Monday, 22 August 2016

Celtic Tree Astrology

A couple of months ago, I was visiting the June Photo Scavenger Hunt page run by Hawthorn Spellweaver ( love that name ) at I Live, I love, I craft, I am me - and she mentioned that she had taken her name from her Celtic Tree Sign, the hawthorn.   Ooh how intriguing.

So off I went in search and this is what came up ... a really interesting page about Tree Lore from the Druidic practices.

My birthday is September 27 and my tree is Vine.   It makes interesting reading - much of it is very similar to what you'd read about Libra, my astrological sign - always striving for the balance and never being able to choose - the story of my life!

Vine - The Equaliser September 2 - September 29  Vine signs are born within the autumnal equinox, which makes your personality changeable and unpredictable. You can be full of contradictions, and are often indecisive. But this is because you can see both sides of the story, and empathize with each equally. It is hard for you to pick sides because you can see the good points on each end. There are, however, areas in your life that you are quite sure about. These include the finer things of life like food, wine, music, and art. You have very distinctive taste, and are a connoisseur of refinement. Luxury agrees with you, and under good conditions you have a Midas touch for turning drab into dramatic beauty. You are charming, elegant, and maintain a level of class that wins you esteem from a large fan base. Indeed, you often find yourself in public places where others can admire your classic style and poise. Vine signs pair well with Willow and Hazel signs.

When I looked closer into Vine and its symbolism, it says that it would be the blackberry vine rather than the grapevine that the Celts would have read.   Now I am in a perpetual battle with blackberry vines here in this garden - they grow like weeds.   But reading that from an astrological point of view, means that they are opportunistic, or in a more modern way of saying it, they go with the flow.  I'll try to remember that next time I'm out at the clothes line and a bramble is attacking me :)   

The druids classified anything with a woody stalk as a tree, and so therefore vines are listed among the sacred Ogham ranks.  They also recognised the vine's predominant growth formation is in the shape of a spiral. This has long been considered a sacred symbol for Consciousness, Development, Renewal and Growth

I love reading about the symbolism of trees and plants.   This area has a very ancient energy and fairy lore and mythological references are in everyday usage.  So thank you to Hawthorn Spellweaver for leading me to this lovely store of reference. 

Have you had time to check yours out?  What Celtic sign are you?  do you pay any attention to Astrological or Mythological lore?  I'd love to hear your thoughts.   

Monday, 15 August 2016

What do you consider work as an artist?

How hard does a flower or a sunset have to work to look so beautiful?

For years and years I've sat down at my computer to go 'to work' -  on planning, marketing, sales and promotions of my business - organising events, posters etc etc.

And in all that time I squeezed in my practice or research or arranging or writing in between my work.

Recently I met an old friend who's a wonderful songwriter.   In his earlier life he worked as a journalist.  And since retiring from that line of work,  he plays music regularly, within a 10 mile radius of his own home and always sleeps in his own bed at night.   Never tours and never worries about any of the chases attached to any of the creative businesses.  And he says "I've never worked a day in my life - I've loved both of my jobs so much."  Isn't that a wonderful thought?

And I thought to myself - Fil, you are thinking all wrong about this.  Those other things should be only by the ways, but the real work should be the creative processes.  

Coming from a background of working 9 to 5, even though I myself have only done that for a couple of years of my earlier working life, I've always thought that I was doing nothing.

It's a hard habit to change.  But change it I will - and that's my 'work' for the time being.

Are you playing or working tonight? I'd love to hear your take on it.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

The Joys of Travelling

One of the single most enjoyable things in my life is the joy of travelling, whether that be literally or through books, or maps and most of all through reading blogs here.   It is such a delight to connect with people from different countries and cultures and especially those of different languages.  

