Niamh's Musings

Join Niamh at home and on tour... the people she meets, the music she loves and the turns in the road.

Friday, November 02, 2007


Halloween, and I'm in Kilnamona, outside Ennis. We were over in Castleisland for the Padraig O'Keeffe festival last weekend. This festival has been going on for quite a few years now, and we were invited 3 years ago, to sing in the concert, and also the singing session. And we've been invited back ever since.

Padraig O'Keeffe died in 1963 but it took 30 years for his name and his beloved music of Sliabh Luachra to be turned into a festival – thanks to Peter Browne, who made a 4 part radio programme in 1994 exploring the life of the wandering musical genius.

This year, Graham and myself didn't get down to Kerry until the Saturday, as we were singing in the Sunday night concert. Had we gone down on the Friday, we would have been shattered by Sunday, I know this from past experience! A lovely town, Castleisland is the perfect place for a festival. Apart from the Saturday and Sunday night concerts, there were sessions all over the town, with some of the finest music to be heard. I headed straight for the Saturday singing session which was held in a perfect little pub called the Half Barrel. Hosted by Aileen Roantree, who does a brilliant job every year, the guest singers were Andrew Murray, Dessie O'Halloran, Tim Dennehy and myself – unfortunately Sean Garvey couldn't make the early session. But the pub was also filled with listeners and many singers, and Aileen made sure to get around to everybody, while still ensuring that the guest singers got a few songs in. It was a great pleasure to sit beside Andrew and listen to his deep sonorous voice – Tim Dennehy as usual brought a tear to my eye, which is own wonderful songs, and Dessie is just amazing, and sang Sweet Inniscarra especially for me! Other singers and songs were heard, including Constance from Holland, and a young local girl who sang a composition of her own, Aine Nelligan is a fine singer and that song was just beautiful, I was very impressed. There were two young sisters, in their mid teens, who blew me away, Catherine and Ellen Broderick. Bonny Bunch of Roses O and The Whistling Thief were just two of the songs I heard them sing, and really I just thought there goes 2 great very young carriers of the tradition. An amount of whiskey was tasted and I ended up the worse for wear so I didn't get to the concert that night.

But it was a hard night's sleep with some partying going between the two floors of the hotel – we'll say nothing but we know who it was!! Sunday afternoon found me downstairs in Con's bar. There was a great session with one of my favourites, Connie O'Connell along with Eileen de Paor and Graham Dunne on guitar. Glorious music. There were sessions all over the town, and everybody was happy with the amount, and quality of the sessions.

The concerts have moved to a new venue, the Ivy Leaf Centre is an old Church down a laneway from the centre of the town – and what a wonderful venue. The sound was brilliant and the audience were even better! No bar meant no distractions. I was delighted to be part of this concert, and did two spots, one in the first and one in the second half. I met loads of wonderful musicians. Donal Murphy was on with his 12 year old daughter Melanie, playing concertina and fiddle, John Brosnan played, as did Gerry Harrington with Peter Horan and Peter Browne – just a great concert. Maurice O'Keeffe was honoured with the Padraig O'Keeffe Award for Dedication to Sliabh Luachra

Back at the hotel later, we sat and enjoyed the music of Eoin Begley and Cormac Begley, cousins, and sons of Seamus and Brendan – I was very impressed with the tunes, the playing, the general atmosphere they created in the bar, it was just great to sit and wind down and chat and catch up with people like Paul de Grae and Edel Fox, neither of whom I got a chance to hear over the weekend. Over the weekend in general, I managed brief chats with McDara O'Reilly, Seamus Creagh, Derek Hickey, Dan Brouder, Patsy Broderick, Johnny Ringo McDonagh and Eoin O'Sullivan.

As Sunday was a late night, and I was so wrecked on Monday that I couldn't stay around for the afternoon session in Brennan's which I knew would be excellent, with Connie O'Connell and probably his daughter and son-in-law, Francis and Aine O'Connor – ah well……

Roll on Ennis, the weekend after next – oh … the meantime we have to go to Italy – work work work!!!

