A day off…

Just because you’re a professional chef doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy cooking for your family on a day off. And just because you’re a professional singer doesn’t mean you can’t have a great time singing songs with friends once the gig is over. A friend of mine is a physio and in his own words was very happy to work 13 consecutive days recently. Your relationship with your work is unique to you. As is the way you like to spend your time off. It doesn’t matter if it’s like what everyone else does. It only matters that it works for you. So make sure it does.

What else are you missing?

I used to see this guy (below) busking regularly outside our local Tesco. Puffy jacket, tracksuit bottoms, Nike trainers – he doesn’t look like your typical violinist, but man could he play. I was reminded of him today when reading about a social experiment carried out by the Washington Post. In 2007 they asked one of the world’s best violinists to play in the foyer of a subway station in Washington during rush hour. And so for 45 mins Joshua Bell played some intricate Bach compositions on a $3.5m violin and barely anyone noticed, let alone stopped to listen. And so the question that the Washington Post wanted us to ask ourselves is as follows… If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing? Tesco on a Saturday afternoon in Sligo is not necessarily a place

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When you’re the underdog…

So this weekend two sporting teams I follow are attempting to do something very special but very difficult. Tomorrow morning the Irish rugby team are trying to beat the best team in the world to reach the semi-final of the World Cup for the first time ever. And on Sunday the Coolera-Strandhill senior men’s football team are attempting to win only their second Sligo championship in over 100 years by beating the current 3-in-a-row champions – Tourlestrane. The man on my right in the below pic (taken 8 years ago) is John McPartland, the current manager of the team. If you’re looking from the outside, it’s unlikely that either will win. But I know that inside each camp there will be huge belief that the favourites can be toppled and the underdog can have their day. But what if you’re a player on either of these teams and you don’t win? Possibly your team played to its max but the

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Great to see you!

This morning I played squash with a friend of mine. He is better than me, but I had a couple of games in a row where I pushed him to the wire. We took a short drinks break and I was pumped up, sure I was going to go on and win the next game. However he hit his first few serves far slower than usual and hence took the energy right out of the game. My mood had me ready for something different, I wasn’t ready for them and all of a sudden he was 5-0 up and cruising. An hour later or so at lunchtime I was walking around town on my own – lost in my thoughts – when some friends inside a restaurant spotted me through the window. They smiled and waved, but more energetically than I was expecting. The greeting made me want to go in and we had a great chat for 5 minutes

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Teenage Theme Nights 2019-20

The Teenage Theme Nights have become a very special and meaningful part of my work – this blog I wrote this time last year sums up why I think. And all of a sudden a new season is upon us A whole new group of 4th Yrs, and returning 5th Yrs and 6th Yrs with a new place in the pecking order. With deliberate and delicious irony, given the nights take place at the end of October, the all-teenage committee chose the theme to be ‘The Best of British’ and so audiences can look forward to hearing lots of Adele, Elton John, Amy Winehouse, Radiohead, David Bowie and more. In fairness to our neighbours they have produced many outstanding bands and artists, so much so that of the 60-odd songs picked, there was still no room for the likes Coldplay, Blur, Oasis, Queen, Pink Floyd, Cliff Richard and Rod Stewart. After a break of a few months, the performers will

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Old photographs

It’s always nice to look back at old photographs. I was searching for a few this morning for the sister of a friend who has a big birthday coming up. She’s making an album and wanted a few old pics to include. And so I got caught for a while looking back at old pics and marvelling at how young I/we all were. The usual stuff. Here’s one from approx 2009. This was my 2nd ever gig – in 2005. Learning – 2003. And one from a school concert in 1997. And it’s only when I look back at myself at these various stages that I realise how little I knew about music and indeed many things at each of those points in my life. So I could put up a picture here of me playing piano in 2019. But you’ve all seen enough of those! But if I did, at some point in the future I would look back

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Improvisation

I spent yesterday morning at a World Lyrical Dance Federation (WLDF) competition in Dublin. I saw lots of dancers aged approx 5-9 yrs old perform short routines to various standards. If I didn’t have skin in the game it’s not a place I would have chosen to spend my Sunday morning (!) but since I was there I was interested in what type of event it would be and what sort of culture the organisation would exhibit. And sure enough, my interest was piqued at the end of the session when the improv section began. Dancers were encouraged to come up with their own routines on the spot to well-known songs in the lyrical genre. And it was really interesting to watch. Many dancers bunched up right in front of the judges, others took advantage of the space at the back of the floor. Some spent the time showing off as many moves as they could, others took their time

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Something real…

For the first time ever, I heard a cheer at the zoo today. If you look really closely at the below picture, you can see a small grey squirrel up high on a branch on the lighter tree on the left hand side. Its mother and sibling had previously inched their way to the edge of the branch before jumping a few feet through the air onto another branch on the darker tree on the right hand side. The third squirrel wasn’t as brave. It took a lot longer, but it eventually plucked up the courage and made the leap across, to the loud cheers of the assembled crowd. We had seen elephants, lions, giraffes, snow leopards, but it was the grey squirrel who captured our imagination. Why? Because it was a true story. Unlike the other animals, impressive as they all were, but in fabricated environments. This baby squirrel was in the real world, battling with himself and gravity,

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Commitment

Today we played all the hits. Old MacDonald, Head Shoulders Knees and Toes, Twinkle Twinkle. Jointly run by The Hawk’s Well in Sligo and The Dock in Carrick-on-Shannon, the name of the gig was Rock Babies, led by the rockstar himself – Tabby Callaghan. And for a man who has played in front of a TV audience of millions, and in some of the biggest venues in Ireland and the UK, you could have forgiven him for phoning the gig in to a certain extent. But no. As I have written in these pages before about Scruffy Duffy, Eddie Lee and others, one of the most admirable traits in a professional is their dedication to whatever gig it is they are playing at a particular time, big or small, glamorous or run of the mill. And that was Tabby today. Not resting until he had the crowd engaged – dancing, shouting, running, clapping, moving. Giving each song all he had

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When you’re a fan…

When you’re a musician, part of your job is to satisfy existing fans – another part is to attract new ones. And it can be easy to forget what it’s actually like to be a fan. But today I was excited because I heard that Theo Katzman released a new single. Because I’m a fan of his. Here’s a version of Love is a Beautiful Thing – a song from Theo’s 2017 album – Heartbreak Hits. And here’s today’s single – You Could Be President. And I wasn’t disappointed. Because as a fan, all I’m looking for is every so often a new release, new arrangements of old songs, interesting live versions. And for these to feature some of the qualities that made me like him in the first place. And as a musician, it helps to remember this.