I was invited to take part in President O’Higgins Patrick’s day Glaoch. The President was reaching out to Irish people around the world on March 17th. For me the visit was a great experience. Arriving at Áras and Úachtaráín, Michael Devine and I were given a great welcome by all The President’s Staff and by men and women of the Army and Gardaí. This was my 4th visit to “The Park”, having been invited previously by both President Robinson and President McAleese. Encounters with Michael D over many decades have always been memorable. Meeting him again as the elected President of Ireland was a particular pleasure. There was a feeling of having a true “man of the people” in Áras an Úachtaráin. Such a change from our last meeting which was at Féile Na Laoch in Coolea, Co. Cork in the Summer of 2011. Click HERE to see chat archive
On the way in we encountered Seamus Heaney who was leaving having done his “Glaoch” with The President. Later, as I was leaving I met Bono on his way in… it struck me that The President had engaged with all three of us, plus whatever else was on his desk that day. The following day he was recalled from Rome to deal with a constitutional crisis and then flew back to Rome having done the necessary… and some of us think we are busy! It takes great discipline, energy, compassion, selflessness and a lot of help for The President, with his wife Sabina, to fulfil this role and to carry out all the duties involved. The last three Presidents have surely opened up Áras an Úachtaráin to all the people of Ireland…
What was to have been a brief filmed chat soon became a long conversation, with both of us becoming less aware of the technicians and equipment in the room. He read two of his poems to me and I sang Gortatagort and Victor Jara. It truly is way beyond my expectation that these songs would take me to this place. I thought of all the musicians, singers and composers whose works inhabit my repertoire, whose songs give me purpose and pleasure, I felt them with me. These songs have taken me down so many different roads.
I was recently involved in a new film documentary made by Donald Taylor Black called “Skin In The Game”. The film examines the current recession/financial crisis through a number of artists (including myself) who are using it as subject matter for their work. Other participants include Seán Hillen (photographer); Rita Ann Higgins (poet); Brian Maguire (painter); David Quin (animator); Anthony Haughey (photographer); Nicky Gogan (film-maker); David Bolger (choreographer); Gerald Dawe (poet); and David Monahan (photographer) as they look at emigration, ghost estates and the legacy of politicians and bankers. Roddy Doyle has written texts for the film that are voiced by actors including Lorcan Cranitch and Hilda Fay. Showing at Belfast Film Festival on Saturday, April 20th at 5pm (click HERE for tickets) and, hopefully, at a screen near you!
The picture below is Brian Maguire’s painting of Anglo Irish Banks aborted HQ on the banks of The Liffey in Dublin – A true portrait of the times in which we live.
Henry McCullough Tribute Gig
The gig for Henry was a great success. Henry has been seriously ill this past while. Pete Cummins and Frank Murray ran a night which allowed us all to gather and celebrate Henry’s contribution to music. I stood in the wings for most of the gig. It was great to see so many players up close. Henry’s brother Victor played a lovely set with Declan Sinnott. Nollaig Bridgeman set the tone for the night with a loving tribute. Ronan Collins compered and the Vicar Street crew were top notch, keeping the whole show on the road. There were a lot of acts to stage manage but it ran really smoothly. I did not last the whole night as I’d been out gigging all week but I did hear John Spillane, Johnny Duhan, Sweeney’s Men and Alan Murray from Glasgow. Thanks to all of you who came along.
I recorded this song for Mike Harding’s new show on Patrick’s Day …Click HERE to listen
You can also listen to Mike’s shows online by clicking HERE
We had a couple of great nights at The Mount Wolsley in Tullow, County Carlow. I was playing with Martin O’Connor, Cathal Hayden, Shamie O’Dowd and Jimmy Higgins. This was our third outing and the curious combination is beginning to meld mellifluously (I’ve just had strong coffee). Two years ago I sat listening to this Band in Dublin. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of their music. A seed was sown that is now beginning to blossom. I am already looking forward to our next outing. These players are 4 long haul session men whose lives have been steeped in the music and songs of our land. I first played with Martin O’Connor over 30 years ago when we recorded the “Plane Crash at Los Gatos” for an album called The Spirit of Freedom. I met Cathal Hayden in a lay-by in Finland the late 80’s. I was there gigging, as were Four Men and A Dog, with whom he still plays. Shamie O’Dowd is a son of the late (and much loved) Sligo Fiddle player Joe O’Dowd who graced the Sligo music scene for decades with his beautiful playing. I toured with Jimmy Higgins over 20 years ago when he played in Eleanor Shanley’s Band. Since then he has played in the Riverdance ensemble and, these days, can be found with The Stunning, The Saw Doctors and also plays sessions with his wife Breda Smith.
I have been gathering up all my own songs and re-recording them. I hope to present them in a 4 CD release later this year. I have never been prolific but over 40 years have come up with 50 or so pieces of my own, some being collaborations with other writers, mainly Wally Page. I have decided that it’s better to do this while I’m still able rather then someone else trying to do it when I’m gone. The songs are scattered over numerous recordings and labels. I simply want to gather them under one roof, so I have re-recorded all. I’m enjoying the process, keeps me off the streets…
I have been invited to sing for The Dalai Lama, in Derry next month. The invite was issued by Richard Moore, the founder of Children in Crossfire. Click HERE to see their website.
Some new dates for the Diary – see gig page for details… Vicar St Dublin, Ballinasloe, Dundalk, 4 gig tour of Wales, Wexford, Mohill Co Leitrim, Cork, Limerick, Portlaoise, Liverpool, Newcastle, Coventry, Leeds, Derry, Trim Co. Meath… In April 2014 we hope to return to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester and London.
See you along the way,
Save Ireland’s Forests
There will be a walk in Avondale House & Forest Park, Rathdrum on Sunday, 28th April at 1pm to highlight the campaign to stop the governments plan to sell off the harvesting rights to Ireland’s Public forests under the EU/IMF “Troika” programme and to maintain them in public ownership. There will be songs, poems and words from artists, musicians and activists.
Click HERE to sign the petition