Fans of ‘Middle-of-the-Road’ and country music star, Trudi Lalor, will be thrilled to hear that, after a year marked by personal tragedy, the county Laois singing sensation is back and delighted to announce the release of her stunning new album, ‘Home I’ll Be’.
Demonstrating, once again, just what sets her apart as a star of the Irish music industry, Trudi has been joined on her latest release by her mother, Philomena Keyes, to record a very special single in aid of Amnesty International. The talented duo performs the new track , ‘Beautiful Isle of Somewhere’ (track five on the album) to stunning effect, however, it was their debut rendition of this song following a tragic family event in July 2010 that finally encouraged Trudi and Philomena to take the step to record this beautiful, charity song together.
Having suffered from depression for a period of time, Trudi’s brother Alan took his own life in July 2010, and it was at his funeral that Trudi and Philomena first performed ‘Beautiful Isle of Somewhere’ as a duet. So moved were the hundreds of people in attendance on that summer day that the mother and daughter were persuaded to record the song as a tribute to their much-loved brother and son.
Philomena had just turned 80 years old when she stepped in to the recording studio for the first time. Having sung at parties, concerts and dances for most of her life, this song was always a firm favourite with audiences, particularly when she was accompanied on guitar by her talented son, Alan.
In an effort to prevent even one family from going through the sorrow and loss that they have experienced over the past year, Trudi and Philomena have been honoured to allow Amnesty International to use the song to support its campaign against the prejudice and discrimination felt by many of those who experience mental health problems.
“While depression was obviously a very real and significant issue within Alan’s life, it soon became clear that a major obstacle to his recovery lay with the behaviour and attitudes of society and many of those he came in contact with”, explains Trudi.
She continues: “Nobody who suffers from any sort of health problems should experience prejudice or discrimination but, due to the silent and almost invisible nature of this illness, such attitudes seem to be increasingly prevalent towards those experiencing mental health problems. My mother and I know what it is like to watch helplessly as somebody we loved deeply to suffer at the expense of prejudice. We really hope that this song will shine a light on mental health awareness and become a beacon of hope that will help to break down some of the barriers that exist within our society.”
As a hugely respected and much-loved country and ‘Middle-of-the-Road’ music star, Trudi has experienced incredible success at the top of the music industry in Ireland and she hopes that this latest release will not only be a fitting tribute to her late brother but, more importantly, increase respect and awareness of this silent and often tragic issue.
“Looking back now, I can only compare the change in my brother, Alan’s, personality to entering a brightly lit room, when suddenly, the lights are turned off. The once fit, handsome guy who had lived life to the full and was never short of female admirers, began to disappear before my eyes, replaced by a tired lifeless shell of a man from whom the spark for living had gone…
As the youngest in a family of 11 children growing up in county Laois, my enthusiasm for music shone through from an early age. Coming from a family where the musical influences of my parents and older siblings flowed through the house, it was completely normal for us to have regular, impromptu sing-songs at home beside the fire. My big brother, Alan, whom I completely adored, was an extremely talented musician and during weekend visits home from Dublin he would play guitar or mouth-organ, while our wonderful mother, Philomena, would lead us in song. One favourite that was always guaranteed to make the playlist was the stunning ‘Beautiful Isle of Somewhere’ and the three beautiful verses would be shared between Mam, Alan and I. During those precious evenings by the fireside, I never once imagined that one day I would wake up and Alan, my idol, would no longer be there.
By the time he had reached his early 30s, a sadder, more introverted version of my cool and handsome brother had come to the fore. He avoided hanging out with his friends and had become a very different person. It broke our hearts. Gone was the popular guy who was the life and soul of every party; Alan still sang but now preferred melancholic laments. The pressures of it all had become too much and he soon decided to leave his job in Dublin, sell his treasured motorbike and come back to live in Mountrath.
