Mary Callaghan Lynch ’76 has sung for a pope and first lady, for family and friends and thousands of strangers, in Europe and all across America, but bringing music to those who might otherwise have never heard such things is the gift that has given meaning to her life. As the founding director of The Motor City Lyric Opera, Mary has put to highest and best use her God-given talents, her education and the rich legacy of her late parents.
The daughter of Mary O’Brien Callaghan, from whom she inherited her fine soprano, and church organist, John Callaghan, who taught at Marygrove and was Music Director at St. Bernard’s & St. Catherine’s of Detroit and Holy Name Parish in Birmingham, Mary grew up in an Irish Catholic family that observed the liturgical calendar and marked its occasions with song and drama and holy music. Her parents believed in St. Augustine’s dictum: Qui cantat, bis orat – “who sings, prays twice” and with eighteen children, there was never a shortage of song or prayer in the Callaghan home.
A theater major, Mary Callaghan was singing professionally even before earning her Fine Arts degree from Marygrove, appearing in Michigan Opera productions as an undergrad. All through school she would sing for funerals at Holy Name Church. It was there that a young funeral director, Patrick Lynch, first heard her sing and begged the priest for an introduction. They were married on June 17, 1977.
Mary was soon singing major roles with Michigan Opera Theatre, Dayton Opera, Toledo Opera and Glimmerglass Opera of New York. She starred in the hit musical, Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up? and performed at the Village Gate Theatre in New York, Northlight Theatre in Chicago and L’Opera de Montreal. She has starred in over forty musical productions while raising a family and assisting her husband at Lynch & Sons.
For more than a decade Mary has served as voice coach for Aretha Franklin. She prepared “The Queen of Soul” to sing Pavarotti’s signature aria, “Nessun Dorma,” at the Waldorf Astoria in 1998 and a week later at the Grammy Awards to great acclaim. Mary has traveled extensively with Aretha for performances across the United States.
Mary has done benefit concerts for Angel’s Place, the Christ Child Society and for Haitian relief among many other charities. As a benefit for the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM), she produced the one-act opera, Amahl and the Night Visitors. The performance at the IHM Motherhouse in Monroe, Michigan, was such a huge success that it was presented again at the Music Hall Center in 2001, the 50th anniversary of its first performance. Mary produced this performance and arranged to bring composer Gian-Carlo Menotti from his home in Scotland to direct. This production was later filmed and broadcast on local Detroit stations. These events gave her the vision for The Motor City Lyric Opera to bring music to the disadvantaged and underserved. Since its founding in 2002, it has taken opera to schools, senior centers, treatment centers and families all over Metro Detroit.
According to Mary’s son, Paddy, his mother established The Motor City Lyric Opera with the primary mission of bringing music—with an emphasis on ethics – to both educate and inspire others. With advance study guides, audiences are able to fully appreciate these presentations from The Goose Girl to Mozart to Les Misérables to Schubert to Showboat. Each performance includes a “talk back” when audience members interact with singers and musicians. Mary emphasizes that the music is never amplified, a first for many who hear it. She has added The Motor City Lyric Children’s Chorus, who, along with local musicians and poets, perform in mid-March at Mary’s annual “Patricktide” celebration. The Motor City Lyric Opera has brought its gifts to over 80,000 children and their families free of charge.
Mary’s husband writes, “With all her successes, Mary still possesses the same angel’s voice I fell in love with years ago…. She has used her musical talents to comfort the bereaved at hundreds of funeral masses.”
Daughter Caitlin, also a professional soprano, adds that her mother has appeared in feature films—Whip It, Secrets in the Wall and Salvation Boulevard where she portrays Pierce Brosnan’s secretary. She has done innumerable commercials and radio work throughout her career and is an active member of the Screen Actor’s Guild, The American Federation of Radio and Television Artists and The Actor’s Equity.
Pat’s brother, Thomas Lynch writes, “My sister-in-law lives out the lessons of her education at Marygrove—competence, compassion and commitment—in her personal and professional life. Music as voice of worship, prayer, community and thanksgiving has been the art and practice of her life.”