Ceoltoir Concert

I know, I know - it's been too long since I wrote a blog.......never have the time really - but had to write about last night's gig in Whelans with the pupils and past pupils of the Ballyfermot College - it was a wonderful night of music - each act played about 20 minutes and I was left crying for more! The night started off with first and second years, including the two sisters, Danny from Glasgow, Paul and Stevie from Dublin - fabulous opening act. Then on to the lovely Laura Murphy - who sang and played really beautifully. She was followed by Gavin Whelan, Tony Byrne and Tony who's name I can't remember on bodhran - a brilliant performance, with a wonderful slow air, and great lift to his music. Na Bac finished the first half, and I was really, really impressed, especially with the singer - what a great voice, and great selection of songs and music.

The second half opened with Jacqui Martin and friends including Mick Broderick for some really beautiful traditional music. They were followed by Sinead Nic Gearailt, who played the most stunning version of Carolan's Farewell to music -you could hear a pin drop. The night was ended with a rousing set from Dave Munnelly, Theresa Kavanagh, Paul Kelly, Tony Byrne, Caoimhe Hogarty and a latecomer - Gerry banjo O'Connor - Caoimhe was superb........ her Donal Og is just the best I've ever heard.....and of course Dave Munnelly was as vibrant and witty as ever. I was very, very proud of all the past and present pupils. A lot stayed on in Whelans and I lasted until 2.30 ......but the night was not over for some!!!!

Thursday, June 14, 2007


Ah Italy, how I love this country! Flying into Rome was exciting, viewing the Coliseum from the air. Unfortunately there were heavy downpours with thunder and lightening but we were driving south to Latina, where the sun was shining. We arrived just in time for the sound check. It was an interesting double gig with the band FolkRoad, based in Latina. It was difficult as it was open air in one of the big squares of the town. But it went well, and I didn't suffer too much from the flight - which I often do. Our concert was in 2 parts and there was a little confusion when we went to do the second half, as the bass player of FolkRoad, Antonio, was still on stage. But we nodded to him to accompany us which he did very, very well. It was wonderful to hear a bass again when I was singing.

That evening we went for food in the pub Doolin, where we met some great people, friends of our new friend Marcello, the singer with FolkRoad, and the reason for our Italian visit. Marcello is a fan of songs and he accompanied us throughout the whole trip, which he had arranged along with Massimo in Rome.

We stayed 2 nights with Marcello's mother, a wonderful lady, and a great house. We were put in the basement which was a great idea, lovely and cool (it was very hot!) and no mosquito's (who tend to love us Irish sweet blooded people!) Marcello has the most amazing collection of music, books on Ireland, Vinyl, CDs and tapes. I could spend a year there.

On Saturday we made our way to Paula's apartment for a coffee visit. Paula has perfect English as she had lived in both Dublin and Belfast in the past and she is a very wonderful girl. Our concert that night was in an interesting venue, an open air cinema - they had never had a concert there, and after our concert, I thought it was a brilliant venue, whether for a concert of a festival. We made our way back to Paula's apartment for her wonderful home cooked fish pasta - gorgeous food!

Next day we had to head back north, Marcello, Antonio the bass player, Graham and myself went to Rome but the heat was so much, I had to rest otherwise I wouldn't have had the energy to do a full gig. So no sightseeing! Graham went with Massimo and I went with the lads, driving the 100 kms to L'Aquila - in the mountains. The scenery was fantastic! L'Aquila (meaning Eagle) is a high mountain town, full of churches - 99 in fact - and 99 fountains too. It was the feast of San Massimo so some of the roads were closed off, and there was a wonderful market in the big square, as well as some religious processions.

Our concert was to be in an old 16th church. This was to be a benefit concert, with all the money going to L'Aquila per la Vita - L'Aquila for life - which enables people with terminal cancer to die at home with full medical care - a difficult thing to do and money is needed to supply doctors, nurses and supplies. The soundcheck lasted a very short time but I was asked to sign 100 posters to sell at the concert - no problem though my arm was tired!

