Swan song for famous Dublin music shop

Opus II to close after over 100 years

The Opus 11 music shop on Dublin’s George’s Street which is closing and moving to an online environment at opus2.ie. Photograph: Alan Betson

The Opus 11 music shop on Dublin’s George’s Street which is closing and moving to an online environment at opus2.ie. Photograph: Alan Betson

Fri, Jun 21, 2013, 01:00


On a small stretch of pathway along George’s Street in Dublin, a music shop is about to close its doors after more than 100 years in various city locations. Blink and you could miss it. Perhaps that’s the problem.

Opus II, the destination for a generation of guitar-grinding teenagers, music students and even an occasional rock star has finally succumbed to the internet and its indomitable ease of access.

It spells the end for rows of music books with their tantalising mix of piano scales, Bob Dylan lyrics and guitar tablature. In the internet age, such things are easy (and invariably free) to come by.

“About two months ago, we sort of pressed the self-destruct button, saying what was the point in buying more stock?” reflects manager Darren Walsh, who joined the shop in 1990.

That was the era of Nirvana’s Nevermind, Pearl Jam’s Ten and The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Blood Sugar Sex Magik – the music of which filled these books in rows of old-fashioned box shelves.


Stars among clientele
Sinéad O’Connor visited, as did Sting in search of a book on lute music. Actor Stephen Dorff lived upstairs for a while. One day, Tom Waits hovered outside. “I don’t know if he ever came in,” concedes Darren.

In more recent times, however, a malignant combination of economy, online shopping and premium rents has taken its toll. “It’s a bad mix; it’s difficult to survive. Our best time of the year would be September/October because all the schools’ music subjects were on our book list. Last year was the first year I noticed that there was no panic.

“We have had some people who have been teary-eyed because we have known them for so long and because they have been associated with the shop over the years, whether it was them buying music as a kid or if they had a story about their father shopping in May’s.”

May’s was the shop’s original incarnation, founded on St Stephen’s Green in the 1880s under the ownership of Cedric May.

In the early 1970s, it relocated to the George’s Street arcade, where it sold an aberrant mix of vinyl and flowers before moving to George’s Street itself, a few doors down from its current location.


Chorus of competition
Today it is run by Michael Nichols, the third generation of the family following his mother Trish.

“When the big boys came in [HMV, Virgin Megastore] and did records and CDs, there was no point anymore so they went into sheet music,” says Darren.

The business will now move online to www.opus2.ie while sister stores in Galway and Cork will remain open. But for Dublin, a small part of the city’s musical mythology has been lost.

“The ethos of this shop was the personal touch. We never had a customer who came in and knew exactly what they wanted; they would just say they were looking for such and such.”

Sometimes they would sing the tunes or vaguely describe a memory.

“That was the sort of beauty of it. That was the personal touch.”