Interview: Sean Ruane
11:10am Saturday 24th October 2009 in Leisure
Sean Ruane was trained at the same piano as some of the world’s most famous opera singers and has since widely performed to great acclaim. But back home in Rossendale he is an unknown face and his auntie says he’s still not as good as his dad. He spoke to us ahead of his homecoming concert.
SEAN Ruane is one of the rising stars of the opera world — thanks to an advert for Pretty Polly tights and Bacup Library.
The 41-year-old Bacup-born tenor started out his musical career in a rock band, hoping to be the next Bono, until one day he heard a piece of music which stopped him in his tracks.
“I didn’t know I could sing in this style. I just saw an advert 14 years ago for Pretty Polly tights and it was a piece from Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca.
"I thought it was fantastic so I borrowed it from Bacup Library and then somehow my musical journey started.
"It took me to Puccini’s villa in Tuscany and I studied at his prestigious academy for Puccini singers,” said the father of three.
After making his debut in 2001, Sean has worked all over Europe, the United States, Russia, Australia and New Zealand at some of the world’s most prestigious venues.
Yet he has never performed in East Lancashire. But tonight he will be on stage at Colne Muni with the Nelson Arion Male Voice Choir and he can barely contain his excitement.
“I am really looking forward to performing at Colne. I’ve never done any concerts in this area,” said Sean, who still lives in Rossendale. “I’m really excited. The sound with the Nelson male voice choir should be fantastic. It’s all the more special because they’re from near me.
“Mine and my wife’s families are here so being in East Lancashire is very important to us and the thought of starting something with the Nelson choirs as a more regular arrangement would be really good.
“I’ve travelled the world with my job and stayed in some amazing places, but I’ve realised it’s not the places its the people that make where you live. That’s why I enjoy coming back home so much.”
It was as a young pupil at St Theodore's RC High School, Burnley, that Sean’s love for music was first discovered.
He recalled: “I’ve been singing since being a young child, but not opera and classical music. That wasn’t until my late twenties. Before that I was singing in rock and roll bands. I was 16 when it started. I remember my first group was called Electric Circus.
“I was always a bit wary of school plays because I went to an all-boys' school and if you were a younger boy you had to play a girl and dress as a girl. So although I wanted the singing parts, I avoided it like the plague. But when I got to sixth form I played Tevye in Fiddler On The Roof and I loved it.”
Sean’s vocal artistry has graced grand opera, TV and sporting arenas to great acclaim.
He is best-known for his involvement in this year’s Ashes as the voice of the tournament, singing out the team at each day with anthem Jerusalem.
“I wasn’t much of a cricket fan before I did the Ashes. I followed Bacup and that’s about it but now I follow all the test matches.
“It’s not my gig. People are there to watch cricket and they don’t want some guy turning up singing to them every day. So I was a bit scared, but the response I got and the applause when I left the pitch was amazing.
“The guys on Sky were commenting on me I couldn’t believe it. Even David Gower said the hairs on the back of his neck were stood up. It adds to the atmosphere I think.”
But back home it’s a different story. To his neighbours Sean is not recognised as star.
“It is phenomenal the reception I get around the world and then I come back to my home in Rossendale and no-one knows who I am or what I do. They don’t get the same chance around here to see me perform, apart from on television. They don’t know what it is I do.
So I am really looking forward to performing at Colne. I’ve never done any concerts in this area. It’s all the more special that I’m performing with a choir from near me.”
For tonight’s show it will be a mixture of operatic numbers in German, Russian and Italian from Sean, complemented by a selection of songs with the Nelson Arion Male Voice Choir — including Jerusalem, of course.
But Sean is modest about his talents saying he is simply living proof that dreams can come true if you put the work in.
He said: “I came from what was the run-down Fairview estate in Bacup, and to then be working in Milan with Franco Zeffirelli, one of the biggest film producers, and being stood in Puccini’s villa in Italy at the same piano that famous Italian tenor opera singer Enrico Caruso sang at . . . it's all a bit surreal. But you can do anything if you believe in yourself.”
Despite his success, there’s no pleasing some people.
“I was singing at a funeral recently and my auntie was there and the priest came up to her and said 'He’s got a good voice that lad.' But my auntie replied 'He’s not as good as his dad'.”
Sean laughed. “She always says that. I never heard him sing like me, but it’s definitely where I get my voice from.
"My mum was musical too. They’ve both died now, so I guess I’m carrying the tradition on in their memory.”
l ARION CELEBRITY CONCERT — with Sean Ruane, at Colne Muni tonight at 7.30pm. Tickets on 01282 661234.