Sunday, 31 January 2010

Shared musical magic amid the merry banter

Transatlantic Sessions, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

As attested by the speed with which both shows routinely sell out, the Transatlantic Sessions are the longstanding jewel in Celtic Connections’ crown. This year, however, was exceptional even by the usual exalted standards.

Whether it was serendipitous chemistry, between the line-up’s mix of old lags and first-timers, or a particularly felicitous choice of songs – or perhaps the full moon – the musical magic conjured by 18 leading folk artists from Scotland, Ireland and America delivered the wow factor in spades.

In keeping with the “sessions” element of the format, most of the musicians remained on stage throughout, clapping, tapping feet and applauding in unison with the audience. Together with plenty of banter and craic – including the seemingly requisite doses of toilet humour from accordionist Phil Cunningham – this lent the proceedings a winning informality and an air of spontaneity, which belied the wealth of A-list musicianship on display.

A pair of early highlights came courtesy of West Virginia’s O’Brien siblings, Grammy-winning singer/multi-instrumentalist Tim and vocalist Mollie, whose name reveals their own Irish lineage. They brought the house down with a tremendous gospel-blues duet on

He Lifts Me, followed by Mollie’s breathtaking rendition of the old Terence Trent D’Arby hit, Cross My Heart.

As this suggests, the material overall ranged freely across traditional and contemporary, Celtic and Americana territory. Other unexpected treats were O’Brien frère’s down ’n’ dirty bluegrass re-shake of Jimi Hendrix’s Hey Joe, with dobro maestro Jerry Douglas and guitarist John Doyle, and Eddi Reader leading a natty rockabilly arrangement of Boo Hewerdine’s Hummingbird.

Two absent friends were commemorated, firstly by Ireland’s honey-voiced Cara Dillon, singing John Martyn’s Spencer The Rover, on the first anniversary of his death. A female vocal line-up that also featured Capercaillie’s Karen

Matheson and ex-Nickel Creek starlet Sara Watkins, later teamed up on a heart-melting Talk To Me Of Mendocino, in tribute to the late Kate McGarrigle.

Dillon was in equally spine-tingling form for her other two contributions, Dougie MacLean’s poignantly homesick Garden Valley and her own stirringly evocative Hill Of Thieves. Watkins showed off her clear, curvaceous, vividly expressive tones in a romp through Jimmie Rodgers’ Any Old Time.

There was no shortage of powerful singing among the men, either, prime examples including a desolately raw-boned cowboy song, Leaving Cheyenne, from Bruce Molsky. Another was Darrell Scott’s Banjo Clark, a reworking of US traditional standard Old Joe Clark, in which his splendidly rugged, weathered voice presided over suitably bare-knuckle backing from most of the dozen or so instrumentalists present.

Talking of presiding, doing so over said instrumentalists was double bass legend Danny Thompson, under­pinning it all with his uniquely muscular yet sensitive handling of rhythm and colour, while Douglas’s magisterial dobro work sonically reflected his role as joint musical director, along with Shetland fiddler Aly Bain.

No parade of Celtic or Americana music would be complete without the utterly tragic, as represented here by the fire-and-brimstone singing of Dan Tyminski (the voice of George Clooney in O Brother, Where Art Thou?) in the murder ballad Wild Bill Jones, and Karen Matheson’s sublimely inconsolable rendering of Crucan Na Bpaiste.

While songs predominated, the instrumental cast also featured such luminaries as Mike McGoldrick on flute, whistles and uilleann pipes, festival director Donald Shaw on piano and accordion, guitarist Russ Barenberg and percussionist James Mackintosh. With the entire line-up heading off next week on its first tour, and the fourth series of the BBC version out on DVD, the Trans atlantic Sessions continue to march from strength to thrilling strength.

A welcome return for Karan Casey and John Doyle

In the 1990s they were two Irish exiles arriving in New York City like so many before them, with youthful curiosity and adventure stoking their musical minds still very much in formation.

