Opera featuring RTÉ NSO musicians wins Allianz Business to Arts Award

Ireland's first opera commissioned by a local authority,"Shelter Me From The Rain" by Brian Irvine (music) and John McIlduff (text) - commissioned by Carlow Local Authorities and featuring 12 members of the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra performing in conjunction with Carlow performers, was awarded the "Best Use of Creativity in the Community Award" in the 2011 Allianz Business to Arts Awards held at Dublin Castle on Monday 5 September. The award was presented by President Mary McAleese to project curator Fergus Sheil and Carlow County Council, Leas Cathaoirleach, Councilor Wayne Fennell.

Produced in May 2011, "Shelter Me From The Rain" was one of Ireland's largest per-cent for art commissions and the first such commission in the operatic medium. It involved a performance company of over 100 Carlow-based singers, who undertook a year-long training and rehearsal programme led by conductor Fergus Sheil. The performances were given in conjunction with 12 members of the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra in Carlow's GB Shaw Theatre in May 2011.

"Shelter Me From The Rain" showcased stories of love from all ages and all walks of life, set against a backdrop of weather forecasting and weather related themes. Of the 103 singers, over 40 performed solo roles, many taking to the stage for the first time. The company also included Carlow's acclaimed youth choir Aspiro.

Composer Brian Irvine, who wrote the music specially for this company of performers spoke of his fascination with the process of "unlocking the creative energies and expressive potential inside every participant, irrespective of their previous musical experience" He viewed yesterday's award as "a testament to the validity of the creative expression of all involved". Project curator and music director Fergus Sheil described the process as an "experience of a life-time". He added that he was "overwhelmed with support from Carlow Local Authorities arts office, from the executive staff and the elected representatives in Carlow, from County Carlow VEC, the GB Shaw Theatre and many other local supporters. Above all, however, it was the dedication and unswerving commitment of participants that made this project a most memorable musical and theatrical experience".

The project was tracked by a 10-part documentary series made by Athena Media for RTÉ lyric fm. "Shelter Me From The Rain" was also supported by a project grant from The Arts Council / An Chomhairle Ealaíon.