Category Archives: Performing Arts

A Night to Remember: Jim Corr and Liam Monagher in the Lisdoo, Dundalk

Just before Christmas, Dundalk was treated to a very special night of music in The Lisdoo in aid of the Louth Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The night was so lovely and enjoyable that it deserves further acknowledgement than just a handful of Instagram posts.

The bigger picture of the night was of course, raising awareness for mistreated animals and for raising funds for a worthy charity who work tirelessly to care for, treat, house, feed and rescue animals who need positive human intervention. A topic close to my own heart and indeed many hearts, as the venue was close to full. Such a positive and affirming act in itself!

Musically, the event was centred on Dundalk musicians, in particular those who are aligned with Irish traditional music- Jim Corr, Liam Monagher, Zoë Conway, John McIntyre and The Oriel Traditional Orchestra. If you were in any way interested in the music of our ancestry performed by professional, highly regarded and empathetic artists, you didn’t need a second invite to attend- for this was a once in a lifetime show.

Following a brief introduction from local broadcaster Harry Lee, The Oriel Traditional Orchestra opened the event. The orchestra performed pieces from the Oriel region which encompasses Louth, Meath, Monaghan and Armagh, arranged for orchestra. Their sound was as big as their number. They performed the sweetest melody on solo tin whistles to a hushed audience and they filled the room with the joyous sound of approximately sixty musicians in harmony. You couldn’t not be in awe of their collective passion and talent. At this point I will add that Zoë Conway and John McIntyre who played after Jim Corr and Liam Monagher, were fantastic. They’re a wonderful duo who compliment each other in a fantastic way, vocally and instrumentally. This blog is about Jim and Liam so I will not delay.

Succeeding the flurry of sixty-odd chairs getting packed away and guests’ tables getting pushed closer to the small-rise stage to fill the gap (no problem, I’m not shy! I very much would like to be closer to the artists I’m there to hear!), Jim Corr and violinist Liam Monagher sat on the edge of the stage very casually and chatted with Harry Lee. The friendship between Jim and Harry was obvious as Jim chatted about his sister Andrea’s newly published memoir and spoke about how much he enjoys the fact his son Brandon reads it to him in the evenings. Undoubtedly emotional and nostalgic for Jim, as his sister recounted stories and memories from her childhood right up until the time of publishing, many of which concerned their family while growing up. Harry turned to Liam and asked him to speak about his professional career as a violinist. Liam humbly revealed he has performed in prestigious venues including the Royal Albert Hall, London and Carneige Hall, New York. The pair have played together before, but this night was to be their debut public performance, one which Harry inquired, might be the beginning of a future project?

While Jim Corr needs little or no introduction due to the global success of The Corrs with his three sisters, he has always been a steady musician onstage, keeping an eye on each of his sisters in brotherly support and contributing to the formidable sound without drawing heaps of attention onto himself. I watched their performance in the O2 Dublin in 2016, each sister sibling cast adoring looks at their brother as they nervously returned to the Irish stage and I watched Jim acknowledge them and give a small and reassuring smile. Jim Corr is a pillar in terms of a live, performing musician and is a force of creative energy in the recording studio with an incredible wealth of knowledge concerning music production.

Liam Monagher also from Dundalk, began playing violin at the age of six and trained with the renowned violinist Ms. Patricia Treacy and also with Mr. Michael d’ Arcy at the Royal Irish Academy of Music, Dublin. As a solo violin performer, Liam has won many awards at Feis Ceol’s at Newry, Warrenpoint, Belfast and Sligo and also competed with success at Feis Ceol Dublin. As an orchestral musician, he has performed with numerous orchestra’s including the Orchestral Musicians of Northern Ireland, the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland (NYOI), the NYOI Camerata and the Cross Border Orchestra of Ireland (CBOI). Throughout the years, he has performed in many of the world’s most prestigious music venue’s including Boston Symphony Hall, Carnegie Hall, New York and Chicago Symphony Hall. Most notably, he was leader of the CBOI in performances at the World Expo Shanghai, China, the Lincoln Centre, New York and the Royal Albert Hall, London. In addition, he has played in all the major venues in Ireland including the Helix, the National Concert Hall, the RDS, Dublin, the SSE Arena and the Waterfront Hall, Belfast. Although principally a classical violinist, Liam who has been described as an “accomplished and stylish player” has won awards at Fleadh Ceol Na hÉireann at county, provincial and national level, including two gold medals, under the tutelage of respected Dundalk musician, Brendan Gaughran. Throughout his career to date, he has had the opportunity to perform for many dignitaries including President of Ireland Mary Mc Allesse, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip to name but a few. In recent times, Liam’s musical career has taken a diverse twist, seeing him record and perform with some of Ireland’s most outstanding musicians including Lisa Hannigan, Jim Corr, Miss Paula Flynn and Brian Kennedy.

