Milestone for Riverside choir

Pictured Above: Members of the Choir.

Pictured Above: Members of the Choir.

2016 will bring the centenary of the Rising that led to the birth of our nation. This April however, O’Connell Street will have to share centre stage with the renowned Riverside Choir, who will mark a decade of providing musical entertainment for the public.

NewsFour paid a timely visit to one of the weekly practice sessions that are held in Ringsend College and walked into a sound-filled room with all four sections of the choir in full swing. Choirmaster Ray Ryan told us about the origins of the musical group.

“The timing was perfect when I was approached to lead the Riverside Choir. I had just retired from being music teacher at Marian College for 30 years. I am still brought back occasionally to put on musicals. They are gluttons for punishment,” he humbly jests, “but I had a lot of free time to fill.”

The choir has approximately 40 members and it has become a family occasion for many, with five sisters from one family attending weekly. The choir must be commended for providing a hub for this regular reunion, as two of these sisters travel from Walkinstown and Finglas respectively to gladly attend.

While enjoying break time refreshments with some of the other members, Bella Nevin told NewsFour: “We are all here because we love singing. I have been coming here since the start,” she said, while Anna Hevey announced: “We are always looking for men…” hastily adding, “to sing in the choir!”

Unfortunately, a lack of male singers is a plight that affects many choirs but Riverside has a very strong Base section and the choir’s newest member, base singer Morris Boyle told NewsFour about the uniform. “It is a green dicky bow for the gents and scarf for the ladies. I don’t dress like this every day,” he assured me. Morris sits alongside Pat Micheau who was the only base singer for some time but now has two others for company. “We all learn from each other,” he told NewsFour.

Choirmaster Ray Ryan, who is known to this choir as, ‘Tutor’, told us that the singers are placed in the section which best suits their voices. For example, there is a female member singing with the altos at the moment and it perfectly suits her voice, adding, “I haven’t seen a man singing in the soprano section, though.”

Evidently Ray has music in his blood and the desire to pass on the joy of music through teaching still burns bright in retirement. He is still teaching, though now as he puts it, “it’s the mothers and grandmothers of the pupils I once taught at Marian College that come to learn from me now.”

Pictured Above: Ray Ryan conducting the Choir.

Pictured Above: Ray Ryan conducting the Choir.

Riverside Choir has performed at many Dublin locations such as the Visitors Centre in the Phoenix Park, Blackrock and Sandymount, but would like to take on new challenges. As one member put it, “We are all of a certain age but we are not afraid. We are anxious to branch out further afield. You are never too old to join a choir.” Another added, “We look forward to Wednesday morning, I wouldn’t miss it for anything. Sometimes when we perform at nursing homes, some of the clients recognise the music and it is wonderful to see them responding.”

Twins, Tríona Boland and Bernadette Egan, both spoke to NewsFour about their experiences in the choir. Bernadette has been with them for ten years and just took one break to have her son Jack. “You’ll see him later. He’s the youngest member.” she told us, while her twin sister Tríona reminisced about what was the highlight of her time with the choir: performing at the National Concert Hall. She continued, “We were performing Andrew Lloyd Webber numbers and other musical hits, alongside some of the other choirs that Ray leads.” Tríona’s next statement gives hope to singers of all levels. “You don’t realise what you are capable of until Ray is teaching you.”

Prospective members may be pleased to know the following; No previous experience required, and the best bit, no audition required either.

By Maria Shields O’Kelly