Having Celebrated it’s Centenary Year 2011, Wexford Light Opera Society is one of the oldest musical societies in the country.
Beginning as the Wexford Amateur Operatic Society, W.L.O.S. can look back on a varied, and colourful legacy of musical involvement in Wexford town. Through those ten decades the Society has seen many changes, including three 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 shortly afterwards, 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 Forsythe 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 four 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 Tenor Michael Londra who starred as lead vocalist in “Riverdance on Broadway” at the Gershwin Theatre, New York and is now pursuing a singer/songwriting career.
Former member Eoin Colfer has taken the literary world by storm with his childrens’ novels including “Artemis Fowl” which have topped the best sellers lists.
Other well known performers who have performed leading roles with the Society in recent years include Joan Merrigan, Kathleen Tynan, Fiona O’Reilly, Paul Monaghan and Aileen Donohoe.
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 most notably sweeping the boards with “Fiddler on the Roof” (1992), “Chess” (1997), “Man of La Mancha” (1999) and “New Pirates of Penzance” (2002), “Jekyll & Hyde” (2006).
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 composer Howard Goodall who raved about the production from the Theatre Royal stage.