Between soundcheck and concert we managed to walk around the town to see the sights and I resisted spending any money on shoes!!

The concert was great, wonderful wonderful audiences in Italy in general, Italians have such respect for the arts - it's in their being! Antonio played 5 songs with us, which I really enjoyed. I had no cds left to sell unfortunately but all the posters were sold which was good.

Next day was the hottest yet - we drove back to Rome, and again I hit the bed in an effort to have the energy for that night's concert. But before the concert we had time to run around the old part of Rome, and view a handful of sights, including Circus Maximus and Caesar's palace - oh how I want to spend a month there.

Our last concert was in a tiny little venue, beautifully decorated, with wonderful food. In the middle of the concert we had to wave goodbye to Marcello and Antonio who had a long drive home - it was a sad parting because it will be a while before we meet again and we'd spent the whole time together. I had a lump in my throat singing Paistin Fionn and forgot a verse! (nobody noticed except Graham though). We met more wonderful people and had some more great food there, and wine.

We were up at the crack of dawn for the early flight home - all too soon - I left Rome with a warm feeling for the people who brought me over there, and for all the new friends we made. I got only one mosquito bite, but Graham had been playing in the garden at dusk on day 2 and came away with about 20.

Many many thanks to Marcello and Massimo, to Antonio and to Paula, and I hope to return to Rome, Latina and L'Aquila soon again.

Milltown, Co. Kerry

The World Bodhran Championships!!! I had been quite amused to be invited to this wonderful festival - but the organisers had wanted to bring more musicians and singers into the town, and it was a great idea. Unfortunately time constraints made it impossible for me to be at the whole festival but I managed to arrive just in time to hear the final part of the final, with my neighbours and fellow northside Dubliners, Neil and Conor Lyons, performing brilliantly. The announcements came soon afterwards, and in joint third place was a young lad from Tyrone, Sean O'Neill, and another from Cavan, my old mate Ritchie Lyons - they had to share the winnings and the plaque although I understand they will make a new plaque for one of them. They were both delighted. Then in 2nd place was last year's winner, Neil Lyons (no relation to Ritchie) he had played really great, with Eamonn de Barra accompanying him, and I had been suitably impressed. And then finally the winner was announced, Neil's younger brother, Conor, who was stunned, not only to win but to beat Neil!! The following day I was chatting with him and he told me that when he heard Neil's name being called out he knew he didn't have a chance - Neil slagged him about having all the money to spend, and Conor had actually forgotton there was a money prize too!!

I dawdled around the town that evening, meeting lots of people I knew. There was apparently a great session in one of the pubs I was in, but too packed (with people and bodhrans!). So I made my way over to the cafe, where I had tea and lovely sandwiches and cake. There was a wonderful little session there, and Liam O'Maonlai played whistle while two little boys accompanied him on bodhrans, very good kids, one of them the under 12 winner and the other the runner up.

Next day I browsed around the town, hanging out at the cafe, meeting new people and listening to sessions, and finally it was time for the workshop. I had anticipated maybe 7 or 8 people, but 35 turned up. After 2 hours they all went away clutching about 20 songs, and I hope people were happy!

A lovely festival, with brilliant organisers -

Saturday, April 28, 2007

De Burdz!!!


As I had my birthday in Copenhagen, I felt left out at home, so when I came home from Denmark, myself and my two girlfriends decided to attend the Dame Tavern tuesday session, and sing our hearts out.......none of the students had ever heard us, and as it happened it was such a noisy night that it was hard to hear anything. However word had gone around, and it was an amazing night, with past pupils, 2nd years and 1st years all turning up for the craic! The session was great fun and although it should finish before 10, we stayed there and sang backing vocals with the singer/songwriters who normally perform there. Lots of slagging, drinking (I don't think I put my hand in my pocket!) and even a birthday cake! We went to Gogarty's afterwards, and danced and drank the night away! Thanks to all my friends for a great night!


