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Quinn brings Irish sound to Iowa City

BY JESSICA CARBINO | MARCH 10, 2011 7:20 AM

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Sitting around singing Irish songs was a typical family gathering for Carmel Quinn. Music has long been in her life, whether it was being glued to an American music program on the radio in Ireland or performing to audiences around America.

Carmel Quinn will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday in the Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St. Admission is $25.

Quinn performs Irish, folk, and contemporary songs as well as well as popular heartfelt songs that fans can relate to — it’s important to her that the lyrics strike a feeling. She also tells personal funny stories to add humor to the show.

“Quinn is a fantastic singer and storyteller, known for her unique ability to connect with audiences,” said Nathan Gould, the Englert marketing associate.

Though her stage presence connects the musician with her fans, Quinn uses the humor of her personal life for a different reason.

“We all need to laugh,” she said. “Laughter is good medicine for the mind and body.”

Her humorous stories cover growing up in Ireland, coming to America, and how the Irish celebrate holidays.

Growing up, Quinn took any chance she got to perform, including singing for the church to help raise money. She went on to make vinyl records and release CDs.

She never once had a voice lesson.

“I should look into it,” said Quinn, then laughed.

Even though her passion was singing, her career path led toward teaching. She accepted a teacher scholarship, but dropped out after two years to pursue music, something that made more sense to her heart. Her father was not pleased. “You have no money; you haven’t a hope,” her father told her.

But nothing could lower her motivation. One of her instructors at Carysfort College in Blackrock, Ireland, was looking for students to try out for the Dublin Theatre Royal orchestra and sought out Quinn. The singer went in, sung an Irish lullaby, and was given a spot.

While living in Ireland, Quinn performed in six bands. Then, at the age of 25, she traveled with her new husband to America to perform in the ballrooms he managed. Quinn collaborated with the famous Johnny Devlin Orchestra and impressed Arthur Godfrey with her unique Irish tunes to get a spot on his show “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts.”

“It was like the ‘American Idol,’ except gentler,” Quinn said.

What was supposed to be just three shows turned into six years on television. She enjoyed every moment of the success, receiving attention from other cities and stations.

“It’s a lot of talent and a lot of luck,” she said.

Another honor, and Quinn’s favorite memory of her career, was when she sang for President Kennedy at a dinner he hosted for governors.

Though her career is important, her family comes first. She feels blessed to have been raised in a family exposed to the musical world and hopes the same for her four children.

“I was very lucky,” said Quinn. “I had the luck of the Irish.”


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