Ennis Musical Society has been saved by an anonymous donor, just eight days after launching a public campaign to alleviate the financial damage inflicted on the amateur society due to Covid-19.
The cancellation of the society’s annual glór performance, had left Ennis Musical Society in dire straits financially, incurring a deficit of €14,000 through the loss of box office sales and the accompanying costs derived from lights, sound and the orchestra.
Acting chairperson Rachael Culligan tells the Clare Echo about the deeply seeded and symbiotic relationship the society shares with the people of Ennis, it’s unfaltering sense of inclusivity as well as how the generosity of an unnamed Clare man and the goodwill of 180 personal donations has enabled Ennis Musical Society to lift themselves out of a financial thrift and up onto centre stage once again.
Rachael wields warm words and a deep appreciation for the history of Ennis Musical Society and its place within the town of Ennis. Inheriting the role over a year ago, Rachael acknowledges familial ties with the society, recalling her father’s time as Chairman throughout the 1990s. She remembers calling down and ambling backstage through the duration of old shows, all the while fostering a growing adoration, feeling like she was part of something magical.
Situated firmly within local hearts is a position Rachael feels Ennis Musical Society has earned through its inclusivity at all levels. Speaking on the personal connection felt within the society, Rachael admits, “We are a nice group and bunch of people. It’s so inclusive, we have people with disabilities, we have two people with down syndrome, we have children under the age of three, we have people in their eighties, we have members of the LGBTI+ community and we have people who want to be backstage.
“Some people just want to do the lights, others the sound. There is great friendship and community within the society, it’s something to do and there is a sense of magic in taking a bow together. You all feel like you have created something together that brings happiness to people and I would say the friends you make on stage, you don’t make friends like that anywhere else or in any other aspect of life. From the terror of the curtains opening to the bow and that final feeling of elation, you experience such a range of emotions with these people. It’s an outlet available to so many people and it’s closed to nobody, everyone is welcome at the Ennis Musical Society.”
Touching on the recent hardship experienced by the society in struggling with a financial deficit, Rachael tells of how the government’s €25 million euro bailout doesn’t include provisions for amateur arts groups and the society has had to rely on the goodwill of the Clare people. Other amateur performance groups have been rallying around one another, with the Ennis Players and Ennis Pantaloons offering some small financial support to Ennis Musical Society. The annual performance runs up a stiped in the tens of thousands Rachael reveals, and the society needed to accrue a total of €14,000 euro to break even and begin anew.
This is where an unnamed Clare man came to the fore. Rachael recounts the story of reaching out to the anonymous donor, “Funnily enough, I contacted him. What happened was that I was on Clare FM and Allen Flynn from the Old Ground Hotel and the Pantomime society both got in touch with me and made really, really big donations. The president of our musical society also made a really big donation. It must have been playing on Alan’s mind quite a bit because he was texting me a couple of times a day, asking me have you tried this, have you tried that. He then gave me the name of a very well-known Clare man who had moved away and had done really well for himself. Allen told me he was a proud Clare man who would hate to see the musical society go under. The anonymous donor then called me the next night. At that stage we had raised eight out of the fourteen thousand and had six thousand left to raise. I told him how much we needed, and he said, ‘I’ll put that away in your bank account tomorrow.’”
Rachael and the Ennis Musical Society are extremely grateful for the generosity of the anonymous donor and the many individuals who contributed to the society’s last ditched efforts to keep its doors open. Ennis Musical Society hopes to reconvene in January, as rehearsals for this year’s cancelled show, Seussical, will begin again and March 2021 could see the amateur arts group take to the stage once again. Rachael is putting the call out for men to join the society, quipping that it has become the Tinder of its day and that internal matchmaking and even matrimony isn’t unheard of within the society:
“We are kind of like the mafia. Once you come down, it’s hard to get away. Especially if you are a man. That is possibly the biggest challenge that we face, year on year. It’s so hard to get men to join. It’s funny because if you look back on the programmes in the seventies, eighties, nineties, it was full of men. A certain stereotype began to creep in after that and it’s hard to shake. Any man that joins Ennis Musical Society, is usually married off within the group. Lot’s of marriages happen here because there is a lot of women and when one man joins, everyone has their eye out. It’s that sort of a group. It’s the Tinder of its time.”