I've been home quite a while since Denmark, but didn't get an opportunity to write anything about it. Denmark is a wonderful country. I hadn't been on tour here for years, owing to the fact that I now perform in a duo and not in a full band, as I did with the Loose Connections. Initially it was really cold.......our first concert was on the day we arrived, and actually I don't remember much about it now but it was in Baltoppen, in a lovely big hall. Our agent 'gave' us a wonderful driver who actually is a fantastic sound engineer, Neils, whom we rechristened Max but that's a long story! One of the aspects of touring is not having our own sound engineer, therefore we are normally at the mercy of the house engineer, (although we have been lucky in the past) but actually Neils is so good that he had our sound down immediately, and we benefited from that throughout the whole tour. Back to Copenhagen the next day, and we spent the day walking around the wonderful city in the freezing cold - oh and we spent a few hours in an Irish pub run by a Scottish man, with Sport being the main feature of the bar - as Ireland we doing so well in the Cricket we stayed quite a while!

Then it was my birthday - I hate having my birthday away from home....... but Graham made me feel special, and we went out to dinner with the wonderful Mich, who had cleared his calendar just to have us over.......really wonderful food and lots and lots of sampling of his incredible array of whiskys........and old friend and a real gentleman.

Next stop was Haslev, where I'd played before, but not for about 6 years. A lovely night, the audience were well informed, and even knew some of the songs, they do a good job training their audience there.

By this stage we were having plenty of craic with 'Max' and driving around in his wonderful old fashioned van........we laughed a lot and ate well. We went all the way down south and played in a wonderful old old church - about 1200s - it was a great concert, and they actually served beer in the church. One of the things that struck me was that in Denmark, all churches have a small replica of a ship, as the sea is an important aspect of Danish life. We stayed with wonderful people, and were treated very, very was so hard for me not to drink all the beautiful wines that were offered that night, but it was ok, Graham made up for it! And then the long drive back to Copenhagen........this time to sing in the Bartof Cafe, owned by a man I met in the 1980s, the harpist with Ashplant. I met these guys when they came over to play in the Dublin Folk Festival in 1985 or thereabouts.......I rememeber being so impressed that foreign people could play such good Irish music. Anyway Joakim now runs a wonderful venue, with regular concerts and it was a pleasure to be back there again, it was a great audience. He wondered if we would survive the chilli - well Joakim I can tell you we didn't really.......judging from the odour in the van thoughout the next day!

At this stage the weather had turned, and it was wonderfully warm and summer-like. We headed for Roskilde and as usual I get so fed up when I have such a short time in any place, but Roskilde has that wonderful Viking museum which of course I didn't get an opportunity to explore - between sound check and eating etc. however, some of the audience informed me about the wonderful project going on...... A Viking ship, found in Roskilde, but originally built in Dublin, and now they had built a replica using the tools from that period, and the same methods and it was on display in Roskilde, but the good news for me is that this ship - the Sea Stallion - is travelling over to Dublin in August......I was fascinated and checked it out - I'll be just back from the US by then and will hopefully get an opportunity to meet them all I hope I get back to Roskilde again and have some more time to explore this wonderful historic seat of the Vikings.

As the weather was fantastic, it was a great pleasure to do the long drive up North to a tiny place called Halkaer........we went on the ferry, which was so fast and so well organised. We were doing a double bill with Ian Bruce. Lovely night, brilliant food.....beautiful surroundings.....incredible weather, and the best of company!

Back down south to De Brunsk Packhuus, where we had a really lovely concert. The promotor was afraid it would be quiet because of the good weather but it was just perfect. We were visited by the lovely Ditte and her man and it was great to catch up with such talented musicians.

Then sadly it was time to go home, but Max (so called because we wanted to call him a manly name) brought us to a little village on the outskirts of Copenhagen to see how a small village can settle so neatly into such a busy was sad to leave him as he had just made the tour for us. We laughed a lot, talked a lot, drank a lot and we pray we'll be back soon! Thanks to Max and of course Eugene who made it all possible!

Monday, February 12, 2007


In the heady set-dancing year of 1988, I accompanied the Brooks Academy Set Dancers to Paris to teach the Paris Set to members of the Association Irelandais – now 20 years later, I’m back with them, but this time to do workshops in singing. It was really lovely to catch up on old friends, as I had been out of touch with the set dancers for years (and extremely unfit).

