Niamh's Musings

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

Thursday, June 29, 2006


I was at the Four Fools Festival last weekend in Preston, UK. It was really a lovely weekend. The entire festival was held in a school which is a great idea. It meant that people could camp or caravan in the grounds, and it was very easy to walk from one venue to another. I arrived Friday night for the two opening concerts, one in the Library and one in the Music Room. I brought Graham with me for the weekend, though he wasn't actually going to be performing with me at the workshops, however, he gladly accompanied me at the opening concerts. There is a lovely atmosphere about this festival. Run by Angie and Ken Bladen, it's been going for 18 years. It has changed venues a few times, but I think this year it was a very good venue. The bar was in the canteen area, the hall held the session in the day and all the dancing and also the CD shop, and the music room, drama room, maths room, geography room and library were used as different venues. Every hour is used up, so there was plenty of people to see, and ample time to get to see something of everybody for the whole weekend.

Angie included me in the Celtic Connection workshop along with Ellen Mitchell and Heather Innes to mention a few. Later on in the day I was in the 'Bird's Eye View' workshop again with Ellen and also a very impressive Anni Fentiman, whose choice of songs and voice I just loved. Later that night I did a solo set in the Library. On Sunday, I was put in with the wonderful Tom McConville and the group Cara. This was a lovely workshop, and I was terribly impressed by not only Tom's singing but his playing along with Cara and his solo material. Lovely way to ease into Sunday. Later on I did the Ballad session with Pete Coe, Janet Russell, and again, Ellen Mitchell. It only lasted two and a half hours but could have gone on longer. Despite the fact that the English World Cup match was on, the audience was very attentive and quite a few contributed a song to the session.

Highlights of the weekend for me were - Saturday night, listening to the wonderful Martyn Wyndham-Read - who in my books is the most wonderful interpreter of songs - he has a way which makes every word important, every note is perfect and the overall tone and feel of his voice leaves a lasting warmth - I love him to pieces. Also - watching the wonderful dancing to the music of Hekety - I was terribly impressed with the amount of people dancing, and the fact that they all seemed to know the dances - similar to the Irish ceili dancing but different at the same time. The music was great. And meeting and hearing new voices - at least new to me - a lot of these people know each other as they go to all the festivals throughout the UK ever year - but I only get to one here and there, so a lot of the voices are new to me.

Graham and myself stayed with Eamonn Coyne our good friend, and while I 'worked' Graham cooked and watched football and played music with Eamonn - I was jealous on Saturday when they seemed to have a 'lost' day - but all was redeemed when a plate of Graham's wonderful chicken and mushroom dinner was left for me - along with the last glass of wine! It was great to spend time with Eamonn and Sue, and of course spending day times with Gill who drove me to and from the venues, and I never even heard her sing this weekend!

A great weekend all round - thanks to Angie and Ken for the invite and I'll definately be back at that festival again. Keep up the good work!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

...learning curve..............

So - I've recently discovered how to put photos on the blog - but it won't work for my lovely drawing of Napoleon - ah well ! And while searching for a way to download that picture I accidently discovered the comments - some of which I published - it's all really new to me - and I often don't have time to browse the net - but it's Sunday and I've been really busy and will be again from tomorrow - and as it's been raining a lot today - and Graham's gone back to Ennis and Caoimhe is out with friends for the day - I've spent the day just fixing things here and there - and learning how to really use this blog - I'm getting there but it'll be a few more weeks before I'm really used to it.

18th of June - Battle of Waterloo

18th of June

Today is the 191st Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. I have been meaning to learn the song - the Eighteenth of June - but only ever get as far as the chorus:

"And what a sad heart had poor Boney, for to take up instead of his crown
and to canter from Brussels to Paris, lamenting the eighteenth of June." This song is on Frank Harte's 'My Name is Napoleon Bonaparte' CD - which is one of my all time favourites of Frank's

In 1814, twenty five years of war finally came to an end with the surrender of the Emperor Napoleon and his banishment to the Mediterranean island of Elba. The European powers began the task of restoring their continent to normality and peace.
On 1st March 1815 Napoleon escaped from Elba and landed in France. Nineteen days later he was in Paris and resumed his title as Emperor. His army rallied to him. The soldiers who had been captured during the years of fighting had been released enabling Napoleon to reform his Grande Armée.The European allies reassembled their armies and prepared to resume the war to overthrow the Emperor yet again. After a whole day of battle, in which Napoleon lost, Waterloo decisively saw the end of 26 years of fighting between the European powers and France.

