Thursday, 29 December 2011

Village tunes in for Ceol Chairlinn

ONCE again the Carlingford Community Development in association with Saint Oliver's Primary School and the Carlingford Lough Youth Peace Project has organised the excellent Ceol Chairlinn Traditional Music Learning Festival in Carlingford from 3rd February until February 5, 2012.

This year's line up of tutors maintains the high standards the organisers have set for themselves since the festival was established in 2006. These include; Fiddle: Gerry O'connor. Accordion: Martin Quinn. Uilleann Pipes: Pádraig Mcgovern. Song: Len Graham. Banjo: Brona Graham. Flute/whistle: Catherine Mcevoy. Sean Nós and Set Dance: Micheál and Kathleen Mcglynn.

As in previous years, the Club Cheoil will be in Mckevitt's Village Hotel and the now established tutor and student session in St Oliver's Primary School.

Village tunes in for Ceol Chairlinn - Local Notes -

Friday, 16 December 2011

‘Fairytale of New York’ the most played Christmas classic of the century

The Pogues and Kristy MacColl’s “Fairy Tale of New York” is officially the most played Christmas song of the 21st century.

Music body PPL totals up every public airing of the song in Britain. Its calculations include plays on the radio, TV, and as background music in shops, bars, gyms, and restaurants. They began their calculations in 2000.

The song, released in 1987, never reached number one in the charts in Britain, but is played around the world every Christmas. It has also been featured in the UK’s top 20 chart on seven occasions.

Jonathan Morrish, spokesman with PPL, said “Fairytale of New York is a timeless classic which everyone knows and rightfully deserves its place at the top spot”.

Writing in the Irish Times, Joe Cleary, a lecturer in the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, said that the song told the story of the reality of Irish emigration and what lay behind the “American Dream”.

He wrote, “With the exception of Joyce's ‘The Dead’ or Patrick Kavanagh's ‘Advent’, no work of the 20th-century Irish imagination has managed to illuminate a particular sense of Christmas so well as that song has done…It is at once a twisted love song, an emigrant ballad, and an anthem to the capital city of the 20th century. And it is perhaps for that reason that it is the only "Christmas classic" that one can hear without wincing in July."

Here’s the list of “The most played Christmas songs”:

1. Fairytale of New York (1987), The Pogues

2. Last Christmas (1984), Wham

3. All I Want for Christmas is You (1994), Mariah Carey

4. I Wish it Could be Christmas Everyday (1973), Wizzard

5. Do They Know it's Christmas? (1984), Band Aid

6. Merry Xmas Everybody (1973), Slade

7. Driving Home for Christmas (1988), Chris Rea

8. Step into Christmas (1973), Elton John

9. The Power of Love (1984), Frankie Goes To Hollywood

10. Merry Christmas Everyone (1985), Shakin' Stevens

Read more:

‘Fairytale of New York’ the most played Christmas classic of the century – VIDEO | Irish Entertainment in Ireland and Around the World | IrishCentral

A cultural feast of Irish tradition

Celtic Choice (by Fays) Irish ghilliesStoryteller Tomáseen Foley and his ensemble of dancers, singers and musicians bring to life earlier times in Western Ireland, where the spirit of Christmas drew families and neighbors together for evenings of lighthearted, jovial fun.

"A Celtic Christmas" recreates such a night before Christmas in a thatched farmhouse in Teampall an Ghleanntáin, where the rafters ring with Irish songs, traditional music and dance and stories of life in the distant parish, also Foley's birthplace.

"I play the man of the house in the show," Foley says. "The singers, musicians, dancers and audience play the neighbors. We engage our audiences, and there's a lot of spontaneous laughter."

"A Celtic Christmas" will be presented at 3 and 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 21, at the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford.

New songs, dances and stories fill this season's production, mixed with material from previous ones.

"There are bits of old and new," Foley says. "And two stories are told, one in each half of the show. There's an inherent longing in all humans to be told stories."