Both musicians, with their incredible respective achievements, talent and musical training show no hint of pomposity, in fact they showed albeit only briefly, slight nervousness as they were playing to a home audience on home turf. They opened with the serene Irish traditional air Lough Erin Shore, more famously known as Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore (Paul Brady and Dolores Keane). Corrs fans know the air very well as two versions of the tune bookend the album Forgiven, Not Forgotten (1995), and was still part of their White Light Tour set in 2016. Of course, this wasn’t exactly a typical Corrs audience, it was an audience of friends and family which is a different level of support, and enthusiasm is expressed in more reserved ways (That means I didn’t bring my hotel pillowcase with “Jim, you’re looking well!!!!” colourfully drawn with twenty Sharpies- who let the fangirl in?!). By reserved, I mean you could have heard a pin drop in the room as Jim took to the keys and effortlessly danced over them, his right hand providing beautiful ornaments to the melody while his left hand supported with his signature rich bass notes and chords. All eyes and all ears were on the duo. Jim played one round of the tune before giving Liam the very same assuring smile he gave his sisters in Dublin as he lifted his violin bow to join him. Liam’s 1802 Perry violin sounded rich, full and warm, perhaps one might argue that’s not an overly traditional tone for an Irish performance but we’re not here to discuss authenticity, innovation or tradition. We’re here to listen to two fine musicians play the music of their heritage. And I for one quite appreciate a rounded and smooth violin tone, it’s kinder to my ears. Liam’s vibrato is graceful, measured and in my view, appropriate, as he draws a gentle sweetness out of his instrument. His execution of the pitch slide in the second part of the melody evokes the spirit of the first recording on Forgiven, Not Forgotten and he imparts his own signature by adding extra ornaments throughout. The pair arrive at the tune’s crescendo and Jim nods to Liam, taking over the melody in the upper octave, his delicate performance bringing to mind stars twinkling in the night sky with the fairies or siogs dancing beneath. One more round of the tune with Liam and with mutual smiles, signalling an silent agreement that this was to be the final phrase. Broad smiles to rapturous applause and cheers from the audience, their rendition was very much enjoyed.

Liam took the centre stage for the next tune, Brian Boru’s March. Liam led the way with Jim watching intently and adding beautifully accompaniment with occasionally jazzy chords and mirroring the melody as if the two players were one. Jim looked visibly at ease during this performance, perhaps any nerves of playing the first number dissipated and the two seemed to be feeding off each other musically. Indeed the two were so well rehearsed that they could relax, catching the briefest of staccato notes in perfect synchronisation, to snap you awake just in case you were floating off with the dancing siogs! And indeed to pre-empt what was coming next. The two started a new tune immediately, in classic Corrs style (think the unabridged version of The Carraroe Jig that was on the Love to Love You maxi-CD which pops a jaunty Trout in the Bath in unison violin and right hand piano). Certainly a joy of life of its own, the surge of energy from both musicians was lifting and playfully, Jim played the very last phrase in unison with both his left hand and his right hand for dramatic effect! Class!

At this point in their set, I’m delighting in the opportunity to listen to the keyboard musicianship of Jim Corr in such close proximately and liveliness. Yes, we get a sense of his incredible talent particularly on the Forgiven, Not Forgotten and Home albums, we know he’s a brilliant player but we don’t really get to appreciate it fully as there is so much more excellent music going on around him. United, The Corrs are genius, there’s no doubt about it, they have a synergy unique to them and they’re all fantastic (and I would argue, underrated) musicians. But here in the Lisdoo, it’s just Jim and Liam. No drums, guitars and more going on, this is very stripped back and very live. Jim is not a show off, he’s too gentle and grounded to be, but he definitely deserves celebration. The fluidity of his playing, his choice of chord arrangement, his choice of volume velocity and the perfect execution of his performance would leave you open-mouthed. He’s a totally different player, but he’s got that same midas touch Thomas Bartlett of The Gloaming has. My only wish at this point is that I could physically see his hands but I’m too shy to get up and move my chair, even for one song.

