Theme Night #26 – going ahead!

So we all need some good news. And it’s nice to be able to bring it to you. Because although the upcoming Vicar St show has been pushed back to 2021 (date announced next week exclusively in the Sligo Champion), Theme Night #26 will go ahead, on the original date, with all your favourite artists! Sligo’s musical community have not been found wanting in the past few weeks, bringing many hours of live online entertainment to your homes on social media, and we are all working hard and thinking creatively to bring you a theme night like no other – live to your homes at 8pm on April 23rd. The same format will apply – one singer one song. We aim to bring you the same quality of show and the same degree of fun, camaraderie and top class musical entertainment. It just won’t be on a stage. But it will be free, and anyone who hasn’t been able to

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Three Thursday thoughts…

Be kind and be respectful. Especially when the person who will feel the brunt of your actions isn’t in the room with you. If you’re unsure, imagine being stuck in an elevator with them. What sort of a conversation are you having? The spoken word disappears as soon as it is uttered. The written word is immortal though. Time is a great editor. So consider using it before printing/posting/sending. If you play a Christmas song in any month of the year bar December it will ruin the mood at a gig. That doesn’t mean they are bad songs – you just played it at the wrong time. Consider that the next time you are thinking of ditching one of your songs. This is the second blog in a row inspired by an episode of the Quarantine Book Club with Austin Kleon that I had the privilege to virtually attend on Tue night – cheers guys.

How to start…

Got an idea? Or a change you want to make? Or something you want to begin? Here’s how to start… Give it 15 minutes of your attention. At the same time every day. In the same place every day (not difficult at the moment)! For the month of April. Maybe it could be this? Or maybe something else? Whatever it’s gonna be, now’s the best time to start. Go! Thanks to the Quarantine Book Club and Austin Kleon for an enjoyable event at which I heard this tip last night.

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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