One such story is about the Celtic traditions taught to Foley by his grandmother.

"She introduced me to the customs of the day, especially the twilight around Christmas," Foley says. "Candles would be lit and placed in every window. Each candle was lit by the youngest person in the house because it was believed that person could carry the tradition on longer. The family would gather around as each candle took flame and say 'May we all live till this time next year.' "

The largest candle was placed in the main window of the house. This candle was significant because if it blew out in the middle of the night, it was considered an omen that someone in the family would pass away during the coming year.

"My grandmother took extraordinarily good care with that candle," Foley says. "She was in her 80s at the time."

Celtic guitarist William Coulter, dancer Marcus Donnelly and musicians Marianne Knight and Brian Bigley join Foley this year.

Coulter earned a Grammy in 2005 for his compilation of Henry Mancini tunes, titled "Pink Guitar." He teaches classical guitar at the University of Southern California at Santa Cruz, and he tours with such Celtic music luminaries as Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh and Eilis Kennedy.

Donnelly began dancing when he was 8 or 9. He studied dance at the Celine Hession School of Dancing in Galway, Ireland. His dance company is based in Edmonton, Alberta.

"Marcus has taken Irish dance beyond the stiff-armed style of step-dancing," Foley says. "He's gone back to an old style of Irish dance, called sean-nós, and developed it into a more modern style. Sean-nós is looser and allows the use of arms. It doesn't have such strict patterns."

Knight sings, dances and plays button accor-dion, flute, whistle and bodhran. She was the first Irish-born dancer to win the North Amer-ican Dance Cham-pion-ship, Foley says. Bigley dances and plays uilleann pipes, whistle and flute.

"Uilleann is the Irish word for elbow," Foley says. "The bellows are under the player's right elbow and pump air into a bag under the other elbow. The air is pushed into the chanter, which is held across the knee and played with all 10 fingers.

"Some say that the Irish invented uilleann pipes so that they could drink and play at the same time."

Tickets for "A Celtic Christmas" cost $22, $26 and $30 or $12, $16 and $20 for ages 18 and younger. The show is not suitable for ages 7 and younger. Call 541-779-3000 or see

A cultural feast of Irish tradition |

Friday, 9 December 2011

2011’s books on Traditional Irish Music

Joanie Madden playing the flute at the Coatesv...Image via Wikipedia
I am not sure what made 2011 such a prolific and significant year for books being published on Irish traditional music, but there have been several more that I thought were worthy of recommending to those with a serious bent on the music.

At this time of year they do make wonderful gifts for those on your list. While they appear expensive and not likely to be found discounted at, they will be appreciated for many years to come and provide valuable and authoritative insights into Irish music.

It has been 12 years since Armagh native and musician/journalist Fintan Vallely published his first Companion to Irish Tradition Music in 1999 which in 478 pages attempted to provide a comprehensive guide to traditional Irish music and musicians.

It was an ambitious and successful effort, but there were some criticism that it wasn’t comprehensive enough and there was demand over the years for a revised edition.

Vallely undertook the challenge and engaged a number of contributors to provide new and more detailed information for a second edition which he laboriously edited and published in November with the help of Cork University Press.

The new Companion will be 880 pages, and according to the publisher, “is the ultimate reference for all players, devotees and students of Irish traditional music. It is an indispensable reference guide to Ireland’s universally recognized traditional music, song and dance.

“This comprehensive resource -- now revised and greatly expanded -- is the largest single collection of such diverse, essential data.”

It will feature an easy to use A-Z guide to its collection of 1,750 articles by over 200 contributors known for their knowledge and contributions in the field of Irish music.

The book retails for around $80 plus shipping and can be ordered from Cork University Press. OssianUSA has ordered copies as well. Check out or

The Irish Traditional Music Archive on Merrion Square in Dublin is not only is a marvelous repository for traditional Irish music, but also is an active proponent of advancing the study of Irish traditional music through the publications it releases.

