Helga Raesfeldt-Mings (Hon. Secretary, Athlone Gramophone Society) pictured with Cllr Louise Heavin (Mayor of Athlone-Moate Municipal District) and Nora Curran.

Athlone Gramophone Society holds 70th anniversary celebration

The Athlone Gramophone Society celebrated its 70th Anniversary in the Radisson Blu Hotel in Athlone on Thursday, November 2.

The event encompassed a big party, finger food for attendees and music by the local Gramophone Society's members.

Secretary of the Athlone Gramophone Society Helga Raesfeldt-Mings said she was “very happy” with how the celebration went and that the lovely event was enjoyed by all who attended.

The event was attended by a great mix of past and present members, along with some well-known Athlone dignitaries and twelve members of Tullamore Gramophone Society. Some of the highlights of the evening included three beautifully presented music recitals performed by long standing members, Nora Curran, Mary McLoughlin and Ivan Merrick. Ivan also presented an interesting video on different styles of music featuring unusual instruments such as Chinese hand chimes and Guzheng, the Chinese plucked zither. The video also featured music by the New Orleans street jazz band.

Athlone Gramophone Society grew from humble beginnings in 1953 when three friends from the Income Tax Office came together and started a new society. They were the late Frances O'Regan, Nuala Hyland and the late Dan Costello.

That was a memorable year for the arts in Athlone as the All Ireland Amateur Drama Festival was also established then.

In the early years classical music was mainly played by the Gramophone Society. Over the intervening years the group has broadened out from just classical music to an appreciation of all genres, and it is open to anyone with an interest in, and love of good music, whether the individual's preference is for classical, jazz, swing, traditional or country.

A highlight of the 2019 season was the society hosting a celebratory evening at Athlone Little Theatre to mark the launch of the Electric Edition of Count John McCormack's 1925 - 1945 remastered recordings on 16 CDs. This included a screening of a video made by American man Ward Marston who produced the electric edition and worked on it for 20 years.

Meetings of the Gramophone Society are held on alternate Tuesdays at 8pm in The Knights of Columbanus Building, St Mary's Place. Normally one or two members will present their choice of music, usually on CD, sometimes on gramophone, although some members are happy just to listen and enjoy the music being played. Another popular format is a ‘bring your own night' when each member is asked to bring just one piece of music to be played.

New members are always welcome, and the society encourages anyone who has a love of music in comfortable surroundings to join the group.

Athlone Gramophone Society is one of the oldest societies in the town, having been in continuous existence for 70 years. It has been a great contributor to cultural activities in Athlone, having organised numerous musical performances over the years, including some by the Ulster Orchestra, Louis Browne, the National Chamber Orchestra and the Douglas Gunne Ensembie.