Local Faces: Lynsey Callaghan
DR LYNSEY Callaghan grew up in a household in Drimnagh where music was informally enjoyed, paving the way for her to develop her passion for music and turn it into a successful career.
Her parents always encouraged her interest in music, which included bringing her to music classes in Kylemore College every Saturday when she was a teenager and organising violin lessons.
“My parents didn’t have music training or education, but there was always music playing and we would sing,” Lynsey told The Echo.
“So it wasn’t a formal education, but an informal one. I started learning violin just before I went into secondary school and really enjoyed it.”
When she began attending the Assumption Secondary School in Walkinstown, Lynsey became involved in the school choir which was led by the school’s music teacher Dr Lorraine O’Connell.
Prior to this, Lynsey had been involved in a church choir in St Agnes’ Church in Crumlin, but her participation in the Assumption’s school choir was her first formal experience in a choir.
“I joined the choir a few months into first year and I made all of my friends there,” she recalled.
“I just loved every minute of it, I was such a choir nerd! I’d spend as much time with the choir as I could, and I’d spend my lunch breaks in rehearsals with the choir.
“It was a serious choir, but it was fun. It was clear that Ms O’Connell knew what she was doing – you can have fun while striving to be excellent, and that’s what she taught us to do.”
These early experiences within formal and informal settings cemented Lynsey’s resolve to pursue a career in music, with a specific focus on choral work.
“When you find something you love, you spend a lot of time practising and you want to build a trajectory,” she explained.
“My parents would bring me to Kylemore for music classes and by the end I had training in orchestra and violin. I’d spend my Saturdays there when I was in secondary school.”
This dedication to pursuing a career in music paid off, with Lynsey being conferred with degrees in music education, choral conducting, and a PhD in medieval musicology from Trinity College.
When asked why choirs in particular hold her interest, Lynsey said: “I love every part of being in a choir. The kind of people that sing in choirs, I always seem to vibe with them.
“I’ve also played in orchestras but it’s never had the same hold for me as choirs do.
“I love the pieces we perform, the stories they tell, and the equitability of choirs – you can’t buy a better voice, you can only train it, so there’s no huge expense in terms of an instrument.”
In 2017, Lynsey founded the Dublin Youth Choir in a bid to encourage more young people to get involved in choral singing and reap the benefits that she has experienced first-hand.
“I had been in the Irish Youth Choir and Chamber Choir but I just didn’t see that opportunity for young people to join a choir outside of a religious context or a music school,” she said.
“The Dublin Youth Choir is an opportunity for children who want to have that music education outside of a religious context, to me there seemed to be a gap in the market for that.
“We started with one choir with 24 singers, now we’ve got 10 choirs and we’ll be auditioning hundreds of children who want to take part.
“Being in a choir helps people to build their confidence, and it helps them socially. All of the friends I have now, I’ve met at some point in a choir.
“I find it very fulfilling when I see individual members of the choir develop personally, and seeing them develop in terms of their musicianship, friendship group and confidence, and seeing how that can be translated into the entire group. I like seeing how that collection of individuals make something together that can’t be achieved individually.”
This enjoyment of collective achievement also informs Lynsey’s work as the director of the Belfast Philharmonic Youth and Chamber Choirs, and the Tallaght Choral Society.
Lynsey, who also works for the Royal Irish Academy of Music, has been conducting and directing the Priory-based Tallaght Choral Society since 2015.
“The Tallaght Choral Society is over 50 years old, and it’s really, really strong,” said Lynsey.
“Over Covid we kept doing our weekly rehearsals, but we had them online and we’d have quizzes and presentations.
“We do a lot in the community, we’ve performed at Tallafest and at remembrance Masses in the Priory.
“Although we’re not necessarily a religious choir, we do rehearse in the Priory so we have that link.”
As for the development of her career over the last few years, Lynsey is content with the working life she has built – which she said her teenage self would struggle to believe is real.
“I couldn’t have even imagined this, because it’s the best life,” she said. “It’s everything and more than I expected.
“I’ve had the opportunity to travel the world, I’ve met amazing people, and now I’m working with some of the most incredible young people in the Dublin Youth Choir and in Belfast.
“I’m incredibly lucky with the people I’ve met and the things I’ve done – I would never have imagined it back when I was in school.”