We were free during the day on the Friday, so myself and my old buddy Irene strolled down from Gare St. Lazare towards the Madeline Church, and enjoyed the amazing spectacle of the very expensive designer shops on the way, including Dior, Gucci etc. – we didn’t really stop to browse as we were aiming for the Orangerie – it wasn’t open for another hour so we walked around by the Seine, chatting and catching up on old times. Finally we were able to go into the view the Waterlillies, which were absolutely beautiful – and deserved the wonderful building specifically built for them, in the Tuilleries Gardens. Downstairs we discovered to our surprise that there were many more wonderful paintings to be seen, some Renoir, early Picasso, Manet, Van Gogh and many more – it was a great experience and is on my list for the next Paris Visit, and this time I’ll book a ticket online. We strolled back up the Gardens and had lunch downstairs in the Louvre, where we discovered a food hall, and had a huge choice. I left Irene to meet a friend, and strolled back towards the Hotel, resisting any temptation to shop.

Later that night we went to the venue, where we were having a concert. As Graham was not with me, I was to sing unaccompanied, which gives me great freedom, as I can choose what I like and in which key I feel like singing. The concert started off with the wonderful 4 Star Trio, beautiful music which had my feet tapping. Con O’Driscoill, Johnny McCarthy and Pat Herron are a great team, and Johnny’s compositions are beautiful. Unfortunately no songs were sung, which is a pity as they have such a collection of songs. I’ll just have to wait a while before I can hear them again, in concert or for a dance. I sang a few songs, and then up got Paul McGrattan on Flute, Des Cafferkey on whistle and flute, and John Blake on guitar (even though he’s a flute player too) – they played a really nice set, and considering John and Des had only met minutes before they played great together. I sang a few more songs in the second half, and the night was finished by the Coyne Brothers, unfortunately they ran out of time so we didn’t get an opportunity to hear Aodhan, Mick’s son, play or sing. I was very well behaved and had a good night’s sleep before the mammoth day ahead.

On Saturday, we got up early, and arrived at the School before 10. After Coffee in the kitchen, we trundled over to our class room. Everything I needed was laid on, and Francoise was there to assist me. To my delight, all 15 singers could sing really well. Some had travelled for miles to be at this weekend. Some local singers have a regular Tuesday meeting with a lovely Belfast girl called Caoimhe, so they already knew what it was all about. The morning flew and after a wonderful lunch with all the other teachers, we had another 3 hours. In that time we learnt 8 songs. I headed back to the Hotel and met up with the Coynes, We all had dinner together, and had coffee in the pub next door to the Hotel. Mick arranged with the proprietor that we could play music and we ended up having the whole pub to ourselves – with wonderful tunes from Paul McGratton, John Blake, Richard Lucey and the Coyne Brothers. Meanwhile the Four Star Trio and the set dancers danced the night away at the Ceili which was excellent by all accounts. I stole away at a reasonable hour as we had more the next day.

Sunday and we started a little later. We had another excellent morning or singing and I was very impressed with them all. At lunch, everybody was together in the school canteen. There was a presentation by Avril Armstrong thanking the Brooks Academy, and all the organisers especially Diane – who organised Champagne and a big cake with the Irish and French flags on it. There was a little session with lots of people doing solo tunes – a lovely afternoon.

We made our way back to the Hotel, changed and headed back out to Carr’s Irish pub and Restaurant, where I met many old friends – the food was wonderful and a gorgeous session started afterwards lead by Mary MacNamara and Vincent Blin. But tiredness got the better of me and we left around midnight. But it was a great end to a lovely musical weekend in Paris, and the music is alive and well, and in excellent hands thanks to the organisers.