Speaking of The Joy of Life, Liam introduces the next tune as it. Jim starts the tune slightly slower than he normally would with The Corrs (it’s better to be too slow than too fast) and Liam picks up on this and pushes ahead, encouraging Jim to pick up the pace. The best tunes sound easy to play but are actually quite the handful (I’ve tried this particular favourite myself but alas, it’s definitely best left to the professionals). The Trout in the Bath rushes in, and some super-enthusiastic soul in the back of the room screams his lungs out in appreciation. Jim stomps on an endearing piece of wood with a boundary microphone attached to it, placed on the ground underneath his keyboard, emulating a kick drum or perhaps, emulating the stomping of the ground at a session in full swing (at this point in my own sessions, I’m rolling off as much low-end as possible on the mixer and have already requested the players to kindly remove their shoes!). But you can’t beat Jim’s energy, the audience are clapping in time with his stomping. We get a momentary rest with Jim’s jazzy sustained chords underneath Liam’s energetic playing and then in classic Corrs style, Jim yells “one two three four!” with support from the audience. They’re elated. Another few rounds of the tune before a flashy finish of violin tremolo’s and a sweep of all the keys, finalised by a synchronised final home note.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 01.25.47
Liam Monagher and Jim Corr. Photo by Stephanie Caffrey 2019.

Jim takes the microphone to introduce the next piece of music, the theme song from the 1988 film Cinema Paradiso. I had forgotten all about that film, we watched it in school during our Leaving Cert year. According to Andrea Corr in her memoir, Jim has perfect pitch and I well believe her, but Jim admitted difficulty in learning this particular piece of music solely by ear and said he only recently obtained the sheet music for it. Talented and humble. He had no sheet music in front of him that night and he grinned “I hope I play it ok now, I’m under pressure!”. The piece is distinctly classical, a far cry from his fusion/Irish sound he is known for. But let’s remember that Jim Corr has been playing piano since he could reach the keys. His father Gerry, taught him (and all the girls) and Jim studied at the Royal Irish Academy too. He could have pursued a career in classical music if he chose so. And evidently from this performance, Jim didn’t let the piano fade in the dust after his commercial zenith with The Corrs, nor did he stop playing classical altogether. His performance was flawless. Liam joined him with an equally flawless rendition of the melody, sliding effortlessly between left hand positions- one of the many hallmarks of an accomplished classically-trained player. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end at the beauty of their sound. Truly it was a sound to behold. And I’m not into classical music at all, bizarre I know (call myself a music lover?).

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 01.26.29
Liam Monagher and Jim Corr performing Cinema Paradiso. Photograph by Stephanie Caffrey 2019.

Return to Fingall was performed next. Another one from The Corrs’ repertoire, Return to Fingall featured as a bonus track on the Japanese release of their fifth album, Home (2005). Why it wasn’t included on the Irish/UK releases baffles me as it’s a stunning tune. Originally a piping tune made famous by the great Séamus Ennis, it translates onto violin, tin whistle and piano beautifully. Delicate ornaments from Liam decorated the tune, putting his own stamp on it, he also emulated well through his choice of expression, how the tune might be played on the uilleann pipes. “Is that it?!” Jim yelled as Liam raised an eyebrow and shook his head mid-bow, “Oh yeah!” Jim grinned and seemed to remember by muscle memory the delicate piano solo that’s next. It was different to what we hear on Home, in fact there was a touch of Enya in Jim’s choice of harmony, perhaps a tip of the hat to the Donegal musical family that inspired his own. He ended the tune with another sweep of the keyboard but this time in key and with his foot on his sustain pedal. The audience were too polite to clap over the extended decay which made a beautiful and poignant chord, until it fully diminished.

The last tune to be performed was of course, Toss the Feathers. The Corrs’ staple. A big “aw” from the audience and an apology from Jim for “only” giving the crowd six songs (six perfect songs!). “Not too fast” said Jim as he launched in a mock high speed tempo, which made Liam laugh out loud and tease Jim. After a moment of inner contemplation, Jim decided on a tempo and Liam launched the reel with bells and whistles. Not wanting to slow down, Liam carried on and impressively executed the melody perfectly at that pace. Jim started stomping on the stomp box again and “yeeeeeow”s interspersed the audience clapping along. We’re used to hearing a massive production on this tune (drums, bass, tin whistle, guitars, the whole sheh-bang) but the momentum was carried by the two musicians. Jim varied up the accompaniment with his jazzy syncopated chords (I say “jazzy” but I don’t really mean stylistic jazz, I mean chords you might typically find in jazz), he showed groove is possible in Irish fusion with just two instruments. He smiled broadly as he executed his offbeats along with his constant floor stomping, music and groove just flows through him. And Liam kept up the whole way, never relenting or missing a note. The duo finished with a flamboyant ending, complete with a leg thrown up on the keyboard (!) and more rapid violin tremolos. Pure class. Sure I only lost my mind there and then.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 01.24.51
Go on ya good thing! Liam Monagher and Jim Corr performing Toss the Feathers. Photograph by Stephanie Caffrey 2019.

