Reading My Way Around the World

Sunday 31 January 2021

Live Online Stream Concert

We were due to be packing the car today to head to Scotland for our first tour of the year.   The weather's awful so I"m quite glad we're not on a ferry, but sadly I think there'll be no tours this year again and I'm really missing not performing and meeting people.   So, instead, we are doing another livestream at the invite of Dunfermline Folk club where we should have been playing on Wednesday night.  

It's been interesting, to say the least, getting ready for a gig after not playing for over 6 months.  Our heads are in a different place - I'd forgotten how exciting it is to start preparing for a tour or a concert and forgotten how easy it is to get back into the rhythm of things - a part of me was afraid we'd never get back to playing again.   

So if you fancy an hour of joyful songs please join us on either 

Facebook Live 

or on our YouTube Channel Live (please subscribe to our channel)

from 8pm for approximately 1 hour 

on Wednesday 3rd February 2021.

See you there.   

Happy St Brigids Day

spectacular moonrise behind the house this weekend

The start of Spring, the celebration of the goddess and saint - Brigid's Day is well marked here and celebrated as Imbolc in communities around the world.  

Here is a short video poem for you to enjoy - At Bridget's Well .  commissioned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Museum of Literature Ireland to celebrate St. Brigid's Day 2021. They have collaborated on ‘Three Poems for Brigid’, a series of three short online films. Each film showcases a poet and a spoken word performer, and is based around one of the three aspects of Brigid as the triple goddess of Poetry, Healing, and Craftwork.

Hopefully I'll get out for some new rushes this weekend if the weather picks up or get given a fresh Brigid's cross - time for renewed energy.   I love the shape, that it's the circle of life.

And an old tradition called 'bratog Bride' (Brigid's scarf) says to leave out a piece of cloth or a scarf overnight to be blessed by the goddess/saint as she passes.   The cloth can then be used to heal sore throats and headaches.   
The first time I'd heard of this was two years ago when we were at Annaghmakerrig - everyone tied a piece of cloth to a tree at the door (there were only a couple left when I went to photograph it in the morning) - I still have mine in the house somewhere - just in case;)

And finally, although Holocaust Remembrance Day has passed, I'd like to leave you the link to 'Here I Stand' - a video poem by my friend Csilla Toldy who won a commission by the NI Executive and the NI Arts Council to produce a piece to mark the day.  Her mother remembers the children being being taken away from Budapest and as part of her research into the video poem she and her mother revisited Auschwitz.  

Happy St Brigid's Day.

Monday 11 January 2021

The Wonders of Zoom and the frosty mornings.

I've just had the most wonderful Weekend at a Conference for community singing leaders - all done on Zoom - for 215 delegates!!  

I am in awe of the technology and the wonderful organising skills of the team behind the Natural Voice Network.*   And there's a second weekend to come - woohoo!  

On Sunday afternoon alone I attended an Alexander Technique session followed by vocal improvisation lead by a leader in Oregon and finishing the afternoon with a Feldenkrais relaxation session.   On Saturday we had a wonderful singing session lead by a Colombian singer, another gathering where we learned songs from Palestine, Africa and Finland and joined in the AGM as well.   They had even arranged a pub and a chill out space :   Brilliant.   It finished last night with a gathering for well being and I was quite shocked at the loss that is being felt by leaders in some of the big urban areas across England.   It made me appreciate how blessed I am here living in this musical community out of the city.   In fact I'e decided to take a 3 month (at least) break from leading the choir to take a further step back into finding my own creative voice.  However this weekend has really helped.  

Back in March when we first had the mad panic of the pandemic and the 'what on earth are we going to do now', I dived straight in to zoom with a very thinly veiled affection and joy for the wonders of technology which was allowing us to stay connected mixed with an even more thinly veiled anger at having to learn something else new.   The stress of running sessions every week and one to one classes and preparing for exams and and and .... while friends were talking about having lovely family quizzes and coffee mornings left me quietly seething .   But work's work and I felt a real sense of obligation to my group.  

Now that I'm back again to the wonders of technology - we're both tech nerds in this house  - my creativity is finally starting to come up to the surface again - painting, playing with paper, knitting and playing both the marimba and guitar which has been sadly neglected for months.  

