray at The Hawk’s Well Theatre in Sligo. Unfortunately the time factor was too short and we had to forgo the opportunity. We got an invitation to perform for a concert in aid of The RNLI Lifeboat Association in aid of the Ballycastle/Belmullet Lifeboat Appeal at the new Diamond Coast Hotel Enniscrone, on Friday 19th October. This we were happy to do and we had a wonderful night.
Eleven new members joined including some first tenors, which we were glad of. With forty-six members we now had a great sound and the future looks bright. Our repertoire for 2008 included some Irish favourites like Danny Boy and The West’s Asleep, with hits from the musicals and of course the great male voice choral numbers like ” Do You Hear the People Sing” from “Les Miserables” and “The Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves” from “Nabucco”. We are also rehearsing Handel’s famous “Hallelujah Chorus” and many more excellent numbers to add to our already large repertoire. This gave our musical director, Deirdre Lee, a great challenge, which she has proved she was well capable of handling.We had a great time on our visit to Hochstadt, Germany from the 24th March, for 5 days. This was our first trip to mainland Europe as a choir. We were delighted to have the opportunity to perform for our friends in Germany who visit Castlebar and Mayo regularly. We had 32 members in our choir in Hochstadt, with our musical director, Deirdre Lee, and accompanist, Leonard Dorian, and were joined by 20 other supporters from Mayo.
Members of the Choir who travelled;
1st Tenors; Michael Basquill, Noel Lester, Kieran Keena, Michael Mongan, Anthony Walkin, Thomas O’Hora, Roderick Moran.
2nd. Tenors; Sean Gavin, Martin Joseph Nestor, Anthony Conway, Aidan Brett, John P. Finlay, Michael Brett, Patrick John McHale, Henry Garvey, Noel Filan, Michael Walsh.
1st. Bass. Eamonn Horkan, Patrick McKeon, Michael V. Gannon, James Murphy, Patrick Kilroy, Adrian Keena,Thomas Devereux, Vincent Murphy.
2nd. Bass; Eugene McCormack, Angus Ryan, Walter Loughrey, Patrick C. Murphy, Lawrence Davis, Luke O’Malley, Francis Mitchell, Aidan Sheeran & Michael Feeney.
Our concert in 2008 was an outstanding success, running over two nights to full houses in the Linenhall Theatre in Castlebar.
With Mezzo Soprano- Anne Marie Gibbons and our good friend Baritone David Durham as our guest artists with the choir of our Parish Church also joining us for a few numbers.Anne Marie Gibbons hails from Louisburgh, we were delighted to have as one of our own with such a great talent as Anne Marie for her first time in joining us. Anne Marie has a great reputation from performing with the Opera Theatre Company, Ireland, to the English National Opera, Chelsea Opera Group and the Welsh National Opera to name a few, and we look forward to her performance to night with great enthusiasm.
Baritone- David Durham, David needs no introduction to West of Ireland lovers of good music. He has a holiday home outside Castlebar where he comes to rehearse in the peaceful atmosphere of Boradruma. He is an internationally renowned baritone, David has performed all over Europe in various operatic roles from Vienna to London. He is also in demand for various film and television parts. You could see him popping up in various B.B.C. productions of “Eastenders” or “Doctors” and in various musicals and films. He still performs as a violinist with a number of London orchestras including The Saloman and the Covent Garden Chamber Orchestra. He is a founding member of the English Chamber Opera Co. which gave a great performance of “Don Giovanni” at The Royal Theatre, Castlebar in March last year. David, a great friend of our choir, joined us in the Linenhall and also on our first concert in Germany last month.
The Choir of Our Lady of the Rosary, Castlebar;
We also had our good friends, our Parish Church Choir with whom we have a close connection, some of our members are also members of their choir. They joined us in some exciting choruses and really added to the occasion.