St. Mel’s Musical Society

St. Mel’s Musical Society is a group that has grown immeasurably from its revival in 1978. From the early years of doing review shows, to producing award-winning musicals, the group “£$£”

“The plan was to do a review that was one-off,” said John Kelly, who has appeared in every one of the society’s shows since ’78.

Five years later, they staged their first musical ‘South Pacific, and following twenty years for successful show, the group brought in professional director Leonard Anderson in 2000 to produce Me and My Girl.

“It was a huge step for us, to have the nerve to take the plunge,” said John. The next big step was a move from their ancestral home in local parish hall (Temperance Hall) to the more suitable surrounds of Backstage Theatre in 2003. The use of professionally qualified people has allowed the society to develop their cast and crew.

“We’ve been blessed over the years because the talent was so strong that we were always able to cast leading roles quite well, because there was such a diversity of talent. Although we waited till 2000 to get a professional director, we developed a great expertise in every aspect, particularly in set construction and stage management with Robert Belton and Eddie Kiernan and the proof is there that they won AIMS awards for that over the years.

“Everyone is learning, and still a lot more to be learned. We have a musical director in Fintan Farrelly, who is passing on their expertise in harmony and vocals. We have used professional choreographers in recent years to develop the dance aspect. We have developed a great base where we have very talented people in every aspect of what it requires to put a show on stage. It’s not just about the people on stage – sound, lighting and costumes are so important in musicals.”

The success of the group, however, is only as good as the support that they receive through the box office and through sponsors.

“We have been blessed with great and enthusiastic support. There are some sponsors who have been with us since 1978. The last couple of years have been difficult and this year will probably be the most difficult, but we still have a really good, hardcore support. I really think people in Longford appreciate that we provide something that’s very essential in the community – entertainment and education, of the hundreds of people that have gone through the society. It makes you try and lift your standards, and push on to the next level, which I hope we will be doing.”

Raising the standards has seen the group pick up countless national awards since Eddie Kiernan won the unsung hero award in 1996.

“To be nominated for a national award is a huge buzz. It really created a great atmosphere for us. We were terribly lucky because got nominated for nine years in a row. It raised our profile locally and nationally, and people started to come to our shows from outside the county.”