My father only ever left Ireland once - to visit the potteries in Staffordshire - he was a potter all his life.   And my mother hasn't travelled much more than that, either in or out of the country.   But they both instilled in me a wanderlust.   I had a French penpal when I was at school - when Pascal came to visit, the first thing my father did was take out the big atlas to see where in the world he came from.  In our school books all the countries were different colours and I used to dream of visiting every single one of them in my lifetime.   Alas, many are no longer there and there are many more that I will never get to for various reasons.   

So it's a great pleasure to take part in a new Meet and Greet and travel the world with some other bloggers.   Do you fancy joining in?  

Just go to  Niki's site - The Richness of a Simple Life - and sign up.  Perhaps I'll see you there. 

Monday, 8 August 2016

On the road Frequently Asked Questions

People have so many different ideas of what it's like to be on tour that I thought I would answer a few questions here and let you see behind the scenes.

The first, and most annoying, question that we frequently get asked is:
Are you on holidays?
Ok, let me first qualify my answer by saying I do love music and above all I love performing, but now let me ask you - would you choose for your holiday to work for 5 or 6 hours a night, pack the car, get up early next morning and travel to another town to repeat the process?  
Many people have a romantic idea of what it means to be a touring musician - one guy said to me, "I just picture you musicians heading off on the road and stopping up to play music for whomever will listen".   Hmmm, yes that's a good idea.   And how do we pay for our food and petrol etc?  "Oh, I hadn't thought about that".  Right! This was in a venue where the owner insists on putting around a hat to pay the artists, but passes no remarks on half of his audience leaving at half time before he passes around the hat!   Needless to remark we won't be going back - which is a huge shame cause it is a lovely venue and a great audience.  But every workman needs to be paid. 
So let me answer the question by quite categorically saying a huge No!   This is our job, our chosen path in life; however bizarre it may seem - and sometimes it feels very bizarre to me - but this is how we make a living.  

Driving off into the sunset?  I guess not :)
Do you just keep travelling around Europe?  You get to see some fabulous places.
I do love Europe - above any place else in the world - sorry to my friends further afield.  I love hearing different languages and eating different food.   However, it is always good to come home and then you can appreciate the travelling all the more.  And we do other things when we're at home.   Like planning future tours, recording, writing (although that's a painful subject for me), I also do some voice coaching, run a couple of community choirs, we have a studio and get involved in lots of side projects as well as also doing some gigs at home. 

We get to see lots of out of the way places, towns and villages that you wouldn't perhaps get to see on a holiday.  But the down side of that is that we also see an awful lot of motorway.  
But it is the people that most define a place for me.  
Over the years we have made friends along the road.   In the beginning we got to know them and then their children.   Now we are meeting their grandchildren and getting to know the pets and hobbies.  

The scenery whizzing by
How do you get these gigs? How did you come to this small town?
We have been travelling for nearly 25 years - after a concert someone will come to us and ask us to come to their venue on our next tour if we're in the area; or perhaps a friend will organise and publicise a concert or two for us in their home area.   This has been the case on our recent tour in Germany - our friend Barney organised some concerts in his area around Kiel and another friend Rita organised one on the Rhine.   They are both in the music community in their own areas and know the venues that would suit us.  
Then I put the tour plan together and decide the route we will take once I know what days certain venues usually work on.  
Have you a place near you that you would suggest we contact on our next trip to the UK or Australia or Germany?
Past places with exotic names - Shark Creek?

Why do you not fly?
Well, obviously we do fly to Australia or America.   But for concerts in Europe or the UK it is easier for us to take our own car so that we can fit in Tom's conga drums and a small sound system.   Plus with your own car it's easier to throw in an extra coat in case the weather turns cold and of course I leave enough room to bring some wine home from France :) 

Is it not tiring doing concerts every night?
Actually no ... you get into a rhythm and it becomes quite easy to keep going once you get past the second or third night.   It gets hard again once you have a night off.   Then your body thinks "weyhey we can rest up now" and doesn't like being kicked in to action again. 

