OVER the past few years, Fermanagh tenor Andrew Irwin has been making a name for himself in the world of opera – however, when the pandemic struck last year and live performances were cancelled, he quickly found himself out of work for the foreseeable future.

With his tenacious attitude, Andrew has been making the most of a bad situation.

He returned to his Fermanagh home of Monea, where he has since been teaching singing lessons virtually and has been taking the opportunity to perform, virtually, when possible.

Now, Andrew is planning to record his debut album – a commercial CD of Irish songs which he is raising funds for by way of pre-orders.

“I was inspired to release my first album last year, when the country went into lockdown,” said Andrew.

Explaining why he has chosen to focus on Irish songs for his first album, he said: “When I began singing, my ‘bread and butter’ was the Irish Traditional repertoire.”

He went on to note how during his most difficult moments in lockdown, Traditional Irish music was a comfort to him.

“In low moments, suffering from depression, I turned to Irish songs from my childhood for comfort.

“When I sang my first online concert live from the Ardhowen Theatre in Enniskillen last July, I programmed a recital of Irish songs.

“The extent that this resonated with the local area, and the way that it made me feel, made me certain that the project was worthwhile,” he added.

For the album, Andrew researched Traditional music from County Fermanagh, and has commissioned Neil Martin to arrange five songs from the area that had never been arranged in the ‘classical’ style before.

“Michael Papadopolous has arranged a further three songs. I am aiming for 15 songs in total across four days of recording,” he said.

The project will be produced and recorded by Michael Keeney.

“[He] has an incredible CV behind him, working with Paramount Pictures, Duke Special, EMI, Universal Music, Lionsgate, Van Morrison, and Phil Coulter,” said Andrew, adding: “The amazing pianist Ruth McGinley is playing a beautiful Steinway piano on the project, and we are recording in the First Church, Belfast, on Rosemary Street.”

For the project, Andrew has received support from the Arts Council, as well as the Joan Trimble Bursary Awards, and Christopher Ball.

“It is nearly there, but I require the last portion to get me over the line,” he said.

To support Andrew’s project, see his Crowdfund page, Andrew Irwin Irish Song Album (at https://bit.ly/3xpkLtW).

“This is an ambitious project, and getting as close to breaking even before the first CD is sold would mean a lot to me,” said Andrew.