Earlier this year, they published a book on one of Northern Ireland’s great singers, Eddie Butcher from Magilligan, Co. Derry called All the Days of His Life: Eddie Butcher in His Own Words that also has a companion triple CD package including 67 songs for the transcripts in the main book.

The research was conducted by singer and song-collector Hugh Shields and his wife Lisa and published posthumously three years after Shields himself passed away. It has 216 fascinating pages for the lover of Irish song, especially with a Northern context exploring the life of a rural singer and the folk collector who befriended him. It’s $48 plus shipping.

Also released in 2011 was a re-mastered CD containing the concertina music of William Mullaly, who was born in 1884 near Mullingar, Co. Westmeath. Mullaly emigrated to the U.S. in 1910, and in 1926 he would record the earliest known records of concertina music in America and Ireland for Columbia Records on 10 tracks including the “Westmeath Hunt” for which this collection is named.

Read more:

Read more:

2011’s books on Traditional Irish Music | From The Hob | IrishCentra

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Daughter's tin whistle is playing on my nerves

Tin Whistle, Sally Gap, Wicklow, IrelandImage by via Flickr
A DAD'S LIFE: THE FEADÓG bloody stáin . Is it even an instrument? Or is the tin whistle a jigging, reeling, anti-Sasanach weapon of parental torture?

I’m disgusted at myself. I wanted to be that encouraging parent, the one who has the kids trying everything and not caring whether or not they succeeded just as long as they gave it a rattle. Music, sports, drama, performance art, whatever, just get out there and express yourself kids. You know, that type of insufferable parent.

Of course, this requires a complete personality overhaul. For a start, I do care if they succeed or not. I’ll be the one tripping the other kid as she rounds the final corner of a 400m final just ahead of mine. It’s a fight out there, we all need a little help.

The other thing is music. I can play Wild Thin g badly on the guitar, and the opening to Desire . That’s where it ends. In school, I was a bass in the choir mainly because I harassed the teacher into letting me stay. Not for a love of Pie Jesu , for the love of the events the choir got to attend and the class and study it missed. Girls liked choir, I liked girls. Simple.

In college, I bobbed the head along when someone pulled out a guitar at the end of a party, eyeballing them enviously as they plucked their way through a medley of tunes designed specifically to woo philosophy undergrads. The type of crap we wouldn’t touch in daylight but was pick-up gold late on a Saturday night.

But once college was out of the way, I realised just how much that guitar-playing guy wound me up. If it’s late and the party’s rocking and we’re chatting and having fun and you start with the James Taylor, I will make you wear that instrument. As for the bongos, seriously, stern words will be had.

That’s where I’m coming from with the music, a position of resistance, resentment and retribution. It’s why I don’t go to gigs, the stuff sounds so much better on my iPod or in the car, without other people clapping and whooping and getting all misty-eyed

at the talent. I like to be able to turn it up and down, skip through and rewind. The tunes have to suit the mood.

I’m a musical misery. When someone starts to play or sing in front of me, I cringe. It could be John Lennon back from the dead, whispering to me a personal version of Imagine , and I’d be like, ‘Ah here John, stop will ye, you’re embarrassing me.’

Typically, I married into the von Trapp family. When I met them first, they used to clear away the dinner dishes while harmonising through Walking in the Air from The Snowman . I didn’t know what to do with myself, standing there, plate in hand, waiting for the kitchen floor to swallow me and praying that they would stop and ease my pain.

The missus will break into song if you belch and the tone reminds her of a tune, and now her daughter has followed suit. She’s a strummer, she’ll be the cool girl at those college parties who can unearth a guitar from somewhere and intimidate every boy in the room.

I stick on a CD on the way to school and by the time she’s got to the chorus for a second time of something she’s never heard before, she’s singing along. She’s belting it out and she’s getting it right.

