Tenor Andrew Irwin is continuing to make noise in the world of theatre – more specifically, on the stage of Stadttheater Bremerhaven, where he is employed as a soloist.

He’s a long way from his native Monea, but the Fermanagh man never forgets his roots as he looks forward to performing in his home county in the coming weeks.

When I spoke to him over the phone, he was sitting in the living room of his flat in the German city of Bremerhaven.

Luckily, I had caught him on a rare morning off from his busy performance and rehearsal schedule.

He explained that later that week he was performing ‘Tosca’ and was in the throes of rehearsals for the theatre’s premiere of the fairytale opera, ‘Hansel and Gretel’, where he is singing as Knusperhexe, the witch.

“It is one of the bigger tenor roles for my type of voice,” said Andrew, who over the past couple of years has performed 10 roles in everything between Classical Opera to a Rock Pop musical at Stadttheater Bremerhaven: “It’s all very exciting and that’s been all really fun, and a great relief post-Covid.”

Although he had the morning off, Andrew was busy planning ahead for a special concert he will perform back home at St. Macartin’s Cathedral Hall, Enniskillen on Saturday, November 18 as a fundraiser for the Fermanagh Live Arts Festival (FLive).

He noted how, just that morning, he had finished creating the programme for the concert where he will be accompanied by pianist Jonathan Beatty.

“So Johnny and I are going to do a fun mixture [of pieces], sort of following what I’ve been up to [over] the past few years.

“I’m going to sing some of the opera arias; we’re going to have some music from operetta, and we’re going to have some music from musical theatre repertoire,” said Andrew outlining the programme.

He added: “I’m going to dip into some of the repertoire from my CD, ‘Lough Erne’s Shore’, as well, singing some Irish Traditional song arrangements.”

Andrew explained that on the evening, there will also be an appearance from “a young talented person from Fermanagh”.

“This is somebody who I’ve been teaching for three years and I’m extremely proud of,” he said, noting that generally, if he has an evening off, he is online in Zoom meetings, teaching singing to children from Fermanagh.

Looking forward to performing with Jonathan again, having performed two online live concerts from the Ardhowen Theatre together in 2020, Andrew said: “It’s really nice to come home and see a familiar face.

“The way that I work quite often means I end up meeting people for a very short period of time and doing a bit of work or whatever, and I might see them again in a few years, but knowing that I can come home and Johnny is there, and ready to play, is really nice.”

Jonathan, who is based in Enniskillen where he not only plays piano, but also teaches the instrument, said that he is delighted to be accompanying Andrew at the live concert following the success of their virtual duets.

He said: “When asked to get involved in the FLive fundraising concert with Andrew I was quick to reply ‘Yes’. We had performed together a few times during the Covid lockdowns.

“These were live concerts, but to virtual audiences, so I am really looking forward to accompanying Andrew with a real one!

“I am keen to promote local Fermanagh talent, and equally keen to ask Fermanagh audiences to support it.”

The last time Andrew headlined a live concert in Fermanagh was five years ago in 2018.

“I did a Schubert’s song cycle in the Ardhowen for Music In Fermanagh.

“Other than that, there have been some online concerts, and I held a concert for my students as well since then.

“But this is the first concert that’s purely been [led by] me since 2018, which is actually the longest period of time that I’ve ever had without a concert in Fermanagh,” he said, adding that he “can’t wait” for the FLive concert.

Talking about his connection with FLive, Andrew explained that he had been in conversations about performing a concert at the festival since he was 18 years old.

“Evelyn Hassard runs the music side of things and we’ve always had really interesting discussions. Unfortunately, I’ve so rarely been home in October while they’re doing their actual festival.

“However, I always check out the programme, and I always think it looks really interesting,” he said, adding: “This fundraiser is going to be extremely important to actually make sure that the festival can keep going.”

When asked why he thinks it’s important to support festivals such as FLive, and The Arts in general, Andrew responded: “There’s several reasons. Firstly, it’s really important that these things are actually available to us.

“Some of these things are things that we don’t notice as being a [cultural] void until they’re gone, and so it’s extremely important that this is around and available, [from] the perspective of the audience and the perspective of the performer.”

He added that if the likes of the FLive festival was to disappear, it could have a detrimental effect on young performers.

“How do they believe that there’s any platform to stand on for them in the future? Or how do they have their horizons broadened if they don’t get the opportunity to see something different?

The opportunity to be able to experience something new, and the opportunity to be able to see these things, is just incredibly important,” said Andrew.

He noted: “In a time of funding cuts, we need to see larger numbers of audiences out there for the Arts Council to be persuaded to keep putting money into things like FLive, so that audiences can actually still see this music, and people like me can actually still have work at home,” he said.

Speaking on behalf of the festival committee, Lisa Clarke, FLive Chairperson, said that that they are “delighted to welcome” talented local singer Andrew back to Fermanagh.

She continued: “He will entertain us with a wide variety of repertoire for our Fermanagh Live Fundraising event. He will be accompanied by the wonderful Jonathan Beatty.

“The night promises to be an enjoyable and uplifting event which will showcase our local talent hailing from Portora Royal School,” said Lisa, adding: “Please come and support this unique concert!”

Tickets for this event can be purchased from Reilly’s Electrical, Belmore Court and Motel, and Crannog Antiques, or online via Eventbrite.

The FLive concert, ‘An Evening with Andrew Irwin’, featuring Jonathan Beatty on piano, is the first of a number of fundraising events organised in aid of next year’s festival, which is due to take place at the beginning of October, 2024.