Myself and my mother highly enjoyed this wonderful night in the Lisdoo. We had such great craic, heard some truly stunning music and got to contribute to a wonderful local cause. If Jim and Liam were to perform again, we would be there in a heartbeat and we’d probably bring an army of fans with us too. The world could definitely do with a little more of Jim and Liam. Hup the lads! Love to love you both!

Love, Revenge, Fancy Shirts and High-Speed Ship Chases: Kern “The Left & The Leaving” Album Launch in the DC Music Club, Dublin, 17/10/19

72274609_2717876634890742_3116480256261750784_n.jpg
Kern 2019 photographed by John Wilde. Source: Kern on Facebook.

On Friday night, traditional-folk group Kern launched their second album The Left & The Leaving. Their debut album, False Deceiver was critically acclaimed when released in 2016 (see Tradconnect.com, Irish Music magazine, The Irish Echo, thebestofmusicandfilm.com and others) and Kern spent the better part of the next three years gigging their socks off. They’ve played many stages in Ireland and Europe: the Spirit Store in Dundalk, Temple Bar Tradfest, both recent Fleadh Cheoils in Drogheda, Milwaukee Irish Fest, Whelan’s, The Cobblestone, Vantastival, Culture Connections, Dingle, Germany to name but a few. Not only this but they kept their finger on the recording studio in the interim and released a “winter mix” of the single Short Term Thing and Till The Docklands Drown. I’ve attended a bunch of their Dublin/Louth gigs and have always been impressed by their thrilling live performances. Also, their sound translates excellently from studio to stage and back again. As a music producer, sound engineer and follower, I find both arenas equally enjoyable to listen to Kern in.

The Left & The Leaving was produced by Trevor Hutchinson, the founder member of Lúnasa. Mr Hutchinson also produced False Deceiver and performed double bass on both albums. The album artwork is a beautiful painting by Louth artist and illustrator Caoimhe McCarthy and inside there’s a handsome photograph of the band with their respective instruments, taken by Meath photographer, John Wilde. In keeping with False Deceiver, the comprehensive and interesting inner sleeve-notes are attractively presented.

Young Louth traditional-folk group Alfi opened for Kern in the DC Music Club, Dublin. The trio consists of Fiachra Meek (uilleann pipes/vocal/low whistle), Alannah Thornburgh (harp/vocal) and Ryan McAuley (banjo/vocal). They played a charming set from their debut EP Wolves in the Woods which combines American old-time and traditional Irish music. They displayed fine musicianship with stellar performances on each instrument respectively, a fantastic vocal blend- particularly the male harmony on The Drink Song, well-researched notes on their tune and song sources and engaging banter between tunes. I worked with Fiachra during the final year of my undergraduate degree, pestering him to join me in the studio as I tried out various microphones and combinations on his uilleann pipes, quizzing him on how to the pipes make sound and dropping in on pre-production sessions with his then-band Na Tonnta, for our 3-track studio production. The last time I saw him was at a post-studio session dinner in the student apartment block, where he and a fellow band member tried to open a coconut with the tiniest hammer you ever saw. One hour, a scratched floor and a marvellous vegetarian curry later, the band collapsed in hearty laughs and I actually can’t remember if they did crack that coconut or not. Fiachra carries forward his witty humour into Alfi and I’m very interested to follow this promising young band’s career.

Following Alfi, Kern arrived onstage to a rapturous applause with very special guest- Mr Dónal Lunny. Dónal launched The Left and The Leaving with light-hearted commentary and much praise, citing his favourite as Drowsyman’s Hornpipe/Martin Young’s Polka. SJ McArdle (guitar/vocal), Brendan McCreanor (uilleann pipes/low whistle/vocal) and Barry Kieran (fiddle) along with Mr Lunny (bouzouki) played a joyous set of tunes. Off the bat, the amount of practice and thought that went into the set was obvious- tight performance, intricate and unexpected pauses, superb energy and purest passion and joy. The four beamed at each other constantly throughout.

Kern continued their set after Dónal took a polite bow and settled into the audience for a deserved drink. It was immediately apparent that the fans Kern worked so hard to attract would not be disappointed with their new material. Their new songs clearly excellently crafted, sounded like a perfect continuation from those on False Deceiver: Powerful, energetic strumming and expert dexterous fingerpicking from SJ which at times was so gentle, he hardly seemed to be touching his guitar strings at all, yet each note rang through clear as a bell. More husky vocals telling stories of Irish days past, joked by SJ as mostly having maritime themes. Despite the giddy laughter concerning extra-fancy shirts that magically blag you communion faster in Mass, tales of high-speed ship chases and what not, SJ sings beautiful songs of a serious nature- Irish emigration, the Famine, the wars and hard-working class Irish heroes. Kern’s way of combining Irish tunes into their songs is certainly distinctive and works very well. Brendan and Barry each weave gorgeous melodies around SJ’s vocal, adding an extra layer of emotional essence. If you’re too enthralled by the music to listen to the lyrics, you’ll not be in left in the dark of the subject matter. Barry’s light-handed vibrato will tug at your heartstrings while Brendan’s lilting chanter can convey a graceful joy.

