Tuesday 23 January 2018

Creative Alma's proof Seeds taking root

Alma Kelliher is a credit to a project to help develop talent, says Andrea Byrne

Andrea Byrne

Sound designer and composer Alma Kelliher's saucer-like brown eyes light up when I mention musical theatre and the possibility of writing some. "Oh, I would love that," she squeals, "because I am obsessed with harmony and I have huge capacity for cheese. Huge. I love musicals. Love listening to them, love performing in them."

Her appetite for "cheese" isn't altogether surprising given her next admission. "I never thought anything strange about going for a Sunday drive and me, Tracey (Alma's sister), mum and dad singing four-part harmonies to the Beach Boys," she says with a laugh.

Unsurprisingly, her sister, who now lives in Berlin, is also involved in music -- albeit a genre far removed from her formative years, house music. Tracey K, as she is known in the industry, works full time as a singer/songwriter.

I suppose given Alma's Trinity training (she studied a BA in music, specialising in music technology), and position as one of just five members of the prestigious Rough Magic theatre's Seeds programme, I expected her to be a musical snob. Not so.

For the uninitiated, the Seeds programme is a pioneering initiative to seek out, encourage, develop and stage the work of new theatre talent, across a variety of areas. "Seeds is just brilliant. It is kind of like an apprenticeship. Very practical," she explains. Will she miss the support of her mentors in the Seeds programme, now that her two-year tenure is coming to an end? "I think I will still have it -- which is so nice, because while I won't be on the Seeds programme anymore, I will still be a member of the Rough Magic family. And I know that because a lot of former Seeds are very much still in touch and a lot of them are now working with Rough Magic."

It was while studying for a masters in sound design in Edinburgh that she met her boyfriend Shane O'Brien, of the popular musical comedy group Dead Cat Bounce. "He's very talented, an excellent writer, so I get great advice from him," enthuses the bubbly, pixie-haired 26-year-old. "He is on the same sort of schedule as me. But he actually has two weeks' holidays now so he can mind me while my two weeks of mayhem begins."

The "mayhem" Alma is referring to is Seeds' final showcase -- a play called Jumping off the Earth -- for which Alma composed all the music.

"We are really proud of it, which is really nice to say when you put so much work into something. It's about space and our perception of the universe. It's a big subject, but hugely interesting -- what people see, what they want to see, our idea of knowledge. It will be a lot of fun, and hopefully make people think," she says, adding, "oh, and there is a nice musical surprise at the end."

Alma is from Tralee, although you would never guess. "I am living in Dublin eight years so it's gone, but when I go home it comes out a little bit," she says, explaining her very neutral accent.

Despite her hectic schedule, Alma somehow finds time to be in a band, Pop Ceili. She describes their style as a fusion of Nineties pop and Irish trad. "We do, like, Pump up the Jam, with dee, diddley dee in the background," she laughs.

There are four in the band. Needless to say Alma is the creative director. She sings too. They've played Electric Picnic and will be performing as part of this year's Fringe Festival. "It's a lot of work but so much fun."

In terms of instruments, she plays "a bit of everything" -- even the ukulele and the organ. In fact, the organ was her first musical foray, aged five.

The future for Alma is full of possibilities and she's very positive. "I love it," she says of her chosen career before we part. "It's occasionally hectic, but hectic is good. Never ever boring. It's always in your own hands -- what you're doing. Honestly, it's so great to get up everyday and be excited about work and to get to work with people who are exciting."

For more information on the Seeds programme see www.roughmagic.ie

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