This much I know: Anne Marie Gibbons

Anne Marie Gibbons

I’m a natural risk-taker.

I didn’t always think I’d be a full-time performer.

I was always singing, alongside doing everything else, and it simply, gradually took over.

What I most love about singing is the ability it affords me to lose myself in whatever aria, or song or role, I am singing or playing. Because, by doing so, I’m able to create a very pleasurable experience for the audience.

I grew up in Louisburgh, Co. Mayo, a beautiful little village.

I am one of four children: two boys and two girls.

We had a very happy childhood and living on a farm meant we had lots of wonderful outdoor experiences.

I went to University College Dublin and studied psychology. I was also in the College of Music, at the same time, doing vocal studies. From there, I went on to work for AIB and also completed an MSc in organisational psychology at the University of London.

While I was working for AIB, I began to be asked more and more often to do concerts and perform different roles.

Many people started suggesting that I should be singing full-time. It got to the stage where I wondered to myself, irrespective of outcome, whether in ten years’ time I would regret it if I didn’t take the plunge and give singing full-time a proper go? And, of course, the answer was yes. So, I then went and auditioned for a place on the postgraduate vocal and opera studies course at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, and was successful.

Leaving my job in AIB was taking a huge financial risk. I sold my car to help pay for the tuition and living expenses, but the reaction from everybody, overall, including my colleagues, was an immensely positive one.

I spent two great years in Manchester and learnt a tremendous amount that would serve me well in the time afterwards, and subsequently ended up on a three-year contract at English National Opera in the West End.

I’m not from a professional singing background, but music has always been, and continues to be, very important in my family, particularly on my father Michael’s side.

My grandfather was a very good singer, as are my father and his sisters. My mother can sing, too, although she would not do so in public and my siblings can do a turn when called upon.

My earliest memory of music is of singing ‘If I Were a Blackbird’ with my grandfather, at the back of our house in Mayo on a sunny day.

The trait I most admire in other people is courage.

My main faults are impatience and trying too hard to please everybody.

I definitely believe in fate.

My husband Hugh and I met on the set of Tchaikovsky’s opera The Queen of Spades, in Manchester. He was playing the lead role, Hermann, and I was playing the role of the Countess. Hermann causes the Countess’s death in the opera, so I guess you could say that I got the last laugh, because I managed to get him in the end!

My biggest challenge in life, so far, has been parenting.

My husband, Hugh, and I have two children — Tom, four in January, and Emma, two in October. The bottom line is that they come first and everything else comes after that. I am of the belief that when you have children, you take the responsibility that goes with them.

When either Hugh or myself are offered an engagement, we discuss the practicalities of fulfilling the job. If it works out great, if not, so be it.

I am very disciplined. I have to be. It would all descend into chaos otherwise — trying to juggle singing, mothering and teaching.

If I could be reborn as someone else for a day, I’d be Marie Curie.

If I could change one thing in Irish society, it would be our standard of driving.

I believe in life after death, because I believe the spirit of a person lives on.

So far, life has taught me that we are all on a big learning curve and school finishes the day you die.

Together, Hugh and I run The Mayo Vocal Academy, in Castlebar, where we coach voices of all ages and abilities, covering everything from traditional music to opera.

At the moment, I don’t have much time for anything else, besides family and work, although I do find time to catch the odd episode of Grand Designs.

I love interior design and once even did a course in it.

Anne Marie Gibbons joins The Culwick Choral Society to perform Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle at Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, Saturday, October 18 at 8pm. Tickets: €20 from Entertainment.ie, or on the door.


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