The Mayo Nightingale to be remembered in his home town

To celebrate the life of John ‘Jack’ Feeney, 'The Mayo Nightingale', an evening of story and song will be presented by Mayo County Council’s Arts Service and Ballina Municipal District in Swinford Cultural Centre on Friday, September 23.

To honour the great Swinford Tenor, a commemorative bronze Memorial Plaque has been generously commissioned by Mr Pat O’Conno from Swinford and this laque will be formally unveiled on the evening. The event is open to the public and all are invited to join in the celebration which will commence at 7pm

Award winning radio producer Harry Bradshaw, an expert on Jack’s work, will present an illustrated lecture on the life and times of the great Mayo tenor. In the 1970’s, while researching Feeney, Bradshaw met with his wife Maura who entrusted him with five boxes of Jack’s records, tapes and memorabilia which has now become the established archive of the tenor’s voice and life. Harry released a double album, A tribute to Jack Feeney, containing a cross-section of recordings and live performances from his early career in the 1930’s through to the 1960’s.

Harry Bradshaw’s lecture will be followed by a concert by renowned classical tenor, Frank Naughton, who will sing songs from Jack’s repertoire. Frank is a full-time classical tenor who has been singing since he could talk! His debut album, The Power Within was released in 2003 to great acclaim and was followed by Ovation in 2006. His third album Come What May in 2008 reached number five on the classical chart. In April of 2010 Frank performed as a guest of Sean Costello in his tribute to the great Irish Tenor, Josef Locke and since then he has starred in the Josef Locke tribute in the Millenium Forum, Derry.

Jack Feeney was born on the 9th August 1903 in Swinford, one of seven children in the family. He married Ballina native Maura Ruddy. His father Patrick and his mother Mary operated a grocery business from their house on Main Street and were landowners of a local pub. He worked in construction in England and Dublin with ‘McAlpine’s Fusiliers’, Jack emigrated to the US where he sang at weddings and social occasions. As a member of the Mayo Association, he sang at their dances and receptions. Bohola’s William Casey and Bill O’Dwyer secured a place for Feeney with a voice coach at the New York Metropolitan Opera Company. By the 40’s and 50’s he had become the leading Irish-American tenor of his era, often heard on radio broadcasts and performing at venues such as Carnegie Hall, Town Hall NY, The Boston Symphony and the Philidelphia Academy of Music.

On visits to Ireland he filled the Dublin Theatre Royal, The Olympia, The Cork Opera House and Limerick Savoy Theatre. Among his famous numbers with the Decca Label, recorded on 78 rpm’s was “Moonlight in Mayo” and “Galway Bay.” He was also a well-known radio personality on New York’s airwaves and performed in films. He retired from radio work in the 1960’s and returned to Ireland, where he died in 1967. This evening will be a wonderful opportunity to relive memories of a different time through the music and memory of Jack Feeney.

This event is free and all are welcome to attend; however booking is advised and can be done through Mayo Arts Office at (094 ) 9047558 or [email protected].

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