Wexford Light Opera Society
Having celebrated it’s Centenary Year 2011, Wexford Light Opera Society is one of the oldest musical societies in the country.
Beginning as Wexford Amateur Operatic Society, WLOS can look back on a varied, and colourful legacy of musical involvement in Wexford town. Through those eleven decades the Society has seen many changes, including two changes of name, and embraced many different facets of musical theatre – from the steadfast Gilbert and Sullivan pieces that were the societal back-bone through many decades, to the fast paced, electronically scored modern day musicals.
Each musical style brought it’s own challenges, which the Society – and it’s membership – have embraced with gusto. The Society was formed in 1911 as Wexford Amateur Operatic Society, and became Wexford Musical Society in 1935, before becoming Wexford Light Opera Society in 1946.
Over the years WLOS has had many well known faces in it’s ranks from Niall Fitzgerald, who played the admiral in the 1914 production of HMS Pinafore and later made a career for himself in several Broadway shows. In fact he went on to play opposite Clarke Gable in the film “Parnell” in 1937, Gable playing the title role and Niall Fitzgerald playing the part of Pigott.
Dr. Tom Walsh, the founder of Wexford Festival Opera also spent many years in lead roles with the Society as did his sister Nellie. Their brother John (“Sandy”) Walsh made a name for himself on the London stage and as a television actor – notably in “The Forsyte Saga”.
Brendan Corish, T.D., Leader of the Labour Party and former Tanaiste, also walked the boards with the Society and his brother Des guided the organisation through good and bad times over five decades.
The former Chairman of Wexford Festival Opera and former Mayor of Wexford, Ted Howlin may also have learned about the hard world of politics through his time in the choral ranks of the Society.
More recently members have gone on to conquer the world stage, most notably Wexford Ambassador Michael Londra who starred as lead vocalist in “Riverdance on Broadway” at the Gershwin Theatre, New York. In 2011 he co-produced his own tv show “Beyond Celtic” for PBS television and it received 2 Emmy nominations. He is now pursuing a singer/songwriting career and is a partner in the theatrical production company VenuWorks.
Former member Eoin Colfer has taken the literary world by storm with his children's novels including “Artemis Fowl” which have topped the best sellers lists and has sold in excess of 25 million copies worldwide. Artemis Fowl the film is due to be released by Walt Disney Motion Pictures in May 2020.
Other well known performers who have performed leading roles with the Society over the years include Joan Merrigan, Kathleen Tynan, Fiona O’Reilly, Paul Monaghan, Aileen Donohoe and IFTA award winner Charlie Murphy.
The seventies and eighties were heralded as a golden era for the Society with the superb duo of Ned Power and Fr. John O’Brien as Director & Musical Director, bringing the Society to new heights in AIMS, Waterford International and Northern Ireland Festival of Light Operas.
The Society has won cashes of Awards in AIMS over the years, winning the coveted Best Overall Show in Ireland a record 7 times and most notably sweeping the boards with “Fiddler on the Roof” (1992), “Chess” (1997), “Man of La Mancha” (1999), “The New Pirates of Penzance” (2002), “Jekyll & Hyde” (2006) and “The Witches of Eastwick” (2013).
Over it’s glorious years the Society has played host to President Mary Robinson, who honoured it on the 85th Anniversary in 1996 with an attendance at it’s production of “Orpheus in the Underworld”. In 2000 the Society’s memorable production of “The Hired Man” was attended by its composer Howard Goodall who raved about the production from the Theatre Royal stage.