A discovery of great historical significance to the Ballina region has been unearthed following intensive worldwide research which has revealed the extraordinary musical talents of the Wallace family who went on to entertain people throughout the world in the mid 19th century. To honour the family, the Ballina Wallace Bicentenary Committee has been formed to mark the birth two hundred years ago of William Vincent Wallace, one of Ireland's greatest composers, and to firmly establish his family's roots and links in the Ballina/Killala area, in addition to his sister Eliza who became one of the great divas in Australia. Jacob Wallace, the composer's grandfather, and Margaret Lyons were married in the Church of Ireland, Killala, on 11th July, 1770. They had at least three children: Thomas (b.1773), Susanna (b.1778) and Spencer (b.1789). Spencer became the bandmaster of the North Mayo Militia which was formed in 1793.
The family links to Ballina/Killala appear to go back to the early 1700s. William Vincent Wallace, who spent his formative years in the town, and whose sister, Eliza, was born and baptised in Ballina, became musical celebrities throughout the world. Given his access to the River Moy and its abundance of salmon, William Vincent also became, not surprisingly, an accomplished angler. William Vincent has been described as the rock star of his day with many compositions to his name, including the 1850s smash hits Maritana and Lurline.
He brought opera to Mexico, performed in Australia and New Zealand, Cuba, throughout Europe and in North America, Vienna, England, Ireland, etc. When he died in 1865 in France the New York Tribune wrote: "The name of William Vincent Wallace has been familiar as a household word for many years, in every state of the Union. He resided here for many years, took upon himself the responsibilities of citizenship, married here and his children are American born citizens, and here he poured out the melodies of his soul, until the whole country recognized his creative genius, which was quenched but a few days ago. His smallest works may be counted by hundreds; songs and pianoforte pieces were constantly issuing from the press, and Wallace was and is, the most popular composer that ever lived among us."
The Wallace Bicentenary Committee in Ballina has arranged a number of events to mark this remarkably talented musical family. A Talk (Friday Sept 14th), given by two of the world's leading authorities on the family (Dr David Grant and Peter Jaggard), and an Exhibition running for ten days in the local Library, will lead to a Concert featuring Wallace compositions in St Muredach's Cathedral on Sunday night, September 16th, featuring the Lawlor School of Song, soloists Alan McGinty and Debbie McCole, the Sheeran family, The Moy Singers, The St Muredach's Cathedral Choir, and the Ballina Chamber Choir, and others. A commemorative souvenir programme will be produced to mark the occasion.
Surviving Wallace family links in the US have been traced and have been invited to Ballina for the occasion. Visitors will be given a guided tour of the Ballina/Killala area, viewing baptismal fonts in St Michael's, Ballina, and St Patrick's, Killala, where some of the family were christened. They will also see a surviving house of one of the Wallaces, and visit Enniscoe House which has strong links with the North Mayo Militia.
Though William Vincent Wallace was born in Waterford (where his father's regiment, the North Mayo Militia, was on tour of duty, he only spent a few months there. There is, however, a bust to his memory in the city, and he has been commemorated there from time to time. The family's deep-rooted connections with North Mayo are less well-known. A memoir by Grattan Flood of Wallace was responsible for establishing the myth that Wallace had family connections in Waterford. It claims that the father married a Waterford girl. Research now shows that the mother was from Limerick and the sister-in-law of Andrew Ellard of the North Mayo Militia.
The Ballina Wallace Bicentenary Committee has come up with a novel idea to promote its concert of Wallace music in St Muredach's Cathedral on Sunday evening, September 16th.
The show will go out live through the Cathedral's webcam, and the committee is appealing to people in the area to alert their families/friends overseas of the transmission.
"The Wallace family brought their music to the world, through Britain into Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South America, Cuba\< Mexico and into North America in the 1830s-1850s and it would be lovely if people overseas connected with this region in anyway could tune in on the night," said the Bicentenary Committee chairman, Terry Reilly.
The Wallace Celebrations run from Sept 6 -16, 2012, and include Talks, Exhibition, Walks, and the Concert in the Cathedral featuring local choirs, singers and musicians with a brief introduction to the remarkable Wallace family, the rock stars of their era. More details later. See Facebook page William Vincent Wallace Bicentenary.
Members of the Ballina Wallace Bicentenary Committee are Terry Reilly, Liam MacHale, Pat Diamond, Margaret Harrison, Michael Hogan and Barry McLoughlin.
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