Fate and serendipity would bring them together in a new band called Solas (Light) along with other wunderkind in the Irish traditional music scene ready to take the music into the next millennium.

As wildly exciting and successful as Solas was in its opening five years of existence, it could not contain the brilliant pair who felt compelled to seek different roads for themselves at the turn of this century experiencing personal growth as artists and individuals.

Maturity and a willingness to expose themselves to greater challenges as professional musical artists have marked the work of singer Karan Casey from Waterford and singer/guitarist John Doyle from Dublin.

The journey may have been rough and rocky at times, but there is no question that it has made them compelling artists in the forefront of the Irish music scene today.

Last week both were featured performers in the cavalcade of Celtic music’s brightest stars at the annual Celtic Connections gathering in Glasgow, the three week showcase that has become a true crossroads of music in the British Isles and beyond.

In particular Casey and Doyle performed at the prestigious Royal Concert Hall, the premier venue for the acts invited to Glasgow to display their wares. With the pending release of their new joint CD Exiles Return in February, anticipation was building on what the creative tandem might bring forth this time around.

Since leaving Solas, Casey has been busy producing five respected and varied CDs while burnishing her reputation as a seasoned interpreter of songs from the traditional canon, many of which were learned directly from the muse of the late Frank Harte, the Dublin song collector and singer.

Casey’s expansive mind and soul also reached back for music from the American jazz and blues masters to round out her repertoire. She also garnered two awards as Ireland’s best female vocalist from Irish Music Magazine readers, and even a Grammy for work with Paul Winter.

From the home in Cork she shares with husband Niall Vallelly, she has maintained a sharp eye for contemporary songs and songwriters.

Similarly, John Doyle has maintained a dizzying and highly productive path of creativity as well over the past decade, with collaborations from Dublin to Scotland and New York to Nashville and Asheville that justify his self-proclaimed label of being a “Mid-Atlantean.”

Don’t confuse that with being neither here nor there, because Doyle’s collaborative work has a well-defined purpose and success ratio as his work with Mick Moloney, Liz Carroll, Susan McKeown, Solas, Alison Brown and many others attest since arriving on these shores.

His work with Liz Carroll in recent years has been extraordinary, and their latest CD Double Play is up for a Grammy Award this coming weekend.

As the current musical director for the Joan Baez band which includes long-time musical peer and genius Dirk Powell, Doyle has risen to the ranks of accompanists who are in great demand, which allows him to pursue projects close to his heart when the time allows.

Such a project is Exiles Return produced by Powell for Compass Records last year after Doyle and Casey hunkered down in Nashville and recorded a number of tracks that led to this exceptional 12-track release.

It was something the two talked about doing for years but needed to find the time to accomplish it in a manner that made the effort worth doing. And so they have in one of the more refreshing CD of songs to come across my inbox in a long time.

Given the complexity of their lives as performing professionals and geography (Casey lives in Cork and Doyle in Asheville, North Carolina), the project needed to be simple and uncomplicated.
In this case, simplicity is bliss and the rollback from arrangements that got in the way of the colorful storytelling that their selections warranted was a priority for Casey, Doyle and Powell. Only flute player Michael McGoldrick was added to the mix to add some extra flair.

I have long marveled at the ability of Casey and Doyle independently to search out songs, old, new and in-between, without worrying about classifying them or labeling them into some chronological relevancy that interfered with simply exposing a well-written song or dramatic tale that had universal appeal.

But one of the reasons they can carry that off is that they are equally hard to define because they are folk musicians of the highest order who can deliver the goods in the contemporary world they flourish in. Both are astute listeners who have been exposed widely to the best musicians or tradition bearers one could imagine, and that has infused their work on this CD.

And that is what they have done here in Exiles Return, with its dominant themes revolving around songs of love and loss, replete with the familiar topics of war, treacherous lovers, emigration and unemployment.

