Leading Tipperary entertainment couple Trudi Lalor and Billy Morrissey should be in Portugal this week with up to four hundred country music fans from across Ireland and the UK.
The week in the sun would have centred around twenty of the country's top singers with dancing around the pool in the afternoon and in the ballroom of a four star hotel in the evening.
Instead, like promoters and entertainers across the land, they are confined to home.
Award-winning singer Trudi Lalor describes herself as a positive person and she is doing her best to keep all her listeners to her weekend radio shows on Tipp FM positive as well.
However many of her friends in the business cannot share that positivity.
“Some are despairing, are very down and out and depressed. They say what's the point in recording because we cannot perform and make money”, she says.
She has interviewed top stars on her Saturday and Sunday shows on how they are coping during the lockdown but many won't come on. “They won't even come on the air to talk to me because they are that upset”, she remarks.
Billy Morrissey promotes Trudi's shows and those of many other top artists, including Margo, but the annual trip to Portugal is his biggest gig of the year.
“We have been doing it for sixteen years between Spain and Portugal, taking between three hundred and fifty and four hundred fans for a week of music and dancing. This year we had twenty entertainers booked, the band hired and all the equipment ready, and then we had to cancel. Everyone booked to travel got refunds but some said to hold on to the money because they plan to go next year instead.
“As a promoter, if I run a big event and lose money then I deal with that and take it on the chin. But this is working blind, you are not sure when you book the next show and will people still buy tickets”.
Speaking from their home in Dualla, both Billy and Trudi accept that the 2020 season is over.
Says Trudi - “It is a real crisis for our industry as everything has been shelved until next year and we don't know when it will be back because music and dancing will probably be the last thing to be back.
“Singers love to sing and performers love to perform and you actually become ill if you don't perform. It is a psychological thing as we are used to being out on the road a couple of nights per week, or four or five nights, and some work seven nights.
“That has all stopped now. We are not meeting band members or able to rehearse, I am in the middle of recording an album and have three tracks left and I cannot go to the recording studio in Longford because I cannot go beyond 5k”.
Billy confirms that there will be no dancing between now and Christmas. “The next work I have down in the books is in January and that's not confirmed so it's just written in pencil. This year is a complete write off and we are hoping that things will be okay in January, February and March but we don't know”.
He adds - “This is the worst thing that has ever happened in the business. I have been involved for 45 years and I have never seen anything like this. We just don't know where it's going to end, what way it is going to turn out and the big worry for entertainers and promoters is that people get out of the habit of going out as they used to”.
He also explains how social distancing will impact when music and dancing does return. He runs many shows in the Clonmel Park Hotel that has become a major venue for top acts.
“The Clonmel Park can seat 500 for a concert. Take out every second row and that's down to 250. Then take out each third seat and you are down to 80 and financially that cannot be done, it's not viable and wouldn't make any sense. Until we get a vaccine all that is gone”, he says.
Another big worry for promoters and entertainers is how will regular dance-goers react when all restrictions are lifted and life gets back to some sort of normality. Will the old normal ever return?
Billy says - “The big worry is that people get out of the habit of going out as they used to. If you haven't gone out for eight or nine months then you might never come back.
“You can sit in and watch Netflix with a bottle of wine. You lose the habit of going out. It will be difficult to lure people away from their comfortable homes and drive twenty or thirty miles and buy a ticket for €25 for a show. That will take a lot of work. We hope they come back but we don't know”.
As a singer, Trudi knows how other singers feel when they go on stage
“When you go on stage your spirit and mood is lifted regardless of how you felt earlier. I'm a positive person but a lot of my colleagues wouldn't be and they need that outlet of meeting people. The social aspect of meeting colleagues is also gone. I'm just hoping everything will be fine for 2021 but we don't when but it will come back”.
She reflects that the lockdown came at the worst possible time because the music industry was thriving and everyone was optimistic about the future – so much so that many bands invested heavily.
“New bands could have spent up to €100,000 starting out, on a van, equipment lights and recording. But now they have no money coming in to repay loans. And the industry needs new bands, new blood coming in to keep it alive”.
She adds that the Late Late Show country music special was always a huge help to the industry but that didn't take place this year and next year's could be in doubt.
Trudi maintains her positivity but adds simply - “Please God things will improve”.
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