I was out for a walk this morning when I spotted a runner coming towards me on the same path. I shortened the lead and made sure my dog was on the same side of the path as me to leave space for the runner. She was a natural, and was moving at a decent pace seemingly effortlessly. Then, as she passed, she smiled and said ‘Good morning’. And I realised who it was. One of my heroes from my time growing up in the nineties. One of the few Irish sportspeople in history who you could legitimately call world-class. Especially when she competed in a genuinely worldwide sport. And she was so human behind it all. Sonia O’Sullivan. And if I’m honest, my heart jumped a bit. And when it settled I thought of all the things I should have called to her as she ran by. ‘You legend’! ‘Thanks for all the memories’. ‘You were unreal in Sydney‘!
There’s a story about a man who was married to his money, as they say. In latter years, his wife’s teeth weren’t in the best shape, and she asked him if she could get a top class dentist to have a look at them and see what he could do. The man in question knew this type of job could be expensive, but reluctantly he agreed. On the advice of an acquaintance she traveled out of the country, where this kind of thing could be done more cheaply. Still it was a big job, and so €15k later she came back, but was delighted with her teeth, until 6 months later she tragically died. A little while later, the acquaintance asked the man how his wife was doing. ‘She died a few months ago’, he replied, ‘and she took the teeth with her’. Whatever money, time or effort you put into something usually can’t be reclaimed. It’s a one-off transaction.
These walls are cleverly designed. The coloured shapes you see on them are called holds, meant for your hands and feet as you try to climb them. The easiest way to get to the top is to use any colour hold. If you want to make it harder for yourself you can use only one colour hold. Certain colours are more difficult than others. The problem is that in order to achieve the really worthwhile things, the things people will remember, the holds aren’t obvious. The route to the top isn’t necessarily mapped out, or indeed linear – indeed no-one knows, because in these situations it often hasn’t been done before. Our country has been remembering John Hume over the last few days. I have never heard so many universally positive tributes paid to a politician. It’s mainly because he achieved something that no other politician did. And the holds to get there weren’t obvious. But he found them. One
Of course we should. It’s a no-brainer. All the time we have on our hands. Upskill. Practice our instrument. Learn how to market ourselves better, to reach our audiences in different ways. Write more music. Expand our network. Form new creative partnerships. All examples of ways in which we can retrain ourselves, ways in which we can add to our ability and output as a musician in these most quiet of times. But let me be clear – if we are being told we should retrain and find work in another industry, as seems to have been suggested recently by a minister in our government – then I don’t find that acceptable. To be fair to the minister, there is no mention of musicians anywhere in this particular speech, but many musicians have been upset by it, because it seems we are part of the group of people to whom she is referring. And I haven’t heard of any other
The coast of Ireland is bumpy. Especially the Atlantic coast. And honestly, the bumps aren’t particularly attractive on a map. Rugged, craggy, unshapely. And it’s easy to think of them only in this way until you get up close to one and see its beauty for yourself. Likewise with an audience. When seen as a whole you can be inclined to see it only on that way, ignoring the fact that it is made up of many individual people. And while you won’t ever get to know them all, simply thinking of your audience as individual people, each with their own lives, passions, insecurities and beliefs, will help you to communicate with them in a more meaningful way.
There’s a young man inside this hut who lets you know whether there’s any availability in the restaurant at the end of this drive. It’s a busy restaurant, open all day so he has a long shift. The Rubik’s cube on his desk stood out, and when asked, he showed us how he could complete it in less than 2 minutes. The thing was – a week ago he couldn’t do that. But with lots of time to kill on the shift, a few YouTube tutorials and a bit of practice meant that a week later he had mastered it. I tell you this story because it ties in nicely with this blog I read this morning. It’s a short read with an important message…how to make the most of the time you get each day. The young man outside the restaurant has nothing to learn from it however…
Music producer David Foster has won 16 Grammys from 47 nominations. He has worked with real heavyweight singers – the likes of Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, Barbara Streisand, Michael Bublé, Andrea Bocelli and many others and they all have many good things to say about him and his work. One of the most successful records he ever worked on was the soundtrack to The Bodyguard…which featured a 29 yr-old Whitney Houston at her vocal peak. And the hit song from this soundtrack was I Will Always Love You, which famously opens with Whitney singing acapella. But around this song, Foster, in his own words, was ‘wrong big’ regarding a couple of key decisions. Firstly, he had never heard of the Dolly Parton-penned number, and was planning on using What Becomes of The Broken Hearted until producer Kevin Costner persuaded him otherwise. And while Foster eventually agreed with Costner on this decision, he never did with the second one. He hated
This is a stage. In a cave. You can see the steps leading up to it on the right hand side of the picture and the stage itself is a flat surface between the two pillars in the centre. The acoustics are incredible and I imagine the many soloists and vocal groups who have played there sound amazing. But it wasn’t always a stage. Mostly it was and still is just a cavern in a cave. It took imagination and initiative to see a stage there and make a concert happen. Some musicians don’t want to invent stages. They want to wait until the old stages open again. There’s nothing wrong with that. But others are looking for new ways to play, places to play, new stages on which to perform. Maybe this example can help.
Our very modern problem means that we are now being told how to navigate our way around even the most ancient public spaces. Which highlights the need to do the opposite in our private endeavours when we have the chance. It doesn’t always have to be against the crowd, but by the time we are lowered into one of these graves, it would be nice to at least be able to say that we didn’t allow what others said we should do influence the way we did things.
Everybody needs a break. As Christy told us – ‘climb a mountain or jump in a lake’. But rather than them being the highlight of our year, the thing we look forward to most, maybe it might be a better idea to sort out the rest of our lives in order that we don’t crave them quite as much?