For singer Helen O’Shea, the path from her native Ireland — and her original career as an obstetrician and medical school professor — has been one with several twists and turns, happily ending in Princeton. She and her band, the Shanakees, along with several other musicians, will perform Sunday, August 12, at 6 at the Community Park North Amphitheater in Princeton. In case of bad weather the show will move to the community room of the Princeton Public Library, which is sponsoring the event. Visit www.princetonlibrary.org or call 609-924-9529 for more information. O’Shea also appears August 19 at the 1867 Sanctuary.
In an interview with Bob Makin published in the May 31 issue of New Jersey Stage, O’Shea gave the thumbnail version of how she and her family arrived in Princeton and how she took up singing again, after being sidelined by her career:
“In 2011 I was an assistant professor in obstetrics and gynecology working on the faculty at McGill University when we moved from Montreal to New Jersey with my husband’s company. The move was very difficult for our kids, and they asked that I take a break from work so that I could be there for them every day when they came home from school. My husband was concerned about how I would make the transition from working full time to being home full time, and he suggested that I revisit my love of singing, so with the moving boxes still packed, I enrolled in an evening class called ‘Singing Is Fun’ at Princeton High. This led to my first performance at Cafe Improv in February, 2012, followed by another performance at the Einstein Alley Musicians Collaborative (EAMC) in June, 2012.
“Shortly after that I started singing with other musicians in a number of music projects that I created with collaborators from EAMC. When I was ready to release my first EP, ‘Mama Told You …,’ I put together musicians from my previous bands with bluegrass and rock musicians from two other bands to create the Shanakee Project and a smaller version of this ensemble with new musicians went on to become the current lineup of the Shanakees . . .
“There is no bigger supporter of my musical endeavors than my husband, Paul. I think initially he could see that having worked full time all my life, I was a bit lost and heading into an identity crisis when the kids asked me to stay home, so he thought that getting back to singing in the evening — while he was home with the kids — might cheer me up. I don’t think either of us ever thought that it would get to this point, but he has been my cheerleader every step of the way.”