Sunday, 25 June 2017

Fun with photos for the new album

We're still debating a title for our new CD - the working title is "Together," - because we're both singing on it and we're a duo etc ...  but we're both feeling it's not quite right.  There's a couple of days yet to decide.   But apart from that, progress is well on its way - we're in the final days of mixing and getting artwork and photos done alongside that.   It's a bit like tidying in all the loose threads on a massive patchwork quilt - great fun.

It's hard getting photos of a couple that don't look like wedding photos - so I wanted to share a few of the fun photos we got - probably never be used for anything serious.

I have a condition called Sjogrens Syndrome which leaves my eyes very sensitive to light.  For the last CD cover I wore sunglasses and felt really stupid - but this photographer, when I said I needed glasses, suggested Tom put them on as well. So we had a good laugh pretending to be the Blues Brothers - and turning out more like Peters and Lee as some smart alec suggested :)  Poor Tom's knees were wrecked having to come down to my height!

Check out our Kickstarter campaign, if you fancy pre-ordering the CD,  which will be launched at the end of July at our local folk festival.  I'll preview a few songs over the next couple of weeks.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Have a good week

Took an hour out on Saturday evening to drive around the Forest Drive at Magho in Co. Fermanagh - the sun coming through the trees was beautiful after a very showery couple of days.  We've had a very busy week in the studio, recording extra bits from some of our very talented musician friends - double bass, fiddle, lead guitar, mandolin and whistles have all now been added, and as a special bonus, we recorded my community choir, Singmarra, who are singing harmonies on one of the songs.  By the time we got down to Fermanagh to see my mum on Saturday we really needed a nice walk to clear our heads.   This forest drive is beautiful.  More pics to come.

We're reeling here after yet another chaotic election aftermath - it is going to be fun to watch what happens in the next few months now that the Democratic Unionist Party from Northern Ireland are in the role of Kingmakers after the Conservatives didn't get the majority they needed in the General Election.  Over here we don't get to vote for Labour or Conservative and it is extremely frustrating that our politics is still very tribally based - on a Nationalist/Unionist divide - with no real issues being discussed, only tribal allegiances.  Sadly the middle ground parties that would appeal to those of us who don't want to vote Orange and Green were all ousted.  And to top it all, the main nationalist party, Sinn Fein, won't sit in a British Parliament, so half the population here has only got the voice of abstentionism to represent them.  It is way past time that they got over this ideal.   They sit in Government in the South of Ireland and don't agree with their ideals either.   Anyway, that's the update.  

Every time I try to write about our political situation here I end up tying myself in knots as we have a very confusing political system that most of us have trouble understanding, so trying to explain it to outsiders is next to nigh impossible.   Suffice it to say that the DUP are an extremely conservative party and it will be interesting to see how things progress with them in Westminster and how people in England will take to their extreme views.   Although on a positive note, while they are pro Brexit, they do not want a hard border here - that was the biggest fear in Ireland that there would be a return to Customs and border controls once Britain comes out of Europe, as the only physical border with Europe is between the North and South of this island.

Now that I've totally confused you, I'll wish you a happy, peaceful, safe and productive week and head back to my microphone - we're finishing vocals this week, getting photographs taken, sorting out artwork and then start mixing at the weekend.  Loving it.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Kindness Challenge Reflection Week 3 - Self Acceptance

If you're following along with Niki's Kindness Challenge, you'll know that for the first three weeks Niki has prompted us to look at kindness to ourselves in various ways.   And this week it was the oh so important Self Acceptance.   You can check out some of the other participants here.  That is a particularly hard one for artists of all kinds and for musicians in particular...

So if you're a musician or have one in the family, this is for you.

I read an article recently from research done at an English University, that depression is very high in musicians - more than 65% out of the study group of 2200 said they'd suffered from depression as opposed to 11-15% in the general population.
And one of the reasons they came up with was doing a job that other people considered not to be a proper job and the lack of support therein.  Oh boy - I know that one well.   And as co-host of the local folk club I hear the same phrase from nearly every musician who plays there, no matter how successful they have been in their career or what age they are, they still talk about their mother or a well meaning friend asking when are you going to get a real job?!!

If you're interested you can read more on the research here and also read some excellent expansions on the theme and suggestions both for musicians and for their families and friends to combat this - especially useful for young musicians starting out.  Cari Cole Music Ltd

I've always struggled with accepting my voice and my own musical ability.  These short essays have come along at the right time, in the middle of a new recording and I'm learning to practice what I preach - spend more time doing the work and less time beating yourself up about the bits you can't do.  And I'm finally learning to accept the voice I've been given.

