Monday, 7 November 2016

Some good news stories and songs

I've been finding it difficult to find my centre these past few months - lots of pressure coming from different angles aren't leaving me with much time for contemplation or creation, just for getting done the absolute necessities of each week.  Hence my absence from getting around to commenting on your lovely blogs or posting many of my own.
So we've taken ourselves off for a week to an artist retreat to concentrate on writing.  I'll have pictures next week.

Our world is so full of fear these days.  My thoughts go out particularly to all my American friends who have this very divisive election coming up tomorrow.  The politics of fear seems to be rife everywhere in the world at the minute.

So, not to add more to it, today I wanted to share with you some music and stories that have passed through the periphery of my vision over the past few days and have brought a smile or a tremor of joy.

Firstly this most wonderful rendition of Here Comes The Sun featuring James Taylor.  A lot of the comments to the video were castigating the changes made, but I adore it.

To my shame I didn't know who the dignitary was sitting beside Michelle Obama - so after a bit of research I found it was Yo Yo Ma, the Chinese American Cellist.   So here's a piece from him - the Prelude from Bach's Cello Suite No. 1 - this moves me to tears every time I hear it, and he plays it beautifully.

Lastly, there have been several posts on Facebook over the past few weeks, about the first person with Down's Syndrome to qualify as a pre school teacher - how absolutely wonderful.   This story comes from Argentina, and there's another one from Gaza - both young woman had so many adversities to overcome.   Surely a lesson for us all.

I hope your week is full of wonder and joy as the nights get darker and the days shorter up here in the Northern Hemisphere and as you pass into the season of sunshine and warmth down in the southern regions of this wonderful planet.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Rostrevor Folk Club

I'm delighted to be passing on the information that Rostrevor will have its very own folk club starting next Monday, 7th November - running initially fortnightly and then monthly in the new year.  

Crawfords Bar is a beautiful intimate venue, perfect for acoustic concerts. To make the evenings even more special, numbers will be limited, there will be no sound system and the bar will be open before, in the break, and after the performances.   Get up close and personal with some of the finest touring artists on the folk scene.  
The first artists are as follows:

Monday 7th November - Lisa Gutkin
Lisa"One hot fiddler!" - Cyndi Lauper; "Hauntingly emotional vocals"L.A. Times;  "Genius!" - Pete Seeger
Best known from The Klezmatics, LISA GUTKIN steps out on her own on "From Here On In," her first CD of six warm and wonderful songs featuring her vocals, fiddle, and tenor guitar. The Brooklyn native was a founding member of the downtown Celtic group Whirligig with Cillian Vallely (Lúnasa). Playing klezmer to Celtic, Appalachian to blues.
Tickets £10, available in advance or at the door from the Rostrevor Inn 028 417 39911.

Monday 21st November - Niamh Parsons and Graham Dunne
Niamh and Graham"Describing Niamh Parsons' singing is like to trying to describe color to a blind person." -Jamie O'Brien
Niamh Parsons has come to be known as one of the most distinctive voices in Irish music.  Dubliner Graham Dunne is a well-known guitarist in the Irish Traditional music scene. He is known for his sensitivity of touch as an accompanist, and his fiery ability as a soloist.  Together "neither Niamh nor Graham wastes a single note or nuance in their matchless renditions of predominantly traditional songs" Dave Kidman
Tickets £10 - early booking advised.  Phone 028 417 39911 or call in to book tickets

Monday 5th December - Avalon Quartet
AvalonA special pre Christmas folk club featuring the gorgeous traditional and classical sounds and songs of the Avalon quartet featuring the vocals and uilleann pipes of Brendan Monaghan.   Not to be missed. 
Tickets in advance £10  from The Rostrevor Inn, Bridge Street, Rostrevor - phone 028 417 39911.  

More details can be found on the Rostrevor Inn Facebook and

I'm so excited to see the quality of acts that are scheduled - in the new year you can look forward to Brian Willoughby, ex guitarist with the Strawbs with his wife Cathryn Craig and also to one of Ireland's top songwriters, Mick Hanly and many more to be announced shortly.  

See you there. 

Monday, 31 October 2016

Celtic New Year

Beautiful journey through Co. Armagh
Such an unexpected pleasure having the extra hour in bed with the time change this weekend - I can never remember whether we gain or lose an hour when the clocks fall back, so it was nice to find we'd gained it.

Coming in to Ederney
This has been the most beautiful Autumn I can remember for a long time - the colours are just fabulous - last time I saw a prolonged colour like this was in New England.   But we've had dry crisp gorgeous weather and the leaves are hanging on and glowing.

On my journey west from Co. Down to Co. Fermanagh and back again the views just kept getting better and better.
Sunset over Lough Erne

Well it's Celtic New Year again.
I wrote about the traditions of Samhain here  but for this Halloween I thought I'd share this lovely Van Morrison song with you.   People either love or hate Van - I think he's a great creative force out of Belfast and always has a song for every occasion.

"If I don't see you through the week, I'll see you through the window" - a great local saying.   It's a bit like "pick your window, you're leaving!"

Blessings of the season to you.