This is not from my genes, this is alien. While I don’t understand it, I am self-aware enough to realise she is blessed not to have my musical embarrassment syndrome and so encourage her to the hilt.

She may or may not be the next Kim Deal – it’s a bit of a long shot – but she can have a go if she fancies it. That’s my job isn’t it, to encourage her, let her know everything’s possible, try it all, be supportive and make encouraging noises?

Then she comes home with a feadóg bloody stáin . She sits and twiddles this thing, stands and twiddles, walks around the house blowing and sucking, making an approximation of the brainwaves of a beef cow as the abattoir doors loom. It’s torture. I hate it. She knows I hate it. She plays it louder.

She plays it when she’s supposed to be brushing her teeth, doing her homework, emptying the dishwasher. She plays it all the time. She plays it in my face. She tin whistle taunts me. I am not the encouraging dad, I am the killer of hopes and dreams. I will be the killer of something. Might have to get her bongos for Christmas.

Daughter's tin whistle is playing on my nerves - The Irish Times - Tue, Dec 06, 2011

Monday, 5 December 2011

Twitter Christmas single flies towards top of charts

It started with a late night tweet. But it could end up as as the Christmas No 1.

The first-ever charity single recorded using Twitter, #twitterxmassingle, was launched in Dublin yesterday, and raced straight to number 4 in the Irish iTunes chart.

Written by Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson, 'Winter Song' came about after Brenda Drumm from Newbridge in Co Kildare tweeted on Saturday November 19: "Wouldn't it be great to have a Twitter Xmas Single?" Within hours @BrendaDrumm was getting tweets from musicians, singers, studio technicians, and other well-wishers across the country eager to help.

Recording of the Christmas single took place just eight days later, on Sunday November 27, when 140 people gathered in the Westin Hotel in Dublin.

Organisers picked the track 'Winter Song' as their single because it fitted the season, and also because the record is a fundraiser for the Neonatal Special Care Unit in the National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street, Dublin.

"It's a beautiful song but also perfect because it seems like the lyrics were written by someone who has watched their child being cared for in the neonatal unit," added Ms Drumm, a cancer survivor who began using Twitter in 2007 when she took a year off to battle the illness.

Featuring 16 solo singers, along with a choir of 90, all the vocals on the track were recorded in the banqueting hall of the Westin Hotel.

Organisers hope the track, available through iTunes, could hit number one by December 25.

Commenting on the project, Ms Drumm said she had been "overwhelmed" at the response to a very short and sweet tweet.

"In just two weeks we have taken a tweet and turned it into a single, which is now being tipped to be the Christmas No 1.

"I had no idea that anything like this would happen and it really just shows the power of Twitter and the generosity and good will in the hearts of Irish people," she said.

Read more:

Twitter Christmas single flies towards top of charts - News, Music & Gigs -

Friday, 2 December 2011

Trad band Four Men & a Dog bring their trad magic West

Four Men and a DogCover of Four Men and a Dog
Monroe’s pub Saturday night, December 3
Well known trad group Four Men and a Dog, who are celebrating 21 years on the road, will perform in Monroe’s pub in the city this Saturday night, December 3 as part of a nationwide Irish tour.

The current line-up features Cathal Hayden on fiddle and banjo, Donal Murphy on accordion, Gerry O’Connor on banjo and fiddle, Kevin Doherty on guitar and vocals and Gino Lupari on bodhrán and vocals.

Four Men & a Dog have forged a reputation for their with their eclectic blend of music, mixing Irish with a wide spectrum of other genres, including rap, Southern rock, jazz, blues, bluegrass, polka, country swing, and salsa.

Four Men and a Dog made their debut performance as a band in Murphy's Bar, Dungiven, County Derry, in 1990 and stole the show at the Belfast Folk Festival later that year.

