Features

Waiting in the wings

... Carmel Quinn's life story ~ wait 'til she tells you

by Debbi Collar


Photo credit - Elaine Foley

Irish singer, storyteller, comedienne Carmel Quinn has
enjoyed her life as a performer.

At a recent benefit, That... and a Cup of Tea,
hosted by the Concord  Women's Chorus at The Chelmsford
Center for the Arts, Carmel Quinn delighted the audience
with her songs and with her storytelling. Stories and music
that led to her now becoming inducted into The National
Broadcaster's Hall of Fame.


Thatůand a Cup of Tea attendees meet and greet
Carmel Quinn.
L-R  Debbi Collar, Sheila Foley, Carmel Quinn, Deborah
Fritz and Elaine Foley
 
photo credit-Susan Julian Gates.

The lilt of her Irish brogue still evident, Quinn related one
story about coming to America and staying with a family in
New York. While at their residence, she would sing and one
day the people she was staying with,told her "You really
should do something about your singing." Quinn
revealed it was natural for her to be singing. She grew up
in a household in Dublin, Ireland where everyone was
always singing."

When the family she was staying with in New York
commented on her singing, she says she thought they
meant for her to "be quiet" but instead, they suggested she
try out for The Arthur Godfrey Show.  That same
family instead brought her to CBS "to make an
appointment for an audition for The Arthur Godfrey Show."  
At that time,she had not heard of the Arthur Godfrey Show.

Jack Carney, brother of Art Carney (The Jackie Gleason
Show) was instrumental in helping Carmel's dreams come
true. Even though she was only at the office in the hope of
making an appointment to audition, he asked if she had
sheet music for the pianist.  

                           

Not expecting an immediate appointment Quinn was
notprepared, but told him she could sing without
accompaniment.  He said " Let's hear you now." Their
response following her impromptu audition, "We're going to
put you on Monday night."  The winner would receive more
exposure of their talent on his show.  "The prize was a fee
and 3 days on the Arthur Godfrey Show."

Quinn won and her career was just at its beginning.

On the last day, he asked how she liked it, she said "it
was wonderful, but a bit tiring. She recalls hearing roaring
laughter from the two men, Carney and Godfrey. When
Godfrey offered her a contract for further performances on
the show for a year and she told him,"I suppose so."   

That ´s how her career in show business began.
Over the years it also included appearances on a variety of
radio and television shows.

The admittedly "nearly 90 year old" singer still entertains
throughout the year.

Despite a fall about a year ago. she explains, "I was running
and slipped on ice," she tells her audience as she has a
slight limp, then heads into the audience with her
microphone encouraging audience participation in a sing
along. Audience participation brings with it smiles, more
storytelling and laughter.  Personal family stories also
delight the crowd and she proudly points out family
members that have traveled with her on this day in
Chelmsford,Massachusetts.

In a recent telephone interview,she recalls the Quinn family
having a close relationship. She was one of four, her two
brothers Kevin and Naishe and her sister, Bet. Less than
two years apart in age, Quinn says the pair (she and her
sister) formed a close bond over the years.

In a recent telephone interview, Quinn was asked if she
had ever considered another career.  She said "Not a thing
since a little girl. Always singing since a little girl.  I'm a bit
of a ham."

The Quinns were a musical family, their father, Michael,
was a classical violinist. Her father raised the children as a
single dad from the time Quinn was seven years old. Each
of the children would occasionally enter singing contests,
yet she insists that she was the one who lacked confidence.

My father was a good man, but he would say "Carmen, you
haven't a hope." She would reply "Daddy you don't know."
"I always knew that's where I belonged (on stage and
singing)." Still, she insists her own was not the best voice in
the house. The claim for that, Quinn says should go to her
sister. "Bets had a better voice than I, although a career in
performing was not on her sister's mind. "Bets wouldn't
thank you for the stage."

After Quinn's career took off, she says "when I called my
father to tell  him I would be singing for the President, he
first asked,"of what company?." When she told him it would
be for "The President of the United State,he said "Carmen,
this phone call must be costing you a fortune!"

The President she had spoken of was President John F.
Kennedy.  Quinn remembers that experience fondly, yet
admits to a few butterflies before the performance. While
waiting in the wings to go on stage,the words that come to
mind for her as she recalls that event, are "nervous" and
"worried."   She includes this comment,"I was terrified!"
Help arrived though to calm her fears."One of the Senators
walked by and said "Hi Carmen! (Yes, calling her Carmen
rather than Carmel) and said "Honey you were terrific! " She
had not even taken the stage to perform at that point. He
Following the Senator's statements, her thoughts then
turned to "they don't know or even care.  I tossed in
all off (the worries, nervousness and fear) after that."  

As to travelling to various venues now, Quinn says she is
able to keep up the pace by "attending Mass and going
to the gym on a daily basis."

Relaxation moments for Quinn include reading, writing and
time with her family.  She has four children, four
grandchildren.  She lost her son Michael due to a sudden
death.

Quinn is also putting the finishing touches on her book
which she entitled "Wait 'Til I Tell You."  The title coming
from an expression she says she uses frequently. It also
comes from her one woman show of many years ago.The
book will focus on many humorous stories about her life in
both Ireland and in America.

"I've had quite a life ~ a good life"


Carmel Quinn also has a website. (CarmelQuinn.net/)
and CDs are still available.


A previous paperback version of Wait 'Til I Tell You
(2007) is currently out of print.



April 3, 2015















"I've had quite a life- a good life."


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