No 1. Autumn 1998
Articles in this issue
Words from the Chair
Ed Kearney and the O'Brien/McCormack Connection
English Tenor is Golden Voice
McCormack in Cyberspace
Saving the Silverware
Sunday in Athlone
Obituary: JIM ROSNEY
Words from the Chair
This is the first issue of a Newsletter which we hope to publish twice a year. In it we will include information about what is happening in our own Society as well as news about McCormack-related happenings elsewhere. Future issues will also carry information about available McCormack CDs, books and other memorabilia. To start, here are some words of welcome from our Chairman Donal McNally.
/ am delighted to write this foreword to the revised Newsletter of the John McCormack Society. Membership is now stronger than ever and there are new people coming on-board all the time. It is particularly gratifying to have members from towns associated with the memory of John McCormack, his birthplace Athlone and his one-time home Monasterevin. Our connection with McCormack aficionados in Athlone was strengthened by two events during this year. In March five committee members were guests at the Golden Voice of Athlone Competition; then in June we returned en masse for a splendid annual outing. My thanks to Met O'Flynn and her colleagues for organising our schedule there and for the warm welcome afforded to us. We look forward to reciprocating that welcome when they join us for our International McCormack Convention in Dublin this month. We also look forward to meeting and talking with McCormack lovers from other parts of Ireland as well as from Britain and North America. The success of the John McCormack Society is due in no small measure to the hard-working people on our committee. I would like to thank especially our Hon Secretary Marie Tully and her predecessor Dermot McDevitt. I also wish to pay tribute to our lifelong Hon President Liam Breen and to our patron John Count McCormack for his continuing support, particularly his generous provision of recital facilities at the QV2 Restaurant.
Above: Liam Breen, Hon President of the John McCormack Society of Ireland, pictured with members of the McCormack family and the then Lord Mayor of Dublin at the Mansion House on the occasion of the 1996 Bursary presentation. (L to r): Lord Mayor Brendan Lynch, Carol-Ann McCormack, Liam Breen, Trish McCormack and John Count McCormack.
JIM ROSNEY May 6 1998 saw the death of one of our most esteemed members, Jim Rosney from Monasterevin. At home Jim was known as "Mr Monasterevin" for all the activities he committed himself to on behalf of the people of the locality. Amongst other things, he was a member of the local GAA club, the Tidy Towns Committee, The Canal Festival Company, The Fianna Fail Cumman, the Community Council, Moore Abbey Friends, the Gerald Manley Hopkins Festival, the St Patrick's Day Parade Committee and the campaign for reopening the railway station. He himself organised many events, sold tickets, helped with the marshalling and so on. In a word, he would do anything that needed to be done.
In particular, Jim was a great fan of John McCormack and made every effort to come to the Society's recitals whenever he could get a lift from one of his family. He did Trojan work in keeping the memory and appreciation of the Count alive in Monasterevin. He was always ready to help visitors and to conduct them on a guided tour of particular places of interest. Then he would use his influence to gain access to places that would not normally be available to visitors. Furthermore, the Society owes Jim a deep debt of gratitude for his essential help in organising our visit to Monasterevin in 1997.He was a prime mover in the recent unveiling of the McCormack plaque presented by the present John Count McCormack to Monasterevin in June 1997.
Jim was buried in St Evin's Cemetery on 9 May. At his funeral he was mourned by his relatives and a large circle of friends and neighbours who came from far and near. The John McCormack Society was represented by Marie Tully and Dermot McDevitt. Dermot sang one of Jim's favourite pieces of music, Franck's "Panis Angelicus" at the funeral Mass.
Jim Rosney left school at 13 and worked as a telegram boy. Later he educated himself to a standard which gained him an Inspector's post with the Department of Posts and Telegraphs, an occupation that kept him away from Monasterevin for 45 years. However, when he retired 25 years ago he returned there with a wealth of talent and experience that he devoted to the betterment of the locality. With his passing, Monasterevin has lost one of its most illustrious sons. Although he was within months of his 90th birthday, he was full active to the end. he was a man that was always assiduously occupied in helping others and in looking after the welfare of his local community.
Ar dheisldimh De go raibh a anam dhilis.
Ed Kearney and the O'Brien/McCormack connection
E P Kearney and his younger brothers were boy sopranos in the Dublin Pro-Cathedral Palestrina Choir in 1930 when the choir's famous director Vincent O'Brien was given an honorary Doctorate by University College Dublin. It was at this time that Dr O'Brien was presented with a painting of himself in his Doctoral robes at a function in the Mansion House. One of the guests at that function was John McCormack, of course, had been a pupil of O'Brien and a member of the Palestrina Choir many years before. Ed Kearney had travelled with the Palestrina Choir on the first Irish pilgrimage to Lourdes in 1928. The following year he sang at the celebrations in the Phoenix Park to mark the centenary of Catholic Emancipation and was back at the same venue in 1932 for the Eucharistic Congress. John McCormack was the soloist at the special open-air Mass held in the park and Ed Kearney was selected to assist the great tenor by turning the pages of his music.
