An evening with the Solstice Choir

I had the pleasure of spending last Sunday evening in Fourmilehouse in the company of the Roscommon Solstice Choir. I made my grand entrance and interrupted a rehearsal of ‘This is the Moment’. I had certainly picked my moment!

  I was given a very warm welcome and took my seat at the back as Eimear and Andrew Reynolds put the choir through their paces. It quickly became clear that had Eimear been in charge of the Roscommon footballers earlier that day, they probably wouldn’t have risked going back to the changing rooms at half-time!

  It’s important that practice is so meticulous especially considering the busy summer programme the Solstice Choir is about to embark upon. Things need to be pitch perfect, and every member listened intently as the Reynolds siblings fine-tuned each song.

  I was lucky to get a free private show, and I can tell you that it would be worth getting to a performance this summer.

  On Friday the choir will perform at the official opening of Roscommon Civic Offices at 2 pm before kicking off their summer schedule in Donamon Castle Church in aid of Cloverhill NS and Creggs NS Sunshine Room at 8 pm that evening.

  Later on, Solstice Choir PRO, James Hoban, gave me his thoughts on the choir.

  “It’s a real feel-good experience. You are part of a wonderful group of people who are doing so much good for the community.

  “Over €100,000 has been raised for worthy causes over the last number of years. Singing is also wonderful therapy and so many from both within the choir and outside benefit from it.

  “For me, the choir is the success story of the midlands. Fantastic directors, crew, musicians and members all working together. What more could you want?”

‘I have to play referee sometimes!’

Hilary Reynolds (Rooskey): Hilary not only sings in the Solstice Choir, she also has the task of refereeing disputes and mediating creative differences between her son Andrew and her daughter Eimear!

  “I am proud of them of course and it’s great that it has all worked out so well. They’re close, although there can be arguments about the music!

  “I absolutely love coming down for practice on Sundays. The people are great and this choir wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the great people.” 

‘We want to make charities proud’

Margaret Coughlan (Boyle): “I never miss a Sunday, I’d miss my friends if I did! It’s a fantastic social outlet and I look forward to it every week.

  “Because we’re so interested and committed, we don’t want to let Andrew and Eimear down. We want to do our best for them and the charities and to make them proud. Andrew is a fabulous conductor and with himself and Eimear we are always so well prepared. Being a part of a group makes it easier too, we all want to be performers and all the stops are pulled out. We’re now gearing ourselves towards this week’s performances while looking forward to the next one too.”

‘People come from all over to sing!’

Pat McHugh (Strokestown): “I’ve been with the choir from the start. We initially started as a Christmas carol choir in the Kilglass and Kiltrustan areas. I became a member because I like singing and I like the choir singing. People from all over the county and further afield come along to sing. Having practice on Sunday evening is perfect because these people have time to give on Sundays. There are about 20 men in the choir, there are more women, we’re small in quantity but great in quality! A lot of work goes into it, Andrew and Eimear are very good and of course James on the keyboard. I’m really looking forward to the summer programme now, we all are.”

‘Choir is a great outlet for members’

Marie Gillooly (Roscommon town): “I was one of the founding members and I’m absolutely delighted with what it has become. It’s people sharing their love of music to help others while bringing joy and friendship into their own lives. “I’m very thankful for the friendships and camaraderie that has developed from the choir.The choir has done so much good, it has raised over €100,000 and heightened awareness of worthy causes and charities. We get fantastic feedback from people associated with these worthy causes. For members it’s a great way of socialising and it’s also an a great stress reliever. It’s a great outlet for people.”

‘I look forward to seeing everyone each week’

Vera Cusack (Strokestown): “I look forward to the choir very much each week. When you get to the ‘twilight years’ there’s not many social groups or activities for people my age so I look forward to meeting everyone. I enjoy their company – and I hope they like mine! (Laughs).

  “When it was founded – during our carol service in Kiltrustan – we discussed the possibility of getting together and forming this group and it just took off. I have enjoyed every moment since.”

‘I drive Eimear mad!’

Andrew Reynolds – (Co-Musical Director): While Eimear is regimented and all about the music, Andrew Reynolds sings from a different hymn sheet, or at least that’s the impression I was given last week!

  Andrew said: “It never really comes together until hours before a show sometimes. Eimear and I have artistic differences, she is completely for the music and the music sometimes goes out the window with me! Eimear is regimented and organised and I’m different, I drive her mad sometimes (laughs).

  “It’s difficult when you’re dealing with so many people and they all have different musical strengths. Myself and the wonderful crew usually arrive to the venue hours before a performance, so it’s a long day.

  “Everyone in the choir and around the choir is fantastic. We also have an amazing committee, and since Jimmy Hoban came on board it’s so well run. It’s a pleasure to be working with all of them.”

‘We get it done, it works!’

Eimear Reynolds – (Co-Musical Director): At 25 years of age Eimear Reynolds is juggling a singing career with helping to guide the Roscommon Solstice Choir. She told me that she wouldn’t have it any other way despite the “creative differences” between herself and her brother Andrew!

  “The week of a big performance is always a stressful time but everyone works really hard and brings their A game during performances. It’s always alright on the night!

  “When Marie Gillooly approached us, I didn’t think I’d be able for the job! I’ve learned more from this choir than I did at college.”

  As for her brother, Andrew, Eimear said: “Because we’re brother and sister we don’t tolerate each other (laughs) – you know if it was someone else you might compromise. Andrew has them in the palm of his hand and then I come out and they know I mean business. We get it done though, it certainly works!

  “I absolutely love it though, I owe so much of my own career to the choir. I’ve sung with people I’d never have had the chance to perform with!”