Kern’s new tunes are equally impressive. Clearly innovators who have a deep respect for the tradition and players, the lads unleashed new compositions of their own. Barry’s Somers March/Daragh Patrick’s is quite frankly a masterpiece. I was blown away. His march, named after the group’s stay in Germany, is delicate and sweet while the jig, named after his godson, is a bundle of joy. Both tunes, separately or combined could easily feature in a movie soundtrack, they’re that cinematic. Brendan’s Martin Young’s polka, part of the Drowsyman’s Hornpipe/Martin Young’s Polka set is such a cheerful tune and instant toe tapper also. Brendan dedicated the tune to the memory of fellow piper Martin Young. Staying within the locality, Bonny Light Horseman, heralded as “Drogheda’s National Anthem” roused a chorus of voices, filling the venue. And speaking of innovation within the tradition, I couldn’t help but be impressed by Kern’s magnificent stops and starts within Russian Reels and The New Jigs. Tasteful, dramatic and intelligent, the lads kept the audience on their toes.

All in all, the old Louth tunes and songs, and the new regional-inspired material are clearly safe in the hands of Kern. The album launch was a visible and audible success and several early listens of The Left & The Leaving indicate that this album too will be a staple in my playlist of Louth coastal beach walks.

Hup the lads! Well done and many congrats to you! Onwards to this new season in Kern’s career, we can only listen in delight.

Kern’s newly launched official website: https://kernmusic.com/

Follow on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kernband/

Purchase The Left &The Leaving on iTunes: https://music.apple.com/ie/album/the-left-and-the-leaving/1482957996

Alfi Bandcamp: https://alfi.bandcamp.com/

 

Gig Review: Kern at Richmond Fort, Drogheda

Last Friday saw a belter of a night of music in Richmond Fort in Millmount Cultural Quarter, Drogheda.  Louth traditional musicians Kern, with support from Drogheda singer-songwriter Gene Carolan, showcased local, contemporary talent in the new music venue which holds much promise for future, intimate gigs in the town.

Source: https://twitter.com/Hawthorns_Andy/status/989559096469868544

A performance space which was neither too big nor too small for both, Richmond Fort is a delightful room to enjoy music in. The small upstairs room was cosy, bright and comfortable while boasting a high ceiling which carried the sound adequately. A professional sound set up surrounded by thoughtful and considered lighting made for a delightful setting in which to enjoy the music.

Gene Carolan opened the night, delivering a showcase of original songs which reflected his life experiences to date while looking brightly to the future of Drogheda, the town hosting this years Fleadh. Usually flanked by his brothers on stage, Gene carried a big show solo with his intricate fingerpicking guitar skills which seamlessly blended into his songs. His charming personality warmed the audience and his honesty and authenticity leaves no doubt that Gene has a long, sparkling musical career ahead of him.

Source: https://twitter.com/genecarolan?lang=en

Kern, a trio of musicians from south, mid and north Louth respectively, SJ McArdle (lead vocal, guitars, harmonica), Brendan McCreanor (uilleann pipes, whistles and backing vocal) and Barry Kieran (fiddle and floor stomper/fire-out-putter!) are the counties’ gem in contemporary folk and traditional music. Opening with the first two tracks from their debut album False Deceiver produced by Trevor Hutchinson, one can see instantly why their record was so well received. Executed so well on the stage, one would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the CD and the live performance! A testament to their first class musical talents and the production of the album which in both settings sound full, warm and beautifully thought-out. Ale saw fiddle player Barry take the solo with the beautifully charming The Ale is Dear Scottish reel later accompanied by Brendan on the low whistle and SJ on acoustic guitar. The nuances of Barry’s fiddle playing so clearly audible in the perfect room, I couldn’t help by gaze in awe at his tasteful dexterity. The sudden break into the faster Teampall An Ghleanntain hits you right in the solar plexus followed by Crooked Road to Dublin, a delight to hear so early in the set as it sets the tone for the entire show.