We have an online gig coming up at the start of February so the voice and guitar both need dusting off and the fingers need to be hardened up again ... ouch. 

* * * * * * * * * *

Everything was frozen the other morning when we went for a walk around the seafront at Warrenpoint - 

the low tide and frozen sand making gorgeous patterns .

Lots of painted stones lined the wall  - a very cheerful sight.  I particularly love the top one.  

And the heron must've been finding lots of fish in the low tide.  

Take care and have a good quiet and safe week.

*I'm sure I've written about Natural Voice here before - that it's everyone's birthright to sing, and should not just be kept to the confines of the trained singing world - our definitions of good singers combined with the awful critics on tv talent competitions have stopped people singing to themselves, to their babies, while they're working, even in the shower, for fear of being heard.  The constant cry of I can't sing really shocks me as without doubt everyone can sing - you may not sing like Pavarotti or Barbara Streisand or whomever you rate as being brilliant, but you can sing like you.   With not a lot of practice everyone can sing in tune and the joy of singing in a group, while not available through lockdown, is one of the most uplifting experiences anyone can have.   By not singing, people are missing out on the health benefits of this simple self help practice.   

The natural voice approach encourages and helps everyone to find their voice and dovetails very well with folk music which comes from the storytelling oral tradition - the story being more important than the voice .   We use short songs from all around the world, many written by our own song leaders, all with, uplifting heartfelt lyrics, simple melodies and often glorious harmonies.   England is the centre of the Natural Voice Network but there are people leading singing groups this way all over the world.     

Sunday 10 January 2021


Photo Scavenger Hunt January 2021 

Good frosty morning to you - the sun is shining and we're in a wintry wonderland, but no snow yet and it's starting to warm up.  

So I'm joining in today with Kate's Scavenger Hunt - a wee bit different this month from last year in that we have one prompt per week.   

I love gifts - both giving and receiving.   And oftentimes I'll end up keeping the box or the wrapping paper for years afterwards, vicariously enjoying presents that have long disappeared.  

Tom and I usually buy necessities for each other at Christmas time and for birthdays - things we need but won't get around to buying for ourselves ... but this year I had a special wish - (well two actually, but the paints are already a mess and not to be shown lol ) this beautiful Mbira or Kalimba.  It's an African instrument or rather the Western version of a traditional instrument - and I love it.   It arrived for my birthday which was also the day mum went into hospital and, well , things have been a bit pear shaped since so I've hardly touched it.  One of these days I'll let you hear how it sounds with me playing but I've a bit of practice to do yet!

And a a few weeks back when I wasn't feeling so good a friend came around with an Amaryllis plant which just today burst into bloom.   I was expecting a red but instead it's this beautiful pale pink colour  ... Just gorgeous.  

Thank you Kate for keeping this Scavenger Hunt going - I'm heading now to have a look at what everyone else has put in for this prompt.  

Thursday 7 January 2021

Nollaig na mBan 2021


Nollaig na mBan - Women's Christmas or Little Christmas - the 6th January was the traditional day for women of the house to be released from all work duties after the 12 days of Yule.  The practice is still kept going down in Kerry and Cork and in recent years a woman in the town here has a regular women's party where we all bring leftovers.  Today we celebrate in the virtual world so I'm sending love and blessings to all my women friends around the world.  

Sunday 3 January 2021

Hope is Contagious

Hello dear friends.   Thank you for all your new year's greetings.   I hope you've had a gentle move into 2021.  
I got a lovely card from an acquaintance in Germany who amidst a message of wishing us well and hoping we'd see each other soon said, 
COVID-19 is very contagious, especially in its new variation, but 
HOPE is also very, very contagious indeed, in all its many variants.  
What a lovely sentiment to start the new year.     

And it's been a gorgeous start here.   We've been getting out for a walk in the hills each day (new year, new decisions of course .... ) and today our bones and muscles were aching so we had a very short stroll.  
The sky kept changing and it was a wonderful way to walk into the sunset.  

I love the colours of the sky at this time of the year but haven't yet figured out how to reproduce them on camera - but it's fun trying.   

Of course as soon as I came in, the fire really started over the mountain.  

Have a good week and stay safe.