|Editorial reproduced by kind permission of The Irish Times|
The many tributes paid to Jerome Hynes, and the sentiments of those tributes, are a mark of the widespread recognition of his immense contribution to this country's cultural life over the past three decades. Just as immense will be his loss, particularly to his family, friends and colleagues.
If anyone could articulate the needs of the arts in Ireland he could, and always with clear-sighted and persuasive argument. His skills as an arts manager were formidable and exemplary - his ability to combine artistic vision with the kind of business acumen that the arts sector often lacks was rare. He was the ideal communicator to win hearts and minds in the cause of culture.
Before it became the mantra it is today, he expressed the view that the arts in Ireland had the potential to be of significant economic and social benefit. As general manager of Druid Theatre Company in its formative years in Galway and as a dynamic chief executive of Wexford Festival Opera he proved this to be the case. With both organisations, and as a member of the Arts Council, he had faith in the capability of the arts to win international status, and he had the confidence to pursue and achieve this wider acclaim.
Jerome Hynes's gentle charm won the affection of all who came in contact with him. The same gentle charm masked one of the most focused and determined minds working on behalf of the arts. The numerous organisations he served with the upmost dedication were the beneficiaries of his commitment to, and belief in, the value and place of arts in our society. The generosity with which he shared his expertise were boundless.
Although he has, since 1988, been chiefly associated with Wexford and its opera season, his record of achievement and the legacy he leaves behind extend across a range of art forms. He was a champion of the idea that the arts and business communities could form a mutually enriching partnership. The traditional arts sector was fortunate when the Minister appointed him chair of the committee to devise a new strategy for its future development and funding.
It is particular poignant that he will not see completion of a project into which he had recently put so much of his energy and creative thinking: the rebuilding of Wexford's Theatre Royal. This must now be his memorial. He once said that the best arts organisations have been born out of individual or group commitment. His own generous commitment- of time and expertise- to the numerous roles he took on bore out the truth of that remark.
21st September 2005
SEPTEMBER 30, 1959 - SEPTEMBER 18, 2005
Energetic arts administrator who ensured the continued success of one of the world's most delightful festivals
Obituary reproduced by kind permission of The Times
As the audience for the Wexford Opera Festival arrives at the little Theatre Royal each evening, they are greeted individually by the chairman and the chief executive. It is part of the warm intimacy of this festival in south-east Ireland, a charm which captivated so many - including Bernard Levin, as he often described in The Times - and which makes Wexford unique.
For the past 15 years, that chief executive had been Jerome Hynes. He would have been in the post still for the opening of this year's festival next month, but for his lamentable and unexpected death at the age of 45. Last weekend he was addressing a gathering for singers and other festival participants, when he collapsed and died. His death ends far too soon the career of an outstanding arts administrator.
Hynes came from Galway, where he was educated by the Jesuits at St Ignatius College. He studied history, geography and English at the small University College, Galway, followed by an education degree - "more as an insurance policy than with any real intention of teaching" - before he found his métier in arts administration.
His sister, Garry, had founded the Druid Theatre Company in Galway when he was still a schoolboy, and he joined it as administrator in 1981. His years there established the company's reputation, and his own; he "oozed confidence, competence and charm", the writer and critic Fintan O'Toole has said. Hynes could doubtless have made a successful career in any sort of business. Instead he worked at Druid until 1988, by which time its fame was international as well as national, before joining Wexford as its managing director, later chief executive.
The festival had to steer a line between authentic local charm, sometimes verging toward amateurishness, and professionalism, which might have verged on commercial slickness. Hynes held to a course with great skill, as well as enthusiasm.
Wexford had begun life in 1951, inspired by Tom Walsh, a local doctor. It had gradually grown into something out of the ordinary, specialising in obscure operas (sometimes obscure for good reason) and gifted young singers before they became rich and famous.
When Hynes arrived at Wexford, not yet aged 30, the tiny theatre had just been refurbished and enlarged. By building on that expansion, and extending the season from 12 days to 18, Hynes almost doubled the number of tickets sold each year. He took his job seriously, commissioning an academic report, The Economic and Social Contribution of the Wexford Opera Festival, and insisting that the festival must move with the times, despite sentimental regrets from some.
A more serious criticism concerned the repertory and the artistic purpose of the festival. For several years Hynes worked fruitfully in tandem with Elaine Padmore as artistic director, before she moved to Copenhagen and then the Royal Opera House. Her tenure at Wexford was much admired, but her successor Luigi Ferrari did not receive such warm notices, after some feeble productions and some inexplicable choices of repertory.
"What Wexford wanted to do, and what I wanted to do, was to professionalise the operation," Hynes said, and he did so with great success. In his role as vice-chairman of the Irish Arts Council, he told a parliamentary committee in Dublin: "I regard myself as a business person who happens to work in the arts. We have got to run the arts as a business." Each administrator at Wexford over the years had to parry complaints from the local press that too few Irish artists were being used, which almost had more force in Hynes's own time as a number of fine Irish singers emerged.
There was more merited criticism of the decision to drop the National Orchestra (formerly the RTE Orchestra, belonging to the Irish broadcasting organisation), which had played in the pit at Wexford for years, in favour of cheaper bands from Eastern Europe.
All of that was defended by Hynes as part of his strategy for establishing the festival's future. His own future looked bright. He was man of great warmth, popular wherever he worked, but also of remarkable energy.
He found time to serve as a member of the executive of the International Festivals Association, a judge in The Irish Times Theatre Awards, a director and vice-president of Wexford Chamber of Industry and Commerce, a member of the Arts from Ireland advisory board at the Kennedy Centre, Washington, a board member of the National Concert Hall, and until recently a board member of the West Cork Chamber Music Festival, the Druid Theatre Company and the Dunamaise Theatre in Portlaoise.
Only last Friday Hynes was in London, as high-spirited as ever, for the premiere of the Irish composer Gerald Barry's Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant at the English National Opera. He had always insisted that it was the business of the Irish Arts Council not only to sponsor successful bodies but to find new ones, "to give them the self-confidence and the courage to move forward".
This was something in which he would have played a large part, in his own country or elsewhere, so important was the service he had already rendered the arts in Ireland before his shockingly untimely death.
He is survived by his wife of 18 years, Alma Quinn, and their three sons.