I tell everyone of my students how wonderful they are and how much they have improved each week.  And for  the people in my singing group - who all collectively and individually think they can't sing - my role, as I see it, is to encourage, to praise and to honestly tell them how wonderful they sound together.  I never ever give a negative comment ( or try my best not to anyway).

But until now I am guilty of never telling myself well done for finding the right songs to make the group sound like that, or for the results of the hours of guitar, piano and voice practice that have allowed me to easily enjoy playing on this recording, or for accepting my own musical  knowledge which has come from 50 years of constant work and which enthrals and thrills me more and more with each passing year - when I allow myself the time to nurture it and not constantly beat myself up about what I don't know or can't do.

So after three weeks of focussing on self care and self kindness I have learned a lot.   As Brene Brown said in the excellent video Niki posted as part of the blog announcing this week's theme, this is a daily practice, something you have to be aware of all the time, daily, even hourly at times.   So, no, it's not fixed, but it's been a good start.

Now we're moving on for the next few weeks from self kindness

Friday, 2 June 2017

Five bits of Music Trivia

I love useless information - probably the result of watching so many quiz shows - we're addicted to The Chase in this house.  An ageing opera singer who lives near here told me once: "Dahling, you must have another interest outside of your music, or you will go crazy - in my case I watch football!"  Good advice, so we ended up getting addicted to quiz programmes lol

So for today's Five on Friday here's some useless information related to music.

1.  The Longest Song Title in the World

"I'm a Cranky Old Yank In A Clanky Old Tank On The Streets of Yokohama With My Honolulu Mama Down' Those Beat-o, Beat-o Flat-on-my-seat-o, Hirohito Blues" !!   Recorded by Hoagy Carmichael in 1942.
What a Mouthful!  Here's Bing Crosby singing it.

2. Water Music

Most toilets flush in E flat - something to think about!

3.  Mozart ...

was only five when he wrote the melody that is now sung to Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

4.  Beatles

At the end of the Beatles song "A Day in the Life", an ultrasonic whistle audible only to dogs was recorded by Paul McCartney for this Shetland sheepdog.

5.  The Ice Cream Code

In another lifetime I used to drive an ice cream van - for about three weeks, by which time I had eaten more than sold and found a real job for a while.   But did you know there's a Code of Practice for ice cream vans?  Penned in 1982.
And it states that you should not sound chimes ....

  • for longer than four seconds at a time
  • more often than once every three minutes
  • when the vehicles is stationary
  • when in sight of another van that is trading
  • when within 50m of schools during school time or of places of worship during worship times
  • more often than once every two hours in the same street  
There y'are now, as Frank Carson would say. 

Joining in today with FAST for Five on Friday.   Thank you to Tricky and Carly for hosting.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Introducing: Pat Coldrick - never give up on your dream

It's been a while since I introduced any new musicians here.

So, Ta Da ... Drum roll - please welcome Pat Coldrick.

Pat is a self taught classical guitarist from near Dublin who played at our folk club a couple of weeks ago.  As well as playing flamenco and classical pieces he also writes his own music and does beautiful arrangements of Irish airs.

Above all else, Pat is a wonderful example that you should never give up on your dream.
He played guitar as a teenager and into his early 20s, then gave up as he couldn't make a living at it.  He turned to woodwork and for 25 years ran a successful business.   Until the crash came and many small businesses perished in the south of Ireland, including his.  He hadn't played guitar at all in that time, but picked it up one evening and decided to go out and busk.   People asked for more and the rest as they say is history.   Now he plays all over the world and his music and arrangements are sought after.

Our folk club venue is very small - Crawfords Bar - 45 people is the maximum we can put in.   On that night it wasn't full because many people hadn't heard of him, but for the 30 or so people who were there it was like a shared experience of being transported to another world.  His stories are charming and he fits as easily into playing in front of thousands of people in St Petersburg or New York as to playing in a tiny room.

This is a piece he wrote called Antartica ... it just blew us all away.  Enjoy.  And please support live music wherever you can.  30 people loving someone playing or singing can be much more of an experience than thousands worshipping at the altar of some rock god.

And something more traditional without the addition of effects - Sevilla by Albeniz ...

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Focus on blogging

Focussing on the details
For a long time I've been trying to find a new name for my blog and to find a more focussed direction for it.   Sometimes I think that if a stranger dropped by they'd have no clue about what I do other than stand around with a guitar, do a bit of knitting and take pictures of the sea lol - none of which are entirely false.

