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Inspiration from Ireland

By Melanie Damani, Hottinger Art

The art of taking a leap of faith and making it to Broadway


Padraig McCaul

Padraig McCaul with his artwork on Keel Beach, Achill lsland, Ireland. Courtesy of the artist.

Padraig McCaul (b.1963) is an artist from Dublin who works and lives with his family on Achill Island. His work is very much influenced by the incredible landscape and cultural heritage of West Ireland and the Wild Atlantic Way. This unique setting provides him with an unlimited source of inspiration. As the seasons, days, and hours change constantly in this part of the world, the artist is able to play with light and colour in an endless manner.

Take me home (2018), Padraig Mccaul (b.1963), oil on canvas, 100x120cm. Courtesy of the artist.

In his paintings, McCaul focuses on primary colours and works in broad strokes. He does not always work from a model, instead he often uses his mind to guide him and follows his inspiration. The viewer can then naturally and emotionally connect with his work, which functions as a window to explore the scene and get lost in the painting.

McCaul’s early works focused solely on the landscape, but with time his repertoire has evolved to include more figurative works and people – families in particular. In a very simple way, McCaul manages to present a family portraits where the relationship and emotions between members are wonderfully evident.

Family with bicycle (2018), Padraig Mccaul (b. 1963), oil on canvas, 50x50cm. Courtesy of the artist.

McCaul originally studied music at Maynooth university and his art is very much self-taught. Before the call to return to art grew too strong to ignore, he dedicated the first part of his professional life to running a technology business.

McCaul’s story is not an unusual one. A lot of artists, in particular young artists, very quickly pass on their artistic career for many understandable reasons such as financial sustainability. However, McCaul managed to become a successful artist after reverting to his passion. In fact, his story was so inspiring for other artists that he is now mentoring and assisting them with managing their careers from a business perspective, making use of his unique set of skills including the management experience he gained in his earlier career.

McCaul is not only a visual artist but also a musician. He plays the saxophone with the Mayo Concert Orchestra. The orchestra is conducted by Musical Director Kathy Fahey, another inspirational person with an incredible story (see below).


Kathy Fahey and Fáinne Óir

Kathy Fahey, composer and choir director, featured at the Royal Theatre of Castlebar, Ireland.

Kathy Fahey is the composer and co-producer of the contemporary Irish musical, Fáinne Óir.

This new production, which combines singing, dance and narration, tells the story of an Irish family living in Glanagweeha in West Mayo during the Famine Years of 1845-1848.

The production has already received incredible support and acclaim nationally and internationally and is now on its way to Broadway, New York, where it will open on 26th September 2019. The world premiere will take place at Castlebar Royal Theatre in Ireland on 20th September 2019. A set of original paintings by Padraig McCaul will be used in the stage backdrop for the production.

The story of Fáinne Óir began with its composer and writter, Kathy Fahey, from Castlebar. From the age of 12, Kathy worked with choirs, both teaching and as an accompanist at local church services and weddings. By 18, she was teaching piano and not long afterwards she began training her first adult choir. Fahey is presently director of several award-winning choirs including Castlebar Gospel Choir, Vocalessence Ladies Choir, Every Voice Community Choir, The Troubadours, VoxFusion, Belcarra Local Parish Choir and Children’s Choir. She was appointed conductor of the Mayo Concert Orchestra in 2017.

Before her full-time career as composer and director, Fahey worked in the banking industry in Dublin. When her daughter became unwell, she moved back to Castlebar and – initially out of necessity to make a living – resumed her first passion, music, by accepting a post as a choir director.

Once again fully immersed in the world of music, Fahey was inspired and wrote the entire story and the music of Fáinne Óir in a single night.

When asked whether she would do all this again, she honestly said ‘no’ as it was such a difficult time for her. However, Fahey’s strength, passion and dignity saw her through. She has become an important figure in the Irish community, where she is admired for her talent and humility and regarded as a source of inspiration by many musicians.


What do these stories from Ireland teach us?

This small area of West Ireland is awash with inspiration and ideas.

Visually stunning and with a wealth of community spirit, it has produced world-class artists, two of whom we were very pleased to be able to feature above.

One person wanted to go back to art, whilst another needed to make a living closer to home for family reasons. Some wanted to sing but did not have a choir director. Others had talent but did not know how to use it.

Wishes, dreams and hopes can become reality with hard work, selflessness and a supportive community, but it also takes a healthy dose of resilience and determination.

Padraig McCaul and Kathy Fahey’s stories demonstrate these qualities in abundance and now they are inspiring others on a global scale.

Anything is possible!

Padraig McCaul and Kathy Fahey with Consul General Ciaran Madden at the Irish Consulate in New York City. Image credit: Fainne Oir (Twitter @FainneO)

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