Hey Jude…

…was first released 50 years ago last Sunday. 26 August 1968 to be precise. Did you know? When the band started the take they ended up using, Ringo was in the bathroom. McCartney heard him tiptoeing in behind him, and when the drum fill came in bang on time on the 50 sec mark, McCartney knew this was going to be the take. The piano McCartney plays on Hey Jude is the same one that Freddie Mercury played on Bohemian Rhapsody, and Rick Wakeman played on Life on Mars. If you listen closely at 2:56 (on the audio track), you can hear McCartney utter the words ‘Woah, f***ing hell’. The take was so good they decided to use it anyway and just placed this outburst as low as possible in the final mix. It’s a song of consolation, of friendship, of joy. Possibly the last time that The Beatles as a band felt these emotions together. If you need any

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Back to school

“It’s that time of the year again’. ‘Can you believe another year has passed?’ ‘I can’t believe how big they’re getting!’ These and many other similar lines are popular conversation starters at this time of the year. Uttered between parents, colleagues, friends and family members up and down the country and indeed all over the world. They can create a sense of life slipping away, of the years going by too fast. They can remind us of unfulfilled dreams and ambitions, unrealised ideas and wishes. But only if you let them. The thing is – it is that time of the year again. Another year has passed. Time moves on and there is no stopping it. So do something. This is the second best time of year to start anew, to make some decisions that will help you live your life in the way you want to. A year well lived is made up of weeks, days, moments well lived.

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Feeding time

Feeding time at any animal trough is chaotic. Creatures jostling for position, wolfing down their food as fast as possible before someone else gets it, or it’s all gone. When we can help it, we don’t eat like this. Research and advances in biological science have shown us the value that can be got from eating slowly and digesting properly. Food for the brain is the same. If you feed yourself in an environment full of distractions, or where you’re under pressure to feed as quickly as possible, your brain is not going to get as much out of the food as it should. Equally, if you don’t give yourself time to digest it, think about it, reflect upon it, your brain won’t process the new learnings to the best of its ability. It’s worth thinking about the way you feed your brain every so often. And not just about what you’re feeding it, but also how. Take your time.

My art gallery experience

The National Gallery of Ireland is a beautiful building, inside and out. I was there for the first time recently, and I had my usual experience in an art gallery. I enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere. I marvelled at the beauty of the rooms. This time even the lift was artistic. But what was on the walls – the main attraction – did nothing for me. A good friend of mine who is really into his visual art is amazed by this – I think it’s particularly because I am a musician, a creative person – but I am yet to find a painting or drawing that really interests me, let alone one that moves me. This puzzles me too. I sometimes even feel guilty about it. But it also reassures me. Because when I look at it from another side – from the view of someone creating something, someone who wants to interest and move people – I think of

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When you disagree with something…

An article by the name of ‘The Tragic Decline of Musical Literacy (and Quality)’ caught my eye last week. It made a lot of points with which I agreed, but overall I came away with a slightly uneasy feeling about it. I was going to write a blog picking apart the bits I didn’t like, but instead I’d like to thank the author for writing it and recommend you all read it here. Why? Well firstly as I said I think it makes some good points. And secondly, reading something with which you disagree causes you to think. Why do I disagree with this? What do I believe instead? And if Mr. Jon Henschen didn’t go to the effort to write what he believes, I wouldn’t have taken the time to answer these questions for myself. Today’s world is full of choice. If you don’t like something, no need to get upset by it or feel you have to disprove

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Swings and Roundabouts

Movement on a swing is all about momentum. If you get the right push and move your legs in the right way it can keep you going for a long time. Movement at a roundabout is all about speed. Get your speed right and you can make the most of the gaps that appear in the traffic. Too fast or too slow and there’ll be a collision. If you get the right pushes, carefully manage your momentum and speed through life, you can do great things. If you lose control of any one factor though you will crash. Look after yourself.

The Warriors Run

There are probably many versions of this story, but here’s the one I heard. Almost 40 years ago, two friends sat in Sonny Bree’s pub in the coastal village of Strandhill, looking out the back window at the famous Sligo mountain and landmark of Knocknarea. They were trying to figure out the fastest way to the top. A German couple and their son were sitting nearby and overheard the conversation. The boy was 17 years old and in good shape. He told them not to worry, that he’d make it up in half an hour and they could track his route from their seat. He did, they did, and an idea was born. Today, my brother, sister and I, along with some of our closest friends will take part in the 34th Annual Warriors Run. So will over 1000 others. The route starts on the beachfront in Strandhill, travels up Knocknarea, and finishes back where it started. It’s one of

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Borrowing the jersey…

I played some music at an 80th birthday party last night. Like every birthday party, it was a celebration, but this was a special one. Firstly because of the age of the man involved, but secondly because it became clear as the night went on that this was no ordinary birthday boy. The successful Munster rugby team of the 2000s regularly spoke of borrowing the jersey. The jersey is the constant, the inhabitant is not, and it’s up to each player to leave it in a better place for the next person to pull it on. It’s a great concept, and it applies not only to sport, but to anything you are part of that is bigger than yourself. There was that sense in the room last night. I saw where the musicians that I learned from had learned themselves. I witnessed them looking up to others as I look up to them. I found out up close how culture

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What are the right lessons/clubs for your children?

I spoke to a set of parents in the company of their 14 year-old daughter recently. When they found out I taught piano they told me that their daughter had just completed Grade 7. I looked at the girl. She was not only embarrassed at her parents boasting of her achievements, she then told me that she wasn’t musical at all and couldn’t wait to finish Grade 8 so she could stop. A large number of adults tell me each year that they did all their grades as children and now can’t play a note. They either want to reconnect with the piano themselves or want their children to learn the piano but with a different outcome. I teach people to play piano by ear and sometimes these people sign up with me for lessons. The thing is, just like people who take their grades, I know that plenty of my students won’t be able to play a note as

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My working day always starts off well on a Wednesday because at 9.30, Annette comes for her lesson. I always look forward to it because every week she is in good form, she has her work done, she spills enthusiasm and is eager to learn more. It’s easy to be a good teacher when she is in the room. You see it’s not only students who are energised by good teachers, it works the other way too. If you want to get the most from a Skype lesson, a gym class, a conversation with your friend or a hospital consultation, bring your A game. It makes it more likely that the person opposite you will bring theirs.