St Mel’s Musical Society in the Spotlight

By Aoife Carberry

st mels musical society

“There’s no people like show people” – or so goes the song.

It rings true, however, in the case of the members of Longford’s St Mel’s Musical Society, who have sang and danced their way through almost four decades of shows.

According to Chairperson June Belton, while the group had existed previously, it was revived in 1978 after a meeting which was attended by just four people. Thankfully, interest – and membership – quickly grew.

Kicking off with a one-night only, revue-type show, ‘Springtime Music Hall’, the demand was so great that the group were encouraged to stage it again, thus beginning a long tradition of quality, local entertainment. From their first full-length musical, South Pacific in 1983, to their 2016 production of ‘The Addams Family’, the society have made people laugh, cry, and – maybe most importantly – fall in love with theatre.
Several years, venues, directors, shows and awards (the society have won no less than nine Association of Irish Musical Societies or AIMS awards, and have been nominated and come runner up in many more besides) later, and the love for musicals that started the revival is still strong.
That’s mostly attributed to the backbone of the society – its committees, casts and crews – who strive year after year, not to achieve awards, but to whisk locals away from reality for a few hours.

Though they have in recent years hired professional directors (this year, they have been in the quirky, capable hands of Tralee native Tim Landers), the core team remains the same. Emer O’Brien and Fintan Farrelly share their choreography and musical expertise respectively, while June’s husband Robert and Eddie Kiernan have collaborated on some truly stunning sets. June paid tribute to them, as well as to the entire casts and crews who have dedicated time to the shows, and their current casts which, among a number of stalwarts, boasts an impressive amount of new members.

“You have to have the commitment from them from the very start, for their own sakes as well, but the reward is a brilliant show,” she continued. “If you don’t put in the hours, then you don’t get it.”

June also acknowledged the owners of their past and present rehearsal spaces and venues, as well as their supportive audiences and sponsors, who, she says, ensure that a show goes ahead each year. Because while she fondly recalls the good times the society have enjoyed, she is also honest about the challenges they have faced.

Trying to keep membership up is always a struggle, June admitted, and naturally, finances can be a tricky thing to manoeuvre.

“We don’t do it to make money. In the good times, we made money for the rainy days… and by God the rainy days came.”

There are rainbows though, and June laughed; “Even though I give out about it, I enjoy it. I do enjoy it.”

Indeed as that song ‘There’s no business like show business’ ends; “Still you wouldn’t trade it for a sack of gold.

“Let’s go on with the show!”

Irish TV Want To Profile Longford Artists


Karina Charles – Longford Correspondent for Irish TV is interested in profiling the work of Longford artists on the Longford programme each Saturday evening.

If you have an item relating to your life as an artist or something to do with your practice please contact her at the number or e-mail address below.

Karina will be delighted to hear from you.

085 1030569

Longford School of Rock Now Enrolling For Its Second Year

Following on from a successful maiden year, the Longford School of Rock are back again.

Developed in partnership with the Longford Schools Completion Programme, School of Rock is comprised of local musicians who volunteer their time and expertise to help the next generation of young longford musicians gain the skills of playing together, vocal training, learning band management skills, and capacity-building and networking. It concludes with the creation of a live music event and music programme.

“It’s for young people who are passionate about music and it allows them to engage with like-minded kids instead of just playing in the bedroom,” says School of Rock’s Chair and music director Owen Catteral. Longford has really talented music tutors that bring young musicians through the grades but one-on-one music tuition does not create enough opportunities for students to experience what it is like to play with other musicians or play to a live audience . School of Rock allows them to do this, while enhancing their social and networking skills, as well as improving their confidence. Last year, members of the popular youth band Reprisal attended School of Rock and have now gone on to organise their own charity concert Live n’ Loud in Longford Arms Nov 6th in aid of St. Christopher’s and The Attic.

