The award laden Charleville tenor Kevin Owens recently celebrated his 86th birthday and received many messages of congratulations from around the country, where his popularity through the years has never waned.
Among the tributes paid to him for his wonderful singing voice was a poem dedicated to him by the prolific Liscarroll poet, Philip Egan.
"I had long planned to pen a tribute poem to Kevin Owens senior. His singing voice has endured over many decades, and he is one of the true legends of Charleville town. Recently, after I saw him sing online at Holy Cross Church on the occasion of his 86th birthday I wrote the following poem in his honour," said Philip.
Blessed with a sweet tenor voice, coupled with a brilliant personality, Kevin began his singing career at a young age and was performing on the Charleville stage in school plays with the C.B.S., and with the local St. Colman's Players Dramatic Society.
His talent as a singer was quickly recognised and he entered the annual Feis Ceoil competition winning many awards including five major awards at the 79th Dublin Feis. These were the Moore Cup for best rendition of two of Moore's Melodies, the tenor solo in which he sang the set 'As Ever I Saw,' and 'Over Here' with the arrangement by another famed musician, Bernard Geary.
He won the McAuliffe Cup for the second successive year with his rendering of 'Cailin na Gruaige Doinne' and 'An Coisire,' and the McCaul Cup for 'Maidin Luain Cincise'' and 'Ag and mBoithrin Bui.' Having won the tenor solo he qualified to compete in the John McCormack Cup, which was open to all vocal solo winners from tenor, baritone, bass, Soprano, mezzosoprano and contralto. After keen competition in this section, Kevin won this most prestigious trophy of the Feis, the John McCormack Trophy, and fulfilled an ambition of long standing.
He has also won the coveted Denis O'Sullivan medal as well as a gold medal for Irish singing.
He has appeared on television and performed on radio on numerous occasions where he collaborated with Bernard Geary as far back as 1964 on the radio programmes such as, 'Songs in the Night' and 'Songs at Twilight,' and 'Follow the Festivals.'
He was the featured soloist with the Artane Boys Band, with whom he toured to America's east coast and mid-west on three occasions, and also released a number of albums, among which, is a recording of the local anthem 'Dear Old Charleville,' and the Artane Boys Band album entitled 'A Tour of Ireland,' and the 'Mass of St. Finbarr,' which was recorded in St. Finbarrs Cathedral, and featured the partnership of Kevin Owens and Bernard Geary and a choir of one hundred and forty children drawn from nine schools across Cork City.
He has been singing in the choir and as a soloist in Holy Cross Church since 1952.
Kevin was the soloist at the Mass celebrated for the opening of the Cork International Film Festival for two years in the seventies. He has also performed at half-time, again with the Artane Boys Band, at six All-Ireland finals in Croke Park, including the famous 1982 football final when Offaly ended Kerry's bid to win the All-Ireland final for the fifth time in a row, through Seamus Darby's fabulous goal.
A keen hurler he played with the Rathluirc GAAClub and he was also a member of Charleville golf club, and here again he excelled winning the Captain's Prize on three occasions in 1970, 1990 and 2000, and is a trustee of the club.
Still hale and hearty, and still singing, we wish Kevin many more years of health and happiness in the years ahead.
For Kevin Owens on his 86th Birthday, Sunday 10th May 2020
By Philip Egan
With reverence he gazes down the aisle
While waiting for the organist to play,
His wife of sixty years knows well his style;
The music starts, he sings "Queen of the May."
No bell rings out for Sunday mass this year
In Charleville, New York City or Rome,
A virus has the world living in fear
The faithful are advised to pray at home.
But still he sings and as his words stream out
Around his town and towns both far and near,
There rises hope instead of fear and doubt,
Up in heaven Mary his words will hear.
Today is his birthday, aged eighty-six
The grand old sage of town keeps rolling on,
How good it is beneath the crucifix
He sings once more for her when called upon.
Oh Mary! We crown thee with blossoms today
Queen of the angels, Queen of the May,
Oh Mary! We crown thee with blossoms today
Queen of the angels, Queen of the May.
Up in Croke Park in bygone days he stood
With the Artane Boys Band at centrefield,
He sang our county songs in brotherhood
With Gaelic men, their feelings were revealed.
How pleasing is his humour, charm and wit
The love of place that runs deep in his soul,
The wayward shot to the eighteenth he hit
But struck a bird and landed in the hole!
The mass is over and the Canon speaks
He reads a letter by the Bishop's hand,
It isn't now the limelight that he seeks
But he is honoured for a lifetime grand.
But most of all he is thanked for his voice
The Master's Voice so constant through the years,
For his talent let us, his friends rejoice
He sings for us through happiness and tears.