Friday, 29 August 2014

CD Review - the Ultimate Guide to Irish Folk

Have you ever thought about what tracks you would include on a compilation album?   No?   Me neither ... Oh, I've made cassettes in the old days for driving or for walking or for parties etc. But a collection that will stay out there for ever is another thing altogether.   And I must say that the compiler of this new collection John O'Regan, has done an exceptional job.

The Ultimate Guide to Irish Folk is not like any of the collections you'll come across in airport shops or even online - this is totally new and takes in both traditional and contemporary Irish music - folk, songwriter, pub and even rock - from around the world.   There are contributors here, well known and not so famous, from North and south of the border, as well as from England, Canada and America.
It is a very current picture of what Irish music looks like these days.   And there are copious sleeve notes compiled by John who has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Irish music business.

Among the well known acts are Clannad, Dervish, the Dubliners, Christy Moore and Sinead O'Connor and Horslips ( the first band I ever saw live and the first ones to mix traditional tunes with rock music).
There's also songwriters - John Spillane, Paul Brady and Luka Bloom for example.  All very quirky and very Irish.

And a couple of Afro-Irish fusion bands - this is a very new development in Irish music and is very popular at summer rock festivals - Irish is an Indo European language and in places sounds almost Arabic - both the bands Kila and Afro Celt Sound System make use of that, using the sounds of North Africa fused with traditional Irish tunes and singing in Irish ... Quite brilliant.

The CD is produced by Arc Music and is available to buy at that link.

On any given day I would pick different tracks to highlight but for today here are a couple of samples:
Martin Hayes (fiddle) and Dennis Cahill (guitar) - Paddy Fahey's Reel



Clannad - Rhapsody na nGrann


There are a couple of strange tracks on this - from very talented acts - I'm just not sure what the Irish connection is - For example this American family - the Willis Clan - where all 12 siblings play, sing and dance ... amazing. All 12 of them have a name beginning with J - they're climbing up the ranks of America's Got Talent at the minute - you'll either love them or hate them.  Personally I think they're all very talented and who wouldn't love the little one dancing.

What are your favourite compilations?  Have you been listening to any new CDs lately?

Monday, 25 August 2014

Fiestas, Concert and Cirque du Soleil

I'm trying to learn how to use my new-to-me laptop … too much technology and while it's not beating me, it's definitely slowing me down - two days to put up a few photos onto a blog … humph!!!  :)

We had our first concert in Spain on Saturday night - it worked out really well inspire of the language barrier - the audience loved what we do and we've been offered lots more gigs.   A good experience all round.

Then we had an amazing day in Bilbao yesterday - the weather wasn't too hot which made it even more enjoyable.

The Marijaia
It's Fiesta time here in the Basque country - they finished last night with a big firework display which was attended by I'm sure half a million people - out in the street, watching the demise of the Marijaia - I've just been corrected - I thought it was Marie Calle - oops - She is sent off in a boat until next year - in fact I think she's burned along with a sardine!!!   Couldn't quite get to the bottom of that one :)   But regardless! - there was really sad music all over the tannoy and the bridge on the river was packed with people watching her and cheering her passage through.  And the atmosphere was fantastic.

Then the fireworks started just behind us - we sat in the middle of a roundabout and watched a great display.   Then wandered back to our car afterwards along with all the Promenaders .





Earlier in the afternoon we went to see Cirque du Soleil - I've been wanting to do this for so many years and it was every bit as good as I had imagined it.   Just quite simply WOW!!!!!

Cameras were not allowed in the auditorium so I've taken these photos from their website and from various newspaper reviews.  

The show was Dralion
Grace and elegance personified
It included all the traditional circus acts - jugglers, clowns, acrobats, dancers, balancing acts, etc … but the standard was so high.   This guy was my favourite - although it was hard to pick one act as being special out of so many special acts.




The clowns were so funny - slapstick at its best.
The colour was exciting, there was continuous movement and each act was better than the one before it.  
All the children's' favourite - the lady in blue on the silk scarves
flying around from the ceiling. 