It is a collection of gems and rarely-heard material that Casey and Doyle have resurrected with aplomb and feeling, and I feel certain that many -- including the fetching title track -- will make their way into trad and song sessions around the world in the next few years as its impact spreads.

Followers of their past ventures will know the influence of Frank Harte and Mick Moloney, but An Ring’s Aine O’Ceallaigh comes up big in this CD with two songs Karan sings. “Out of My Window” is a favorable variant of “She Moves Through the Fair,” as is “False Lover John.”

Also they add their magical touch to a Childe ballad, “False Lover,” and a more contemporary tale of woe in the dying Belfast shipbuilding trade entitled “Shipyard Slips” that fall under the common thread of the CD.

The album concludes with an achingly beautiful epic ballad written by Thomas Davis back in the middle of the 19th century called “The Flower of Finae,” describing a love lost to battle that Casey learned from the singing of a Dublin peer Niamh Parsons.

Much to enjoy in this recording that shows Casey and Doyle at peak performance levels and to mark its presence in America, the tandem is embarking on a brief tour of the Northeast in February highlighted below. Treat yourself to a copy of the new CD and even better try to catch a live performance if you can.

The brief Casey-Doyle tour comprises eight gigs starting in Boston on February 7 at Club Passim (617-492-7679), the 8th at Joe’s Pub in Manhattan (212-239-6200 or, and 9th in Philadelphia at World Café Live (215-222-1400). For more information on the other shows, or on Casey, visit For John Doyle surf to

You can order Exiles Return direct from Compass Records at 615-320-7672 or at

Friday, 29 January 2010

“…It was all so simple then…”

With John Fitzgerald

The words of the song come to mind when contemplating Nell Leahy’s word pictures of a past that has virtually disappeared.

In her interviews on national and local radio, Nell recalled the simpler lifestyle of the 1940s and preceding decades. The Tilly lamps and candles… the water drawn from the well…the open fires that cooked everything…the old cures that worked no matter what the doctors said.

The nation might have been in the grip of rationing, she told RTE Radio’s Donnacha O Dualin, but most country folk had ample supplies of milk, eggs, and meat.

They had their porridge or a boiled egg for breakfast, washed down with tea…rations or no rations. Re-cycling of tea eaves was something you got used to, Nell joked.

Spuds were plentiful too, especially in rural households, she confirmed, as were carrots, onions, turnips, cabbage, parsnips, lettuce, and scallions. And you could feast on Rhubarb or apple tart, or current cake, mainly at teatime on Sundays.

Women didn’t drink like they do now. Nell laughed at the very idea: “Lord above, t’would be a terror to God and a scandal for a woman to be seen sipping a glass of stout or whiskey, though we all knew about a lady in Callan who liked her bottle of stout. She was a brave woman, before her time.

“The women now can have their tipple and no one minds them at all. Sure they drink porter or spirits to beat the band and the divil a harm it does them.”

Nell alluded also to the respect bordering on fear that most people accorded anyone in positions of power or influence. Authority figures such as clergy, civil servants, guards, auctioneers, solicitors and bank managers and even bank clerks were, said Nell; held in high esteem and reverence, to an extent that would seem baffling or even laughable today.

Nell opined that this reverential attitude had a positive effect on society in that people were less inclined than nowadays to engage in reckless or violent antisocial behaviour.

The profound sense of respect for property and personal integrity inculcated in them from an early age held most people back from such nastiness.

Nell mused: “Oh if you met the doctor on the street you’d dip your cap or hat to him if you were a man, or curtsey to him if you were a woman, and say, nearly genuflecting, Good morning doctor, and if you met the priest, sure you treated him as though he were the Lord Almighty himself.

“He was God’s agent in Kyle or Callan and you were blessed if he passed your way. And you didn’t damage anyone’s property because you’d have to face God some day; you had your religion to guide you. We didn’t know what vandalism was because nobody went around doing things like that.”

