Prestigious Award for Marina
by Breda Joy

Soprano and harpist Marina Cassidy of Killarney will be presented with a major award at a performance in the beautiful old Bank of Ireland building at College Green in Dublin before Christmas.

The award is being presented by the Vocal Heritage Society of Ireland who reviewed one of her CDs and judged her singing voice and harp playing a winning combination. This is the first time that the prestigious award has gone to a harpist/singer as distinct from a pure singer. Previous recipients have included Regina Nathan and Mary Hegarty.

Marina will perform at the Bank of Ireland Arts Centre in College Green on December 13.

In the meanwhile, her voice is being tested in a different medium as she rehearses one of the principal roles in ‘The New Pirates of Penzance’ with the Killarney Musical Society.

Originally from Kilmainham Wood, Co Meath, Marina studied harp at Mount Sackville with Sr Eugene McCabe, sister of the writer of the same name. Her singing teacher was Sr Peter Cronin. She later trained as a national school teacher at Carysfort College.

Her introduction to Kerry was through the Park Hotel, Kenmare, where she played and sang.

And her decision to stay in the county was sealed when she married Killarney hotelier, Tim Buckley.

The couple live at Muckross with their children, Jessie, Killian, Julia and Eva. Jessie is following in her mother’s footsteps and plays the harp.

Marina has continued her musical studies over the years, taking lessons in concert harp with Denise Kelly in Dublin and advancing her voice training at tthe Mayer Lismann Opera Centre in London.

She has recorded two CDs, ‘Listen’ and ‘Sounds of Winter’, both of which are available at Killarney Bookshop.

Marina Cassidy is making the most of the magical gift
Anne Lucey meets a musician who’s as much at home down on the farm as she is in great music halls.

Harpist and soprano Marina Cassidy grew up in Kilmainham Wood, Co Meath
on her father’s farm, not far from where the blind harper Turlough Carolan
was born.

Although centuries apart, the harp is probably not the only thing the pair have in common. Like Carolan, Marina too has moved in circles great and royal – though never seeking the limelight.

Now firmly in the Kingdom of Kerry, under the influence of undulating Munster landscapes, Marina Cassidy has performed in London, in the White House for the Bush family and in many of the great Irish houses.

She has won several awards including the gold medal at numerous Feiseanna Ceol, as well as the Alec Redshaw Trophy for best classical song.

In her mid-30s, her voice now, she agrees is at its best.

” The secret is proper training and waiting. Singers now are being pushed
out too soon. The voice doesn’t last,” she says.

Marina’s parents picked up on the quality of her voice very early and she started the piano at five. She was introduced to the harp at Mount Sackville where she went to school.

Afterwards, doing a B Ed in Carysfort, Marina specialised in music and after a short time after qualifying as a teacher, she decided on a full-time musical career. Marina looks on her talent as a gift.

” It’s a gift you are given on loan. There is an obligation to use it. I have a duty to use it,” she says humbly.

Words too are extremely important to Marina. She studied Opera, German and Italian song in London at the Mayer Lismann Centre, and this she says re-enforced her belief in the power of words. “To me there is no point getting up and singing without thinking of the words.

” At the end of the day you are communicating a message and if you are not sincere about the message, it shows,” she says.

Marina has also taken masterclasses in the harp and she is currently preparing for a Diploma in Singing. “The stimulation of studying and exploring music and singing is part of the joy of it all,” she says.

But one would be mistaken in thinking Marina only played in lofty halls.
Performing with her harp at lunchtime in a pub in London’s Fleet Street in the 1980s was one of the most moving experiences she has ever had.

The Vagabonds was where the Daily Mirror journalists lunched, hardened hacks only into sentimentality as a trade. It was astonishing then to see them cry regularly during performances.

” I asked them after about a week or so, what makes you cry, and the cartoonist, Clive Collins, who is the brother of Phil Collins answered: “It’s the simplicity of your songs. The simplicity in a plastic world that is refreshing”.

The intrepid journalists flew Marina back to London to perform at their annual dinner some years ago.

Nature is an integral part of Marina Cassidy’s artless approach to her music. The breath-taking scenery of Killarney National Park along the Mangerton Road is where she does much of her thinking and her singing on her daily walks. “I get a feeling for more songs along that mountain road way than anywhere else,” she says.

In spite of being in the company of angelic choirs, and nature that is sublime, Marina’s feet are firmly on the ground. This, she says is a tribute to her upbringing on a farm in Co Meath where the morning after concert recitals she would be found driving a tractor on the rich farm lands.

Family too keeps Marina grounded, in the nicest sense. Husband Tim is her best critic, she says. With three children and a fourth on the way, Marina is never less than frantically busy.

” You need the balance. I would not like life to be all career, and nothing else,” she says.

Marina regularly sings at Mass in the Franciscan Church in Killarney and she has just released a CD, her second this year, based on a live performance at the Friary in Killarney. Entitled ‘Sounds of Winter’, it is a joint collaboration with musician Jennifer Porter.

Many favourites, including Panis Angelicus, Ave Maria, Winter and O Holy Night are featured in a magical spiritual expression of vocals and instruments which include harp, piano and flute.

Harpist releases 19 track CD
by Breda Joy

Music lovers who come away from performances of Marina Cassidy with
a song in their hearts now have the opportunity of recreating the classic
magic of her melodies at home.

The Killarney based professional soprano and harpist, who has given recitals to distinguished audiences worldwide, has just released her first recording which features 19 enchanting tracks ranging from haunting, traditional Irish instrumentals to upbeat songs from contemporary musicals.

Recorded at Sulán Studios, Ballyvourney, the CD is called ‘Listen: Marina Cassidy’ and is released under Marina’s own aptly titled label Harpbeat Records.

The opening track, ‘I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls’ from an Irish Operetta, is followed by old favourites including ‘An Chúilfhionn’, ‘Ave Maria’ and ‘Gortnamona’ and modern songs like ‘Moonriver’, ‘Memory’ and ‘All I Ask
of You’.

Several compositions of the famed Irish harpist, Turlough Carolan are featured on the CD. Coincidentally, Carolan’s birthplace in the Meath village of Nobber is only four miles from Marina’s home Kilmainhamwood.

A highly accomplished performer with a list of international performances to her credit, Marina was playing at the Park Hotel, Kenmare when her future in Kerry was sealed through a chance meeting with Tim Buckley, Killarney who was to become her husband.

The couple live at Hollygrove, Gortagullane, Mangerton, Killarney with their three children, Jessie, Cillian and Julia.

Her awards include a Gold Medal in Harp and Voice from the Dublin Feis Ceoil, 1980 and 1981; the Alec Redshaw Trophy for Best Classical Song Recital, Feis Maitiú, Cork 1992, 1st place and operatic Arias Feis Maitiú 1992, 2nd place.

Marina Cassidy’s voice and harp have enchanted diplomats, presidents, dignitaries and celebrities the world over. She has performed for former US President George Bush and his family, and for the famous culinary duo, the Roux brothers of Maidenhead. One couple flew her to Malibu to sing at their wedding.

Her debut album has been produced in response to repeated requests from her audiences for a recording.

” It’s very much representative of an evening’s performance,” Marina told The Kerryman.

The CD, which features 10 instrumentals and 9 voice and harp pieces, is available from music shops.

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