There’s little time to relax around Christmas time. Not when you’re a talented soprano with the vocal range of Caragh’s Celine Byrne.
She’s conscious that the all too readily acceptable image of a talented singer who performs at venues across the globe is one of fame, fortune and grandeur.
Alas, the reality falls somewhat short of the image. When the Leader caught up with Celine last week, she was on her way out the door to a parent-teacher meeting at Caragh National School to hear of the educational progress of youngest child Cillian, who will start first year at Naas CBS next year.
It’s exactly the kind of thing mothers all over the place are doing at this time of year. A day later, on Friday, she was in Germany preparing for a concert in the city of Leipzig, which she hadn’t known about 24 hours previously.
“Unfortunately this meant I couldn’t turn on the Christmas lights in Naas last weekend, which I was looking forward to doing. But when I get a call like this, even at short notice I have to respond. One day’s rehearsal is all I’ll have and while I’ve done the part before it’s never the same twice because it’s a different setting, a different cast and a different production. It’s a crazy life but that’s simply what it is.
“My poor husband Thomas had to drop everything and bring me to the airport,” Celine told the Leader, with just a hint of humour, from Germany.
She’s looking forward to Christmas this year because the family — husband Thomas Deans and children Cillian; Ciana (a student at St. Mary’s College, Naas) and the eldest Noel, (a student at Dublin’s Griffith College) — will be together at home.
Christmas will be busy, but “it’ll great for us to be at home together.” Last year Celine (37) was singing abroad and could only get home for two days. And the year before that the family were in Germany for the festive season, again because of work commitments.
Before that she plays the title role in Tosca in Sardinia, Italy, on three nights in mid-December. This year most of her work is here though, and most of it is for charity. Celine does quite an amount of work for good causes, and her latest charitable project is a recording of her version of O Holy Night, which she performs beautifully as many local people will attest to, having heard her perform it at the Parish Church in Naas.
Her unique take on the well-known classical Christmas carol can be downloaded from iTunes for just €1.29 with every cent going to charities the Jack and Foundation and Children in Hospital Ireland, which works to bring fun and support to children in hospital. The song went to number 4 in Ireland and topped the classical music charts very soon after it was released.
“Everybody is involved in the production gave of their time free,“ said Celine.
On December 15, for one night only, she brings Celine Byrne’s Christmas Celebration to the Bord Gais Theatre in Dublin, when she’ll be performing favourites from the world of opera and seasonal delights. This is also a charity event during which she will also sing O Mio Babbino Caro, which is her favourite.
Celine has strong links with the Naas-Caragh area because she grew up here and supports as much as she can, including the McAuley Place development.
“I’d really love as many people as possible to come to the Bord Gais theatre. A lot of people locally don’t get to see me because I spent so much time abroad. You will enjoy it. Opera is not high falutin’; it’s an art form and I’m trying to bring to as many people as possible and they discover that they enjoy it.” This event is a follow up to a charity event she participated in at the Parish Church in Naas in October, which generated €7,000 in total for the Church of Our Lady and St. David and Naas Tidy Towns. In 2016, another of her concerts raised €7,000 towards church renovation costs. She also took part in a concert which raised €7,000 for the Moat Theatre. Celine is also an ambassador for Suicide or Survive, an Irish charity which works to break down to the stigma associated with mental health and ensuring those affected have access to quality recovery services that are right for the individual.
Next year will see her perform again on stages abroad. In January, Celine travels to Israel for an opera and in April to Santiago, Chile for another opera.
Later in 2018 she will return to the US States for a series of concerts.