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*Dean Power. 

DEAN Power is bringing The Corona Beards – a group of top class Irish opera singers – to his hometown later this month for a powerful night of song in Clarecastle Church.

Dean Power & The Corona Beards bonded over a WhatsApp group over the past 18 months, as the music industry was decimated by the Pandemic. The group emerged as a real saviour for the men’s mental health as they supported each other through uncertain times. Two other positive outcomes was the emergence of twenty men sporting beards (hence, The Corona Beards), and a new group of singers who have pledged to perform together in a bid to raise money for men’s health issues.

Dean for his part, has undergone a life-changing year and a half. Having lived and breathed opera since his latter teenage years after he was introduced to opera singing by Archie Simpson of the Lismorahaun Singers, the Clarecastle tenor has spent most of his adult life performing in Munich’s Bayerische Staatsoper, an incredible 2,000-seater opera house.

It was an 11-year journey which began when Dean first crossed the doorstep of the Staatsoper after being offered an audition. “I remember leaving and shaking the hands of all the people and honestly thinking, ‘sure that’s it now chances are I’m not going to come back here’ and as soon as I was in Ireland, I got an email saying they’d like to offer me a place and you could say the rest is history.”

While Dean admits he had the opportunity to work with “everyone that is influential in my business”, he and his wife Kate (from Leitrim) had been discussing moving back to the west of Ireland in recent years with their three young children. That decision was accelerated by the pandemic and led to a dive into the deep end.

“It’s literally like chalk and cheese, I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s just they have opera and classical music as a part of their culture, part of their life. In Ireland every village has a hurling field … in Germany every town in every district or county has some sort of a theatre and many of them, if not all, are state funded.

“As you know, Clare would not be a stronghold for opera,” he quips, stating the obvious in a most earnest fashion. “But saying that we would have a fierce amount of musicians and classical musicians. It’s been lovely getting back, it was literally like putting on an old pair of shoes,” who is currently performing in the Irish National Opera’s Fidelio at the Gaiety Theatre.

When the Pandemic hit a friend of Dean’s from Fanore, Peter O’Donohue set up the Corona Beards Whatsapp group which now boasts about 20 opera singers from around Ireland. “It was really a group for a bit of fun and one of the lads then realized after about a week of, I don’t want to use the word lightly but, a week of depression of the realization that, chances are, the opera world was not going to open again for a long time.

“The group was great because it kept all our moods up and people could vent and people could find funny ways of turning bad situations into good things. After about a week, someone said, we’ll grow beards in solidarity, joking, sure then we all had mad beards, big dirty things.”

After a number of Zoom chats over drinks, attention turned to the group doing a concert together with all proceeds after costs going to Movember. So, a request was put in with Fr Pat Malone in Clarecastle to put the concert on in the village and he duly obliged.

Of the twenty in the group, confirmed for the concert are Dean, fellow tenors Gavin Ring, Andrew Gavin, David Lynn, Richard Shaffrey, Bass singer Rory Dunne and Baritone Rory Musgrave accompanied by pianist Richard McGrath, while the Galway Baytones choir conducted by Peter O’Donohue will also make a guest appearance.

“It’s going to be a jam-packed concert,” says the former St Flannan’s student. “Whatever we’re doing, we’re going to do it with a bit of fun and at the same time take it seriously and do to the absolute best standard we can and hope we can move people.”

Tickets (€20) for the show, starting 6pm on November 28, are available here. Alternatively call Dean on 087 4159217.

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