We were heading home on Monday, and there was so much to do and see, I chose to do nothing but relax in a long bath and stroll down through the shopping area. I dearly want to go back to Paris, it’s a magic city. Thank you to the Brooks Academy and Association Irlandais for a great weekend.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


20/03/2007 Niamh Parsons with Graham Dunne Baltoppen: kl. 19.30

23/03/2007 Niamh Parsons with Graham Dunne Haslev Viseversklub

26/03/2007 Niamh Parsons with Graham Dunne LO Skolen

28/03/2007 Niamh Parsons with Graham Dunne Kaerum Kirke, Fyn

30/03/2007 Niam Parsons with Graham Dunne Gimle, Roskilde

31/03/2007 Niamh Parsons with Graham Dunne Halkaer Kro

01/04/2007 Niamh Parsons with Graham Dunne Det Bruunskepakhus

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

St. Puy

What a lovely weekend in St. Puy, France. Hosted by Ken Eaton, myself and Graham were treated royally. Arriving in Biarritz on Friday, we were picked up by Ken and his friend Angela, who brought us back to St. Puy, stopping for lunch on the way in a most beautiful restaurant, where we had to have duck! We had a relatively quiet night in Ken's wonderful house on Friday. But I was quite ill with a chest infection, on anti-biotics (which meant very little alcohol - no harm there) - so I had to rest a lot on Saturday, which I did. Graham entertained all round by playing the guitar for about 4 hours, while Ken cooked dinner for the multitude who would be arriving after the sound-check.

Our concert was to be held in the town of St. Puy. This was the first concert of it's kind, and Ken had done trojan work gathering people for it. It was a most unusual concert, in that there was about 120 people there, 100 of them were British!! And only about 20 French people - amazing - so everybody could understand me - which was great as I didn't have to strain by brain trying to speak French (which always turns out Irish or Italian!) Anyway - Ken's band opened up the night - then we went on for our usual 1.5 hours, and the night was finished by Franc on his piano - amazing singer/entertainer!

Sunday saw us at Chez Nous in the town, where after an amazing meal, we got the guitars out and had a lovely afternoon session. Sunday night we tried to recuperate - and both myself and Ken lost to Graham at Scrabble - what is Qi anyway!!!

A very big thank you to Ken Eaton for all his hard work - he brought people together for a night, introduced them to his favourite music, and everybody had a great time!

Special mentions go to Angela, David, Eric & Chris, Catherine, Chez Nous Staff and Franc! Thanks so much - we'll do that again - anytime!!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


The Best Weekend in the World! Ennis trad fest was just brilliant. Thursday night's concert was 'At First Light' with Donal O'Connor and John McSherry, Ruben Bada, Alan Burke and Francie McIlduff. Brilliant music and an excellent gig despite being at midnight when all revellers were fairly nicely. I was blown away by the music and the performance in general. The album has not left my CD player since.

Friday night was great too. Mike McGoldrick and Dezi Donnelly along with Jim Murray and John Joe Kelly. Again fantastic music and tunes. They were joined by Grace Kelly and Johnny Ringo McDonagh - brill! I sound like I'm raving but it seriously was an excellent performance.

Saturday afternoon, we met for the singing session, which was good but a bit frustrating as the Rugby matches were on. Saturday night we were back out to the Auburn Lodge for Fisherstreet, who had not played in 15 years - and they were great! Great traditional music and wonderful tunes. I nipped into the Trad Disco for a little while before it got busy - and it was great craic - loads of people jumping round with pints in hand, and not spilling a drop - despite falling all over the place!

Sunday and it was off to the Ashford Court for another singing session, which turned out to be great and went on for hours. But we headed off to Steele's for the session. I snuck away to the concert which was the best yet! Jean Michel Veillon and Jamie McMenemy - sublime.

Monday, and by this stage everyone is just wrecked! I steered clear of the drink for most of the weekend - except wine at dinner which, like my father, I don't count as drink! There were two lovely sessions in Cruises and I played for 2 hours in one - my fingers were hanging off me - as I've only recently started playing guitar again! I decided it would be better if I headed on home because the Teada gig wasn't on till midnight and I was busy in Dublin on Tuesday - so I packed up my guitar and headed home, having had the best weekend in years and years. Thanks to John, Carmel, Mike and all the team for the best yet!