Monday 23 October 2017

Cathedral Choir members set for busy Christmas

Maureen Keane.
Maureen Keane.

THEY'VE both been 'on song' for 30 years.

Tommy McDonagh and Maureen Keane are preparing for another busy Christmas with Sligo Cathedral Choir.

Tommy (78) said: "I'm singing since I was 20. I first joined the Holy Cross Friary Choir. The late Hugh Conway was organist. I was there for about 10 years before I answered a recruitment call from the cathedral."

Under the direction of Charles O'Connor, the 34-strong choir features in the traditional Service of Lessons and Carols on Sunday at 8.15pm.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Masses are another highlight of the festive season.

The choir features at the regular midday Sunday Mass, during the Easter celebrations and at the annual diocesan pilgrimage to Knock.

A Forthill native who has lived in Treacy Avenue for the past 53 years, Tommy is a well-known soloist with the choir.

He says: "At Christmas, I sing the first and third verses of 'O Holy Night'. I also sing 'Unto Us A Child Is Born."

Tommy is one of nine tenors. There are five bass singers and 20 lady members.

Tommy said: " They are all excellent singers. We have a good mix. Young people continue to join. New members are always welcome."

Tommy says he has many great memories of his time with the Choir.

These including singing when Mother Teresa visited Sligo in 1996.

He also sang at the ordination of Bishop Christopher Jones and at the Funeral Mass for the late Bishop Dominic Conway.

The choir practises every Monday night for about two hours.

Tommy said: "I worked for many years with former director Fr John Joe Gannon. He put in a great effort. We all continue to do so and Charles is a great leader.

"A lot of us know the Christmas routine, but we need to refresh it.

With Michael Casey on trumpet, the choir always gets a great reception, particularly on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Tommy said: "It's nice to be appreciated and it makes it all worth while. People home for Christmas particularly like to hear us."

Maureen, meanwhile, joined her daughter Sharon in the Choir in the early 1980s. Sharon is also still involved.

Two other daughters, Aileen and Patricia, were also members when they were at secondary school.

Maureen said: "Sharon encouraged me in the beginning. Fr John Joe Gannon was teaching her music and was directing the choir. I've been there ever since and I thoroughly enjoy it."

Maureen is delighted that more and more young people are joining the choir.

She said: "We have to had over the baton at some stage. Charles O'Connor is brilliant with us and there is a great 'team spirit' within the group."

Maureen was a soprano until recently, when she switched to alto.

She's also looking forward to the Christmas season. Maureen said: "The carol service next Sunday is always a lovely night. Christmas is special. "In winter time it can be hard to get up and get out to practise, but we like to play our part.

"The choir is always well received and it's a nice 'thank you' for all of us."

Sligo Champion