The Winter Solstice is always an exciting time for me - a new year beginning, the holidays still to come and a chance for the next 10 days or so to look back on the past year. And it's been mostly a really positive year.
This time last year we were encased in snow - an experience I've never known before and it made for a very relaxing Christmas time. But it's very reassuring that everything is back to normal this year - much nicer to be able to get outside and do things, see people and share the holiday.
Professionally in 2011, Tom and I released our second Songbirds CD which was very well received everywhere - we got loads of radio play all around Ireland and on Irish programmes abroad and we were featured on RTE TVs Nationwide programme - the clip of that is still on my website if you haven't already seen it. Click here to link directly to it.
Apart from that I had a solo tour in America which was great fun - thank you to everyone who hosted me during that time and who fed and watered me along the road. Tom and I played several times in Scotland and England and together with Brendan we played the St. Patrick's Day Concert outdoors in the London Borough of Brent which was really exciting for us. And also with Brendan we did several Irish shows including our first concert in my hometown - Belleek in Co. Fermanagh - and had a very enjoyable night in Newry for the local hospice.
Our studio, Ballyneddan Cottage Studio, was busy all year - Tom engineered and helped produce CDs for Shane Morgan, Patrice McKevitt, James Curran and the Mourne Grange Camphill Choir, as well as editing a yoga video and recording voice overs for a Hungarian tour operator! I've been making the coffee for a very interesting bunch of performers and enjoying every minute of it.
And lastly my community choir has finally found its feet. I am passionate about helping people find their voices. So many adults have been badly affected throughout their lives by having been told as a child that they could not sing. My feeling is that everyone can sing - of course we're not all going to be Pavarotti or Barbara Streisand but we all have the need to use that muscle.
So, after short series of workshops in Rostrevor last winter and in Castlewellan in the Springtime, we settled in to a regular Monday night workshop/practice in Warrenpoint Town Hall. This group of singers of all abilities and ages will continue throughout the Spring and my vision of having a second group working in Castlewellan will hopefully bear fruit early in the Spring as well. There'll be a few performances coming up so I'll keep you posted about that.
So now on to 2012 ... wow ... where's the time flying to. I never thought I'd live past the year 2000:))) A new CD and loads of travelling will be the order for the year - back to Belleek for a follow up concert in February, a German tour in April, some Irish dates in May, France in June, Australia in September and UK in November - with teaching in between and the choir running alongside all of that, it should be a pretty busy year. I'll try to keep doing some updates on Facebook and by mail, although I'm not very prolific with that side of things - maybe it'll be this time next year when I get back to say hello.
In the meantime, I wish you all the blessings of the winter solstice and the holiday season.... have a good rest if you can get it, look after yourself and have healthy, happy and prosperous New Year.