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.

Hey Jude

OK- so the members of Fleetwood Mac had their fair share of difficulties with each other. The album Rumours was recorded at a time when marriages and long-term relationships between band members were breaking up, and when affairs between some of the same people and other band members were in full flow. This led to tensions on and off-stage, especially when people had to sing or play songs that had been written about them by someone else in the band. But the Beatles weren’t far behind in terms of not getting on with each other, especially as the 1960s drew to a close. The famous number referenced in the title of this blog was originally conceived as Hey Jules, in the head of Paul McCartney as he drove to see his little friend Julian Lennon after his father John had left his mother Cynthia and run off with Yoko Ono. McCartney, possibly to avoid wounding John’s fragile self-esteem, changed the

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Tuesday Trivia #7

Today we’re looking at melodies – comparing a great Michael Rooney one with a terrible Billy Joel one. As mentioned in the video above, here’s Mr. Joel tearing his own melody apart. And here’s Michael (on harp) playing Ómós do na Marbh with June McCormack on flute. I had the pleasure of playing this tune with the Sligo Baroque Orchestra on last Sunday’s Informal Music Afternoon – you can see it here at 1:04:40. Finally – the 4 elements mentioned in the video that I believe you need to make a good melody… The range should somewhere between an octave and an octave and a half. The melody should mainly move in steps, but with the odd leap. There should be rhythmic and melodic repetition within the melody. There should be a melodic climax, to which the melody builds, and from where it retreats afterwards.

Size doesn’t always matter

Our dog is small and cute, but is lightning fast and has a mind of his own. He has a few friends around the place – one pictured above, and another who lives across the road. Every so often he takes the notion to take his life into his own hands and head across to see his buddy. We’re trying to train him not to do so and today I was in the front garden with him having some fun – throwing a ball for him to fetch – the usual doggie stuff. I was standing at the front gate and discouraging him from going anywhere near the gate any time he came near to me. Now I’m not here to discuss my merits as a trainer (I’m a novice!) but the point of the story is as follows. Every once in a while the dog would look wistfully beyond me across at his mate’s house. It seemed as if

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Sunday Music #7

Firstly today on this Sunday Music blog it’s nice to be able to share some of my own music. Here (at 13:30 and 49:40) you can see live performances of 3 of my favourites from last year’s album A Year of Wednesdays, recorded in The Model especially for the first Informal Music Afternoon of 2021. And at 1:04:40 on the same video I had the huge pleasure of performing 2 tunes by one of my favourite composers with the Sligo Baroque Orchestra. More specifically Omós do na March and An Cruitire by Michael Rooney. This is Blind – the title track from the debut EP from a really good young local band called Grooveline. Check it out. Finally, RIP Liam Reilly. It was lovely to get the chance to record one of his songs for Theme Night #27 last July. Featuring Regina McDermott (vocals), Jane Tansey, Aileen Masterson and Maev Gallagher (backing vocals), Niamh Crowley and Marie O’Byrne (violins), Anna

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Learn to play 5 melodies…for free!

Someone I met over Christmas confided in me that she was worried about her husband singing to their young children. “He’s tone-deaf”, she said, “and I don’t want them to turn out the same”. I told her not to worry – in fact that the more he sang to them the better it was for them. Because at that age, children aren’t inwardly cringing at the dodgy pitching of their Dad’s singing, they are getting joy and fun from the fact that he is singing to them. And that’s what resonates. Now a problem could arise in the future if he wanted to be their singing teacher (!), but I very much doubt that will happen – so sing away I said. Because like any skill, music can be learned. And so even if the musical DNA of these children isn’t as finely-tuned as it might be in others, they can work at it and they will improve. Just like

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Here’s to tomorrow…

I’m guessing there will never have been a year to which so many people will be so happy to bid farewell. And while my experience of it has been different to yours, yours and yours, I’m sure we can agree that a less challenging set of circumstances next year would be nicer. Of course just because we’re bidding farewell to 2020 doesn’t mean we can do the same to the virus. Just as it doesn’t respect borders, it doesn’t respect calendars, and we can’t draw a line under it tonight at midnight, as much as we may wish to. Indeed January looks like it will be as challenging a month in this regard as we have had in this country so far. However there are reasons to be hopeful for 2021. Just as there were reasons to be hopeful for 2020 this time last year. You can always find a reason to hope, if you try hard enough. But hopes

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Year in Review 3: Virtual Theme Nights

Despite these shows being right up there as regards the best things that happened in my life in 2020, I’m not going to write much about them here. That’s because we at In The Lamplight are releasing a two-part end-of-year special where we do very little else bar look back at these two shows. Specifically how they were put together, and the stories around them rather than the performances themselves. Things like the late-night phone call which pretty much determined the success of the first show, and then the correspondence a couple of days later from Warner Bros. that nearly derailed it, the run-in with the Gardaí which almost scuppered the second show, the craic we had borrowing a jeep and towing a set of industrial lights around Sligo, and how people managed to come up with arrangements and record performances when we were in the thick of a hard lockdown. Our guest is Aileen Concannon, who discusses how she

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