“All the young people taking part get the chance to perform together, and we have an outlet for their talents through our link to the Little Blue Room – a local music venue which holds daytime gigs on Saturdays for young bands.

“In our first week, we had seven young people but by the third week we had 27, and at present we have six tutors, who teach guitar, drums, piano, and voice. It’s worked well. One of the biggest surprise fo me was the enthusiasm the tutors have for it; it’s something they would have liked to have had themselves when they were growing up.”

The second year of School of Rock will begin on 24th October @ 2pm in Tmeplemichael College with an expanded format which will last 10 weeks. It costs €65 per term, and is open to all secondary school students in Co Longford.

This year we have been very fortunate to receive a grant from County Longford Arts Office to help with. “The money will go towards the purchase of some music equipment,” Owen adds, before thanking the Principal of Templemichael College, Sorcha Nic Dhonnacha, and Co Longford Arts Officer, Fergus Kennedy, for their support.

For more information on School of Rock, contact Shane Crossan on 087 4144082 or message School of Rock through its Facebook page at

A Little (Jazz) Night Music

A Tribute to the Music of Stephen Sondheim

Following her sold-out show in the Backstage Theatre in 2014, Stella Bass returns to Backstage Theatre Longford, this time to celebrate Stephen Sondheim’s 85th year with a concert of his most popular songs – with a jazz twist! Featuring wonderful new jazz-tinged arrangements, the programme includes Sondheim’s best-loved songs, bridging the worlds of musicals and jazz.

The concert celebrates the music of the Academy Award-winning Broadway composer and lyricist who got his first big break in 1957 when hired as lyricist for Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story. Two of his own musicals, Sweeney Todd (2007) and the recent Into the Woods (2015) have been adapted for the big screen, and in this new show, Sondheim’s music – including iconic songs such as Send in the Clowns, Losing My Mind and the Oscar-winning Sooner or Later – are adapted beautifully with new jazz arrangements. Not to be missed!

“A versatile singer who combines maturity with innocence, sophistication with sincerity” – Sunday Independent

“…another level” – Irish Times

“Bass is a class act…her voice possesses soul, swing and pizzazz” – All About Jazz

Voice: Stella Bass
Piano: Cian Boylan
Double Bass: Damian Evans
Drums: Guy Rickarby
Trumpet: TBC
Saxophone: TBC

€210,000 Announced for Music Capital Scheme 2015

music networkMusic Network today welcomed the announcement by Heather Humphreys TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, confirming capital funds of €210,000 for the Music Capital Scheme 2015.

The Music Capital Scheme, supported by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and managed by Music Network, provides funding for the purchase of musical instruments to both non-professional performing groups/ensembles and professional musicians.

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys TD said:

“In Ireland, we are lucky to possess a wealth of musical talent.  For this talent to continue to progress and flourish it is vital that our musicians are supported and provided with the opportunities to improve their performing ability.  Over the past five years, the funding provided by my Department for the Music Capital Scheme has enabled Music Network to provide support for the purchase of musical instruments to a wide range of talented individuals and groups, including choirs, orchestras, youth bands and traditional music groups. I am delighted therefore to announce capital funding of €210,000 for the Music Capital Scheme in 2015.”

Commenting on the announcement, Music Network CEO Sharon Rollston said:

“Music Network’s mission to make live music happen in Ireland is reinforced by the Music Capital Scheme, which has funded 195 musicians, groups and organisations, benefitting up to 28,800 people throughout Ireland since its inception in 2008. We are delighted to once again be offering the scheme in 2015 and are very grateful to the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht for its continued support.”

