"Tis the mem'ry of the past
It wafteth perfume o'er us
Which few can e'er forget
Of the bright scenes gone before us,
Of sweet, tho' sad regret!"
Fifty years ago when the sisters of Mercy celebrated the centenary of their arrival in Castlebar, the nuns and pupils of St Joseph’s Secondary School performed in the opera Maritana. The production was staged in the assembly hall/study at the lawn where the boarders resided and which is now St. Joseph's school. The principal parts were played by Ita Wynne (Whelan) and Audrey Jennings (Clarke) RIP. They had such beautiful voices. My role was one of six soldiers, three on each side of the stage, myself, Breege O'Connell (Tierney) Mary Jennings (Kelly) RIP. The others were boarders, Jane Murphy, Charlotte Joyce and Greta Garvey, if my memory serves me right. Where are they now? It saddens me when I remember those who have left us and the good times we had going to the convent.
The stage was set, we awaited with trepidation for our cue, the strains of the orchestra playing "Yes! Let me like a soldier fall." We fell into step with the music, we had to capture, was it Don Jose? Don Caesar? or Lazarillo? and throw him into prison. It was a complicated story of plot and intrigue between the King and Queen of Spain; Don Jose, a courtier; a wayward Don Caesar; a gypsy girl named Maritana; a failed execution and the eventual declaration and recognition of the true lovers and the death of Don Jose.
We wore splendid uniforms with hats, handled wooden rifles and even sported moustaches, and were chided along by one of my favourite nuns, Sr Columba, who always reminded me that she had taught my father also. There of course was Sr Cecelia.
We have to thank William Vincent Wallace for the opera Maritana, the original production at Drury Lane Theatre, London on the 15th November 1845. Wallace won worldwide fame as a pianist and virtuoso violinist, born in Waterford in 1812,died Vieuzos, Hautes-Pyrenees 1865.
"Some thoughts none other can replace,
Remembrance will recall,
Which in the flight of years we trace,
Is dearer than them all"
This year there were more celebrations and I was very fortunate to be home at the time to see a production of "The Sound of Music" by the staff and students of St Josephs. The story is well known: the family Von Trapp and their escape to freedom from Austria before WW2, and Maria. Well what can you say about this production other than it was superb? It was held at Linenhall Arts Centre, which now boasts a fine new auditorium, compared to half a century ago. Everything is so modern, Maria – demure with a mature touch, Captain Von Trapp a difficult part being a man but the whistles were spot on; the children so natural. Then there was Mother Abbess so reminiscent of all the nuns I had known at the convent all rolled into one, the Baroness with her designer clothes and cut glass accent. What really helped carry it along were the dancing nuns in their modern habits and the glimpse of stocking was something shocking! The puppeteers responded with mechanical precision. Splendid musicians with not a wrong note anywhere. The costumes and the set designs, all 87 cast members were a credit to themselves, their families, their school and their town. Well done everybody, including Sr K Friel who thanked everyone concerned with the production. The raffle.... well I never win anything, and last but by no means least thanks to Mrs Mary English for the tickets for myself and my Mother.
|The Sound of Music was performed in the 150th year of St. Josephs Secondary School, Castlebar|