View this post on Instagram

Savage gig tonight from Louth musicians @bandkern in Drogheda

A post shared by Steff (@sc_sound_engineer) on

SJ’s years of being a singer-songwriter in his own right, took him around Europe with multiple recordings under his belt. A natural front-man, his ad-libbed jokes and natural dry wit between songs left the room laughing hysterically.  With the sudden realisation that most of the songs in their current repertoire are marine-themed, SJ made light-hearted banter about the coincidence while pointing out the true issues at hand, such as the sorrows of Irish emigration, love and loss. The town of Drogheda has a rich history of Irish maritime, my own great-grandfather worked on the port so it was a delight to hear a local group pay tribute to such an important part of our hertitage.

Buy the single here: https://itunes.apple.com/ie/album/till-the-docklands-drown-single/1259502612

The group’s set has expanded since the last time I caught them, in Dublin’s infamous Cobblestone pub and venue. New jig sets, reel sets, new songs and sounds hint at what the band’s sophomore album will sound like. With each musician offering so much variety and creativity to the collective sound, backing vocals, harmonica, various whistles and last but not least, a growing number of guitars (acoustic and electric) and a plethora of pedals to boot/Converse (SJ even worked in live looping with absolute precision and perfection), it’s obvious that the possibilities for the future of Kern are endless! It’s refreshing to catch such an innovative band with traditional values at it’s heart and it’s wonderful that the musical heritage of Louth is being honoured in such a beautiful way.

Hup lads! Can’t wait for the next one! Here’s hoping there’ll be more of the like in Richmond Fort!

Buy False Deceiver on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/ie/album/false-deceiver/1077962411

 

For Your Ears, Heart and Soul: Leaca Bán – Na Tonnta

Posting and sharing with you, my most recent music production project, the beautiful Leaca Bán by 5-piece, traditional Irish crossover group, Na Tonnta.

Na Tonnta
Na Tonnta

Introducing Na Tonnta (L-R as above): Daniel ‘Hearthrob’ Whelan, Ellie ‘Ellington’ J McGinley, Sinéad ‘Brings her own teabags’ O’Malley, Ciara ‘I♥ Beoga’ Moley and Fiachra ‘Figgy’ Meek. The group met while studying Music in DkIT together and bonded through their love of traditional Irish music, popular music, tea, biscuits and cakes!

My journey with Na Tonnta began in September 2014. I was searching for a musically-new band to introduce to the recording studio and collaborate with for my final music production project at DkIT, resulting in three songs- one being the core and most-polished production.

Approaching Na Tonnta was an easy task. It was actually perfect timing! I already knew Sinéad, their flute and whistle player from the Norway erasmus trip in 2013 and I worked with Ellie, their vocalist and fiddle player on my previous production project, “Crystal Hearts” feat. Fiona McErlane by Audio_Girl | Free Listening on SoundCloud.

I knew I wanted to carry forward my love for traditional Irish music while bringing it into a contemporary production and I also knew Na Tonnta were a hard-working, creative and driven group from my Facebook stalking since they formed in October 2013!

Na Tonnta warming up for the Spirit of Folk Festival, 2014
Na Tonnta warming up for the Spirit of Folk Festival, 2014

Leaca Bán began in the rehearsal room. Sinéad introduced the idea to the group with the beautiful, haunting traditional tune, 250 To Vigo, accompanied by accordion player, Ciara. I sat, mesmerised by the performance- the beautiful tone of the B flat whistle, the rhythm of the tune, the sombre accordion, gently accompanying the haunting tune. The hairs on my arms stood and I knew instantly that this was a tune I wanted to be a part of. I could already hear our studio recording in my mind’s ear!

What happened next lifted my spirits even further. There was a lyrical idea. In fact, there was more than just an idea- there was a theme, a mood, an atmosphere and a poem! A vintage book was produced- a little blue book with yellow pages, about to be tossed out from a local school library where Sinéad worked. For some reason unknown to me, Sinéad opened the book and there was a beautiful poem at the beginning. The Lights of Leaca Bán by Alice Cashel is an old book intended for secondary school children but the poem simply titled Leaca Bán, found at the begnning of the book, is a literary work of beauty.  It was suggested that Ellie fit the tune to the words- amazingly, it worked like a dream. Ellie suddenly started singing the poem and it was just right.

Ellie and Fiachra in the rehearsal room
Ellie and Fiachra in the rehearsal room

By Christmas a humble demo which consisted of a vocal, fiddle, tin whistle and accordion was recorded and then my audio fun began. What I already had was a beautiful tune which was deeply Irish and could hold up on its own with such a small ensemble- how about adding drums? Synthesisers? Guitars? More vocals? How big could we go?! How big did I dare?!

Well, here’s the final production.  Listen for yourself.

Special Announcement :)

Delighted to announce that the Augustinian Gospel Choir will perform a special concert in the Dominican Church, March 8th 2015!