So there you have it - a little peak into life behind the scenes on the road. 

Friday, 5 August 2016

Around Here: Fiddlers Green Part 2

Painting by J B Vallely (photo from the internet)
Here are a few more tunes for you from the Main Stage at this year's Festival.

Lunasa (pronounced Loon is ah ) played on Friday night as part of the Hall of Fame Award Concert.   The piper's mother and father, Eithne and Brian Vallely were being honoured for their work with young traditional musicians for the past 50 years.   Brian, or JB Vallely as he is known, is a world famous painter as well as musician. 

I was a bit apprehensive about this concert as they have no singer, but wow, could I have been more wrong.   They are world class musicians - varying their set from Galician to Breton to Irish and Scots tunes in multiple different formations.
This video is a live set from Cropredy Festival in England a few years ago.

Some people think that folk (or rock) musicians are layabouts (No, I hear you shout )  Well the piper here, Cillian Vallely, is a New York based lawyer, the fiddle player is a surgeon and I think the other three are full time music producers and studio musicians.  So there you go.

Another stunning player is Nollaig Casey - she has played with the RTE symphony orchestra, with Riverdance, on many many albums and TV shows, and most often tours with her husband Arty McGlynn who is a stunning guitarist.  At this year's festival, she debuted a new album , Sibling Revelry, as The Casey Sisters, with her two sisters - Máire Ní Chathasaigh is a harper who plays around the folk circuit with her husband Chris Newman - you may have seen them at folk festivals in England.   The third sister Mairead is a beautiful singer and fiddle player.

This year's festival had very strict rules during the concerts of no filming or photography and I've noticed that many of the top artists have very little live footage on You Tube.   It has long been a problem for all of us who travel, when videos taken on iPhone are loaded up to You Tube, never to be taken down again - and we have no quality control.   Perhaps on that day you're feeling tired, or looking a bit bedraggled, or there's a note out of tune etc. etc.    It's good to see more clubs and festivals paying attention to the needs of the musicians. 

I hope you've enjoyed this little introduction to some of Ireland's wonderful traditional musicians.   I feel very privileged to get to see live performances of such a high standard of instrumental playing in our little corner of the world.

Take care of yourselves and have a lovely weekend.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Anthem for another Festival

The 30th Fiddlers Green Festival finished officially on Sunday night - although there was still some sessions happening last night as the last stragglers hung on for another day, many of  heading up to the top of Slieve Martin to toast the end of another year of friendship and great music. 

This was the band that played on the Main Stage on Saturday night.  Four Men and A Dog are a stupendous band - even though this video was shot  7 years ago, their energy is still as fierce and the virtuosity of the playing just leaves me breathless.
(The Dog, by the way, was the nickname of their first singer, Mick Daly)

The week went off really well - starting with a garden party here, then many local singers taking part in 20 singers, 20 songs on Sunday night - that's a lovely idea for a festival fund raiser and the house is always full.  

Tom and I played on Monday night, opening for Luka Bloom - we had a fabulous night.   Luka is a very energetic performer and writes a lot of rocky political songs.   But he always opens with this simple song that he wrote from the point of view of a child and is now being sung by choirs all over the world as an anthem for peace.  - I Am Not at War with Anyone

It struck me as the week went along that we are very privileged here to get to see world class musicians in our small hall.  wonderful stuff.  

I'll not go through the whole programme with you, but I'll share a couple more videos later in the week to give you an introduction to some of these Irish bands.  The pubs were full for all the sessions; the lunch time folk club had singer songwriters from here and from Scotland; the afternoon folk club was mostly local acts - we are blessed with wonderful young performers in this area; there were a couple of art exhibitions, workshops in traditional music and writing, singing and storytelling, singarounds, walks and even a Duck Derby!!

Our visitors are making their way home now - to Germany and Luxembourg, France, the Netherlands, Scotland and England - there were even some from as far away as Australia and Canada.  
Safe travels to you all and we'll see you back again in another year's time. 

