Eimear Quinn will be a familiar name to many in Roscommon. The Dublin woman won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1996 with her haunting performance of ‘The Voice’. This Saturday night Eimear will take to the stage in Roscommon when she kicks off a nationwide tour at the Arts Centre.
As a performer, Eimear has graced some of the most famous venues in the world, so just how will the arts centre in Roscommon town compare?
“I think arts centres are a great resource for artists of all different types to be honest but mostly that lovely size between 50 and 200 people means it’s a lovely audience. The perfect size for the theatre”.
As for her big ‘life-changing’ performance at the Eurovision Song Contest in Oslo, Eimear says it was a case of being in the right place at the right time.
“It was one of those gorgeous coincidences where I was singing a song written by a man who happened to be in the audience. I was singing with a choir called Anúna (in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in December 1995) and I was singing a song called ‘Winter, Fire and Snow’ which Brendan Graham had written.
“His song had qualified for the National Song Contest but he didn’t have a singer. In fact, the original demo that had won was with a local singer to you there in Roscommon, Cathy Jordan with Dervish, who were unavailable for the National Song Concert. I was standing there singing his song and he said ‘there’s my singer!’ He asked me afterwards and at first I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it justice but he worked really hard with me and he kept the faith”.
It was an opportunity Eimear grabbed with both hands.
“Just in that moment it entirely changed the course of my life to be honest because I was very determined to have a classical career.
“All of a sudden I ended up having an entirely different life as a result of it with extraordinary opportunities and experiences, singing for presidents and queens and travelling the world. It’s amazing how things can change in the blink of an eye like that, thankfully for the good in my case!”
Luck played a part in Eimear’s big break and she says it has always been difficult to break into the music scene in Ireland and that TV talent shows highlight the struggle.
“It was always difficult but now reality talent shows shine a spotlight on how hard it is because it’s acted out on a big stage. For those people going through that, even though it’s great entertainment at home, it’s stressful.
“Every county you go to has their local extraordinary artist, actors, singers, writers. Really and truly, if you’re an artist of any of the mediums you have to do it as a calling.”
Life has moved on since 1996 and Eimear has since met and married Noel Curran and the couple have two children, Joelene (8) and Marlene (5). So how did Eimear deal with the fame and how did how did it affect her in the aftermath of Oslo?
“For me, fame has never been seen as an objective. I can still say that with a hand on my heart. Fame as a notion is not something that ever interested me and it never will but certainly to be able to pursue what makes me joyful as a livelihood is something that keeps me going.”
Does Ireland’s golden girl of 1996 still watch the Eurovision Song Contest?
“For a while I didn’t watch it when the children were really small but it was always something that would be on in the house. Now the children have gotten really interested in it actually and so it takes centrestage again on Eurovision weekend because it is a great night of entertainment.”
Eimear scaled back on recording and touring after her daughters were born but says returning to the stage wasn’t difficult, in spite of a lengthy absence.
“Oh no! I would live for those moments to be quite frank! It was entirely my choice that I wanted to be with the children. I was older having them, I was 36 and 39 when they were born and it was a long journey to get there and I really wanted every moment with them. But when you’re a performing artist making music is such a joyful thing that I just fell into it so naturally again.”
Eimear is set to release her first studio album since 2007, having returned to recording earlier this year.
“There are lots of collaborations on it with Sarah Class, who’s a UK composer. I have a few new songs with Brendan Graham and a beautiful song with John Sheehan, the fiddle player. Some lovely new fusions and collaborations but the glue is the Concert Orchestra, they’re all lovely orchestral tracks.”
Away from the studio, Eimear is looking forward to kicking off her nationwide tour in Roscommon town this Saturday night.
“I am definitely looking forward to it and the arts centre can expect some very happy and excited musicians because it will be the first night of the tour – we kick off in Roscommon. The girls in the quartet with me and Robbie Overson who’s playing guitar, we look forward to these concerts all year because it’s kind of like our Christmas party!
“You can expect a very still, peaceful but joyful and spiritual time that is not overtly in your face. There will be tears and laughter but we’ll all stop for a moment and enjoy the music!”
*Eimear Quinn’s Christmas Concert takes place this Saturday night at 8 pm at the Roscommon Arts Centre