Tuesday 17 September 2019

How Honor met her very own Knight

Singer Honor Heffernan and composer Trevor Knight created a Dorothy Parker show, and in the process, they fell in love

Honor Heffernan and Trevor Knight (with Lola the dog) are romantic and musical partners. Photo: Doug O'Connor
Honor Heffernan and Trevor Knight (with Lola the dog) are romantic and musical partners. Photo: Doug O'Connor

Andrea Smith

Dorothy Parker once asked: "Where's the man that could ease a heart like a satin gown?" For Honor Heffernan, currently channelling the witty American poet and satirist in her new album and stage show, the answer lies in her partner and musical collaborator Trevor Knight.

By her own admission, falling in love again has come as a surprise to the lovely Honor. When they were introduced on an Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign march in 2014, she and Trevor were at the tail end of other relationships. He told her about his idea of setting Parker's words to music, and they later began working on the project.

It became apparent that there was an attraction there, but they didn't act on it initially. "I had waited all my life for a project like this, so I wanted to keep my head level and not blow it," Honor laughs. "But every time I went to see Trevor, I thought, 'Oh God, he's gorgeous'."

In the face of mutual attraction, a romantic relationship very gradually developed, and Trevor and Honor began dating in late 2015. The catalyst was when Trevor's ongoing back problem seriously flared up - he has since had spinal fusion surgery in five places - and Honor stepped in and minded him. "She's the most beautiful woman," he smiles. "Honor is so kind and loving and she's also very strong. I'm the happiest I've been for a long time."

Honor (63) is the eldest of five girls, and she grew up in Stoneybatter. Her professional career began at 15 when she left school to sing with Alan Dee and the Watchtower. Her parents were anxious initially, but they took advice and ended up giving their blessing as they knew singing was Honor's whole life.

She travelled around Europe with the band and played with other blues and rock outfits before moving into the jazz world, where she has really made a name for herself. Having represented Ireland twice in the Eurovision, she also had acting roles in Glenroe, Fair City and Neil Jordan's 1982 film Angel.

While she has had a great career that has brought her all over the world, there were difficult times too. Honor went into recovery for alcoholism in 1991, and her dad, Charlie, died in 2001. While her mum Breda was recovering well from a triple bypass, tragedy struck in 2003.

Breda (76) and Honor's youngest sister Fiona (39) were found dead at home one terrible morning from carbon monoxide poisoning. Fiona had Down syndrome and was a real character, and the Heffernans were a very close family. Honor and her sisters, Bridget, Grainne and Siobhan, were left reeling from the devastating losses.

"It was impossible," Honor says. "Really difficult and surreal. I think we floated for five years and recovered enough to cope after about seven. Mum and Fiona were great pals, and we visited them all the time."

Trevor, also 63, was born in England and his family moved to Belfast when he was five. It was a difficult time in the North, so life was easier when they returned to Dublin when he was 16. He's the eldest of three, and while his dad Leslie has passed, his fantastic mum Rosemary is going strong. Trevor was always a talented pianist and composer, and after studying geodetic surveying at Bolton Street, he formed a band called Naima and then moved into showbands like Sheeba.

He had a 15-year relationship with singer Gay Woods, with whom he formed the band Auto Da Fe, and they have a daughter, Lillian, together and two grandchildren, Scott (four) and Isla (one).

Having spent several decades in a long-term relationship that ended, Honor was taken by surprise when she and Trevor fell in love. She had expected to spend the rest of her life alone and was prepared for that, so it was a delightful bonus to find such lovely happiness again. With no children herself, she is also thrilled to have a lovely relationship with Trevor's daughter and her children. "It's wonderful," says Honor. "My life is totally fulfilled at the moment and I feel very lucky. Trevor is gorgeous and such a lovely man, and working with him is very easy. He's very gentle and kind and is also a feminist."

Honor is also thrilled with her new show, The Whistling Girl, a daring production that uses original music by Trevor, song and elements of theatre to celebrate the work and wit of Dorothy Parker. She is loving the challenge of doing something so exciting, and as she phrases it, it has helped her to "break out of a wall that I had built around myself".

The album of the same name will be launched this Thursday with a cabaret, speakeasy-style show at the Button Factory, and the show will also visit The Irish Arts Centre in New York in November.

Honor and Trevor are now moving in together in his home in Stoneybatter, complete with her cat Luca and dog Lola. She is introducing Trevor to veganism, and they say marriage is on the cards for them. In the face of such joy and happiness, one feels that even Dorothy Parker, who famously joked of men, "She was pleased to have him come and never sorry to see him go", would approve.

The Whistling Girl album launch and show takes place at the Button Factory, Temple Bar, this Thursday. Other dates include Athy Arts Centre; The Hot Spot Music Club, Greystones; Siamsa Tire, Tralee, and The Courthouse, Tinahely. Tour info and album available to buy from www.thewhistlinggirl.com

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