The end…or the beginning??

So this is the 35th of 35 daily blogs which I decided to write on the train to Dublin one Wednesday at the start of April. It’s something I had thought about doing for a long time, but like most people who think of doing something new, I had concerns and fears which prevented me from doing it. Until I decided to. I expected it to be really difficult, but it has been easier than that. I have never considered myself to be a writer, but I guess everyone has a voice, and something to say. Writer’s block wasn’t an option – I had to produce something every day, in a short space of time, and I did. Some blogs were stronger than others, none were perfect, but each one connected somehow with somebody. What’s more, doing it made my day better. For anyone interested, it took approx an hour a day which included time uploading to the various media

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The small crowd

I have heard it many times after a gig – ‘that was lovely, it was just a pity there weren’t more there’. I have felt it myself as an audience member – wondering are the musicians on stage annoyed or put out that only a few of us came to see them. OK let’s clear something up first – any musician worth her salt shouldn’t let the size of the crowd affect their performance. The show must go on. Do your job. The situation in which that can be most difficult is if the musician is also the promoter of the gig. If she needs 200 people to come to break even, and she hears just before she goes on stage that there are 50 there, she is going to be significantly out of pocket. She must switch mindset from promoter to performer fairly quickly though, as each of those 50 people deserve value for their money. So next time

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Practice the bow!

There is a lot of children’s music happening in my car these days – it’s the wonderful stage of life we are at. Some I like, some I don’t, and so I try to make sure that the last song played before we get to our destination is one of my favourites, since that is the one that will stay in my head for the day! The Leinster rugby team play the final of the Pro14 League this weekend. It is the second most important competition for them and they have already won the main one this year. It is their last game this season. In 2012 they were in a similar position and lost the second final. I have heard their management talk this week about this, saying that despite their earlier achievements, this loss ruined their summer, since the last game is the one that stays with you. It’s why musicians always finish the show with a big

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Just play

Music college was a funny place for me. I was 24 entering while most were 18 and knew a lot more about music than I did. So at the same time as my mind was being blown by everything I was learning and all the people I was playing with, I was experiencing feelings of inferiority and self-doubt. My teacher was amazing. He could play jazz in a way that made me simultaneously want to listen forever and never want to even try and play again. It was sometimes hard to enjoy the most amazing gigs because all I could do was think of was my own playing and wonder if I would ever be able to do what the musicians on stage were doing. Musicians are a funny breed. I have seen people mentally freeze on a tune they would usually eat up just because someone they looked up to had walked into the gig. Oscar Peterson had these

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Connect? connect? CONNECT!!

So theme night mania has subsided for another few months, and I find when that happens, my mind enters a different state. While for the last few weeks it has been very much in project management mode (contact/rehearse/organise) – when things get a bit quieter it gets back to being more open and inquisitive (read/listen/think). One theme has emerged for me in the last few days – common to this article I read, this podcast I heard, and this Ted Talk I watched (thanks to a reader of this blog for sending it on to me) – the theme of connection. The article says meaningful human connections will help you live longer, the podcast interviewee bases big career decisions on whether they will help him make more, and the Ted Talk speaker says they have made her music career possible. It’s never been easier to make connections than it is now. Don’t confuse quantity for quality. Make some real ones

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Energy…and a fiesta!

Four things about energy. It’s contagious. What you give out you will get back. Young people have lots of it It’s good to hang around with them – you will feed off it. How can you put energy into a performance – well look at this video – notably… 0:03 – Eoin and Paddy running on to do BVS 0:08 – Ollie’s guttural scream 0:23 – Check out the audience responding to the horn section clapping 0:53 – Look at how un-selfconscious Ollie is when not singing. Do you remember how hard that is at that age?! 1:18 – The smiles and enthusiasm of the horn section when clapping along to Verse 2. 1:50 – Look at Ollie’s suit. Thanks EJ! 2:01 – The smiles on the faces of the string section. 2:07 – The obvious craic being had by Fraser and Peadair on saxophones… 2:16 – The bass fill! 2.32 – The contentment on the face of Dave on

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The Reel Movement

Songs and tunes can have all sorts of structures. There are some conventional ones (listed below), which help both the writers/performers and listeners classify, recognise and get comfortable immediately with songs new and old.   You have the classic Verse/Chorus structure and variants of it (eg Penny Lane/Happy/Hotel California) The AABA form of many jazz standards (Somewhere Over the Rainbow/Yesterday/The Way You Look Tonight) The AABB form of many traditional Irish tunes. Verse/Verse/Verse and so on with no chorus (eg Heartbreak Hotel/The Boys of Ballisodare/Amazing Grace) The more recent pop structure of Verse/Bridge/Chorus (eg Perfect/Piano Man/Someone Like You)   And then you have pioneers who create new structures. This is my favourite tune from our album Melodic Reflection – The Reel Movement (written by Seamie). He may correct me, but I make the structure to be Intro/ABCCDDC/Intro/ABCCDDC/Outro…enjoy it everybody.

The big picture

I moved house recently. Back to the house in which I grew up actually. The back garden looks out onto Knocknarea and while I know the view very well, it is one of which I will never tire. Yesterday one of our next-door neighbours made his first holy communion and we were all invited over. It was a lovely day and it brought back great memories. I hadn’t been in that garden since I was a child myself 25 or 30 years ago. I stood outside for a while and had a lovely few minutes remembering the stuff we used to get up to and looking at the view. And then it hit me – although it’s just next door, everything looked so different. Even this very slight change of angle meant that I was looking at the same trees, fields and mountains with different eyes. And then I looked into our back garden, and again I was astounded. Something

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Stand up for the key change!

Key changes have a bad name. This may or may not be largely due to Westlife and their stool routine. That band (and many others) use them towards the end of songs to bring the listener higher and higher as the song reaches its climax – kind of like this video demonstrates.   Michael Jackson is responsible for one of the most famous ones in Man In The Mirror at 2:50 (it happens on the word ‘change’ too) – and also might possibly hold the record for the most in one song (three!) in Will You Be There (listen from 1:32 on). They can be done in really clever ways sometimes though –not always rising by a semitone or tone, and not always at the end of the song either. Below are two of my favourites. Piano players – check out this beautiful playing on Nat King Cole’s Let There Be Love . The intro is in A but there is a lovely

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The Rolling Stones – how big?

The Rolling Stones played Croke Park last night. Later this summer Taylor Swift and Michael Buble will play there. Last year it was U2 and Coldplay, the year before Beyonce and Springsteen. It got me thinking – how do you get to the point where you can sell out Croke Park and it’s equivalents around the world? Do you have to sell millions of records, or do you have to build up a separate reputation as a ‘good stadium act’? Does it matter when your success happened? Do artists who were big in the ‘60s and ‘70s actually play more stadium gigs than anyone else now or is that just my perception? Then I found this website – and got lost in it for an hour. It claims to be ‘the most comprehensive collection of world music chart information anywhere’, and I’m not going to disagree. They bring together over half a million individual chart runs abiut almost 150,000 songs

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