Treatment and Diagnosis
Realising that he needed medical help, Alan visited his doctor and was diagnosed with depression but, regretfully, medication was the only treatment on offer to Alan. The physical changes associated with anti-depressants were painful to witness and I urged him to consider engaging in ‘talk therapy’, to speak with a professional counselor. However, a long waiting list meant that Alan continued with his daily intake of life-altering medication and he soon found himself paying regular visits to the psychiatric unit in Portlaoise before returning home to us feeling “a little better”.
Frustratingly, having summoned the courage to seek help from psychiatric services, Alan now faced a new dilemma: social isolation. Hushed tones and discreet nudges; whispers from people who should know better. Some who knew him would even cross the road when they saw him, too embarrassed to ask him how he was. Understandably, this new reality upset Alan greatly and he began to develop a special devotion to Our Lady, visiting our local chapel daily in an effort to find solace and reprieve from the pressures of the outside world.
By this time, I was starting to gain international attention as a singer and Alan loved hearing my stories of life on the road. However, it was becoming apparent that his world was becoming darker by the day and that talking about music was the only thing that would light the spark within his beautiful eyes. He was therefore thrilled to learn that I had been asked to perform alongside the legendary Don Williams at Denmark’s biggest annual Country Music Festival – giving him that tiny chink of pleasure and hope meant more than anything to me.
4th July 2010, Independence Day: Birthdays are a ‘Big Deal’ in our family
On what was to become a fateful day for us, regrettably, I was unable to join my family in a birthday celebration at my sister’s house as I was due to perform in Killarney that night. Alan, who had once been the first to grab any opportunity for a family ‘get-together’ was now living with my parents on an almost full-time basis, unable to cope with the loneliness of being alone, so his decision to not attend the party either ultimately proved to be a fatal one…
That evening, my phone rang. It was my sister Amanda. “Alan…dead…train…nine o’clock news”… it was as if I was living a scene from a film. I dropped the phone to the ground in complete shock. My talented wonderful brother Alan had died by suicide.
When the awful reality of what had happened sank in, all I could do was cry. Cry for what he must have gone through; cry for the fact that he had to go to such extreme lengths to find peace of mind; cry because he was alone when he died; and cry for the loss of my beautiful big brother.
A few days later, on a sunny July morning, music flowed through the thousands of people that had gathered to pay their final respects to Alan. Then, during a quiet moment at the graveside, our 80-year old mother Philomena simply said, “Goodbye Alan”, and began to softly sing the song that she, Alan and I had always sung together – ‘Beautiful Isle of Somewhere’. I moved closer and joined her in a poignant rendition of this beautiful old song until soon our family and friends were holding hands and singing with us, sharing this very emotional and special moment as we publicly displayed the love and loss we felt for our friend, brother and son, Alan.
A few weeks later, I returned to the studio to complete the album, ‘Home I’ll Be’ that I had begun to record before my brother’s untimely departure. Such was the response to our rendition of ‘Beautiful Isle of Somewhere’ at Alan’s graveside, that Mam and I decided to record and release it as a duet, dedicating it to his memory with the sale proceeds going towards raising the profile of the incredible work being done by Amnesty International’s Mental Health Campaign that is aiming to create awareness and help eliminate the stigma attached to Mental Health issues in Ireland.
Losing my darling brother to the scourge of depression made me determined to speak out and encourage people to talk about this epidemic that seems to be engulfing our nation. Too many people in Ireland, and around the world, are suffering in silence and if this campaign can save just one life and prevent another family from experiencing the grief and loss that we continue to live with, Alan will not have died in vain.”
To mark the release of this stunning new single, Amnesty International will be re-launching its National Mental Health Anti-Discrimination Campaign on 30th March. As part of this multi-media awareness campaign, ‘Beautiful Isle of Somewhere’ will be available through the iTunes website and €1 from the sale of each download will go directly to this worthy and life-saving cause.
‘Home I’ll Be’ is available nationwide, in all music stores, while the single, ‘Beautiful Isle of Somewhere’ is available to view on YouTube and through the Amnesty International website, www.amnesty.ie