The downside of the almost over the top respect for authority was a widespread reluctance to question any possible wrongdoing on the part of authority figures and institutions.

Corporal punishment was thus not questioned, apart from murmurings in the pubs, or hushed complaints and street gossiping.

There were no fitted kitchens or anything resembling the modern type house interior during the thirties and forties, Nell informed Donnacha; just a plain table, a few stools, and a dresser neatly lined with plates and cups. People wore simple clothes. Men sported suits for formal occasions and put on heavy trousers for working.

All adults wore topcoats, not as fashion accessories Nell emphasised, but to insulate themselves from the cold, the winds, or from hail, rain, or snow. With few cars on the road, they needed this protection from the elements when walking or cycling or travelling by horse or donkey drawn transport.

The wearing of trousers by women was anathema. Any woman who did wear them would be frowned upon and pointed out in an antagonistic way, if not discreetly cautioned by the local clergy or a representative of the Legion of Mary. “Are you having me on?” Nell asked incredulously when Donnacha broached the subject. “Trousers on a woman would have been as rare as snow in the month of July!” she teased.

Marriage was taken more seriously than today. It was deemed to be really for life, which had its advantages and disadvantages. The marriage vow condemned couples who found themselves to be incompatible to a veritable life sentence of strife and unhappiness.

Most Irish people perceived divorce as something, Nell recalled, that happened in other countries that had “lost the faith”, and the prospect of eternity in Hell awaited anyone even advocating it, let alone attempting to get a divorce by travelling abroad.

Matchmaking was becoming less common but was still fairly widespread in the 1940s. It could be very unfair, Nell thought, especially to the woman. The marriage was arranged, and a date set for the two to wed whether they liked it or not. Some matches proved successful, others disastrous.

Word of mouth invitations to weddings were far more common than written ones, Nell stressed. There were precious few of the extravagant marriage ceremonies that have become the norm nowadays.

After an early morning wedding in the church, and breakfast in a hotel, celebrations for the happy couple would follow in a local pub or hall. Amateur, and mostly local, musicians would perform. The music might for some couples consist of one man playing a few favourite tunes on a tin whistle or squeezebox.

Relatives of the bride and groom would take turns singing, and everyone applauded them no matter how bad their singing was…

(from Are We Invaded Yet? by John Fitzgerald)

To be continued…

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Scoil Cheoil an Earraig

THE annual music school, Scoil Cheoil an Earraig, will be held from February 17 to 21 in Ballyferriter and includes a series of concerts featuring some of the country's most talented musicians.

The school also provides music and singing classes and sean-nós dancing classes as well as a variety of workshops.

Classes will be provided in the following list of instruments: harp, accordion, bodhrán, banjo/mandolin, uileann pipes, fiddle, tin whistle, flute and concertina.

The directors of the school are Niamh Ní Bhaoill and Breanndán Ó Beaglaoich. For further information phone 087/9967501 or 086/8185964 or see

Séan O'Riada - An Irishman's Diary

Frank McNally
SEÁN Ó RIADA is rightly credited with sparking the latter-day revival in Irish traditional music, a subject we’ll come back to in a moment. But a more controversial aspect of his legacy, it could be argued, is the encouragement he gave to subsequent generations of bodhrán players.

Fifty years after he legitimised their activity in his arrangements with Ceoltóirí Chualann, many purists still question whether the bodhrán qualifies as a musical instrument at all, never mind an Irish one. And leaving that vexed issue aside, Ó Riada’s promotion of what he considered Ireland’s native drum had another regrettable consequence.

It’s not just those with sensitive ears who have suffered since. The revival of the bodhrán also unleashed a new era of persecution on an animal that, ironically, had played an honoured role in the nation’s long struggle for independence. I refer of course to the goat, on whose skin bodhrán players (and Lambeg drummers too, for that matter) beat their infernal tattoos.