And of course for me, the singers and the musicians were the creme de la creme.  
The Dralion singers
A wonderful experience.  So so happy to have seen them - and in a foreign city too.  

A day to be remembered for a long time to come. 








Monday, 18 August 2014

CD Review - Colum Sands "Turn the Corner"


I like to share different music with you and what better than to let you hear samples of new recordings from some of my friends.

Let me introduce you to Colum Sands.   Colum is a great writer - one of my favourite songsmiths.   His songs are folk in the proper sense of the word - he writes about things that go on around him, things that happen to the folk he comes across.   And he has a knack of writing about sensitive subjects without offending anyone.
This is a very apt example - a song for these times we live in when children are being hurt all over the world.   "The Child Who Asks Why" is from the new CD Turn the Corner.


The title track, Turn the Corner, will become an anthem around these parts.   When you're driving home after being away for a while - you drive through the town of Warrenpoint and once your reach the end of the main street you see the water and the mountains in front of you and you must turn left to reach Rostrevor.   This song is about that turn in the road.

Another gem which will have audiences singing along is Annie I Owe You - a play on the vowels of English - and a song to make us think.

This CD is Colum's 9th, not counting the many recordings with his brothers and sister - as The Sands Family.    There's a song in praise of Rainy Days - not many people will make you think of the rain that way - and a beautiful song about the process of handblown glass.

The CD is available through Colum's website and folk music distributors world wide.


Colum can be heard every week on the airwaves as he presents the weekly BBC Radio Ulster Folk Programme - He tours regularly in the UK and in Germany as well as here at home playing folk clubs and festivals.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

The Ladies Who Lunch

No! not me!  Well not usually anyway, although tomorrow I'm meeting some friends and having a leisurely lunch catch up before the summer is over and we all get bogged down in routine again.   Looking forward to it.

No!  This Ladies Who Lunch is by Steven Sondheim and is sung here by a very young Elaine Stritch.
The woman who posted this on You Tube called her "my favourite spirit animal"!!
What an apt description of such a powerful performer.



This came up cause I'm starting work with my adult singers on choosing songs for Grades in Music Theatre to do this term.  I love working with adults who want to get back to singing  they're not looking for a career change, although sometimes that happens, and they're burying old demons about their voices, their performances, their expectations.   We have great fun and I learn something new in every class.   So I'm looking forward to exploring a lot of new material that I've never looked at with students before.

It also comes on the day after hearing about Robin Williams' passing and on the day of Lauren Bacall's death.  Two more sensational performers - one who has lived their life well, the other who had so much more to give.   I read one comment on Facebook from a friend who said that they've never experienced a sense of intimate loss when a celebrity died before hearing about Robin.    And I have to echo the sentiment ....  I feel so so sad for the poor man - after all the joy he has given, to feel such despair is beyond my understanding - I've certainly felt depression, but never to that degree.  Thank you Robin for all the wonderfulness that you have given us over the years.  You will be missed.

We're getting ready now for a tour / busman's holiday over in France and Spain.   My mother and most people who aren't musicians think that we're always on holiday when we go away :)   I didn't want to disappoint them - so we're doing it for real this time :)   First stop Spain - a few gigs, then a few free days with friends, then up into the south (isn) part of France for another week with more friends, and also including 2 gigs, and then the last 5-6 days in the north of France - again staying with more friends and with one more gig on the night before we come home.    Like last year, we're taking the ferry from the south East of Ireland to Cherbourg in France.   I can't believe how reasonably priced it is.   Normally we're taking ferries from here to Scotland or England - a 2 hour crossing.   This trip to France is 18 hours - and, including a cabin both ways, and in peak season, it is less than £100 dearer than the Irish Sea crossing.

I've not been a regular poster over the summer months and am not promising to maintain a regime yet for a while, but it's lovely to put fingers to keyboard again :)

How's your summer going?   Or is it winter time with you?  I'd love to hear.