Singing her way to success

by Patrick Conboy

Maria MatthewsFor some time now, Maria Matthews has been wowing judges and audiences at Feis Ceoil competitions with her exceptional singing talent. She was even awarded a bursary to further her development as a classical vocalist  after she clinched first place at the Sligo Feis Ceoil earlier this year.

“I took part in three comptitions, and they found the winner of the bursary by adding up each contestant’s total scores from each competition and finding the average,” says Maria, who hails from Moyne in County Longford. “This year I did an oratorio, or sacred solo, which is basically a religious song. I sang ‘How Beautiful are the Feet’ from Handel’s ‘Messiah’. I also performed a solo from a musical, ‘I Dreamed A Dream’, from ‘Les Misérables’, and then I did the vocal solo where I had to sing two contrasting pieces, so I did another piece by Handel called ‘Lascia ch’io Pianga’ from the opera ‘Rinaldo’.”

Maria also received recognition from the judges at the Dublin competition, where she found herself up against vocalists from across the globe. “People come from Germany, America, and other countries all over the world for the Dublin Feis Ceoil,” she explains. “I only entered one competition there this year because I was studying for my Leaving Cert, and there would have been a lot of pressure if I had done any more. I entered the Vocal Solo Under-18 section, where everyone has to sing the same piece of music first, and then the judges call back the finalists based on those performances and they get to sing a second piece of music. There were 22 in the competition, and only seven got a callback, and I was one of those. I didn’t finish first or second, but I received a commendation.”

The young soprano has been training as a vocalist since her primary school days. “I’ve been having lessons with Derek Mahady in Rooskey since I was 10 years-old,” she reveals. “I also train with Edith Forrest, who is a lecturer in DIT. Edith was actually Derek’s vocal coach when he was in the college, and he recommended me to her and arranged an audition.”

With her first year of college on the horizon, it comes as no surprise that she wants her studies to focus on music. And she has a choice to make, after being accepted by DIT, Maynooth and Trinity after auditioning at all three colleges. “The place I really want to go to is DIT,” Maria confesses. “I’d love to do performance or vocal coaching. The coarse in DIT is very broad and you can branch tino many different areas. I don’t have to make a decision until my third year, so I still have time to think about it.”