Studying for stardom

By Majella Reid

Before Emer Barry could speak, she was able to sing. Her parents, John (RIP) and Imelda, of Longford town, saw their daughter’s potential and nurtured her vocal development through classes in Ferbane, and eventually Dublin.

“I was really shy as a kid and I remember Sr. Peggy in Scoil Mhuire making me sing. After that I sang at various school events,” said Ms Barry, who divides her time between Dublin and London.

Although she showed exceptional talent in singing, her parents encouraged her to pursue a wider degree and not to “put all my eggs in the one basket”.

“They persuaded me to do an Arts degree in UCD. I took Italian and music as my subjects,” said Ms Barry. “I then went on to do a Masters in Music Performance from the DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama.”

Then in 2011 Ms Barry received the opportunity of a life time. She was invited to attend the Opera Works programme with the English National Opera (ENO). Only 20 participants are invited onto the prestigious programme each year and Ms Barry is the only Irish person in the 2011/2012 programme.

The programme will conclude with a showcase in May 2012, an event where Ms Barry will have the opportunity to show her talent to some of the biggest names and agents in the world of Opera.

“I specialised in Opera because the music is absolutely beautiful. I wanted to be able to do anything that I wanted to do with my voice,” said Ms Barry, who also teaches Opera and individual singing lessons at the Walton School of Music Dublin.

She added: “Opera training is incredible. You learn how to stretch your instrument (voice) to the absolute limit. Now I’m able to sing Opera and other forms of music. The training makes me quite versatile.”

While attending ENO, Ms Barry will be nurtured in the areas of voice, dramatisation, and appearance.

“I’m travelling a lot at the moment between London and Dublin, but it’s worth it,” she said. “It’s an amazing opportunity.”

Emer Barry has performed extensively throughout Ireland and abroad as a soloist on both the concert platform and as guest soprano with choral societies and orchestras. She is a regular soloist at the National Concert Hall and has performed as guest soprano with leading Irish composer and singer Liam Lawton.

Her Operatic roles include Fulvia in Rossini’s ‘La Pietra del Paragone’, Nedda in Leoncavallo’s ‘Pagliacci’, Susanna in Mozart’s ‘La Nozze di Figaro’, First Lady in ‘The Magic Flute’. Her favourite role however was Serpina in Pergolesi’s ‘La Serva Padrona’.

“This Opera is a parody on a maid who wants to marry her employer. She plays tricks to make him fall in-love with her. Serpina really is an energetic character. There is so much drama and comedy in this work,” she said.

In terms of her own influences, Ms Barry’s first love is Luciano Pavarotti (1935-2007).

“He is quite inspiring for someone like me. His work shows the potential of the voice, which is so incredible. He was all about technique,” she said.

In addition to Opera Ms Barry is also a member of Celtic Rose, a group which plays an eclectic mix of classical, rock, pop, traditional Irish and jazz. The other members of the trio are Aisling Ennis (Harp, Dublin) and Mary McCague (Violin, Dundalk).

“Our style is Celtic, classical and contemporary,” said Ms Barry. “We specialise in taking contemporary music and putting a classical twist on it. We try to fuse different styles together.”

Celtic Rose is currently recording its first CD which the group hopes will be available by the end of the year. One track which will certainly feature is ‘One day like this’ by English rock band, Elbow.

“We have a music video on YouTube where we perform this song,” she said.

From March 20 to 22 next Emer Barry will perform at the Pavilion Theatre (Dun Laoighre) in ‘Weeping Flowers’ by Gerard Dalton. The performances are in conjunction with DLR Glasthule Opera.

“It’s an Operatic play in three acts. It takes everyone’s favourite arias and puts them together into opera, weaving a story around them. It’s quite challenging and I play the lead role of Dahlia,” said Ms Barry.

Emer Barry’s website is available at www.emerbarry.com. For further information about ‘Weeping Flowers’ visit www.paviliontheatre.ie.