This much I know: Doireann Ní Bhriain

My parents always loved to sing, they actually met in an Irish language choir, and they instilled a love of music in me.

Singing is a hobby for me now — I enjoy it because of the extraordinary way it allows me to switch off and disconnect from everything else. I joined the Culwick Choral Society several years ago. It is a big choir of around 120 people of all ages and from all walks of life.

We’re performing Handel’s Messiah in aid of One Family for people who parent alone in Dublin’s St Patrick’s Cathedral. When I stand up in the cathedral, looking up at the stunning architecture and hearing the opening notes of Messiah, I get a real sense of excitement that Christmas is coming again, relief that we’re all still here and a sense of privilege that we are performing this masterpiece just up the road from where it was first performed in Handel’s presence nearly 270 years ago.

I began my career as a radio and television journalist and worked on a whole range of programmes. Hosting Eurovision was just one of many jobs. My overriding memory is that there was no auto-cue. I was terrified that I would forget my trilingual scripts. It was all very different back then — TV celeb-rities hadn’t even been invented.

My first paid job was as a child actor at the age of eight in a radio play with my mother Neasa Ní Annracháin, who was part of the Radio Éireann Players. I desperately wanted to be an actor when I was a child, to follow in her footsteps and those of my uncle Kieron Moore who was a bit of a film star in the 50s.

After 20 years in RTÉ, it was time to go freelance. I still have plenty of good friends and connections in the station but I couldn’t have remained working for a large organisation.

I started out in radio and still love the power and intimacy of the medium. These days, I also do a lot of voice training and voice-overs.

I was brought up bilingually and I believe that it opens up the brain to the possibility of learning other languages. Perhaps that is why I went on to study French and Spanish at UCD.

When it comes to voice-overs, I was delighted to be asked to record the Luas announcements recently in English and Irish.

I train a lot of broadcasters and the most common problem is that people don’t open their mouths enough when they speak — they don’t use all of the equipment they’ve been given, such as the jaws and the tongue. Doing so helps you to speak more clearly and slowly.

I have become better at dividing my time between work and the rest of my life, although I’m still not sure what ‘free time’ means.

My worst trait is impatience. I hate waiting in queues or waiting to be served and am a little intolerant of ditherers.

I’d advise anyone who wants to get into broadcasting to make sure you do your research and learn how to ask questions. But, above all, learn how to listen. It is surprisingly difficult to really listen to a guest as you interview them.

I’m fascinated by language and language habits. In fact, the book by my bedside is The language wars: A history of proper English.

I think there is more meaning to our lives than we understand. I search for that understanding all the time. Whether there is an actual God or not is not the issue for me, nor is the existence or not of a life after death. Accessing the deeper, more spiritual, and often hidden side of myself as often as I can is important to me. !

So far, life has taught me that The Beatles were probably right — love, in its widest sense, is what it’s all about.

Doireann Ní Bhriain specialises in voice and presentation training, radio production and voiceover work. She will be performing Handel’s Messiah with the Culwick Choral Society in aid of One Family, for one-parent families, on November 23 and 24 in Dublin’s St Patrick’s Cathedral.


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