John McCormack souvenir coins nearly sold out on first day

A limited edition run of commemorative silver coins in honour of Athlone tenor John Count McCormack is almost sold out.

More than 70 per cent of the 8,000 run of coins had been pre-ordered by Wednesday evening (January 29 ), even though the coins weren’t officially released to the public by the Irish Central Bank until yesterday, Thursday January 30.

The commemorative coin features the celebrated Athlone tenor in a characteristic singing pose, in full voice, with his head thrown back. There are stage curtains to signify his opera and concert career and a gramophone arm to show how his singing reached millions of devoted fans around the world.

The tenor’s grandson, also called John Count McCormack, said it was a great honour that the Athlone native should be remembered forever in a lasting piece of art.

“I love it,” he said. “It sings to you and it’s not just something to look at. All of us are thrilled,” he added on behalf of the three generations of McCormack descendants who attended the launch which featured a moving recital of some of McCormack’s most well-known works.

Tenor Peter O’Reilly said he hoped to do justice to the memory of John Count McCormack with a selection of French, German, and Irish parlour songs, including the iconic Moore melody, ‘She is Far From the Land’.

Some 120 invited guests, including members of the Athlone John McCormack Society and Athlone Town Council attended the launch of the coin at the former home of Dr Vincent O’Brien in Dublin, where John Count McCormack received singing lessons.

On the back wall was a large portrait of O’Brien, who led the Pallestrina choir, and to the audience’s left, a copy of Orpen’s portrait of McCormack.

Now the home of the Teacher’s Club, 37 Parnell Square in Dublin played host to grandchildren and great grandchildren of the singer described by Athlone Mayor Gabrielle McFadden as Athlone’s most famous son.

She said McCormack was a true Athlone man, whose parents worked in a local woollen mill and he himself attended the Marist College and sang in Fr Mathew Hall, now the location for Athlone’s Luan Gallery.

The coin captured the talent and the character of McCormack, she said, adding that Athlone is extremely proud that he was chosen for the honour.

She said Athlone will always remember McCormack’s legacy and expressed her hope that Athlone will be a centre for John McCormack.

It was a proud day for Athlone and its people, she said.

Paul Molumby, director of currency and facilities management at the Central Bank presented a commemorative coin to Mayor McFadden for the people of Athlone.

This is the first coin issued this year as part of an EU initiative to celebrate EU musical masters through a commemorative coin, with McCormack being the Irish choice.

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