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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Knowing the future…

Imagine there was a facility in the world which could tell us all the date of our future death. Now imagine you could choose whether to avail of this facility or not. Would you? We were posed this question when I was a philosophy undergraduate in college years ago, and I was reminded of it today at the funeral of a man I knew quite well, a friend of my Dad’s. During the eulogy, his son told the congregation that this man’s 56th birthday was a particularly significant event for him, because none of the other three males in his immediate family – his father and two brothers – made it past this age. However we also heard of a full and well-lived life, of many achievements and adventures, exploits and escapades. And it was then that I thought of the question in the opening paragraph of this blog, as I wondered if somehow the richness of his life was

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The second time.

Second season syndrome. Second album syndrome. Second night syndrome. It’s the same basic idea each time. You produce a great season, a great album, or a great show, and then you have to follow it up. The difficulties are twofold – firstly the first performance was so good that it can be difficult to reach that level again. And secondly there can be a tendency for complacency or overconfidence to come into the group after receiving the plaudits for what you achieved the first time. It happened me twice with football teams for whom I played. 2006 (with Coolera-Strandhill) and 2008 (with Sligo) were two of the worst collections of performances I have been involved with. Mainly because in 2005 and 2007 those teams won competitions that they had been trying to win for a long time. And we found it difficult to back it up. To produce the same level (or ideally a higher level) of performance again. But

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Strength in Numbers

Last night the 5th annual Sligo Sings took place. It featured 10 choirs and over 400 singers, and it was an entirely enjoyable evening. The finale featured most of these singers – all on stage together – singing a version of Dirty Dancing’s I’ve Had the Time of My Life. And the sound was huge! It’s impressive and quite overwhelming to hear the volume so many people can create together. And everyone on the stage felt it. The feeling of being part of something so big is always a good one. If you get something wrong there are lots of others who will cover you but when you all get it right together it is amazing. But getting these 400 people to work together requires in the beginning the vision of just one person. That one person sells the vision to others and soon a team of people are working together to make it happen. Then build on it year

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Magic moments…

It ended up being quite funny. Even though the sentiment at the time was very serious. It happened during a gig a few years ago. a guy came into see us every week and to be honest was pretty annoying for the band. He didn’t like one member of the band and regularly let that be known. And he often shouted at another member of the band to play tunes by a certain artist. One night we were in the middle of a song. It was one of those moments where everything was clicking. Next thing up pipes this man, and one of our band members lost the rag. Mid-song, he told the man in no uncertain terms to be quiet. And then kept going with the song. The man got the message, piped down, and never came back again. My colleague spoke to me afterwards and was slightly concerned about what happened. He felt justified in his actions though,

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It was tight, but I’d like to say a huge thanks to Tony Mohan, and to my dad and aunt for conspiring to get the albums down here on time. And while this blog often espouses the value of trying new things, experimenting, giving things and people a chance, sometimes it’s nice also to stick with the tried and trusted. The credits on the album reflect this. Dave McCune has recorded and mixed each one of my 4 albums. Steve Rogers has taken the cover shot for 3 of them. Likewise Daithi Turner has designed 3. The piano for tonight’s gig is possibly my favourite piano on which to play (Thanks Ciarán Ryan) and the band tonight – Dave, Steve and Seamie are 3 of the musicians with whom I have played most regularly over the years. I know lots of regular blog readers are coming this evening to hear the music. And there is great comfort in all of

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A different Year of Wednesdays…

It was the most enjoyable class I have ever taken. Wednesday afternoons in the Newpark School of Music. Ensemble class. You have three hours – now go and play. This particular Year of Wednesdays is a huge part of the reason why I am now playing music for a living. The excitement of writing new music with friends. The satisfaction of producing something good. And above all, the buzz of playing with others. Tutors would float from room to room and one day a young drum tutor called Seán came into our room. He asked us what we were working on – it was an original tune – and we played it for him. Now this tune had just been written, so there was no way he could have heard it before. It wasn’t straightforward (well we didn’t think so anyway), yet after Seán had heard it once, he asked our drummer if could play for a bit, and proceeded

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