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 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 -