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
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
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
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,
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
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
The Bingo Bus is the bus that brings you to Bingo. Well it used to be anyway. Is Ireland it has become one of those phrases used far more widely than it was originally intended to be. Usually in relation to some form of transport, sometimes driven by a man called Bingo, but mostly not! It has a ring to it though, and I used it as a title a few years ago when writing a song about the fictitious singer – Bingo from Belleek. But The Bingo Bus is heading for the Hawk’s Well Theatre this Friday. Driven by none other than the star of this video – Seamie O’Dowd, who will be joining me as an extra-special guest. It will be getting its first live outing for a while, and the last few tickets can be snapped up here.
A picture of a sunset is never as good as experiencing it live. Watching your favourite team score a last minute winner on television doesn’t compare to the feeling you get if you’re in the ground. And listening to recorded music is nice, but usually a lesser experience than being there for a good live performance of the same songs. The photo, the TV highlights of the game, the recorded track – they serve as good memories, good reminders of special moments. But the magic doesn’t really happens unless you’re there. “The spirit doesn’t track” – a wonderful phrase given to me by a new American friend this morning. So true. So get out and go.
When communicating with someone there are many levels of possible engagement. From checking your phone while the conversation is ongoing all the way along the spectrum to making the other person feel that you are living their story as if it was your own. Somewhere in there, closer to the second example than the first, is asking a good question, an appropriate question, a challenging question, the right question. When you do this, it proves to the speaker that not only are you listening to them, but you are also reflecting on what they are saying in real time and asking questions based on not only what you are hearing but also on where you feel the conversation might need go to next. It’s why Gay Byrne was such a great interviewer and broadcaster. It’s why Prince Andrew was in the news this weekend. And it’s what sometimes separates a good musician from a great one. The ability to stick
Today’s blog features a nice memory from the launch concert for my first album. 6 years and 1 day ago today. I don’t think I have ever felt as much warmth from an audience as I did at the end of this particular performance. Thankyou to everyone who was there…and here’s to more moments like that this coming Friday.