Monday, 24 October 2016


Rostrevor Community Choir has a new name ... Singmarra .... what do you think?

I suppose we could guess that it means Songs of the Sea, or Sing about the Sea - but actually it's just a play on words from a beautiful Aboriginal song called Lingmarra that Therese Virtue at the Boîte World Music Cafe in Melbourne taught me when I visited earlier this year.   Her choirs all sing it and it's a sort of non specific native language that means Welcome Everybody  

Rostrevor Community Choir has been going now in various guises for nearly 6 years and for most of that time I've been thinking "we should have a name!, we should have a name!"   So finally we have.

The artwork is an original painting by one of our members, Susan Farrell, who is also chair of the local art group.  I love the lightness of her paintings.  You can see more of her work here

We meet on Wednesday nights in Rostrevor, so if you happen to be in the area on holiday and fancy joining us for a sing for an evening, you'd be more than welcome.  Membership is closed now until after Christmas but we'll open it again for a few weeks to take on the New Year's Resolution singers.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Bothy Knitters

Oh my, I was blown away by this.
Up in Portsoy we played in the Salmon Bothy and behind the stage area was this huge big painting, as I thought.   Until I got closer and realised it was a knitted painting.  Two of them.  

So just for you crafters out there here are a few pics ...

Firstly, the Harbour

And what would you find in a Harbour of a Salmon Bothy?
A salmon of course!

Have you been knitting anything unusual recently?
It's getting around to that time of the year isn't it.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Last tour of the year - Around Scotland

Stirling Castle
It seems strange to realise our touring year is over - I have loads to do and projects to plan, but I kinda feel bereft not having any concerts to worry about or look froward to for several months.   How-and-so-ever, that's how the planning went for this year (note to self: don't let it fall this way again if possible) and it's quite fortuitous in a way as we have a new album in the planning stages plus uncertainty with family health matters and so on.  So I'll be coming up with various tricks to keep myself engaged and not get so far removed from it all that I start wondering what I'm doing!!

But we had a lovely time in Scotland.  It was great to catch up with friends and revisit clubs we've been to many times over the years and also take in a couple of new venues.   The weather turned almost overnight from Summer to Winter the day before we left so I ended up taking a suitcase full of unsuitable clothes but before we got home Autumn had arrived in all its glory.

We travelled almost the full length of the country this time, starting in the Borders where we hooked up with a wonderful textile artist friend Mirjam - the Borders are simply beautiful at all times of the year - rolling green fields and the classic Scottish granite buildings.

Then it was up to Fife to see some more friends in whose house we did a very enjoyable house concert and spent a day travelling around the Forth Bridges and St andrews and even got to see Minnie the Minx and Desperate Dan in Dundee - lovely city which I'd like to see more of.
The sails of the supports on the new Bridge
across the Firth of Forth
A mini  version of us set up by the lovely Ciara
before our house concert at her Gran's -
I wish all the instruments were this small :)

Minnie the Minx

Desperate Dan and Dawg
Not sure what he was advertising on his shirt
From there further north, first to Stonehaven and then on up to Portsoy an area we'd never been to before.   It is simply glorious up there.

Blue skies and blue sea - fabulous Sunday walk at Portsoy

The remains of the Salt House

Topping up the Vitamin D reserves

The Old 17th century harbour
Then back southwards again - to Stirling and then Glasgow and down the Ayrshire Coast home.
Someone recently was singing about Gold Bars in the Sun
 .... referring to these bales ... beautiful.
Ailsa Craig - next stop Ireland 

Every Scottish town has a signpost as you leave, saying "Haste Ye Back" - Aye indeed we will.   Can't wait to see you all again soon.

Monday, 3 October 2016

Tree of the Year

The Holm Oak, Kilbroney Park, Rostrevor
Our tree is in the NI final of the Woodland's Trust's competition.  Fancy helping out by voting? Here's the tree's story...

Hi everyone
Isn’t it great! I’m a finalist in Tree of the Year Competition.
I have been chosen by the Woodland Trust as one of the six best trees in Northern Ireland, for this Europe wide competition.

Most of you know me - I’m the old leaning Holm Oak just in on the left at the Fairy Glen entrance to Kilbroney Park and I have been selected from numerous great trees in Northern Ireland for this big Tree of the Year competition.

The Woodland Trust heard that I’m loved by lots of people in Rostrevor and they think I now deserve to become Internationally famous.  

Over the years I have really enjoyed small children and their teachers from local schools talking under my evergreen leaves, as well as musicians playing during Fiddlers Green Festival. Many of you have hidden behind me on summer days or joined the laughter from family groups (or sheltered when it rains), You older ones have often climbed my strong back to swing from my bigger branches. I’ve even seen some of you holding hands and kissing, of an evening!

Now some of my great limbs have become very tired and heavy with age and it feels as if they might need a little bit of remedial help.

I want to win the N.I. final, as then there will be a £1,000 TLC grant for the local community to look after me. If I get 1,000 votes I only receive £500.

So I need as many votes as possible to win
Please get everyone you know over 18 to Vote:

Vote ONLY on the Woodland Trust Website until Sunday 9 October:

Thanks for voting
Your Holm Oak