The Goilin singers club was lovely last Friday, Bloomsday - so there were lots of songs relating to Joyce - and even the word 'bloom' - as in 'the blooming meadows' or the 'flowers in bloom'. Of course, plenty of songs about Napoleon and Waterloo, including Jim McFarland's wonderful version of the aforementioned song, 18th of June. One very interesting thing happened in the club. We have a population of something like 130,000 Polish people now living in Ireland, the second most commonly spoken language in the country, and one young Polish man sang a sea shanty song in his native language - I recognised and he told me it was a traditional song, but had been translated from England sometime in the last century - they have many of these songs in Poland. It was just lovely to see this young man feeling perfectly at home in the singers club.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Some Froggy Bastards and an Irish one - picture courtesy of Marina!

A french leprachaun

Monday, June 12, 2006


Monday 12th of June – and we are just back from France. We flew out on
Friday to Carcasonne – in the company of the band Slide, our good friends.
Eoghan, Mick, Eamonn and Dáire were in the company of singer Andrew Murray
who was singing with them for the weekend. The also brought along their
sound engineer, Chloe Nagle. It’s funny but Chloe and myself had met each
other just two weeks previously in Co. Clare, where she was one of the sound
engineers for the opening of the Doonbeg Golf Club, and we hit it off then,
so it was wonderful to meet her again. She is half-French and half-Irish,
and great craic!.

It has been so hot in Ireland and I knew it would be even hotter in France
and I was right! 30c when we arrived, and I did my best to stay in the
shade, the sun just burns me up – though strangely I get more burnt in
Ireland than I do when I’m out ‘foreign’.

After our arrival in Caussade, we viewed the venue for the following days
festival which was called Nuit Celtic III - and then had lunch. We retired
to our rooms and ours was beautifully cool. I watched the opening of the
World Cup instead of sleeping but had a good rest – and I watched the German
match too – I love the excitement of the competition. Later, we all met at
a little restaurant in the centre of the town – Le Break – where we watched
the rest of the match. Tables were laid outside and we were joined by some
Breton musicians, Pol, Herve and Sam, and also by Chloe’s mother and
step-father who live in France. The meal was fabulous of course and when
all the eating was done, the lads got the instruments and a great session
started – this was about 9 o’clock – it went on till – oh maybe 2.30 – can’t
remember because I couldn’t resist the lovely red and rose wine which was
flowing freely. The session was joined by a couple of brothers – Jacob and
Joe, who play with one of the bands featured at the festival – Doolin’ –
they were brilliant musicians and really lifted the session. I had a few
songs, and so did Andrew Murray – (I love his singing) and we also had a
song from Chloe, which was a lovely surprise.

On Saturday after breakfast, I slept some more and was well rested for the
festival. Sound check for us was late – about 4.30 – and I was considering
going back to the hotel between that and the set, but it was nicely cool
down at the site – in the green room tent, run so well by Corinne – I think
I christened her ‘Paddy’ by the end of the night. Our set went well – the
sun was shining directly in my eyes for most of it but as I generally close
my eyes while singing it didn’t really matter. Graham was great and I loved
the sound. The band Doolin’ was on after us, and I was really impressed.

We went for food, and finished just in time for ‘Footloose’ a group of
gorgeous girls based in Montpelier, who dance to Riverdance type music. By
then the sun had gone down, and the screens at the side of the stage showed
close ups of the girls. I had good craic with Marina and the crew
afterwards. The next band on stage were the fabulous ‘Slide’ but then I’m
biased – I really enjoyed their set, and watched from the sound desk in the
company of Louis from Uruguay and Nicolas, the guitarist from Doolin’. The
atmosphere was wonderful – thousands of people all enjoying themselves in
the warm evening – what a show! I went back stage to meet everybody, and
had a good view of the last band on for the night, Urban Trad – I had met
them all before in Holland a couple of years ago, and of course the guitar
player is our old friend Philippe Masure. I danced backstage with the
‘Froggy Bastards’ a name they gave themselves (I think!)

Well – after a bit of whiskey, Guinness, loads of wine, music and dancing,
it was half four before we were thrown out of the ‘Green Tent’. It was a
fantastic night. I met so many lovely people, young Nick from the radio,
who’s since written but my return emails keep bouncing back – so Nick give
me your proper email. I loved all the lads from Doolin’ and the Bretons
too – great musicians. And Chloe – I thought I had her email but just shows
you how drunk I really was. That’s it - no more drink till Milltown
Malbay -

And it was so hard to leave – long drive to the airport, long wait for the
delayed flight – shattered when I got home and the bloody sun still shining
hard in Ireland – 11 days of constant sunshine is just not Irish!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Bank Holiday

