Long wait ends as The Asgard Theatre opens
It was a red letter day - or rather, a red carpet day - as the long-awaited Asgard Theatre opened its doors in Arklow at the weekend.
After four years of fundraising, begging, borrowing, recycling and upcycling, the proud members of Arklow Music and Arts (AMA) saw their hopes become a reality as Arklow's first black box performance space opened above Kenny's of the Harbour.
The long journey to a theatre space began on a chilly May bank holiday weekend in 2015 when AMA hosted its very first concert on the back of a trailer. Four years on and the May bank holiday was an entirely different affair, with AMA able to welcome guests to their own intimate venue on Lower Main Street.
The opening weekend celebrations were spread over three evenings, beginning with a traditional Irish music night on Friday.
On Saturday night, the red carpet was rolled out for the official opening of The Asgard Theatre, which was an altogether glitzy affair jam-packed with the finest of local talent.
Fr Michael Murtagh blessed the theatre, before James Kearon gave a powerful rendition of 'Asgard II', a poem by local historian, Michael Fitzgerald. From there on, one fantastic performance followed another. Avril O'Toole, Eoin Hayden, Karla Tracey and Denise Brennan made the most of the state-of-the-art sound system to fill the theatre with beautiful sounds. The stars of tomorrow were represented by the talented Bri-Elle Finn and Fionn Vigors, while the somewhat more experienced duo of John Bonner and Georgie Byrne combined to perform a delightful jazz number. A poignant moment followed as Ború's Tommy Breen dedicating his and John Nolan's delivery of 'The Lonesome Boatman' to the late Johnny Byrne and John Hogan Junior.
Denis New opened the second half of the show with his pipes and there were performances from All-Ireland champion harmonica player Denis Nolan, Patricia Graham (mandolin), John Nolan (guitar) and Niamh O'Connor (violin). Kiera Broe enthralled with a dance improvisation and there were gorgeous big sounds from Naoimh Penston, Zena Donnelly and Leslie Dowdall before the Arklow Silver Band brought the night to a close.
James Kearon kicked off Sunday evening's concert with another rendition of 'Asgard II' before Cruinniú performed a gorgeous selection of songs. Classical guitarist Michael Stedman, Sara Clancy and Hilda Browne all took to the stage, then Avonmore Musical Society's Jennifer Lee sang 'If I Loved You' from 'Carousel' and society members performed a number of songs from their recent show, '9 to 5: The Musical'.
Denis New again opened the second half of the show, followed by a performance by Patrick Bracken. Young stars Caoimhe Ní Chonchúir, Sean Fox and Eimear Harper (who performed alongside her father, Fran) sang songs they wrote themselves, all of which received a ringing endorsement from the audience. Percussionist Tony Byrne showcased his many talents and The Harper Family filled the air with marvellous traditional Irish music before the evening was rounded off with a display from the Breda O'Connor School of Irish Dancing.
AMA chairperson Yvonne Kenny was delighted with how the opening weekend went and only wished they could have had even more people along to witness it.
'We would have loved to have invited more people to the Asgard, such was the interest and the demand for tickets,' she said. 'It has been a wonderful weekend for music in Arklow with the opening of the theatre, even though we only showcased a small percentage of the talent that thrives here in the town.
'I cannot thank enough all those people who have supported us this far - particularly those who sent us cards, flowers, and donations. I also want to thank Declan and Liz from The Harbour Bar, who answered our call and supported us when we first asked the community for a performance space. As someone once said: "if you build it, they will come…" In the weeks ahead, we hope to show as many people around the theatre and have already taken some bookings.'
To find out more about AMA and The Asgard Thatre, visit arklowtheatre.com.