Never mind the wolfhound, or even the Kerry Blue terrier, which, as we mentioned recently, Michael Collins favoured as a national mascot. For a quadruped symbol of the fighting Irish, song-writers have traditionally looked elsewhere: to a species which, even in Paddy McGinty’s non-subversive version, was seen as the very embodiment of rebelliousness and the love of freedom.

The classic ballad of the genre, surely, is The Peeler and the Goat . Written in the 1830s, this was a musical revenge by its Tipperary-born author Darby Ryan, after he had been arrested for taking part in a banned demonstration against the Tithes Act.

Hearing of the similar impoundment of a billy-goat by the Bansha police, he dramatised the political and civil liberty issues of the day in a dialogue between the four-legged prisoner and his oppressor. The result, as Fintan Vallely wrote in his book Sing Up , was a hit of White Christmas proportions.

Hugely popular in Ireland, the song soon spread to America and Australia too. Its satirical power was such that singers could incur arrest, or a beating, or both. And although self-censored versions arose, these were sung typically “with a humbugging sort of smile which outraged the dignity of the law” and so were also banned.

One measure of the song’s evolution, and its fame, was that the Melbourne Argus eventually offered a reward for anyone who could produce the original lyrics. But Irish ballads are famously organic. So in keeping with this tradition, the version featured in Vallely’s book includes his own extra verse, which updates the goat’s oppression to the bodhrán revival.

The other great Irish goat song is, of course, An Poc Ar Buile . This is less overtly political, although it too features the attempted arrest of the whiskered hero, who only retains his freedom at the expense of a policeman’s trousers. It may be sexual rather than political liberation this particular goat has in mind: he also earns a reprimand from the pulpit. But at any rate the song, with its boisterous chorus, has long been a favourite at ballad sessions and sing-songs.

Which brings us back to Seán Ó Riada: because ironically, as well as condemning thousands of innocent goats to the tannery, the celebrated composer was also central to the modern-day revival of An Poc Ar Buile . As sung by Seán Ó Sé, it became a standard at Ó Riada concerts. And as such it will feature in an event in Cork this Friday night, to mark the 40th anniversary of the most famous of those concerts: “Ó Riada sa Gaiety”.

The Cork gathering will include members of the original Ceoltóirí Chualann, as well as Cór Chúil Aodha, the choir founded by Ó Riada’s son Peadar. A member of the latter group, Conchubar Ó Liatháin, reminds me that what Riverdance was to Ireland’s most recent boom, Ó Riada’s music was to an earlier era of economic growth, engineered by Seán Lemass and TK Whitaker Of the two booms, the older one is holding up a bit better at the moment, although Conchubar suggests this weekend’s 40th anniversary celebration is doubly appropriate in gloom-ridden 2010. “We need to remember what it is about Ireland that’s so much fun and so attractive,” he writes. “In the current atmosphere of rising anger and unrelenting recrimination, it’s easy to forget that Irish traditional music has become a worldwide phenomenon and is now our most popular and profitable export.” Hear, hear.

The bad news about Friday’s event, if you don’t already have tickets, is that it has just sold out. The good news is that, encouraged by the demand, the organisers are now planning further concerts: in Dublin, Ennis, and perhaps elsewhere.

Conchubar also asks me to mention that February 5th will mark the 50th anniversary of Mise Éire , another Ó Riada milestone. And that on February 6th, the Ionad Cultúrtha in Ballyvourney, Co Cork, will celebrate both this and the old Celtic spring festival of Imbolc with a day-long series of talks by musicians and others, on a wide range of culture-related issues. The price goats have paid for the traditional music revival is not among the listed topics, but perhaps it should be. More details are at

Saturday, 9 January 2010

A “Living Tradition” of Irish Music Plays On

“It will blow the cobwebs off what peoples’s impressions of Irish music is,” says Aidan Connolly, Executive Director of New York City’s Irish Arts Center, about the showcase of Irish Traditional Music this weekend produced there by Culture Ireland.