So I'm rummaging around for a new name that at least tells people what I do - this version will probably change - I'm not entirely happy with it - and if any of you have any suggestions I'd love to hear it.   And I'm going to try to stick to some sort of a timetable and still write about the things I love - music of course, positive news stories, and this beautiful part of the world I live in - but also have content that is more suitable to share more widely (through Social Media for example) and see if I can find out where other musicians hide in the blogosphere.   There are many I know who do blog, but even being interested in them I get bored about being told every day to buy my latest CD.  

I follow some art blogs and I love watching their mix of colour, giveaways and sales talk, although they are the other extreme and don't show so much about their lives.   Then there are the crafters, writers, and fashionistas I follow and last but definitely not least, the friends I have made here in the years I've been online - I love visiting you all in your different corners of the world and hearing what you're up to and what you've got planned.  And I equally like sharing that too.  So that'll have to stay too.

So watch this space.   Doubtless it'll turn out just as unfocussed as ever, but I'll enjoy coming and chatting :)  We'll see.  And I'd love to hear your suggestions for a name.

Do you stick to a plan with your blogging, or is it more random and when the feeling takes you?  And have you stayed focussed on what you blog about or has that changed over the years?  And if you have a business, do you blog separately about that?  So many questions, so little time lol

Friday, 26 May 2017

Scavenger Photo Hunt May 2017

Joining in today with Hawthorn's Scavenger Photo Hunt - matching images to random words and taking a look back at the past month.

I really struggled with this list at the start, but it has turned out to be great fun - especially with the gorgeous weather we've been having these past few days.  Not being on the road for a while now all this month's photos are from nearby.  There's something about going out into nature with a camera that makes me look closer.  I love it. 


Lichen along the granite on the beach


I love glass window ornaments.   This cat was made by a lovely Polish woman living locally several years ago - and my aunt Betty bought it for me when she came to visit.   It still makes me smile.
Cat on a hot tin fence :)


Had to share a couple of photos for this one...
My clanky old faithful
used for accompanying my students
It's loud and they have all coped with singing over it!

My very first piano
very woodworm-eaten and beaten up now
It was given to me by a my Dad's cousin Leo when I was about 8
and I could pick out so many tunes on it
that my mother finally sent me for piano lessons

and my pride and joy
made in Belleek Pottery
My dad was arranging for one to be made for a man's concert pianist daughter
and told him that his daughter was learning piano
so he paid for one for me too!  Wasn't I lucky.  


Watching the rain coming in down the valley across the Lough


The hawthorn bushes have been magnificent this year - is it the mild winter or the dry spring?  Whatever the reason, they have been a joy to watch.   And now they're turning pink before the blossoms get blown away.


I love low tide.   What's under the deep.  It was a new moon yesterday so the tides are even lower, exposing the hazards for ships coming up the Lough.


We have to really fight to keep ivy off the trees here - this one I managed to uncover a few years ago and the textures are really starting to settle now... Bark always reminds me of the Trees in Lord of the Rings - what were they called?   The Ents?  When I see a sign saying Heavy Plant Crossing I always imagine one of these trees crossing the road :)  

Like the skin of some animal - I love the patterns in tree bark.

Weave or Stitch

I learned to knit Aran patterns when I was very young - my mother's way of keeping me out of mischief.  But this was easily the most silly one to do - it's a pattern that Save the Children issued years ago and I was looking for something quick and quirky to put into my friend Belinda's craft shop.  It's an Egg Cosy!!  Definitely not the most useful thing you could make.  And the decision at the end of it was that life is too short to be doing many more.   If she's very good, she might get a second one just because I have enough wool, but there are definitely better things to be at!!!  But it is so much fun.   If you're interested you can find the pattern on Love Knitting here - it'd be fun for kids at Christmas.  

Makes me laugh every time I look at this.


When I recorded my first CD, 25 years ago, everything was recorded onto 2 inch tape.   If you made a mistake during a 'take' you had to do the whole thing again as It was really complicated to try to fix things.  And when it came to mixing, engineers needed 4 pairs of hands to be able to manage all the different possibilities.   Now things are very different - not necessarily easier, but certainly easier to fix.  Below are just vocal, guitar and percussion tracks as the basis for a new song.  
Recording in the digital age.


I wonder how much time has passed since these shells had owners.

Are you playing along with he photo hunt?  It'd be great to see your interpretations.