Say hello first…

I had an interesting conversation with a friend about leadership this morning. About leaders we admired, leaders we thought were effective but didn’t admire (e.g. Hitler!), and about the qualities and characteristics that made good leaders and indeed bad ones. Then I met another friend later on who told of an encounter he had yesterday. We’ve all heard this one. “X passed me on the street today and didn’t say hello”. I hear this complaint fairly regularly and always have the same thought (I only express it if I know the person well) – which is – ‘Did you say hello to him/her’? Usually the answer is no, which means the other person involved is possibly expressing a similar complaint to a friend of theirs somewhere else. Say hello first. It’s a form of leadership. It opens up the world. It makes you feel good. It makes someone else feel good. It doesn’t take much. And what’s the worst that

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Humour in music

There are songs whose words are funny…. And there are songs sang in a funny way… And then there is funny music which doesn’t need any words. Music doesn’t need humour to be effective, but when done well can make us laugh as hard as any joke can. It’s never any harm to include it somewhere in your set.

A special evening…

Last night was one of those nights. Far away from the bright lights of a big theatre stage, there were only 13 of us in the room. But there was a piano, and there was magic. You see, last September a group of adults took a risk and signed up for a course of piano and music appreciation classes I was offering. It was a risk because it was a brand-new course, created over the summer to cater for the huge response I got from adults looking to learn how to play piano after publishing this blog last July. And every second Tuesday evening since then we have met up, in two distinct groups, and have worked hard together on becoming better piano players, and to have a better understanding of how music works. Students have had access to a growing library of song-based tuition videos such as this one, and between the videos and the classes, have steadily applied

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When your legs don't work like they used to before…

I had a dream recently where I couldn’t run. I was trying to, trying hard in fact, but my legs wouldn’t move nearly as fast as I wanted them to. And I was reminded of this dream yesterday morning, when I was trying to play the piano with cold hands. But you can’t. Well not as well as you usually would anyway. Like my legs in the dream, my hands just don’t do what I want them to do when they’re cold. And yesterday morning I had cold hands. You see where I work we have storage heaters. Which means if you don’t turn them on the previous evening, there will be no heat the next day. There is no quick fix – you’re going to be cold – simple as that. And this in turn reminded me of booking gigs. Well it’s similar anyway – because in this case you also need to plan ahead – indeed for 6,

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"I'll look after you"…

…can be taken to mean lots of different things. It’s a phrase used regularly by salesmen – inferring if we buy what they are offering they will ‘look after us’ in some way – be that in terms of price, or the particular level of product they give us, or in some other way. And if they keep their promise, it’s likely we will buy something from them again in the future, because it’s nice to be looked after, and nice to have a personal connection with someone who can sell us something we want. But they must tread carefully – because if they utter the words and then don’t adhere to them, they can leave a nasty taste in our mouths. But you can be looked after even when you’re not buying anything. I was ‘looked after’ twice this morning. In a completely different way. Once in the hospital and once in a restaurant. Because I got the feeling

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A white lie…

I’m stealing the story in today’s blog directly from Joe Brolly’s article in today’s Sunday Independent – some of you will have read it but it’s so good I wanted to share it here too. Jim Gavin announced his retirement as Dublin Senior Gaelic Football manager yesterday after a phenomenally successful stint in charge in which his team won the All-Ireland in 6 of the 7 years of his reign. This story has nothing to do with football though, but everything to do with kindness, leadership and man-management. Conor Moore (aka Conor’s Sketches) is from Mullingar. A now renowned mimic, he is contracted to NBC, has filmed TV ads with Tiger Woods and is widely regarded to be at the very top of his game. It wasn’t always like this though. His first two live comedy gigs, only three years ago, were disasters. Both took place in New York City, and the audience for the second gig included the Dublin

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Straight ahead and strive for tone!

So said Antoine Batiste’s trombone teacher to him in David Simon’s New-Orleans based HBO series Treme. Great advice. He’s basically saying that the two most important things to work on as a musician are your feel and your tone. The notes you play are secondary – it’s how you play them that counts for more. And I was reminded of these words when happily stumbling across this gig last Thursday. Ray’s tone and Felip’s swing transported us to a different world – somewhere sunny – for half an hour, just like we hope music will do. Straight ahead and strive for tone. Even if for a week you work on nothing else but these facets of your playing, you’ll be surprised at the improvement in your sound.

Vicar St Part Deux

Read all you need to know about our return to Vicar St in 2020 below. Title: Theme Night #26 – Ireland in Song Date: Thursday April 23, 2020. Theme: From Dolores to The Dubliners, from Micheál O’Suilleabháin to Mary Black, from Hozier to The Horslips, we will be celebrating the rich musical contribution that our composers, songwriters and singers have made to the world. All in our own unique Theme Night manner. Hang on – I don’t know what a Theme Night is? OK – it’s basically a BIG gang of top class Sligo musicians getting together to pay tribute to a certain artist, band or genre of music in a fun and original way. Here is one of the highlights from last year’s Vicar St show. Tickets: On sale NOW. Here. VIP/Corporate Tickets: Limited availability but so important in making this night possible. We have been in touch with those who were so kind to support us last year

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Man vs Computer

I had today’s blog sorted, or so I thought. I told a story this morning from years ago, when I said I knew a tune on a gig and really I didn’t. It went badly and I have never made the same mistake since. I thought it would make a good story for today’s blog and a few minutes ago I set about writing it. The problem was that somewhere in the back of my head I thought I may have used this story in a blog before. And I didn’t want to repeat it if so. I searched and searched through my blog page for it, using all the terms I thought could be relevant to it, and couldn’t find it, until from somewhere the term ‘just say no’ came into my head. I’m not sure where it came from, but it’s what I should have done on the gig that night. I typed it into the search bar

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Who should we listen to?

Recently one regular reader of my blog told me (in a nice way) that sometimes he felt they were too long. Within 24 hours, and completely independently of the other, another reader told me that she always read them because she knew they would be nice and short. I was discussing a particular story with someone last week who just loved the ending – that it left them feeling warm inside. I then told her how I felt – which was the complete opposite – cold and unsatisfied. And when you release an album, it’s always interesting to hear from people which track is their favourite. I have asked lots of people, and 8 of the 10 tracks have been mentioned so far by somebody. And for anyone feeling bad about something negative that someone said about their work, Here’s an article about a reviewer who wrote a scathing review about one of the most acclaimed albums of all time

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