Derek Ryan

Baritone who gave-up farming to sing at Carnegie Hall

John Rainsford


John Rainsford

Derek Ryan

Derek Ryan

A Tipperary man, born and reared, I am still living there today with my family.

Limerick is just a short drive away, however, with its concerts, shows, shopping, and beautiful restaurants, we love it. Initially, I went to Ballagh National School, and to Thurles CBS. My third level education consisted of private lessons at the Leinster School of Music in Dublin and at The Robert Bicknell Studio in London. My family say that I could sing before I could talk and I still prefer singing to talking. I was lucky enough to grow-up in a very musical house with the radio always on, so I was surrounded by singing and music. I love all types of music, today, but you certainly can’t beat a great song well sung.

Today, concert performance is my forte.

I am very much at home with just a piano and an audience. Drawing from all my other singing experiences I like to make an audience laugh, relax and enjoy themselves. In this regard, I have been very fortunate to have performed in grand operas and fantastic musicals, along with great oratorio works, but if there's a good band in a hall and I get asked-up to sing, no better man. I like to stay grounded.

For instance, I am a very proud member of Tipperary Musical Society, our last show being ‘Evita'. In it, I played Juan Peron with my very talented wife, Deirdre, as ‘Evita’ (a case of husband and wife playing husband and wife!).

I love the musical society ethos of getting involved with all aspects of a production, not just the singing side. It's really all about the team effort.

The three tenors concert at Italia ‘90 was a huge inspiration.

I was interested in opera beforehand but that really got me excited so I started imitating them. I was just 13 but already had a strong voice. We had loads of space on the farm where I could belt away in sheds and milking parlours. Then, a few people suggested that I should train my voice. I was far too shy at first, and it wasn't until later, that I had the courage to pursue this option but performing to the public only happened much later. Many great people helped to develop my confidence including; my family, Dr Veronica Dunne, and the late Jeannie Reddin. Even the land lady of my local pub, Mary O'Dwyer, encouraged me to sing songs to her customers and they got a great kick out of it as well.

Currently, I am a member of ‘The Two and A Half Tenors' along with Nyle Wolfe and Ryan Morgan.

We try and send the three tenors up a bit with classic swing songs, excerpts from musical theatre, and comedy numbers mixed in with the classics. It's hilariously entertaining and a great night out. My next outing though will be at Kilfeacle House.

The concert will be on the lawns but thankfully under cover. We did it last year and it was a very special evening. There was food and wine and it was all very relaxed. I will be joined by two glorious singers from Italy who will give their all from the world of Italian Opera as well as by Limerick’s own, Sarah Ellen Murphy. It was a very successful charity night last year so we decided to run it again. This time, it will be in aid of Pieta House which is a very worthy cause.

Over the years I have had a few run-ins with stage fright.

In fact, Opera still terrifies me. It is a very daunting task that used to keep me awake thinking about it. Still worth doing though.

Funnily enough, reading at Mass, was my first experience, on my own, in front of a crowd. I thought that nobody could hear me because the microphone would surely pick-up my heart pounding in my chest. In fact, in my first solo performance at Scór na nÓg, I drew a total blank. I couldn't even remember the second verse of Spancil Hill. Everything, the first time is terrifying, I still remember my first major role in the Gaiety, just before my big solo.

On that occasion I felt my mind leave my body because I was so petrified, but also, so alive, even exhilarated. When you practice a role for months your body goes into auto pilot and that is why you put that hard work in initially. Muscle memory, I think they call it. Eventually though, it becomes second nature to you and you can explore and become more adventurous, grow into the bigger roles and take on more challenges. In the future, I would love the chance to record a full studio album with an orchestra, but life is good right now and I mustn’t complain.

My advice, to those starting off, is to link-up with a choral society, musical society, or a ballad group.

That is good for the mind, heart and soul and you never know where you might end up. I went from my farmyard to singing in Carnegie Hall. I met so many amazing people through music including my beautiful wife. You don't have to be another Pavarotti, you just need to have fun and to commit to the work.

Soon you will be surrounded by many new friends willing you on. It really is the best feeling in the world. In an upcoming gig at the Theatre Royal (on 10 September ) I will be flying solo for the first time in a while, so I will invariably be feeling nervous, but thrilled to be there!

Derek Ryan will be performing in the gardens of Kilfeacle House in Co Tipperary on August 20-21. For information please call Marianne on: 087 4554759 or email: kilfeaclehouse