K.M.S. Secretary’s Report 13/14

AGM – June 17th 2014, O’Faolain’s

It has been a very busy and exciting year for KMS!

Following last year’s AGM on May 30th 2013, the new committee held their first meeting on June 4th.  Seamus welcomed our new committee members Kevina Hayes, Ailín Farrell, Ciaran Dunphy, Kevin Reade and Sarah Brennan.

Roles within the committee were filled as follows:

  • Chairperson: Seamus Reade
  • Vice Chairperson: Ciaran Dunphy
  • Secretary: Helen Byrne
  • Treasurer:  Greg Porter
  • PRO: Kevina Hayes
  • IT/Web Design: David Brydone
  • Accommodations Officer: Ailín Farrell
  • AIMS Ambassador: Kevin Reade
  • Executive member: Sarah Brennan

Greg Porter later resigned from the committee, and Laura McCarthy was asked to join us in October.  Ailín replaced Greg as treasurer, and Laura took over Ailín’s role as accommodations officer in January.

Our show for 2014 was selected at our first meeting on June 4th, ‘Michael Collins – A Musical Drama’.

Over the coming weeks, our production team was selected to feature Christine Scarry as director, Patrick Clancy as musical director and Gemma Grant as choreographer.  The committee revealed this information to society members on July 5th in Rafter Dempsey’s pub.   An information night was held on September 13th in O’Faolain’s.  Auditions were held two weeks later.

A number of fundraising activities took place throughout the year.  In October, we held a Fancy Dress Halloween Table Quiz in Langton’s.  This was followed in December by two fundraising concerts.  Bag packing was carried out in Dunnes Stores in March.  Tickets were sold in the weeks preceding the show, for a raffle that would take place the week of the show itself.  Membership fees were reviewed, and collecting of such fees was followed up on more stringently.  Ciaran, Kevina and David worked hard on sponsorship deals and advertising for the programme to raise funds for the show.

Early on, the committee recognised a number of challenges that would lie ahead of us for the year – firstly, the proximity of the show’s creator, the late Bryan Flynn, to us, meant that this show would have to be of the highest standard.  And secondly, it would be difficult selling a relatively unknown show.  Challenge accepted.  The company as a whole met this challenge head on, and went on to produce our most successful show to date, as audiences erupted into spontaneous standing ovations each night.  It is safe to say our prize for best overall show in the Gilbert category at the AIMS awards on Saturday June 14th, was well deserved! 

Our press launch was held on March 7th at James Stephens Barracks.  This was attended by Mayor Martin Brett and Fine Gael TD Phil Hogan to mention but a few.  I think what stood out for most was the presence of ‘Sliabh na mBan’, the armoured car which formed part of the convoy that travelled to Beal na Blath on the day of Michael Collin’s death.  Those who attended the launch were also enthralled by the engraved shilling coin, the last piece of money known to be in Collin’s possession at the time of his death.  These items brought it home to all involved that this was no ordinary stage show – it was based on the lives of real people. 

To further advertise the show, the society took part in the St Patrick’s Day Parade.  This was followed by erecting road signs on the ring road surrounding Kilkenny.  This almost seemed like a futile exercise, when a short while later, someone began ‘taking the Mick’ – six of our posters were vandalised, removing the picture of Michael Collins from each.  This was most disappointing until we realised the publicity we were gaining from the theft of each picture.  Word spread rapidly throughout the country.  To this day, the mystery remains unsolved and six Michael Collins figures remain at large.  The committee would like to thank the perpetrator sincerely for their help in selling our show!

In all of this excitement, the show crept up on us.  April 6th loomed and the pressure was mounting.  The show sold out on April 4th, ahead of opening night.  Nervous tension filled the air at every rehearsal, in anticipation of sold out shows – what would the audience expect of this unknown show?  How would they respond?   Would we do it the justice it deserved?  These were just some of the questions running through our minds in the days and minutes before opening night.  I think we might just have cracked if we had to run ‘Price to be paid’ one more time! 

All fears were allayed following a spontaneous standing ovation on opening night.  People openly cried.  The audience response that night, and every other night after that was overwhelming.  A number of important guests attended during the week including Fine Gael TD Richard Bruton, and Kitty Kiernan’s granddaughter, Catriona Cronin, again reminding us that the story we were telling was real and true.  The most important guest at our show that week was the late Bryan Flynn.  Bryan attended our show on the Monday night, after traveling from Cork where he had received chemotherapy that morning.  I think all present will agree that it was an honour to have briefly shared the stage with the creator of ‘Michael Collins – A Musical Drama’.  We were touched by his humility and saddened to hear of his passing just a month later. 

Fast forward to May 18th and the announcement of nominations for the AIMS awards 2014.  We received an outstanding ten nominations in the Gilbert Section – Best Overall Show, Best Chorus, Best Ensemble for ‘Price to be Paid’, Best Director (Christine Scarry), Best Musical Director (Patrick Clancy), Best Technical, Best Stage Management (Seamus Reade), Best Actor (Michael Hayes), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Ciaran Dunphy) and Unsung Hero Award (Billy Holmes). 

Fast forward again to June 14th.  Kilkenny Musical Society was well represented at the AIMS Awards Ceremony in Killarney with the attendance of almost forty members.  A great weekend was had by all.  We received three awards – Best Actor for Michael Hayes, Best Technical and the most coveted prize of all – Best Overall Show.  Billy Holmes deservedly claimed the Unsung Hero award for his contribution to Kilkenny Musical Society over the years.    

A spectacular finish to a spectacular year.  I don’t think any of us could have envisaged the joy or success this show would bring us, when we first discussed it on June 4th last year.  Kevin highlighted at the time the show was first suggested that it would not be easy, it would be rehearsal heavy, the musical score was challenging, and it would require absolute dedication from all involved.  We met the challenge and we raised the bar.  It was a privilege and a pleasure to be involved in such a memorable production, with a wonderful, hardworking and dedicated group of friends.  As the year concludes, we can all be very proud of ourselves.  Following on from the response to our show and awards on Saturday night – and indeed following the predictions of one Phil Hogan, TD, back in March, I would like to quote De Valera ‘The world is watching us now’.

By Helen Byrne
K.M.S. Secretary 2013-2014