Shelter Me From The Rain wins Allianz Business to Arts Award.

Ireland’s first opera commissioned by a local authority – Shelter Me From The Rain by Brian Irvine (music) and John McIlduff (text), commissioned by Carlow Local Authorities, was yesterday awarded the “Best Use of Creativity in the Community Award” in the Allianz Business to Arts Awards held at Dublin Castle. The award was presented by Irish President Mary McAleese.

Produced in May 2011, Shelter Me From The Rain was one of Ireland’s largest per-cent for art commissions, and the first such commission in the operatic medium. It involved a performance company of over 100 Carlow-based singers, who undertook a year-long training and rehearsal programme led by conductor Fergus Sheil. The performances were given in conjunction with 12 members of the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra in Carlow’s GB Shaw Theatre in May 2011.

Shelter Me From The Rain showcased stories of love from all ages and all walks of life, set against a backdrop of weather forecasting and weather related themes. Of the 103 singers, over 40 performed solo roles, many taking to the stage for the first time. The company also included Carlow’s acclaimed youth choir Aspiro. Composer Brian Irvine, who wrote the music specially for this company of performers spoke of his fascination with the process of “unlocking the individual creative energy inside every participant, irrespective of previous musical experience in manner that did never compromised artistic ambition and integrity”  He viewed yesterday’s award as “a testament to the validity of individual ability and personality of all the performers involved”.

Project curator and music director Fergus Sheil described the process as an “experience of a life-time”. He added that he was “overwhelmed with support from Carlow Local Authorities arts office, from the executive staff and the elected representatives in Carlow, from County Carlow VEC, the GB Shaw Theatre and many other local supporters. Above all, however, it was the dedication and unswerving commitment of participants that made this project a most memorable musical and theatrical experience”.

The project was tracked by a 10-part documentary series made by Athena Media for RTÉ lyric fm. Podcasts of the radio series are available at

Shelter Me From The Rain was also supported by a project grant from The Arts Council / An Chomhairle Ealaíon.