The Countess’ Salon performed by The Opera Workshop at No 1 Perry Square Hotel

The Countess’ Salon, performed by new Limerick based group, The Opera Workshop, will take place in No 1 Pery Square Hotel on October 15, November 12 and December 10.

Founded, produced and directed by well known Limerick Lady, Shirley Keane, this premier performance has a cast of some of some of Limerick’s best known singers, including Sarah-Ellen Murphy, Jean Wallace, Eve Stafford, Kevin Neville and Catriona Walsh, with piano accompaniment by Irina Dernova.

The performances will comprise well-known songs and musical highlights, including those by Puccini, Bizet and Mozart and the December concert will also feature Christmas songs and carols.

‘It is a wonderful time to be trying something new in Limerick.  I have come home to an energised city and county that is enthusiastic and excited by arts and culture.  And though opera is not new, nor is Limerick’s love of opera new, I hope that the work of The Opera Workshop will be refreshing, challenging and entertaining for Limerick audiences and artists,’ said Shirley.

Having spent more than 20 years in the United Kingdom, Shirley, a professional actor, singer and teacher, believes that the possibilities for creating original cross-art and vocal work are endless.  Her aim is to cultivate a company that develops high standard professional productions, while simultaneously encouraging younger, local musical talent.

“It was the room that actually inspired us with the idea of a grand opera salon, hosted by a charming, glamorous Countess.  The audience should feel like her guests enjoying her party and are privy to the gossip and scandal that is brewing around them.

“We devised the story, characters emerged, we played with the relationships between the characters, and a script was devised and written which acts as a link for the songs but also creates a tangible story.  There will be a mix of styles of songs and opera including light opera, folk, German lied, music theatre and opera performed in English, German, French and Italian,” added Shirley.

The cast have been rehearsing since early September and are hopeful for full houses as tickets are selling fast for this intimate venue which holds 50 people per performance.

Shirley’s hope for The Opera Workshop is to provide the focus for a collective of like-minded artists interested in testing their skills, developing new productions, seeking opportunities to experiment, develop and share innovative ideas in opera performance as there are many musicians from across the Mid-west  who work on a professional and semi-professional basis in Ireland and internationally.

Shirley intends that The Opera Workshop will have a strong community and outreach ethos and welcomes opportunities to work with schools and community groups interested in developing projects that serve their needs while exploring a vibrant, joyous and beautiful art form

Having begun her vocal training with Olive Cowpar in Limerick and worked for a couple of seasons at Bunratty Castle as an entertainer, Shirley then went on to study a Bachelor of Arts degree in acting at the Rose Bruford College of Drama, London, and voice and opera at both The Guildhall School of Music and the Royal Academy of Music London.

Her successful career saw her including Opera Theatre Company, Basingstoke Haymarket, Opera Holland Park, with concert and oratorio performances across Europe and in venues such as The Royal Festival Hall, Royal Albert Hall, Old Trafford football stadium and Dublin’s National Concert Hall.

And teaching through community and outreach work in particular, through her own community opera company in East London, East End Opera and with companies such as Live Music Now, Glyndbourne Opera, The Half Moon Young People’s Theatre and more lately as a director and acting teacher at The Guildhall School of Music, London where she is a member of the vocal faculty.

The No 1 Pery Square Hotel are offering a pre-opera 3 course special menu at €35 pp.  Dinner reservations can be booked directly with the hotel – 061  402402/

The show tickets are booked via  We take bookings, reserve tickets which must be paid for on the night.  Box office available from 7.30

“The dinner is a separate offer made by the hotel and not part of the performance.  If people want to avail of this special rate for a meal at No 1 Pery Square they book directly with the hotel and would probably need to consider an earlier booking as the show must start at 8pm.  But guests can bring drinks into the performance.  Tickets for the show can be booked independently without having to book for the dinner,” added Shirley.

Tickets for performances of The Countess’ Salon must be pre-booked on

Tickets cost €20 and €15 concession.


The Piano Lesson a Ken Wardrop Documentary interview with Mary O’Sullivan who features in the Film


Limerick Musician and Actress Mary O’Sullivan and her students Heather Small (11) her sister Rachael (9) and Gráinne Lynch (14) from the Redemptorist Centre of Music, were featured in the Ken Wardrop documentary, The Piano Lesson, which premiered at the Irish Film Institute (IFI) Dublin, as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival (ADIFF) on Monday, February 20.

