It was upon the back of a trailer on a then chilly May bank holiday weekend in 2015 that Arklow Music and Arts first emerged, a concert showcasing just some of the talent in the community. Four years on, countless hours spent fundraising, begging, borrowing, recycling old into renewed, the May bank holiday weekend in 2019 was one of celebration, and a landmark arrival as AMA proudly opened The Asgard Theatre, Arklow’s first black box style performance space above Kenny’s Of The Harbour public house on Arklow’s Lower Main Street.
Due to the unique intimacy of the venue, the opening weekend celebrations were spread over three evenings, with a traditional Irish music evening opening proceedings on Friday evening. The official opening of The Asgard Theatre was performed on Saturday evening, with the red carpet rolled out and the glitz and glamour of just some of Arklow’s finest talents performing.
Our Master of Ceremonies for the evening, Mr. Jim Furlong, then invited Fr. Michael Murtagh to perform a blessing upon the theatre, followed by James Kearon with a powerful rendition of “Asgard II”, a wonderful poem penned by local historian, Michael Fitzgerald, setting a high bar for the rest of the evening. Stunning performances flowed continuously with an enthusiastic audience loving the new surroundings and a state of the art sound system earning the plaudits and approval of all, as Avril O’Toole, Eoin Hayden, Karla Tracey and Denise Brennan filled the theatre with some beautiful sounds. The youth of today, our stars of tomorrow, were represented with Bri-Elle Finn and Fionn Vigors showcasing their talents, while the somewhat more experienced duo of John Bonner and Georgie Byrne combined to perform a delightful jazz number. A moment’s poignancy followed with Ború’s Tommy Breen dedicating his and John Nolan’s stunning delivery of “The Lonesome Boatman” to the late Johnny Byrne, and John Hogan Junior, former colleagues. Masters of their craft, we were indulged with the talents of Denis New opening the second half of the show with his pipes, and All Ireland champion harmonica player Denis Nolan. Patricia Graham’s mandolin was beautifully accompanied by John Nolan, whose gift and guile with a guitar is always a wonder to behold. Niamh O’Connor’s violin took the audience on a nautical route, with a beautiful playing of the theme from “The Onedin Line”. Kiera Broe was enthralling with a dance improvisation routine, and we were also treated to some gorgeous big sounds from Naoimh Penston, Zena Donnelly, and Leslie Dowdall. Saturday’s landmark concert concluded with a repertoire of tunes from the Arklow Silver Band, bringing the audience to their feet.