Seán O'Donnell has lived in Spain since 1984, but he has never forgotten his roots. The secondary school teacher of History and English at the British Council School of Madrid, is a former Crescent College student and avid rugby fan. O'Donnell, who have been on lockdown in the Spanish capital, decided to teach his neighbours how to sing a traditional Limerick song.
The idea for the rooftop serenade came from O'Donnell's perception that "Spanish people, for all their willingness to party, don’t really have a common pool of folk songs to call upon in times of need"
"Irish people take for granted our ability to both “sing our party piece” and join in lustily in any amount of songs where we all know the words, or at least the chorus. So I decided to embark on a project which seemed like madness but which actually became a reality on Friday May 8."
He floated the idea of singing “There is an Isle” on the residents Telegram account and people were immediately up for it. They even started calling it the “#seanchallenge” and he set about figuring out how he could possibly “teach them this song in a couple of days!
So Sean recorded a video of himself singing all the parts; him, “choir” and “all” and sent a colour coded copy of the words which showed when people had to join in (and when not!)
On Friday, May 8, at 8.05pm was the moment of truth. Various obstacles to overcome; noise of traffic in the street, no microphone, no rehearsals and "these were Spanish people singing in English for God’s sake" O'Donnell told the Limerick Leader.
As you can see and hear from the video above, the 'homework' had gone done well and Sean was the star of the show, bringing a little bit of Limerick to Madrid.
"My heart was warmed to hear the reply ringing out, dodgy pronunciation, male and female voices of various tones, but back it came, echoing off the apartment buildings, pedestrians looking up in puzzlement; “There is an isle” being sung by Madrileños and they kept “in tune” right to the last “my home is there. I am very proud to be a Limerickman and to hear these citizens of my second home singing their hearts out about my first one" Sean concluded.