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June 2019
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2004-05-12 Sligo girl made London easier

London is one of the most exciting cities in the world, but I will never live there again. It is, of course, ideal for a buzzing action-packed West-End weekend, but as a home it was vast and intimidating, and at times very lonely.


Fortunately, for most of my nine long years in London I had as my flat-mate my good friend, the Sligo soprano Anne-Marie Keaney. Music, and in particular voice, has been part of Anne-Maries life ever since she won 1st prize for Action Song at Feis Sligigh aged only 6. During her teen years, Anne-Marie travelled to Dublin for lessons with Daniel McNulty, and was soon winning all the top awards at the Feiseanna in Dublin and Sligo, as well as becoming an all-Ireland winner of Scór na nÓg. She went on to study on vocal scholarships at Dublins College of Music (now the DIT Conservatory), gaining distinction in all her vocal examinations, as well as winning many more of the Feiseanna top awards.


Despite both coming from Sligo, Anne-Marie and I only first met as members of the RTE Chamber Choir (now the National Chamber Choir) who rehearsed daily and broadcast weekly on RTEs FM3. Both Anne-Marie and I also appeared on many occasions with this choir as soloists. Our first real concert together took place at the Hawks Well Theatre during our RTE years, accompanied by the accomplished and affable Alison Young. These two young Sligo singers attended a music summer-school at Bushey in Hertfordshire on two occasions, and while there, met our principal teacher, the inspiring and motivating New Zealander David Harper. In the early 1990s Anne-Marie and I gave up everything and moved to London, working several often miserable part-time jobs to fund our singing lessons. We both attended the Mayer-Lismann Opera Workshop at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, studying many of the great operatic roles, as well as beginning to gather wide experience on the concert platform.


On a visit home to sing the soprano solos in Mozarts Vespers at Dublins National Concert Hall, Michael Dervan from the Irish Times described Anne-Marie as the loveliest sounding young Irish soprano Ive heard&with musicianly intelligence and judicious understatement of style. Anne-Marie soon built up an oratorio repertoire of more than 50 works with all the leading Irish choral societies in venues such as the NCH, St.Patricks Cathedral, the Royal Hospital Kilmainham and Belfasts Waterfront Hall. In the UK, she sang in St.Martin-in-the-Fields, St.Albans Abbey, Southwark Cathedral and Cambridge Univeristy, to name but a selection.


I was lucky to witness Anne-Maries many and varied ventures on the operatic stage. In Mozart, her impressively stratospheric Blonde (Seraglio), her hysterically bitchy Diva Madame Goldentrill (The Impresario) and her first Susanna (Figaro). She also performed leading roles in operas by Humperdinck, Hook, Arne, Donizetti, Gazzaniga and Offenbach. On several occasions, she shared the stage with a young(ish) Sligo tenor.


Returning to her native Ireland, Anne-Marie graduated from the NUI (Maynooth) with BA.Mus (2001) and an Honours MA in Performance and Musicology (2003), as well as gaining distinction in her Licentiate Diploma to the Royal Schools of Music.


Due to demand Anne-Marie moved home to Sligo in September of last year to teach singing and music appreciation, while continuing to pursue her busy performance schedule. Anne-Marie wisely stresses the importance of music theory, and teaches repertoire from every musical genre to all levels from the age of six. 50% of the Leaving Certificate music mark goes to the preparation of six songs for performance, and so, many of Anne-Maries students are preparing for Junior and Leaving Cert practical and written exams. Anne-Marie also prepares students for vocal and theory examinations, the Feiseanna and auditions, and she modestly boasts a very high success rate. Some of her students of course just want to sing for pleasure, and so this summer, Anne-Marie is running two additional courses for children of all ages, with the view to setting up a Sligo Youth Choir and the aim of teaching basic vocal technique and sight-singing, while covering a wide variety of musical styles. In addition to taking enrollments for group singing this summer, Anne-Maries long-term goal is to enhance Sligos already rich musical heritage, and in my opinion, she is more than qualified to do so. For enquiries, call Anne-Marie on 087 - 6390188.