Culture Ireland, an arm of the Irish government dedicated to promoting Irish culture worldwide, hopes to demonstrate that Irish music explores musical boundaries and engages with other genres. “It’s a living tradition,” says Eugene Downes, Culture Ireland’s Chief Executive.

The five acts in the showcase include “sean nos” (old style, unaccompanied) singer Iarla O Lionaird, whose evocative tenor fronted the fusion group Afro Celt Sound System; young fiddler Caoimhin O Raghailaigh, whose take on traditional music looks back earlier than the 70s revival to the beginning of this century; contemporary singer-songwriter and poet John Spillane; young upbeat group Caladh Nua, hailing from three regions in Ireland; and The Unwanted, a band which combines Appalachian and Irish music through two members of the popular group Dervish, Cathy Jordan and Seamus O’Dowd, and American musician Rick Epping.

“You have to break things up in order to remake them,” says singer O Lionaird, who describes what he does as “fission” as much as “fusion.” His influences include Brian Eno and David Bowie. He sings in Irish, his first language, but says “The meaning is in the ears of the beholder.”

In addition to the Traditional Music Showcase this Saturday and Sunday, Culture Ireland has also brought Daniel Figgis tonight to perform at Symphony Space his avant-garde electronica extravaganza “Snakes and Ladders,” which blends original, traditional and rock music with video.

The Traditional Music Showcase is free, presented as part of the APAP (Association of Performing Arts Presenters) Conference, but reservations are required.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Cultural artefacts and their musical tonality

Music in Irish Cultural History By Gerry Smyth Irish Academic Press, 196pp, €24.95

IN RECENT years Gerry Smyth has led the way in establishing popular music as a legitimate field of study within the ever-expanding landscape of 21st-century Irish studies.

This volume combines previously published and new material which constitutes an extended critical meditation.

The fact that Smyth writes not as a musicologist but as a cultural historian means his is a less “disciplined” approach than some purists might prefer, but the book is all the better for that.

The interdisciplinarity that drives his critical practice – encompassing literature, history, politics, film studies, philosophy and psychology – produces many instructive readings that expand the parameters within which familiar texts are usually considered.

The chapter on music in Joyce’s story The Dead is a good example of the insights such a methodologically flexible approach can yield. Smyth’s analysis of the significance of Joyce’s invocation of The Lass of Aughrim in the story’s key scene begins with a short history of the ballad’s mixed Irish and Scottish pedigree. He then proceeds to discuss the different musical traditions represented in the story, after which he draws our attention to a seemingly incidental textual detail, namely, the fact that Gabriel Conroy is “gazing up the staircase” at Gretta as she listens to the ballad. Smyth seizes on this scopic detail to explore the philosophical implications.

His chapter on Roddy Doyle’s The Commitments makes a convincing case for why the book succeeds as a novel and film but fails as a representation of local music-making because of the characters’ marked reluctance to compose their own songs. Other contemporary novels in which music is overtly thematised – John B Keane’s The Bodhrán Makers , Dermot Bolger’s Father’s Music and Patrick McCabe’s Winterwood – are critiqued for their failure to do justice to the subtlety of traditional Irish music practice. Conversely, Ciarán Carson’s Last Night’s Fun is praised for its sympathetic engagement with the elaborate patterns of traditional music.

Smyth’s analysis of Bernard MacLaverty’s Grace Notes is no less insightful, particularly his explication of how the text’s double structure mediates the paradox of transformative repetition in the context of Northern Ireland. However, his keen attentiveness to MacLaverty’s neo-romantic aesthetic makes Smyth somewhat deaf to the strand of the novel that conceptualises music as the “grace of God”.

But the chapter that lingers longest in the mind is “Paddy Sad and Paddy Mad”, in which Smyth addresses the intriguing question of whether there is something inherent in the particular tones and rhythms of Irish music which elicits the reactions it does.