This is a fundraising event in aid of the Dominican Church, admission is free and a brilliant night of gospel choir music and solo singers and musicians is promised.

More information about saving the Drogheda’s beautiful Dominican church can be found at: Fight now begins to save Dominicans after 790 years – Independent.ie.

Drogheda Independent January 2015
Drogheda Independent, January 2015

Watch the complete story, including interviews, footage of the Rally and the controversial debate that followed it.

Exquisite Performance Of Original Music by El Grey at the Spirit Store, 09-08-14

Last night I finally got to see El Grey live! I have been waiting for an ideal opportunity to hear the voice of El Grey herself live for a long time and last nights performance at the Lockup Big Day Out gig in the Spirit Store, Dundalk, did not disappoint.

It was one of those gigs where you felt like the singer was singing only to you. One of those gigs where the hairs on your arms stand on end. One of those gigs that literally takes your breath away. And such gigs are rare.

I was in awe of El Greys voice- her vocal is powerful, expressive, delicate, haunting and strong- all at the same time. Her range is astounding and her style is unique. A voice you will never forget once you’ve heard it.

I watched her performance in absolute delight, superbly skilled in acoustic guitar- flawlessly, effortlessly fingerpicking- a natural player. During her performance she seems to enter another state of consciousness- a higher state of mind- her voice expressing her deepest emotions through soaring notes, beautiful on-sets and releases- a very dreamy sound world. A talented musician, she also plays the ukulele with a grace I’ve never seen before- no tacky jokey jingle-jangle here- her unique guitar fingerpicking style translates beautifully onto her charming little instrument.

Accompanied by Chris Topher on percussion and live electronic MIDI sequencing, her music takes on another dimension. Chris programs percussive loops using a MIDI interface and laptop. He also plays a large djembe while playing basslines with his toes! He trades El Greys acoustic guitar and ukulele throughout the set.

A duet clearly in control of their sound and production, El Grey uses the Boss vocal processor for hands-on control of her reverb and delay effects. Her long reverb tails and massive echoes are her trademark and her vocal processor is used to great effect. She clearly understands what she’s doing and doesn’t cloud her sound in a foggy, confusing mist of unnecessary decay. The overall sound is minimal and focussed- and believe me, anything but boring. The 45-minute set included all original songs except one Nirvana cover which was played in absolute El Grey style- she really made it her own.

It’s very clear there’s a super talent here. No wonder she has being going from strength to strength in the last year- winning an EP recorded with United Records and mastered in the world-famous Abbey Road Studios in London in 2013. Her 3-track self-titled debut EP was released 2014. The EP has been given airplay on a number of radio shows in Ireland and beyond, including Dan Hegarty’s The Alternative (2FM), Near FM Sessions (Near FM), and CSM – leading alternative show by Aleksandra Kaczkowska on Polish National Radio ‘3’ (Trojka Polskie Radio). Also El Grey’s recently become the Finalist of the Big Break All Ireland Music Competition organised by Hot Press Magazine (Top Five 2014).

It was very exciting for me personally to get to meet the duet after the gig, I couldn’t help but feel a tiny bit starstruck- when you follow an artists music online for some time that you really admire, you just can’t help but feel in awe, especially after such an amazing gig! I have to say, both Chris and El Grey are absolutely stunning people- they have such a genuinely beautiful energy and spirit, I couldn’t help but feel as if I had met them before! El Grey is very giggly and light-hearted, taking my camera and posing for hilarious selfies, I genuinely laughed this morning looking back on my photos!

Before I share some of my photos of the gig, get yourself a copy of the beautifully recorded EP on their Bandcamp here: El Grey.

Watch her official music videos and special behind the scenes footage of her EP here: el grey – YouTube.

Like the official band page on Facebook for regular updates and further information: el grey.

I hope you enjoy her music as much as I do.

El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14
El Grey- Spirit Store- 9/8/14

Love and light.

Words That Burn Release New Single “Before The Fall”

Attention metal heads! Dundalk-based metallers Words That Burn released their new single “Before The Fall” via BandCamp over the weekend. And it kicks serious ass.

For me personally, the song brings the likes of Primordial to mind. The excellent production showcases the band as a mature and highly-polished unit with plenty of edge and energy expertly performed. Catchy guitar hooks, tight as hell bass and drums, excellent lyrics and a savage vocal performance make this latest release the bands finest output to date. I love the fabulous contrasting middle eight for the well-considered, layered vocal harmonies- the lower register of Ronan’s vocal gets me every time.

Download the song at the link here: BEFORE THE FALL | Words That Burn. Name your price! It’s free if you want it to be!