Internationally acclaimed, Multi-award winning director Ken, interviewed and filmed a number of Piano teachers and their students throughout Ireland for this unique production, and received an extended standing ovation at the end of the screening from a sold out venue.

“The way it’s shot and the moments that Ken catches are stunning, I think he has got an amazing talent, an amazing eye, he’ll let you see things and then it’s for you to judge how you felt.

“He captured people’s personalities. There’s really funny moments, where there’s the interaction between pupils and teachers, so many different characters, and it was interesting to see how involved parents are at different levels. As a teacher I’ve never gotten to see pupil’s at home, to see the part that music plays and how it slots into their life,” said Mary.

Though this is Mary’s first time seeing herself on the big screen and in a documentary, she is no stranger to the limelight and over the years has combined teaching piano with a flourishing acting career.

In 2015 while completing a Masters in Education and the Arts at Mary Immaculate College, she played Little Voice’s mother, in the College Players Theatre production of, The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, at the Lime Tree Theatre.

Mary has studied at the Gaiety School of Acting, and worked as a professional actor in London. In 2010 she won Best Supporting Actress at the All Ireland Drama Festival, toured with Mirage Theatre playing the title part in Educating Rita, worked with Island Theatre, Shoestring Theatre, performed at the Riverside Studios, Edinburgh and London Fringe festivals, toured with College Player’s ‘Metamorphosis’ which won the All Ireland Drama Finals and then went on to represent Ireland at the International Drama Festival in Japan in 1995, and was Musical director when they represented Ireland at the International Drama Festival in Monaco. Mary has also worked on radio and television and composed music for an RTE documentary.

“I don’t like watching myself but you actually saw the real Heather and Gráinne, I was very proud and delighted for them. Heather was so excited, Gráinne so laid back, very natural in the film, they are both fantastic and really talented,” said Mary.

Growing up in a musical household as her mother was a piano teacher and a member of a well known band the Therant Sereneraders, Mary’s first piano lesson was when she was 8years, but from an early age she would have been curious and tinkled on the piano in the family home.

“I hope my students get enjoyment out of the lessons. There is the side where you can decide you want to achieve something at the end of the year which is the certificate, at least you have targets, but at the end of the day it’s a hobby and it’s a talent. The exams are an achievement but also, it’s nice just to be able to go away and relax and play the piano. That they look forward to going to the lessons,” added Mary.

Produced by Andrew Freedman, The Piano Lesson examines the special bond between piano teachers and their pupils, with over 30,000 students in Ireland preparing for exams each year, this funny, sensitive, touching film shows the students as they practice and prepare for exams, their struggles, and their teachers’ dedication.

Ken who studied filmmaking at the National Film School (NFS) at the Institute of Art, Design & Technology (IADT) Dún Laoghaire, has had his films screened at the Sundance and Cannes film festivals, the Cork International Film Festival, and at festivals in the UK, Croatia, The Netherlands and Scandinavia.

In 2008, his work received the Grand Prix Award at Sapporo International Film Festival in Japan. His short film Undressing my Mother, won a European Film Academy Award, Special Jury Mention at Sundance and an IFTA for Best Short Film. His Documentary on Circumcision Ouch and Bongo Bong, were both nominated for an IFTA. Farewell Packets of Ten won Best Short Documentary at Toronto. His & Hers, his first feature debut won the Audience award at the Dublin International Film Festival, the Feature Award at the Galway Film Fleadh, an IFTA for Best Feature Documentary and the Cinematography Award at the Sundance Film Festival 2010.

“It was a joy to be involved with this, these are really nice guys and so professional. He is fantastic, with all kens achievements he is such a nice down to earth genuine guy.

“I am really looking forward to the gala night in April, because it was lovely to go to the screening. We will get to talk to the people afterwards and maybe get to know the people a little bit better, because there were some really interesting characters in it, some fantastic kids,” added Mary.


Jessica Bray and Shirley Keane teach Stage Stars


Stage Stars is the new group performance programme for children at the Mid-West Vocal Academy and Music School. Devised by accomplished professionals Jessica Bray and Shirley Keane, the fast paced, energetic and child focused course aims to give children training in the areas of singing, drama and dance.

