A home concert for tenor Darren
Darren Mooney was in Newtownmountkennedy at the weekend to do his first homecoming concert in three years - for a great cause. Reporter Myles Buchanan talked to Darren
Tenor Darren Mooney was proud to return to Newtownmountkennedy on Saturday where he performed his second homecoming concert in St Matthew's Church.
Darren gave up his time to help raise funds towards ongoing restoration works taking place at Kilmurray Church, near to the town.
Newtown Tidy Towns, under architect Huw O'Toole, began works to stabilise the church ruins. Half the work is already complete, including repairs to the arches, door openings and window pockets.
The removal of scrub and other overgrowth has also taken place. The project is one very much close to Darren's heart.
'I last played in Newtown back in 2013 and honestly couldn't believe over three years had passed. I was aware of the project and knew Wicklow County Council had provided funding. It is a lovely, old church and is actually based in the cemetery where my grandparents are buried.
'Anything that can help raise awareness and place the project in the public consciousness has to be encouraged.
'People were very generous at the concert as well and gave plenty of donations.'
The evening of classical and Irish favourites was a complete sell-out as the Newtown masses came out in force to support one of their own.
'St Matthews Church is gorgeous and the atmosphere was really lovely. People braved the elements and things went really well.'
Darren was brought up in a household that shared broad musical tastes and was exposed to a wide variety of music and song during his formative years.
'My parents were always encouraging me to join a choir or something when I was young but It wasn't considered 'cool' at the time so I never did.'
Instead, Darren was something of a late starter and only commenced his singing career in his mid thirties.
'I was learning classical guitar in the Wicklow School of Music as a hobby, around 2009. I was in the school when I heard this beautiful voice from one of the other class rooms. It was Lindsey Aherne, who is a Soprano, and she was teaching one of her classes and belting out a song. I asked her 'do you think I can do that?' She asked 'can you sing?' and I replied 'I haven't a clue.' It went on from there really.'
'I basically started singing from scratch. To begin with I never knew I could sing, It's just something I got into, initially as a hobby.'
He then joined both the Kilkenny Chorus Choir and the Wicklow Choral Society, most recently performing in Karl Orff's 'Carmina Burana', in Wicklow 2016.
In 2010, Darren intensified his vocal training, working with 'Irish Soprano' and vocal coach, Deirdre Masterson.
In 2011, his first audition, led to a stage debut, performing the role as 'Bogdanovich' in 'The Merry Widow', at the Little Theatre Gorey. This outing was received with much acclaim.
'That was pretty nerve-wracking. I was so nervous. I didn't even really know what to do with myself once I was onstage but it turned out to be a brilliant experience.
'By the end of it I had made loads of friends, friendships which will be long-lasting as well. Being a tenor is a long road. It doesn't just happen overnight and you need real patience.'
Darren continues his ongoing performance development and vocal excellence, with Deirdre Masterson and also enjoys vocal training with Maestro Ugo Benelli (Genoa, Italy).
He has enjoyed master classes with Aldo Filistad (Sicily), Alexander James Edwards (British Operatic Tenor) and Linda Hutchison (British Vocal Association).
He can still recall his first home concert in Newtown back in 2013 in front of a packed ballroom at the Parkview Hotel. 'It was a big deal to go back,' readily accepts Darren.
'Newtown will always be home and my parents still live there. I was really nervous.
'It was my first ever solo concert as well. You are never a King in your own town, especially when no one even knew I could sing.
'I remember standing on stage a few days before the concert thinking to myself 'how am I going to fill out 400 seats?
'It was a brilliant learning experience for me. I had to learn about promoting the show and making sure the tickets sold, as well as preparing for the actual concert and interacting with the musicians. There was a lot of work involved.
'In the end the concert ended up raising €10,000 for Cystic Fibrosis Association of Ireland and The Wicklow Dementia Support Group.
'I'm always a little stressed when I play in Newtown just because it is a home concert for me. It was the same during the build up to Saturday's concert but Newtown is fantastic. They really come out to support their own.'
That 2013 con cert represented the first-time anyone had ever sold out the large ballroom to capacity.
Darren's career continues to go from strength to strength and he had performed many concerts nationwide, including as a soloist in the Wexford National Opera House on four separate occasions.
'I think my name is getting out there now. Each year I set myself certain goals and targets. People are contacting me more now about corporate gigs where they have already heard of my name, which is encouraging.'
Pursuing a career as a tenor has also meant plenty of sacrifices for Darren. Its an extremely disciplined profession with plenty of constant demands.
'Starting late has its advantages and disadvantages,' acknowledges Darren.
'When you are that bit older you have financial responsibilities. You can't concentrate full-time on your singing because you need to make a living.
'I did drop down to a four day week so I could have an extra day during the week to practise, as well as in the evenings and over the weekend.
'I generally get up at 5.30 a.m. each morning so I can make in to work for 7 a.m. and leave at around 3.30 p.m..
'It means I can dedicate more time to rehearsals and working out in the gym.
'In order to be a tenor you need to build up certain parts of your body, such as the diaphragm.
'I spend a huge amount of my time practising and rehearsing and while it may be tough work from time to time, I absolutely love it.'