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Rev Paul Fitzpatrick cleaning the historic Romanesque doorway window at St Flannan's Cathedral in Killaloe. Photograph by John Kelly

Clare cathedral showcases its concert credentials

SAINT Flannan’s Cathedral will reverberate to the sound of music again this Friday night at 8pm when it hosts a fundraising community concert, writes Dan Danaher.

Cathedral Dean, Vicar Rev Paul Fitzpatrick, is very happy to acknowledge the generous voluntary support of all the performers, supporters of the cathedral and wider community.

Rev Fitzpatrick said there is no shortage of extraordinary goodwill, talent and commitment towards the cathedral.

Rev Fitzpatrick and Dean Rod Smyth were keen to organise an event that would reward local community groups.

This follows in the footsteps of a programme of musical evenings that were streamed live from St Flannan’s Cathedral during the month of May thanks to the support of Dean Rod Smyth and Rev Fitzpatrick along with members of the St Flannan’s Vestry.

The Sunday Selections proved to be a big hit in the local community.

All the proceeds from Friday night’s concert will be donated to the Killaloe Community Enhancement Group and the Renovation of the Killaloe Children’s Playground.

Led by Eddie O’Gorman, the Killaloe Community Enhancement Group organised volunteers to complete a major clean-up of the graveyard near St Flannan’s Cathedral and other amenity areas during the year.

The concert line-up includes Ballina singer/songwriter Norma Manly, Leaving Certificate student and singer, Meave O’Brien and her father, Jim, on guitar, pupils from the Munster Music Academy and the Kennedy’s.

St Flannan’s Vestry Committee are providing the venue, heating and lighting for this fundraising concert.

Speaking to The Clare Champion, St Flannan’s spokeswoman, Deborah Dudgeon said this concert illustrated the cathedral are open to hosting other suitable musical and artistic acts.
The vestry committee hope this event will be the first of several other future performances.

Deborah said the concert will provide a great mixture of entertainment from Norma Manly providing blues/jazz and rock to rousing Irish traditional music from the Kennedys.

The Kennedys include Denise on flute and piano, and Blaithin on fiddle.

“We probably need a lot gear, lighting and stage equipment. The current work on the tower is the start of our renovation project. This work is being done by conservation builders.

“A full audit and condition survey was done on the tower. This involved a huge amount of work. This work is needed to stop the water coming down on the organ in the church.

“Work is required to make the cathedral wheelchair accessible and make it much more presentable for tourists. Restrooms and catering will also have to be provided in the future.

“St Flannan’s Cathedral has so much potential. It is a sacred place, which has to be respected as a living building. It has been a place of worship for more than 800 years, which should continue.

“It is Killaloe’s oldest and most historic building. The bridge and the cathedral are the first two things you see when you drive in from Ballina. It can earn enough money to maintain itself. It is great the renovation project has started.”

Clare County Council has provided a €50,000 grant towards the tower restoration fund. It is expected that more applications for funding will be made to organisations such as Fáilte Ireland early in the New Year.

Deborah visited St Canice’s Cathedral in Kilkenny to see what measures are in place to promote this 13th century medieval cathedral.

St Canice’s Cathedral has a round tower, which is different to the bell tower in St Flannan’s

“It was very interesting to see how they developed their cathedral. It took a long time but Fáilte Ireland proved to be a big help to them. St Canice’s had a lot of tourist information, some of which was laminated in cards. We can learn a lot from what they achieved.”

During his last service as Church of Ireland Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe before his imminent retirement, Rev Canon Dr Kenneth Kearon said St Flannan’s Cathedral is the mother church of what is a very rural diocese.

Dr Kearon outlined the many outstanding features of the cathedral for both locals and visitors.

St Mary’s Choir from Nenagh came to St Flannan’s to sing wearing masks for the bishop’s last service. The male Killaloe choir are going to use the cathedral for rehearsals.

It is regarded as somewhat unusual that St Flannan’s isn’t surrounded by a large city, unlike many other cathedrals.

Due to the rising number of Covid-19 cases, the concert is limited to just 100 patrons, about one third of the cathedral’s capacity, with people being accommodated in every alternate pew.

Families who purchased tickets can sit together in one pod, while social distancing will be adhered to between groups. Contract tracing will also be used once concert goers arrive.

When the screen is removed similar to what was done for the Tommy Fleming concert, the overall capacity can increase to about 600.

Recently, American tourists gave a €200 tip towards the cathedral renovation fund following a private guided tour from 11am to 3pm.

Deborah acknowledged that locals and visitors appreciate the cathedral is a very special place.

“Tourists were asking why scaffolding was in place around the organ. This is being done because water is leaking into it.

“We conducted attended openings during August and September. We collected some money for the renovation, which was more than what we would have done if it was closed.

“People really loved it. People came in to pray.

“The four most common questions that emerged during the tours was the age of the cathedral, the Romanesque door, the stained glass windows and the scaffolding over the organ.
Some good singers who came to visit tried out the acoustics. One singer told me the acoustics in the cathedral are amazing. Singers don’t need a massive sound system when they are performing.

“People got a chance to see how beautiful the interior of the cathedral is during the live streaming of the Killaloe Music Festival. It showcased the whole ‘wow” factor of the cathedral.”

Meanwhile, Dean Smyth has organised a series of four talks for Advent – “Church of Ireland, who are we, which will be given by four different speakers.

Rev Canon Patrick Comerford will kick off the series on November 24.

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