The Music Capital Scheme was established by The Arts Council, The IRMA Trust and Music Network in 2008 as an action-research initiative designed to provide support for the purchase of musical instruments.  In response to the success of the initial pilot scheme, funding has been made available since 2011 by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

The Music Capital Scheme will open for applications on Monday 14th September 2015, with a deadline of Thursday 15th October 2015.  Further information is available at

Music Capital Scheme Advice Clinics will be held in Limerick (Culture House), Dublin (National Concert Hall), Cork (CIT Cork School of Music), Galway (An Taibhdhearc) and Kilkenny (Kilkenny Castle) between 22nd and 30th September. For further details, please contact Music Network’s Programmes Administrator Sarah Cunningham at 01 475 0224.

An Evening of Music, Song and Dance

logo-culture-nightLocation: Ardagh Heritage Centre, Ardagh, Co. Longford.

When: Friday 18th September 2015

Time:  Junior Session 8.00 to 9.00 p.m., followed by Senior Session at 9.30 p.m.

Contact Details: Ann Mulligan, Secretary, Joe Callaghan CCE – 086-8211388

Scholarship Opportunity for Young Pianists


Ryan McNeill School of Music of Tullamore, Co. Offaly are delighted to announce the launch of their new Advanced Pianist Scholarship Programme which will be awarded for the first time this coming academic year. This is a fantastic opportunity for classically trained pianists within the Midlands to take their musical studies to the next level with one of the area’s most dynamic and in demand music teachers.

To the successful applicant wishing to develop their performance skills, tuition (worth €750) will be provided for the duration of the year.  This Scholarship is particularly suited to those planning to audition for College level music courses, those working towards performance diplomas, and to those pursuing careers in music. The process is open to young musicians living/studying within the Midland counties.

Mr Ryan McNeill, also Director of the Midlands Feis Ceoil and a Royal Irish Academy of Music Examiner is delighted to offer the local musical community something new – “As a Midlands based School of Music, it is a real pleasure to be able to give something directly back to the community who have shown continued support in what we are trying to achieve.  We are constantly striving to offer local music students new opportunities, with the hugely successful Midlands Feis Ceoil a fine example.  We are a dynamic, growing school, offering a high level of expertise in everything we do.  Through this scholarship, not only will we be providing a local musician with the opportunity to develop their skills and knowledge, we will also be able to provide professional guidance at an important time in their musical lives.”

Applications will be accepted from Midlands based pianists aged between 16 and 25 who have completed at least Grade 7 Level of RIAM/ABRSM. Applicants are required to submit a 5 minute solo performance video accompanied by a short (150 words) cover email outlining the reasons they would like to be considered for the scholarship. All entries should be submitted by email to before 5pm on Friday 25th September.

For further information, please visit the Ryan McNeill School of Music website – or telephone 085 7799462.

Auditions for Irish Midland Youth Orchestra

Do you know a young musician who would like to join the Irish Midland Youth Orchestra?

Performances take place around Ireland and the group have travelled to Germany (2012) and Dubai (2015) to perform and have had opportunities such as performing with the RTE National Symphony Orchestra in 2013.

Auditions will take place on Sunday 23rd Aug from 10am to 12pm in the Charleville Centre, Tullamore.

All that is required is a minimum of Grade 4 to join (strings, percussion or woodwind) and a passion for music!

Contact or 0876812156 for more information

Professional Development Workshops for Traditional Musicians & Singers

Eleanor Shanley introduces a programme of professional development workshops for traditional musicians and singers to enhance their skills in presenting on stage, publishing, marketing and promotion, how to get gigs, and how to get your music played on air.

This programme is designed to be informative, interactive and above all fun. It is designed for musicians and singers of all ages, and while is particularly suited to those who would like music to be part of what they do for living, every musician who expects at some stage to perform in front of an audience needs to know what this programme teaches.

The Dock, Carrick on Shannon, Co. Leitrim.

Friday 17th and Saturday 18th July

FRIDAY 17th July

10.00 -11.00        Catherine Simon

Catherine Simon conducts a workshop about confidence and stage presence, being heard and making communication with your audience as fluid and fluent as your playing.