Barking Mad, their debut album won an award for Album of the Year from Folk Roots magazine in 1991, marking the first time that an Irish group had ever won the prize.

They have recorded six albums to date and plan the release of a new studio album next Spring.

Doors for their Saturday night show in Monroe’s are at 8.30pm and the tickets are €15, available from the Dominick Street venue, or at 091-583397.

Trad band Four Men & a Dog bring their trad magic West | Galway City Tribune |

Celtic Connections lights up January in Scotland

Woody GuthrieCover of Woody Guthrie
Coming up in mid January, the Celtic Connections Festival, will light up the winter season in Glasgow, Scotland with music. There will be pipe bands, cutting edge contemporary Scottish and world musicians, tunes on fiddle, harp, guitar, whistle, bodhran, and other instruments, and songs from the many traditions and languages that intertwine with the music and history of Scotland.

All told, there will be more than three hundred events as the nineteenth edition of Celtic Connections unfolds across the city. Whether the venue is a small listening room or the main auditorium of the Royal Concert Hall, though, the festival artists, staff, and audiences maintain a welcoming and friendly atmosphere that only adds the spirit of the music they share.

This season. that music will include a celebration of the centennial of American folk song legend Woody Guthrie, as the one hundredth anniversary of his birth is observed by musicians from many traditions. There will be a setting for a mass in Scottish Gaelic, sung in a cathedral. There will be a strand of programming with concerts featuring political songs. World music collaborations are always part of the music at Celtic Connections, too, and this winter that will include From Senegal to Donegal and Mali to Manchester, a new collaboration between Manchester’s Michael McGoldrick and Mali’s Fatoumara Diawara. That show also brings together the talents of Irish group Fidil and Senegal’s Solo Cissokho. Orchestra Baobab, from Africa, are also on the bill, as is the Swedish trio Väsen. Music from the middle east, from American soul, pop, and bluegrass, Native American music, and blues are all part of the strands which find connection to Celtic music during the festival. There will plenty of music from Ireland as well, including the return of festival favorites Cherish the Ladies and Luka Bloom.

At the heart of it all, though, are the musicians of Scotland. who are well represented by legendary performers and rising stars. Session A9, Blazin’ Fiddle, and the Treacherous Orchestra will be among the groups adding their music to this lively mix. There will be a night of accordion and fiddle greats sharing classic dance band tunes, and there will be a concert featuring songs of Scotland having to do with World War I. Composer Corrina Hewat will offer The Oak and the Ivy, a suite for six harps. Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis will be on hand, as will top fiddle and cello duo Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas — and hundreds more musicians.

Formal concerts are not the limit of what goes on during Celtic Connections, though. During the day there are talks and radio interviews open to the public, as well as a highly popular series of concerts featuring musicians competing for an opener slot at the following year’s festival. At the weekend there are workshops where you may learn about the fiddle or the whistle or the bodhran, with different tracks for those who’ve never tried the instrument before and those who wish to advance their knowledge. You may learn various sorts of singing too, and there’s a strand of talks and films in Scottish Gaelic as well, called Ceol’s Craic. In the evenings, after the main scheduled concerts begin winding down, the fun and the music and the craic (that is Gaelic for conversation and good fellowship) do not stop, either, as the Festival Club, late night music sessions, and the well loved House of Song hosted by the welcoming presence of presenter Doris Rougvie, all go on through the night and into the early hours of the morning.

There’s information about artists, schedules, tickets, and venues at the Celtic Connections web site.

If you’ll not be making it to Glasgow (or even if you are and there’s just so much going on), BBC Radio Scotland, Celtic Music Radio from the University of Strathclyde, and RTE from Ireland often broadcast programs from the festival through their internet sites. If you are in the UK, you’ll be able to see BBC Scotland and BBC Alba television broadcasts from the festival as well, and RTE and TG4 from Ireland often do television broadcasts and post festival roundups which are available world wide on line.

Celtic Connections lights up January in Scotland -


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