Linking up today with the lovely Denise over at Denise's Planet

Friday, 15 July 2016

Five on Friday - St Swithin's Day

I want to start by saying how my heart breaks for the people in France today - where is all this terrible hatred coming from!  From Dallas to Baghdad and now Nice ... not to mention those poor souls in Syria.  After all the years of bombings and shootings that we endured in our little corner of the world I know that there is only fear in people's hearts at the moment.  All I can hope for is that we who are far enough away from danger, for the moment at least, can keep trying to spread joy and love and light into the world whenever we can or else the bad guys have won.

So on that note, I'm going to remember the good times this week and join with Amy at Love Made My Home for Five on Friday.  I'm keeping the bright side out.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

1. No Rain Today (or not yet anyway)
Today is St Swithin's Day - the story goes that if it rains today, we'll have rain for 40 days.   Old and not so old folks will be keeping fingers crossed here that we can get through another couple of hours dry - this must be the first day in nearly a month when it hasn't rained and I really don't have a lot of faith that we'll get to tonight without it.   What is it about July?  Nominally it's summer; everyone's ready for summer; the shops are selling shorts, sleeveless tops and things to barbecue .... and we have the fire lit!!
Ah well, nothing else for it - I went out and bought a jumper today.

2. Work in Progress

Reuniting a jumper that I thought was lovely when I started it and when I completed it first time around, is not such a pleasure anymore.   But I can't let myself away with not finishing it.   What happened was that I lost a lot of weight between starting and completing it and it never occurred to me to take a few measurements!!   That would have been too simple.   And I also never considered just giving as a present to someone.   so I have the back redone and this is the first of the fronts - the sleeves will also need to be shortened!  I have a feeling it won't be finished this winter.  Have you ever had ago totally restart a piece of crafting?  
This is what it will look like

 3. Wednesday Session
I told you last week about all the session here during the week.  It's building up to Festival time so visitors are starting to appear and it was the perfect time for a young historian here to launch his booklet Introducing people to Rostrevor.  It turned in to a fabulous night of songs and stories, tunes and yarns... Here's a few images from it...  I wish Peter every success with his first book - and if you're ever in the area he'll take you on a walking tour of the vicinity with lots of information.  

Peter McGrath Jnr introducing his new book
"An Introduction to Rostrevor"

 After lots of soloists sang with great order in the room, the evening turned into a session with instruments appearing from nowhere.

And ending up with the best rendition of that good old traditional song (not) of Paul Simon's - You Can Call Me Al - delivered by John and the entire pub doing the African Male Voice Choir backing up bits ....Very funny.   

4. Listowel, Co. Kerry

Tom and I headed down to Kerry for a couple of nights over the weekend - I've always wanted to visit Listowel, and to have a night in John B Keane's pub - probably the most famous pub in Ireland.
Listowel is famous for its writers' festival which takes place at the start of June each year and happens here mainly because of John B, who wrote The Field among other great stories of Irish life.   All his novels, plays, short stories and poems were written here behind the counter in his bar - watching the comings and goings and antics of the locals.
John B Keane's pub, Listowel

Nectar lined up on the counter in various stages of settling.  
Oh I wish I still could drink Guinness.

Richard Harris won the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of "The Bull" McCabe
in Jim Sheridan's 1990 film of  "The Field"

5. Great Band Names

I love funny names for bands - I used to play keyboards once in a band called Dickie Ticker and the Palpitations!  Then there was the Ceilidh Band who once won the best band competition at some Scottish Festival in the 90s - they were called Ceilidh (pronounced Kayly) Minogue :)   Love it.

This one caught my eye in Listowel - pity the poster was curling up on itself ...  

Playing Sunday - Phil 'n The Blanks 
Thanks once again Amy for running this lovely blog hop and for giving me an excuse to find the things in life to be joyous about.

Linking to