Members of St Agnes’ Choral Society are grieving the loss of Tony Gilmore, the last surviving founding member who died aged 93 on March 27.
Gareth McGreevy, Chairperson of St Agnes’ Choral Society, recounted Tony’s involvement in setting up the company.
“It was Tony who unlocked the door to a room in St Agnes’ Hall on the Andersonstown Road for the very first rehearsal of the society in February 1957. He can have had no idea of how his life would be changed that evening.
“When the society staged its first show the following year Tony played Poh Bah in The Mikado as well as serving on the committee as treasurer.
“In 1962 St Agnes’ went back to The Mikado, taking the show to the Waterford International Festival of Light Opera with Tony, this time, in the title role, making what one reviewer noted as an all too brief appearance but giving full justice to ‘A More Humane Mikado’.
For Tony, the choral society was more than a group of friends and he was keen to have his family involved too.
Gareth added: “Tony was joined on stage in the early days by his brother Sean, they played the Palmeri brothers in The Gondoliers in 1959, and later it became a family affair.
“He introduced his children to the society with daughters Catherine and Pauline playing onstage roles while son Anthony could be relied upon backstage, even driving large sets to Waterford and then helping to arrange the scenery overnight.
“Tony was an active member bringing honour to the society with his devotion and unselfish approach to every task, both on and offstage.
“He was also asked to guest with Fortwilliam Musical Society, notably playing Don Alhambra in The Gondoliers along with his friend Michael Blair in 1979.
“He was last seen by many members only on 2 March during a Zoom workshop given by former St Agnes’ member Patrick Smyth who is now a professional performer. Catherine Gilmore had tuned in to take part and was surprised by her father standing behind her to pass on his good wishes to everyone.”
Gareth said in June 2017 the society was delighted to be invited to sing at Tony’s 90th birthday party and finished with the very first song the chorus learned back in 1957, All In The April Evening.
“It was one of the many cruelties of the Covid pandemic that St Agnes’ were not able to attend his funeral, but it was represented by members Peter Burke and James McConnell to sing the iconic song with Catherine in honour of her dear father,” he said.
“Tony Gilmore’s legacy to St Agnes’ Choral Society, and through it, to the wider community will be remembered long into the future.”
Tony is survived by his children Tony, Catherine, Sean, Michael, Peter, Pauline and Martin, his grandchildren and great grandchildren.