Limerick ladies Jessica and Shirley co-lead the hour long classes that cater for children aging from four to sixteen years of age. Their primary aim is to build the confidence of the children and allow them to explore theatre in a safe, supportive, fun environment, where the children’s ideas are the driving force of the creative work.

“The classes are energetic, physical and busy. Jess and I have put together a flexible structure, we include technical elements, such as vocal warm-ups, practical stage awareness, and dance routines built on a strong foundation of fundamental acting work including devising, improvising and lots of imaginative play.

“We always begin with an energetic warm-up followed by vocal warm-ups using rehearsal and theatre games.  We constantly return to a circle to begin exercises or share ideas within the group, always emphasising that we take turns, we listen to each other and that everyone’s input is valuable giving opportunities to all the participants to be seen, heard and to participate,” said Shirley.

Shirley Keane

Shirley Keane

Shirley trained in theatre and opera studies at the Rose Bruford College of Drama, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the Royal Academy of Music in the UK, and has worked as a singer, actress, director and teacher with many varied groups and festivals across the UK and Ireland.

Also a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in the UK, Shirley is currently on the teaching staff of The Guildhall School of Music, where she works with undergraduate and post-graduate singers, musicians and conductors, directing opera scenes and productions and running performance workshops.

“As teachers we work to develop routine, structure and technique and it is our job to encourage them all, always, to do their personal best. It is my job is to listen to the participants, to be open to their ideas, and by having their ideas accepted by adult facilitators and a group of their peers, the children learn to value their own talents, abilities and self-worth.

“I love to perform, that is what I have trained to do and I love being a facilitator.  I would encourage and support any child who wanted to perform professionally. I hope that some of our children feel capable and confident enough to audition for external music and theatre productions, but I would never push children to seek fame or to seek adulation.  Drama and theatre work is not about encouraging children to show off but through nurturing talent, the work should encourage an openness of mind, an ability to work with other people, the courage to offer and to accept ideas, and the confidence to express themselves through the disciplines of the theatre,” said Shirley.

Jessica Bray

Jessica Bray

Jessica Bray studied Musical Theatre Performance at The Guildford School of Acting in the UK where she received the Sir Michael Redgrave Scholarship and the Sir John Gielgud award for Musical Theatre.

Jessica who currently works in Limerick and Cork as a teacher and director, has performed with the Cecilian Musical Society, Limerick Musical Society and Shannon Musical Society, and believes that being a regular performer makes her a better teacher.

“I’m excited about working with new and current students. I’m looking forward to sharing my knowledge and experience. Our hope is that we can introduce our students to the world of theatre and performing and make them fall in love the way we did from a young age. Performance skills are useful in many walks of life.

“Whether it’s job interviews or college presentations. At stage stars we are preparing our students for all these challenges and building strong, confident kids and teenagers. We hope they enjoy it. We hope they learn something new every week and build friendships and confidence,” added Jessica.

061- 358088


Limerick Panto Society’s Snow White


Limerick Panto Society’s (LPS) much anticipated production of Snow White starring Emma O’Driscoll, will take place at the Lime Tree Theatre from December 28 to January 8.

Making Christmases magical since it’s foundation in 1985, this will be the society’s 32nd show, produced by Tony Cusack, it promises to fulfil the LPS reputation as a fun family entertainment show, that supports and discovers local talent and will have a charity night in aid of Enable Ireland.

Emma, who has performed with the LPS many times before and is well known to Limerick audiences, has worked as a presenter for RTE children’s television for many years, and last year launched her Limerick based Stage School, Gem Stars.

Starring the renowned Panto Dame, Tim Cusack, and with an original script by John Finn who is also performing in the show, this production will have a unique spin on the fairytale, as Snow White meets colourful characters such as Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Watson, Harry Potter and Hermione.

Also starring Laura Hunt, Grainne McCarthy, Thomas Coneran, Damian Shaw, Keith McGuane, Stuart Mackey, Issey Fenton, Yasmin McGarvey, Shauna O’Halloran, Paul Fitzgerald, from Limerick’s 95FM Radio Breakfast Show, and Paul O’Farrell who will both make their debut performances with LPS.

With a live orchestra under the Musical Direction of Michael Hinchy, a chorus of over 50 and performances by students of Expressive Arts and Spotlight Stage Schools, it will be an evening or matinee of all round musical and comedy entertainment, to lighten the spirit and spread Christmas cheer and merriment.

Tickets are available from

For more information see