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.


Artist Jane Hilliard


I wound my way around the narrow streets of Tralee, getting lost, asking passers-by, do you know Jane Hilliard, the artist? To which they would reply, “Oh, the artist, yes. Walk through the large pedestrian area…” eventually I found the shopping centre, where the numerous empty shop units gave an atmosphere of an Egyptian tomb. I turned a corner and found the treasure, vibrant paintings gave life to empty units. Paintings of Irish countryside, woodlands, the sea, heavenly, calming scenes which, when studied for any length of time, absorb you into their world of nature and beauty.

I followed the paintings and they led me to Jane Hilliard’s Gallery, where numerous framed canvases adorned the walls, some leaning two and three deep on the floor against the wall. At the back of the Gallery, Jane, wearing a multi-colour paint speckled denim shirt over her clothes, sitting with head bowed as if in prayer, was working on a painting.

I first met Jane four years ago in Draíocht Gallery in Adare, Co Limerick. The lasting impression of her paintings, along with her detailed, interesting way of describing her work made an indelible impression on me. Little did I know then what she had endured and overcome while all the time her artistic spirit drove her on through health and economic challenges, to become the stunning, self-taught artist that she is now.

Though well established in Kerry and known throughout the country and indeed internationally, Jane will soon be spreading her wings, with offers to show her work throughout Ireland. However, it hasn’t been an easy path.

Born in Britain, her family moved to Kerry when she was ten. At twelve, she had to leave school to mind her mother who became terminally ill and died when Jane was just 15. Shortly after that her father returned to Britain and the family home broke up. Two years later she married, went on to have three children and now delights in her grandchildren.

Jane’s natural artistic ability was nurtured by her father who taught her how to draw, but it wasn’t until her late thirties, that she took a few art classes in Tralee and at the end of term exhibition, her paintings sold which led to her getting commissions from local businesses.

Jane feels she has developed her style through trial and error. She paints from her own photographs, “When I start a painting, I really don’t know what way it’s going to end up. I have developed skills, ways of throwing in a bit of light or splashing on a bit of sparkle.”

Indeed it is Jane’s magical use of light that makes her paintings utopian scenes, places you would like to be, and stay, serene and calming. This may be a reflection of what painting is to Jane, a type of meditative state, when she tunes into a higher energy. Many times she has felt her work comes from something that has been channelled through her, instead of something she has created.

Jane describes herself as a commercial artist because she was the main bread winner in her house, she has had her gallery in Tralee shopping centre for14 years. During the boom she couldn’t paint fast enough, mainly popular tourist scenes of Ballyheigue and Killarney for which she has received criticism from people who prefer more abstract types of art, “When you have an exhibition, it’s very different from most other jobs because it’s almost like putting your children up for criticism.”

From the time Jane began painting full time, she painted for nine hours a day, only taking Sunday off to do housework. She continued this routine until she got cancer ten years ago, only then did she take another day off in the week.

Painting to Jane is, “a thirst, that need to drink. It’s like a meditation, a therapy, people pay hundreds of Euros to get to that place in their head, where there’s no worry no stress. It relaxes me. Just put me in a corner and let me paint. That to me would be heaven.”

The dream for Jane would be for somebody to walk into her gallery and say she is exactly what they are looking for, take her on as a client, promote her, take over the business side and set up her exhibitions internationally.

“It is a dream. But coming from a very poor background, I never forget where I’m from and that I’m just so lucky. When my mother died I was given my mothers purse, empty, to run the house. I have worked very hard, always. And it’s like, I’ve built this now and I have to keep minding it. So it’s part of me and yet it’s a separate entity that I have to mind and take care of, and I have to see it do well because, I feel I have been given a gift and an opportunity so I owe that the very best I can do,” smiled Jane.        

The Jane Hilliard Gallery, Tralee Shopping Centre, Tralee, Co. Kerry.


Jane in her gallery

Jane in her gallery