Below: Ed Kearney with Donal McNally
ENGLISH TENOR IS GOLDEN VOICE
Pictured at the final of the 1998 Golden Voice of Athlone are (I to r): David Busby of Esso Ireland, Alfred Boe and John Count McCormack.
Lancashire tenor Alfred Boe was the winner of this year's Golden Voice of Athlone competition. His programme of music by Puccini, Tchaikovsky and Verdi made him a popular victor with the audience of several hundred: but it has to be said that the generally high standard of performance didn't make it easy for the adjudicators in making their final choice. Five of the Society's committee members attended the final of the competition at the Hodson Bay Hotel on 6 March at which our Patron, John Count McCormack, was one of the special guests. The Golden Voice of Athlone, which is sponsored by Esso Ireland, is well established as a vehicle for assisting young singers to achieve recognition and to further their studies. As a direct result of his victory this year, Alfred Boe has already appeared with the National Symphony Orchestra at Dublin's National Concert Hall. On Friday 22 May he joined baritone Mark Holland and two distinguished Irish singers, soprano Lynda Lee and mezzo Alison Browner in an opera gala conducted by Proinnsias 6 Duinn. Boe sang arias from Mozart's Magic Flute, Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin and Puccini's Tosca as well as the tenor/baritone duet "0 Mimi, tu piu non tomi" from La Boheme.
McCormack in cyberspace There is a great deal of John McCormack lore currently available to anyone with access to the Internet. As well as details of John's life and career, surfers can zone in on things like an alphabetical listing of John's 800 or so recordings, broadcast transcriptions and film footage. You can also find out exactly what is currently available on compact discs, and where you can get them. Call e-mail: email@example.com
Saving the silverware Early this year it came to our notice that four items of silverware belonging to John McCormack were being auctioned by Adams in Dublin. The items were: Catalogue No 269: Edwardian plain rectangular card case, the body inscribed "From George to John 14-6-1910". Valued: £150-£250. Catalogue No 270: George V large cigarette case with engine-turned decoration inscribed "John Count McCormack' inside the cover. Presentation inscription "In gratitude to John McCormack from the Marist Fathers, Dundalk". Valued: £150-£250. Catalogue No 271: George V Scottish circular large ceremonial brooch with engraved bands of Celtic intertwined decoration. Centre inset with large semi-precious stones: Valued: £700-£1,000. Catalogue No 272: Victorian rectangular cigarette case engine-turned decoration crest and monogram. Valued :£80-£120. The Society succeeded in purchasing Item No 269. Thus the card case given to McCormack as a 26th birthday present back in 1910 was presented to John's grandson, the present John Count McCormack, on the occasion of his 50th birthday in March.
SUNDAY IN ATHLONE
Paul Duffy reports on a pilgrimage to John McCormack's birthplace On 28 June, on a typically Irish mixed-weather summer Sunday, a large group of members travelled by special bus from Dublin to John's home town ofAthlone. At Athlone Castle, the focal point of the outing, our pilgrimage had to compete with the carnival atmosphere of a regatta weekend centred on the adjacent River Shannon, but nobody was complaining. After a pleasant meal, which some hardy members took alfresco, we visited the Castle's museum, where there is a small collection of McCormack memorabilia on display. I may be mistaken, but I seem to recall that there were more artefacts on view in the museum some years ago. As it is, the present display leaves a lot to be desired both in content and presentation. We also watched an interesting McCormack audio-visual show. This has a fairly basic commentary spoken by Bill Golding and features photographs which some of our members had not seen before. The presentation also offers a Madame Tussaud-type tableaux in which a not-particular-ly flattering wax image of John is seen singing in a typical eyes-closed stance. Some of us went to have a look at the bust of McCormack which is located near the bridge across the Shannon. This was designed by Seamus Murphy and unveiled on or close to the 14th June in 1970. We also took in the house at Bawn, now occupied by a Chinese take-away restaurant, which carries a commemorative plaque proclaiming it to be the former home of the McCormack family. This is now being disputed by some people who claim that it was in fact the house next-door that was the true McCormack home. We look forward to unravelling that one! At Athlone's intimate and very comfortable Little Theatre we were given a recital of McCormack recordings by Noel Henry. Because of our late arrival at the venue, Noel's presentation had to be shortened, but that didn't diminish his enthusiasm, his knowledge, or his infectious pleasure in his subject. It was a most enjoyable concert and we look for ward to having Noel give us a full evening's recital at the QV2 in the not-too-distant future. All told, it was a great day out, for which much of the credit and thanks must go to our Athlone friends Mel O'Flynn and Noel Henry.
Some of the large group of members who travelled to Athlone on 28 June.
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