Friday, December 16, 2016

An entertaining and emotional evening

If you didn't know just how passionate Gerry O'Donoghue is about the charity he founded, Maintain Hope, well it was clear last night when he literally choked up after watching for the first time a slide show of the children from the orphanage in Kenya, all showing hope and looking safe, writes Brian Byrne.

Maybe it was because the set of photos, presented to show the audience at the annual Maintain Hope Christmas Concert just where their money was going, illustrated so well the goals of the charity, and the volunteers who support it with their time, skills, and energy.

Maybe too, it was because one of the children pictured, with the caption saying that all he wanted was enough medicine to stay alive, hadn't made to the end of 2016.

In his short explanation of Maintain Hope's work, Gerry noted that all of the children there had been at best let down by significant adults in their lives. "At worst they have been exploited for gain by those same adults," he added. "And sometimes even by the government there, with whom we are supposed to work as partners. You can see why sometimes we can feel frustrated."

But once again it was a night in Kilcullen at least where the Maintain Hope children were not being let down. Though there were empty seats, because there were other events to be supported last night, Gerry noted that all had been paid for by people unable to make it along.

Those who did come along were treated to the usual eclectic mix of music, song, poetry, drama, prose and memoir.

With the pace maintained by MC John Martin, each act was tightly kept to time, their performances all the better for that. The contributors were for the most part those who are now the Maintain Hope 'old reliables', not strictly an age description as some maturing young talent which had been there from the event's beginnings in Castlemartin Church showed how they have developed into superb artistes.

The performers included the Camphill Bell Orchestra with Gese Mücke, Leah O'Sullivan, Eve McMahon, Roy Thompson, Danny Carthy, Charlie Talbot, Francie O'Brien, Sean Leahy & Family, Kevin Barrett, Dick Dunphy and Bernard Berney, and the Maintain Hope Carol Singers with Monica Martin.

The show has become a local marker for the end of the year and the beginning of Christmas. And thanks to all who support this and other shows organised for the charity through the year, the children of Maintain Hope have not just a happy Christmas of their own, but a future of hope.

That's as good a thought as any to bring us all into our own Christmas.