Well - we had a great night in the Cobblestone on Friday night.  Graham and myself had been at the RTE Radio studios earlier in the day, to sing a song and have a chat with Pat Kenny.   I chose to sing Boys of Barr na Sraide - partly because I'm so comfortable with that song and life radio is nerve-racking at that hour of the morning, before the voice is fully awake - and partly in celebration of the Palme d'Or win of Ken Loach's film, The Wind that Shakes the Barley.  It was the most glorious day - the sun shone all day long - a most wonderful start to the bank holiday weekend.  So Friday night saw us down in Smithfield.  A lot of friends and relations turned up for the gig, mostly from my mother's side and including my wonderful niece Seonaid.  It turned out to be a very lovely night, pin drop silence thanks to the sensitive barman, Noel, loads of CD sales thanks to the doorman Roly, and great support from a very appreciative audience.  When we arrived home, we opened a bottle of wine and watched the week's episode of The Sopranos, which was the best yet, the one with Sir Ben Kingsley and Laran Bacall - then as we were still hyper, we watched about 3 episodes of Come West Along the Road, and opened another bottle - eventually we ran out of the following day's dinner wine, and headed off to bed about 5!  Old Simplicity is truly launched!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Co. Clare May 2006

I dropped down to Ennis for a look at the Fleadh Nua last weekend. We
bumped into Joe Skelton and he and Graham and a brilliant harpist called
Elaine Hogan from Ennis, had a beautiful tea time session in Falls. As
it happened, I found myself being the designated driver out west on
Saturday night, so full of wonderful music, we headed out against the
setting sun - to the beautiful Spanish Point. Graham and myself had a
lovely wee session with Tara Connaghan - and we were joined by the very
lovely Josephine Marsh.

Tara gave me a list of the lunchtime sessions in Clare so I am repeating
them here.

Wed. 7th June: Mike Butler (button accordion), Anne Marie McCormack
(fiddle) & Maurice Coyle (guitar), 1 � 2pm, Riches of Clare Museum,

Wed. 14th June: Tola Custy (fiddle), Alan Kelly (piano accordion), John
Kelly (flute) & Michael Rooney (harp), 1 � 2pm, Riches of Clare Museum,

Wed. 21st June: Joan Hanrahan (fiddle), Gearoid OhAllmhurain
(concertina), Seamus Hynes (flute) & Geraldine Cotter (piano), 1 � 2pm,
Riches of Clare Museum, Ennis

Wed. 28th June: Denis Liddy (fiddle), Brid O�Gorman (flute), Dermot
Lernihan (button accordion) & Martin Dermody (guitar), 1 � 2pm, Riches
of Clare Museum, Ennis

Wed. 5th July: David O�Brien (flute), Maebh Boyd (fiddle), Jack Tatly
(concertina) & Stephen Carroll (accordion), 1 � 2pm, Riches of Clare
Museum, Ennis

Wed. 12th July: Kevin Crawford (flute), James Cullinane (fiddle) & Mick
Conneely (bouzouki / fiddle), 1 � 2pm, Riches of Clare Museum, Ennis

Wed. 19th July: Karol Lynch (banjo), Michael �Blackie� O�Connell
(pipes), Cyril O Donoghue (bouzouki) & Richie Lyons (bodhr�n), 1 � 2pm,
Sean Lemass Library, Shannon

Fri. 21st July: Claire Keville (concertina), Pat O'Connor (fiddle) and
Terence O'Reilly (guitar), 1 � 2pm, Sweeney Memorial Public Library,

Wed. 26th July: Carmel O�Dea (fiddle), Teresa O�Dea (concertina), Noely
Ryan (guitar) & Derek Hickey (button accordion), 1 � 2pm, Peppers,

Fri. 28th July: Andrew MacNamara (button accordion), Michael Landers
(guitar) & Mark Donnellan (fiddle), 1 � 2pm, Tulla Stables Artist
Studios, Tulla

For further information contact: The Clare Arts Office on or 065-6846267 or Finola Ryan on 087

It's good to see the Arts Council millions going to some good use. I
hope to get to one or two of these concerts.

Sunday afternoon I was again the designated driver out to the opening on
the Greg Norman designed Golf Club where there was music, kids
entertainers, Oysters and Guinness, dinner, wine, Macnas theatre group
and general good fun. I went missing for a whole hour just enjoying the
area and sampling the oysters - just to see if they really were an
aphrodisiac!!! Can't remember now if they were or not because we headed
straight to Steele's pub for a mighty session - we were joined by the
birthday boy Mick Coyne who was in
tremendous form. Lots of tunes, songs and stories into the wee hours -
truly a good fleadh session.

Luckily I had no drink over the weekend - so I was fine for getting up
on Monday morning and high-tailing it back to Dublin as quickly as

Next weekend brings us the launch of Old Simplicity in the Cobblestones
pub - looking forward to that. But tonight - it's the Howth singers

XS2Mail: Check your mail anywhere