It’s sad…so sad…

You’ve heard the one about the third Monday in January being the most depressing day of the year? The benefit of a rest over Christmas has worn off, the buzz of New Years Resolutions is starting to fade, and many people are still waiting to get paid… Well I’m sorry, but new data published recently in the Economist, based on what songs we listen to – now says that the worst is not over yet – that February is in fact the most depressing month. It makes sense to me – it’s anecdotal evidence at best, but I have always thought that February is usually the quietest month in Connolly’s for our Monday night gigs – a suggestion backed up by the bar staff and management there. Anyway back to the article in The Economist – journalists collated data from Spotify, where music experts have given each song a score between 0 and 100 depending on how uplifting the song

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Weekly Challenge #5 – How Deep is Your Love??

Theme Night #25 has been and gone, but the wonderful music of The BeeGees will live on. To celebrate that fact, this week’s challenge features one of their biggest hits – How Deep is Your Love?. It is quite a difficult one, possibly the trickiest challenge so far. No key changes in it, but watch out for some melody notes outside of the relevant major scale, and also for plenty of unusual chords. Click here for more information. Answers to this challenge will be posted on Wednesday.

Theme Night #25 – reflections

So! Another Theme Night consigned to history. We had a lot of firsts this time – a Maori blessing, an unknowing participant, a troupe of dancers, flourescent violinists. It was also the first time I attempted to tell the story of the subjects of this particular theme through the structure of the show. And some lasts – Chris Baillie’s last theme night in Sligo, possibly the last time we’ll see our original horn section (Tom, Tom, Fraser and Eddie) on the Hawk’s Well stage together, and the last instalment of our first quarter-century of Theme Nights – a wonderful milestone to reach. Indeed I’d like to take this opportunity to say thanks to the more than 300 participants who have taken part in a theme night so far – for helping create these unique shows with me. There was huge variety in the music this time – from the BeeGees early material, to their disco phase, to the songs they

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Walking the walk

Every time a Theme Night or a Teenage Theme Night comes around, many performers get out of their comfort zone. It might be singing in a professional environment for the first time, trying a new genre of song, playing a new instrument, saying something to the audience before the song, or somehow improving their performance with something a little bit extra. And without fail, I encourage this. It leads to practice, work, growth and a sense of achievement. Even if it doesn’t go quite as you hoped it would. But when the one in charge is asking others to do something, the words quickly become hollow unless their actions match their words. And this is how I ended up dancing in a white disco suit and singing You Should Be Dancing in falsetto. Even though it was a bit scary. But it was fun. SO – if you want to see who will get out of their comfort zone next

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Arranging

People often ask me what arranging is. So here’s an example. The first video below is the original BeeGees version of I Started a Joke, the second an arrangement Aileen Concannon and I put together for Theme Night #25. So we have changed the key, the chords, the instrumentation, the interpretation, but not the melody (bar a little bit of improvisation on Aileen’s behalf) or lyrics. It’s a new arrangement of an existing song – and a song is defined by it’s melody and lyrics. But there are many ways to put across that melody and those lyrics, and that’s what makes live performances so special. If you haven’t already, have a look at Aileen’s above – it IS special. And for anyone interested in reading more about this song, here is an interesting interpretation of its meaning.

Kendy

So last night a plan came together. Last September Luke Devaney played me a clip from Episode 60 of the Kendy and Raybo Podcast. The two hosts were having a bit of craic about Theme Night #24. You can listen to it (only a few mins) from 29:15 here. Basically one of the hosts (Kendy) – was being slagged by Ray (the other host) for never having been invited to have taken part in a Theme Night. All in a funny, good-natured way. But as soon as I heard it, I rang Ray and told him that this couldn’t be the end of the story. We decided we had to figure out a way to get Kendy along into the audience for Theme Night #25 and that we would cold-call him up from the crowd to perform a song. A song he knew how to play and sing mind you, but one he wouldn’t have rehearsed with this extended band,

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How do themes get chosen?

It was Tommy Higgins that suggested the BeeGees. He had done his research, and presented me with a 30-song list. Songs they had performed themselves, and songs they had written for others. It was nearly the theme for Theme Night #24, but I wasn’t convinced they had enough hits to make up a full theme night, and so Stevie Wonder and his huge catalogue got the nod instead. I did love the music of the BeeGees however, and so in the aftermath of #24 when Eddie Lee suggested adding some songs from the Disco Era into the mix, I knew that was a winner. And so here we go. 3 jam-packed shows ahead. Mainly BeeGees stuff, but some massive disco hits too. Hope you are among the lucky ones with tickets… Thanks to Nigel Gallagher for the image.

You Win Again

In the era before samples, Phil Collins approached Maurice Gibb in an airport looking for a copy of ‘the stomps’ – the famous sound that opens the BeeGees 1987 hit. In the era of samples, you can hit an electronic drum, produce ‘the stomps’ and get a room full of people singing along. Sounds used to be more difficult to create than they are now, which is why these ‘stomps’ were sought after. But they wouldn’t have been sought after if the song didn’t have possibly one of the most catchy choruses ever written. Because in the end while the sounds can help, it’s really about the music.

Weekly Challenge #4 – Words (BeeGees)

Theme Night #25 is on the way, and in accordance with the theme, today’s challenge features an early BeeGees hit song – Words. Those of you who have tried the challenges so far may have found Weeks #2 and #3 quite difficult. This week’s challenge, standard-wise, is probably closer to the level of Week #1 and so hopefully many of you will find it a bit easier this week. True to the form of the BeeGees however, even in one of their less elaborate songs there is a tricky key change mid-verse which will keep you on your toes. Click here for more details and the questions you must answer on Weekly Challenge #4.

Nothing Compares 2 0

The second of February Two thousand and twenty. Not very striking is it? Write it in numerical fashion however and it becomes a digital palindrome, getting people excited. 02022020. I even took a picture of my clock at 02:02 on 02:02. Amazing. It reminded me of songs that get a second chance however. For example The Clash released Should I Stay or Should I Go in 1982 with moderate success. Fast forward 9 years and it reached number 1 after being featured on the soundtrack to a Levi’s ad. Or like when Sinéad O’Connor took a unknown Prince song called Nothing Compares 2 U and brought it to the top of the charts all over the world. The songs weren’t hugely different second time around. But the way they were presented was. And that’s the thing. Sometimes the way we present something is more important than the thing itself. It’s certainly worth more thought than most of us give it.