The accompanying video was released this evening on YouTube- excellent work! Check it out below:

 

Their previous album Praey is also available on BandCamp to download- name your price: PRAEY | Words That Burn. Also awesome merch is available here: Home / Words That Burn Shop.

The band’s next major gig is at PhilFest 2014 in Fibbers, Parnell St, Dublin (Sunday the 29th of June)- a 2-day heavy metal event with a fantastic lineup for a mere €5 per day- you’d be bonkers to miss it!

Get liking Words That Burn on Facebook.

Get following @words_that_burn on Twitter.

Rock out!!! \m/

WTB

Photos From the Irish Maritime Festival 2014 :)

The Irish Maritime Festival was a huge success last weekend in Drogheda Port. Drogheda town centre was buzzing with the festival atmosphere Saturday and Sunday. What fab weather we got for it!

Here’s some photos we took, mostly of the Augustinian Gospel Choir! You can imagine my fright when I turned around to see a dancing Spongebob Squarepants on stage, right behind me! What fun we had! And of course a dancing Patrick, our newest choir member 😉

Thanks to the Purple Sessions crew for the great sound and thanks to the festival organisers for a wonderful experience!

IMG_3212
Gerry Simpson and the Augustinian Gospel Choir
IMG_3223
The Augustinian Gospel Choir
IMG_3230
Patrick joins us onstage for “Happy”!
IMG_3237
Happy! Myself and Gerry 🙂
IMG_3197
My choir buddy Tamlyn
Enjoying the fab weather before the gig!
Enjoying the fab weather before the gig!

Irish Maritime Festival 2014 :)

Join us this Sunday (June 15th) in Drogheda at The Irish Maritime Festival 2014 – Gerry Simpson and the Augustinian Gospel Choir- we will be singing our hearts out and giving it all we’ve got at 1pm at the Ballast Sound Stage!

Come along, clap along, sing along- you will be uplifted and you will be feeling HAPPY! 😀

Gerry Simpson and the Augustinian Gospel Choir
Gerry Simpson and the Augustinian Gospel Choir
Sunday 15th of June 2014
Sunday 15th of June 2014

 

Between Horizons Launch Debut E.P

Attention metal heads!!!

2014 starts with an almighty BANG! with the long-awaited independent release of Dundalk-based heavy metal band Between Horizons self-titled debut E.P. The band released their astounding three-track E.P of original music this afternoon through BandCamp.

https://betweenhorizons.bandcamp.com/

The four-piece band are fronted by vocalist Lauren Murphy who hails from Monaghan. Ms Murphy is no stranger to Ireland’s gigging scene with an impressive string of gigs ranging from rock, jazz, acoustic and beyond under her belt. Her vocal performances are always mind-blowing as she commands the full attention of her audience in any venue, large or small. Lauren successfully combines a unique elegance, power, emotion and flawless musicianship in every performance. She is also a passionate songwriter and eminently accustomed to the studio environment.

The artistically gifted Lauren Murphy
The Artist. The Rock Star. THE Lauren Murphy.

The band are local accomplished and seasoned musicians- Stephen Hughes (previously of Valediction) on guitar, Shane Piper on bass (User Illusion) and Jay Ruddy (Subjected Reality) on drums. The trio of musicians make a sheer wall of sound, an absolute force to be reckoned with!

Between Horizons are relatively new to the Irish music scene having formed only 18 months ago but already have brought their tremendous metalcore sound to reputable venues including Whelans, Fibbers and The Brewery (Monaghan). The band have also played in various venues in Dundalk and Omagh.

Between Horizons energetic performances engage crowds
Between Horizons energetic performances engage crowds

Armed with their debut E.P and a whole new set of brand new material ready to go, Between Horizons are ready to raise roofs and blow minds, bringing a whole new side of heavy metal music to Irish audiences previously missing.

Between Horizon’s next gig is in the Dugout, Carrickmacross this Saturday night supporting acclaimed alternative metal band Words That Burn.

Get yourself to Carrick this weekend for one hell of a gig!!!
Get yourself to Carrick this weekend for one hell of a gig!!!

If you can’t for some unfathomable reason get to Carrick this weekend, make it your business to see Between Horizons next performance in Fibber’s, Dublin (Thursday 23rd of January).

For now wrap your ears around their E.P and for Heaven’s sake… PLAY IT LOUD!!!!!

Between Horizons Facebook band page: Between Horizons

Between Horizons Twitter: @Betweenhorizonz

Between Horizons Reverbnation: Between Horizons Music, Lyrics, Songs, and Videos.

Words That Burn Facebook band page: Words That Burn

Words That Burn Reverbnation: http://www.reverbnation.com/wordsthatburn