11.00-13.00         Eleanor Shanley & Keith Conroy

One of Ireland’s foremost singers, Eleanor Shanley and sound engineer Keith Conroy demonstrate how to choose repertoire, present yourself effectively on stage, develop confidence as a performer and work with your equipment.

14.00-15.30         Caitlín Nic Gabhann & Ciarán Ó Maonaigh

Caitlín Nic Gabhann and Ciarán Ó Maonaigh are young professional musicians who have spent a lot of time working out how to manage their internet presence and how to approach their performances. In this workshop they talk about their musical path to date, sharing practical tips, advice and tricks of the trade to help aspiring musicians take that next step on the ladder.

15.30-17.00         Stuart Ongley

Stuart Ongley has an illustrious career in the music industry stretching over 30 years. From his early days as Managing Director of Cliff Richard’s Patch Music in the 80’s to becoming owner of SGO Music with clients including Cliff Richard, The Fall, Vanessa Paradis, Big Country and Lúnasa. Stuart knows just about everything you’ll ever need to know about the business of the musician and the maze of the music industry. 

Saturday 18th July

10.00-11.30         Rory O’Connor

Rory O’Connor is a Sligoman who cofounded and is executive producer of Sligo Live since 2005. He was artistic and financial director of Sligo Arts Festival and led the development of the Model and Niland Centre as Chairman for 10 years. In this workshop he talks about what you can do to increase your chances of getting into a festival programme, the dos and don’ts, networking, and the journey to the top of the bill.

11.30-13.00         Ellie Byrne

Before establishing her own music promotion company, Ellie Byrne was Head of PR at the Irish World Academy of Music & Dance. In her new company she provides management, PR, tour promotion and event management. In this workshop, Ellie takes you through the steps towards getting an audience for your work.

14.00-15.00         Philip Delamere

Philip Delamere, Arts officer with Leitrim County Council talks about public funding for traditional arts and other ways to fund your development.

15.30-16.30         Elizabeth Laragy

As a music producer with RTE Elizabeth Laragy has a unique insight into the music broadcasting industry. In this workshop Elizabeth talks about what you need to do and how to present your work to get it onto a radio playlist.


All eight workshops will be held in The Dock, Carrick-on- Shannon, Co. Leitrim on Friday 17th and Saturday 18th July during Carrick Water Music Festival.

The fee for the two-day programme is €60 or €40 for students/unwaged. To book call The Dock on 071 96 50828, Early booking is strongly advised.

Longford County Council Arts Services announces Arts Bursary Scheme 2015 

The focus of this year’s County Arts Office Bursary Scheme will be: individual professional artists operating in the Longford County Council administrative area and aspiring artists from the Longford County Council administrative area, studying creative arts at a third level college.

Grants will be awarded to artists to support continuing professional development. The forms of professional development envisaged are: support for the creation of new work, professional development and training, funding for materials and equipment and other creative or professional development purposes.

Artists Bursaries will be in the region of €500.00 though this figure may be varied by the adjudicators based on such factors as the number of applicants and the quality of projects.

Education Bursaries will be paid to students from Longford County Council administrative area involved in a full time third level creative arts course, in an accredited third level college from September 2014.Students intending to attend art-form specific creative summer courses may also apply.

In recognition of the enormous contribution made by Anne Skelly to the development of creative writing in Longford during her time as Creative Writing Development Officer with the County Arts Office, the Arts Office has established the Anne Skelly Commemorative Bursary. The Bursary has been established to enable an artist, preferably a writer, from Longford to spend a week at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre Annaghmakerrig Co. Monaghan, for the purposes of developing or completing a creative project.

This Perpetual Prize will be offered in the early Spring of each year starting in 2015, we feel that it is a means of commemorating Anne’s memory in a manner that she would have appreciated. The County Arts Office wishes to thank Anne’s husband Michael for his generous approval of this commemoration.

All entries for either category must be by e-mail to:

Closing date for receipt of applications is: 1.00pm Friday April 10th.