I Wanna Be Like You

It’s great fun, this song, but its message has caused unhappiness to millions of people in the world going back as far as when we evolved from the apes. And it is an ape – King Louis (brilliant vocal by Louis Prima) who in this song wishes he was more like Mowgli the ‘mancub’ – he wants to walk like him, talk like him, and be able to make fire like he can. And we can all relate to that feeling. Depending on how we look at things, there can always be someone out there who is more talented than us, has more money than us, looks prettier than us, is dealing with these restrictions better than we are. Or you can choose to look at things differently – and there’s a song for that too! A beautiful Scottish song that Seamie O’Dowd does a lovely job on – this isn’t the official title but it may as well be

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Complying with restrictions

What we’re being asked to do at the moment by our government is a big ask. Stay away from our extended family and friends for weeks, maybe months. Have no social life. Abruptly change the way we work, the way our children are educated. Give up many of the good things in life. And they are asking more as I write. But we’re doing it. And we will do it. Most of us anyway. And managing. And we will manage. Most of the time. But what if it was you and only you who was asked to do this? The whole world carrying on as normal, but you had to stay home with your family and implement all these measures for an extended period. It would be more difficult. No doubt. So what’s the difference? Simple – everyone else is doing it. It makes it easier when you’re not the only one. Solidarity, accountability, peer pressure. Call it what you

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Thanks…for staying out of the way!

Back when I used to play gigs, I played a fair few weddings. Mostly in churches. And at the end, when the priest was summing up, the nice ones (!) would thank the various people involved in the ceremony – the bride and groom for asking him of course, the musicians, any flower girls or page boys (who always got the biggest cheer), and the photographer and videographer. And while we as musicians would often be generously praised by the priest for the way in which we elevated the ceremony, or for bringing joy to the hearts of everyone present, the photographer and videographer almost without fail would be thanked for being discreet. Basically for staying out of the way. And that’s fair enough. It’s their job to capture the ceremony and its highlights without interfering in it. But it’s a funny thing for which to be thanked. Another gig I played a few times (when I used to play

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Embrace the Technology

So hands up if our new shared circumstances have required you to get familiar with previously unfamiliar technology. The older you are, I’m guessing the more likely it is you put your hand up. But no matter what age you are, let’s face it – what we are going through would be a lot less manageable without the ease of connection we enjoy in our world today. As I write I am listening to (and could be watching) the amazing Liane Carroll play a set from her living room. Today I broadcast a live piano lesson to multiple students for the first time. I brought them through the answers to last Monday’s Weekly Challenge. I spoke and played (students could see the notes I was playing as in pic below) and students could ask and I could then answer questions in real time. Amazing stuff. I’ll hopefully broaden this service out in the coming days and weeks – as always

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Still Crazy After All These Years…

In 1974, Paul Simon did something really unusual. It could be seen as brave or foolish, depending on your viewpoint. But like many unusual and groundbreaking ideas, it proved to be inspirational to musicians and songwriters throughout the world. He went on live TV and played an unfinished version of what would become one of his greatest songs – Still Crazy After All These Years, and discussed what his thoughts were about the rest of it. With a host who was too busy trying to be funny to appreciate the incredible songwriting nuggets he was getting from Simon. But they come through loud and clear nevertheless. It’s the finished version of this song that students, members and subscribers will get a chance to learn this week on my online tuition website. That process starts today with a recently uploaded Weekly Challenge – 6 questions designed to test your ear and music knowledge. And on Wednesday the full lesson video will

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Your bliss station!

So I started teaching again yesterday. Online now, via Skype, WhatsApp or Facetime. And so for the first time I have got to see the instruments on which each student practices. And parts of the room in which each instrument lives. And the chairs on which the students sit. And the level of noise and distraction in the room. And it has been fascinating. Because while some students have an ideal practice setup, others don’t. And this can have a big influence on the quality of the practice you get done. Austin Kleon, in his aptly-titled book Keep Going, tells us in Chapter 2 to Build a ‘Bliss Station’, a title he got in turn from Joseph Campbell, who wrote as follows in his book The Power of Myth. “You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are,

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Vicar St Update…

In collaboration with The Sligo Champion. 5 weeks to go! So I had an article written for this week’s paper about some of the highlights of last year’s Vicar St show, the moments I still remember over a year later, but let’s be honest – right now none of us know whether this gig will go ahead. And so I figured it was a better plan to fill you all in on what’s going on. As much as I know anyway! So – as we write, as in all cultural institutions, all scheduled gigs in Vicar St up to March 29 have been postponed until later in the year. And if the restrictions announced by the government last week continue past that date, there is every chance that the same fate will befall our gig. Right now there is no certainty. All I can tell you is that we are monitoring the situation and will let you all know once we

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Online festival starting shortly!

Fair play to Seamie O’Dowd. At 9.30 on a Monday night, the time when we would usually be kicking off out gig in Connolly’s, his name flashed up on my phone, wondering if I would be up for being a part of an online music festival for St. Patrick’s Day. Sure thing. Leadership, innovation, adapting to difficult times. Just what we need! And it’s raising money for the WHO. I’m on between 4.30 and 5, but there will be great music on all day between 1 and 6pm. Brought to you by a bunch of Sligo musicians, each broadcasting from their sitting room. Tune in here…https://www.facebook.com/groups/232124461170566/ Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone!

In Sunshine or In Shadow…

By the time I wrote last Monday’s blog, handshakes had already become a thing of the past. One week later and all schools, colleges and pubs are shut. What will next Monday bring? I don’t know. You don’t know. They don’t even know. So instead of speculating, wondering, gossiping, why not be a bit more like Gerry Storey? Gerry was a boxing coach working in Belfast at a time when it wasn’t just a virus threatening society, it was actual humans with guns trying to kill each other. And not just one subgroup of society as it is now, but anyone at all. Indeed three attempts were made on Gerry’s life as a result of the work he did… So what did he do? He trained boxers. Protestant and Catholic. It didn’t matter. He loved and respected all. And as a result he brought together two bitterly divided communities during these years in ways that no-one else in that time

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A gift…

So we’re all probably going to be at home a little bit more for the next while… I mentioned in last Monday’s blog that if this happened, it can upset things, and no doubt it will, and probably already has. But it can also bring opportunity – more time on our hands. A chance perhaps to take a step back, to spend time with family, to read, to learn. Bear with me for a minute and I will get to the point of this blog. But firstly let me explain a bit about how I teach the piano. In general, I try to teach people who have some experience of playing the piano how to really understand music and hence play better and with more enjoyment. More specifically, how to hear music as the pros do and to be able to sit down and play in a flexible manner without having to rely on sheet music. There are exceptions to

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