"Your performance was astonishing." audience member after Winnipeg IrishFest Kickoff Concert 2012
Some dreams are so deep we don't know they are buried. Her sixty years had taken her from east coast marram grass of Massachusetts to a sea of prairie grass in Manitoba, and her childhood dream of becoming a singer had been replaced by an interesting life - marriage and family, teaching at a Hutterite Colony, owning a wool shop, weaving rugs for galleries and making soap for her company, Virginia's Soap Limited, until one summer night on Prince Edward Island, Canada.
She saw musician Gordon Belsher play the Irish bodhran drum at one of Cynthia Macleod's Brackley Beach ceilidhs, and when she went home to Manitoba, she took up the bodhran and by some quirk of fate, discovered sean nos singing (Irish gaelic) and her closeted history. Her family were early 18th century settlers in Hants County, NS, and her great great Grandmother came to Canada in black '47 on the Rapahannock during An Gorta Mhór, "The Great Hunger", commonly known as the Irish potato famine.
In this, her first album, the bronze branch, pays homage to her history. As part of the Irish diaspora - she claims her authentic roots.
She settled on the prairies but maintains a home, with her husband, on the north shore of PEI. Salt air is part of her DNA. The theme of loss and homesickness which draws her, has its roots in this almost tidal pull. The irony of spending her summers on Prince Edward Island across the pond from her Irish ancestors, and surrounded by lush potato fields is not lost on her. After selling her soap business of 25 years, Virginia followed her passion all the way to Ireland.
She delivers traditional songs in Irish and English. What sets her apart is her simplicity. Unaccompanied and raw, her earthy and expressive voice connects with the heart. Add a red bodhran drum or sparse guitar or harp accompaniment and her passion is palpable.
She has sung in places as diverse as the haunted Charleville Castle at Tulach Mhór, Ireland, the pub at Cairde na Cruite, Termonfecken, Ireland, the Auld Triangle sessions in Charlottetown, ceilis across PEI, and at sessions on Cape Breton Island. At home in Winnipeg, she has performed at Comhaltas Reels on Wheels, Irishfest Kickoff, Prairie Ink Cafe, The Irish Association of Manitoba and Prairie Celtic Club, Gordie’s, Happy Mike’s, and Sam’s Place Coffeehouses and packed house concerts. She is also a member of the “Flatland Ceili Band” which supports Comhaltas Winnipeg.
She studied classical voice with Marilyn Szajcz, a well respected voice teacher in Winnipeg and classical piano with Eric Lussier, maestro of Orchestra Baroch of Winnipeg. In addition she studied sean nos, traditional singing in Irish, from two All Ireland champions - Maureen Taggart in Winnipeg, and Eilís Ní Shúilleabhain in Tulach Mhór, Ireland. She has recently taken up the harp, learning aurally from Claire Shane Common formerly of the Belfast Harp Orchestra.
She was invited to sing on RTE radio Gaeltachta (Irish National Radio) in 2009. SBB aka Sean Ban Breathnach, the announcer, said, “You have the perfect voice for sean nos. You have done what most Irish cannot do.”