A guy who taught me most of what I know about jazz piano had a stroke in June. A bad one. His independence has been diminished and he is facing a long and expensive period of rehabilitation. His name is Phil Ware. He’s an Englishman living in Dublin, and was a tutor on the Sligo Jazz Project for quite a few years and a regular visitor to this part of the world. I recently saw a beautiful post on Facebook about him, written by another ex-student of his – Greg Felton – who clearly had stayed in touch with Phil, and later became friends with him. I didn’t have that type of relationship with Phil. When it came down to it, I don’t think I liked or understood jazz piano to the same level as he did and this made it more difficult to connect in this regard. I possibly didn’t practice enough for his liking either! I do remember

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Rice and writing

I enjoyed this article on Tim Rice today. Here’s five reasons why… Collaborate! What a list of composers he can list as partners – Freddie Mercury, Elton John, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Alan Menken, and Benny and Bjorn from ABBA. Write honestly, not with the intention of writing a hit – Don’t Cry For Me Argentina is surely the only UK No. 1 hit to have been written as a political speech. Write with humour – ‘Make your first show funny’, Rice says. ‘Save the angst for later’. Not all your songs will be great – Rice has 145 unused songs. You never know where the thing you’re working on will end up – Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat was originally written as a show for a school choir with an Elvis impersonator.

Don’t forget to play for yourself…

In Episode 4 of The Queen’s Gambit, the fictional chess genius Beth Horton and her adoptive mother travel to Mexico City to contest a tournament. At the end of the episode, the mother dies suddenly of suspected Hepatitis, leaving Beth tragically orphaned for a second time in her as yet very young life. On the afternoon before she died however, there is a wonderful scene of the lady in question, the fictional Alma Wheatley, playing piano happily in the lobby of the hotel for herself, and also for an appreciative audience who have spontaneously gathered. She was a talented pianist, but never tried to play it professionally because of stagefright. Reflecting on the episode – it is nice to think that Alma had this moment for herself before she died, and that Beth got to witness her so happy in her final hours. Now of course this is fictional and dramatised, and not the way things play out in most

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Tuesday Trivia #8

The flat 7 chord is the subject of today’s Tuesday Trivia video – with examples of how it was used by The Beatles (many times), U2 and The Blues Brothers. I call this week’s contribution Tuesday Trivia #7 in the video – apologies for that! It’s a unique type of chord – certainly one of the most common chords used outside of the usual suspects, and I’d be very surprised if it’s not the most common chord used that doesn’t begin on one of the notes of the major scale. It’s not difficult to play, but recognising it can be a bit trickier – that’s why I wanted to give loads of examples in the video – hopefully it will become more familiar to you after you listen. If you want to examine the chord in more detail, here is an article from that really digs in to the history of it. Finally, Hey Jude is one of the

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100-day challenge starts today – join us!

I had to add my initials to the title of the Facebook Group in which a growing number of us will share our experiences of this upcoming 100-day challenge (starting today). You see, unsurprisingly I guess, there are many 100-day challenge Facebook Groups out there – and so I decided to call our one ‘KQ 100-day challenge’ – in order that people could find it. It’s worth finding though – because it’s different. Firstly, it’s inviting you to challenge yourself in regard to creative practices in particular – be that learning to dance, writing music, practicing your instrument, sketching out a book outline, or improving your cooking skills. And secondly, we’ll be asking members to show the results of their work every 10 days – so 10 times in total between now and mid-April. I’m suggesting spending 30 minutes each day on your practice, but it’s really up to you. However, if for example a friend of yours is joining,

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Sunday Music #8

A new song of mine premieres this evening. Commissioned by the Hawk’s Well Theatre’s Cultural Companions programme, it was written after spending time with Ballincar native Máire Dufficy at the end of the summer last year. You can buy tickets for the show for only €5 and watch it online here this evening at 8 or any time over the next week. Here’s what I wrote in anticipation of writing the song – and it was a strangely nerve-wracking experience performing it for Máire and a small audience when we filmed the show. A brilliant experience overall though – thanks to Maeve and everyone at the Hawk’s Well for asking me to be involved – and to Máire for being such a star. Finally, a reminder about the 100-day challenge I advertised last Friday. It’s beginning on Monday – and the Facebook Group is now up and running. So if you want to take part, just search for a group

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The joy of the struggle

We were face down in the freezing mud. It was dark. Along with our breath, the heat from our 30 odd bodies created a light fog above the hard Tubbercurry surface. It was around this time of year. Early January. Slogging season in the GAA. Press-ups. Burpees. Sprints. Three-quarter pace for the length of the pitch and jog the width. Over, and over, and over again. Trying not to be too fast or too slow. Keep the head down and don’t get called out. Just get through it. I remember this moment though. It was only near the start of the session but we were already banjaxed. Waiting for the next whistle. I looked across at a teammate, face daubed with mud as if he was trying to camouflage himself. The unusual look of determination in his eyes struck me. ‘This is torture’, I said. ‘Ah stop that’, he replied. ‘Sure where else would you be? This is great’. And

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I’m starting something new – who’s going to join me?

On Monday, specifically – and you have the weekend to think about it. So – I bought a few copies of this book before Christmas, and gave it as a present to a few friends of mine who I thought would enjoy it. In fact I have one left if anyone wants a copy…let me know. And then I saw this chart – put together by another blogger whose posts I read from time to time – and an idea formed. So, starting on Monday, I’m going to spend half an hour each day for 100 days practising something. The last day of these 100 will be April 20th, by which time the weather will be warmer, the evenings will be brighter, restrictions will be less strict, thousands of people will have been vaccinated in Ireland, and I, and any of you who want to join me, will have at least 50 hours in the bank practising a particular skill.

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More flow

I’m sure I haven’t been the only one faced with an image like this over the last few days. But wrap it properly now and it makes your life a lot easier next Christmas. What’s more, this picture was taken after at least 30 minutes of solid unravelling work, and as you can see there’s still a decently-sized bird’s nest left to sort out. But the thing about it was – when I was unravelling, I was in the zone, in a flow, you know what I mean. Nothing else mattered. Not my phone, not my children (!), not any noises in the house, nothing. Single-minded focus on the lights. For an hour. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t manage to achieve many hours like that these days. So maybe that’s as good a resolution as any for the days ahead. More flow.