Members of the Circle of Friends choir who are preparing to perform in Carnegie Hall
The classic “How do I get to Carnegie Hall” joke may need a bit of tweaking to explain how up to thirty members of a Tipperary choir will end up performing in the most prestigious musical venue in the world next year.
Of course they will have to “Practice,practice, practice” before they perform Handel’s Messiah but the members of the Circle of Friends cancer support centre choir in Tipperary Town have had the doors of Carnegie Hall opened to them because of the role the choir and their uplifting music has played in the enriching of a community.
Beating of competition from all over the world the choir , aged six to eighty, consists of people who have been diagnosed with cancer, family members and siblings.They have been awarded a rare opportunity, a once in a lifetime experience of performing on one of the greatest stages in the world and being able to say they performed at Carnegie Hall ,the ultimate badge of musical honour.
Under the guidance of Circle of Friends volunteer Mary Ronayne the choir is set to mark a most incredible journey that started out in August in the humble surroundings of Templeneiry Church in Bansha where they performed their debut “Light Of My Life”concert to taking to the stage of Carnegie Hall in New York.
After the summer break the members of the choir returned to practice sessions last week with great enthusiasm for the challenge ahead.
A theatre and musical professional, Mary Ronayne, joined Circle of Friends as a volunteer following the passing of her mother from Alzheimers offering her services to help people with alternative therapies such as music and drama..
“My background in music helped my mother deal with her illness.You need more than medication when you are living with health issues” said Mary who enjoys witnessing the pleasure singing brings to the Circle of Friends family.
She wanted to get the choir involved in an outreach programme and started out on her quest using all her contacts and knowledge of the music industry.
“I could have tried to get a slot for them in Cork Opera House but I decided to go for Carnegie Hall when I was at it,why not” said Mary,
“ I received word a few weeks ago that my application for the choir to sing in Carnegie Hall was successful.I was absolutely delighted because they are a marvellous group and everybody is so excited about going on this great adventure” said Mary.
She applied by sending off a virtual audition which was recorded at the Templeneiry concert and Carnegie Hall responded by inviting the Circle of Friends to perform as part of Handel’s Messiah with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in November of next year.
The Carnegie Hall choir for the Messiah performance will be a combination of a four hundred strong professional cohort and the remaining one hundred outreach places will be filled by choirs from all over the world, with the Circle of Friends choir among the lucky ones chosen.
“We had to send on Carnegie Hall the whole back story of the establishment of Circle of Friends and how the choir came about and its role in the community. To be selected for the outreach places left in the choir applicants had to show how music has made an impact on a community.The strength of the Circle of Friends story beat off competition from choirs from all over the world.” said Mary
The Circle of Friends cancer support group in Tipperary Town was established by the inspirational Jennifer Jones Hickey in 2013.Users of the centre come from a wide catchment area that takes in West Tipperary, East Limerick and North Cork.
Located at the Station House building in the town, demand for the services provided by Circle of Friends increased to such an extent that a new and permanent home had to be secured.
Pat Jones, Jennifer’s father, spearheaded a drive for a permanent home assisted by a dedicated group of visionary volunteers.A site for a permanent home at Knockanrawley was secured and building has already started on a new E1m cancer support centre for Circle of Friends.
Volunteers have embarked on a fundraising campaign to meet their financial targets which has been met with overwhelming generosity in Tipperary Town and far beyond.
2018 is gearing up to be an unbelievable year for the Circle of Friends with the opening of the new centre planned for March and later in the year the group choir will head to New York.
Unlike the stray looking for directions to Carnegie Hall that became the subject of the classic joke all those years ago the Circle of Friends choir will know how they arrived at their destination.Yes plenty of “Practice, practice practice “ but much,much more besides.