Theatre / “Australia Day”, Canberra Repertory, until 2 December. Reviewed by JOHN LOMBARD.
IRISH singer Carmel Conway wears her cultural origins on her sleeve, but she’s got some surprises up that sleeve, too.
For she is not only a respected traditional singer in her native country who can turn on a version of “Danny Boy” that’ll knock your socks off, but she is a classically-trained soprano who loves performing oratorios such as Handel’s “Messiah” and requiems by Faure and Brahms.
Conway, who originally hails from Limerick, first visited the ACT in 2015 to perform in a show called “The Haunted Celts”, produced by her multi-instrumentalist cousin Caroline McNicholas.
Returning in August last year to perform in a sequel called “Rising of the Goddess”, she made a quick decision to follow a romantic interest and settle here, dashed to Ireland and was back in Canberra again by September.
Now, with a new album recorded at Artsound FM under her belt, she’s planning to tour a new concert show to “Melbourne and places like that,” while exploring her interest in the classical realm.
She was bowled over by Toby Cole’s production of “The Vow” last year and has been introduced to the Canberra International Music Festival director, Roland Peelman.
Right now, she’s planning a Canberra showing of that concert, in which she’ll be supported by guitarist and Dubliner Johnny Reynolds, distinguished Canberra pianist and composer Michael Dooley and cousin Caroline, who plays keyboard, flute and whistle.
The show will mix traditional favourites with original songs, including ones written by Dooley, Reynolds and herself. “I want to make it interesting for people,” she tells “CityNews”.
She says the concert, to be called “From Erin and Beyond”, will have an element of the ethereal but a contemporary feel as well.
“It will incorporate all genres of music composed by Irish people or people who are linked with Ireland,” she says.
Dooley for instance, has Irish blood in him, but it’s something he’s only recently been investigating and he had to take guidance from Conway and Reynolds on how to pronounce his own surname.
Growing up on a diet of music, Conway didn’t discover classical singing until she was in her 20s.
“When I had my voice trained I discovered there was another dimension, they gave me a very good technique making it possible for me to cross over between traditional and classical,” she says.
“Classical technique is bred into you, but in traditional singing you just have to let your voice flow, especially in Irish ballads, which are all about the emotion – I call it honest singing.”
So, what will be the high point of her concert? No prizes for guessing – it’ll be “Danny Boy”.
“I know it wasn’t composed by an Irishman and I know it’s loved to death,” she says, “but my interpretation is for personal reasons.”
“From Erin and Beyond”, Canberra Southern Cross Club, Woden, 8pm, July 20. Bookings to premier.ticketek.com.au