He argues these sonic signifiers – “Paddy Sad” connoting a melancholic response to a history of dispossession; “Paddy Mad”, a comic, carnivalesque response – are closely bound up with long-established racial stereotypes of the Irish, which viewed them as unfit to deal with the modern world. Smyth’s piquant analysis leaves us to ponder why such disparaging Celticist stereotypes continue to flourish today, and why Irish musicians and film-makers are content to perpetuate and profit from them.

Liam Harte’s latest book is The Literature of the Irish in Britain: Autobiography and Memoir, 1725–2001 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009). He teaches Irish literature at the University of Manchester

Performers face injury, ergonomic challenges in ‘Riverdance’

In a word, the Riverdance Irish Dance Troupe is a powerhouse.

Riverdance - the show that began as an overnight sensation in the mid-90s and blossomed into a lasting theatrical success - has played more than 10,000 performances in 15 years. Resting on the soles of 1,500 Irish dancers, the production has pounded stages across the country and the world.

A booming celebration of Irish dance and music, Riverdance is a beloved show to millions and boasts a sprawling cast of gifted performers. But according to two of the show’s principal dance members, Melissa Convery and Marty Dowds, there is much more to Riverdance than the dance itself.

It takes stamina, tolerance, diligence and often, a great deal of ergonomics to make the production work.

Convery, a veteran dancer who took the lead in Riverdance - On Broadway and has been traveling with the company for 13 years, spoke rapidly, with a heavy accent into the phone as her young son, Rian (with Uilleann piper husband, Declan Masterson), can be heard babbling in the background.

“As a dancer, you really do have to take care of yourself, especially with the show, because the show runs for two hours, fifteen minutes every night,” she said. “We’re doing eight shows a week, so that’s really intensive on the body.”

Before the curtains rise, Convery said, the group warms up with some cardiovascular exercise, Pilates and stretching, followed by a massage.

“We get a pre-show massage, which is great because it helps limber the muscles and warm the muscles up a bit as well,” she said.

In addition to the massage therapist, a physiotherapist - armed with an ultrasound machine and plenty of strapping tape - travels with the company and is on-call 24 hours a day to manage the dancers’ unique physical needs.

When the show is over, the same routine is repeated to help prevent injury.

“After the show, it is important to stretch the muscles again and cool the body down,” Convery said. “Sometimes we’ll do a little bit of cardio just to remove the lactic acid from the legs. We’ll stretch the main muscle groups again.”

Next, she said, it’s time for an ice bath.

“We ice after the show for at least 10 minutes in a bucket of ice up to our knees, just to take the inflammation away from our legs after everything we’ve done during the show,” said Dowds, Riverdance’s lead male performer and co-dance captain of the troupe.

Read more:

Music for Children That Can’t Sit Still

By Kernan Andrews

CHILDREN THAT Can’t Sit Still is the title of the next Gigs for Families concert from Adventures in Music and it takes place in the St Patrick’s Bandhall on Sunday January 10.

This gig will feature Irish trad from fiddlers Liz Kane and Tola Custy, guitarist Jimmy Fitz, Daire O’Neil on flute and tin whistle, sean nós dancer Emma O’Sullivan. Tola and Liz regularly bring trad music to national school children throughout Galway while Jimmy has will be performing his children’s songs.

Doors open at 2pm for children’s pre-concert activities. The concert starts at 2.30pm and there is a ‘meet the musicians session’ at 3.15pm.

Tickets are €5 per person and children under two get in free, a family ticket is €20. Tickets available from the Town Hall Box Office and

John Spillane - Passionfruit Theatre

John Spillane at the Passionfruit Theatre booklaunch in Athlone in January 2009.

A Hard Road to Travel - Stephen Ducke

Opening track from the CD "If There Weren't Any Women In The World", with Stephen Ducke (flute) and Bean Dolan (guitar) Brought out in December 2009, in aid of the Passionfruit Theatre in Athlone.

Available at


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