“As I went out by Galway Town, to seek for recreation”
One night last May, in Nuremore near Carrickmacross in the County of Monaghan, a woman’s voice quietly requested “The Curragh of Kildare”. I made mental note and continued to sing out into the night. It was a great gathering. My first time back in Kavanagh’s County for almost 10 years. Some time later the call came again “Please sing The Curragh”. Whatever way the woman asked, as her voice rang out alone in the midst of a cacophony of requests, I could not resist. I took a chance and fingered the opening chords; Declan followed me and broadened the canvas. Memories came flooding back. Visions of Donal Lunny and I working out this song (back in 1961) as we pored over P.W. Joyce’s collection of songs and melodies. That night, there in Nuremore, the memories flowed again as I segued carefully into Robbie Burns beautiful paean to absent love. Soon after, from way down the back of the hall, a man called out for the “Chinese Cockle Pickers”. We played Morecambe Bay and it was probably the song of the night. Recently the sets have been longer. That night 33 songs ran for 2 hours 14 minutes. It’s not something planned or discussed. It simply happens.
I was in Dublin City the other day. Inside the Black Lagoon doing a bit of banter for Newstalk FM with Tom Dunne. He does a daily talk show and also sings the music himself. Back in the mid 80’s Tom was in a band called Something Happens. They never broke up. They do a gig every year to keep the hand in, in case the day jobs fold. Tom also does a special bank holiday radio gig. A desert-island-disc sort of affair. I’m the castaway lined up for the August Bank Holiday or whenever. (You can listen to the show by clicking here) Anyways, I was in there for two hours rawmaishing amongst the rapscallions. Afterwards I went to the guitar shop for plectrums, strings, capos, a tuner, a strap and a bit of a yarn. Down the street I tried to buy a shirt but had to run out of the shop for it was full of magpies. I was ambling up Drury Street when I spotted a man I don’t meet every day. He was perfectly situated on the corner of an interesting intersection. Standing back into the corner he was in the sunniest place in The City. As I came towards his eyrie I quietly sang the opening verse of “The Boys of Barr na Sraide”. He never even looked my way but replied with a lovely poem from Sigerson Clifford. He spoke of Lyracrompane and Mickey McConnell, of days on the bog and of Civil War. How that awful war divided friendships and families. He spoke of John Joe Sheehy and his mid-field partner. He thought that Kerry would play The Gooch at full forward (they did). I shared a few words about The Lily Whites and then told him of a great song I got from Mick Blake of Leitrim Village. Going back to the bog I then described a song of my brothers that I was learning. We talked of John B Keane until the sun moved away from that perfect loitering corner. We both knew that it was time to part. I left him with a verse from John B’s. “O Cricklewood you stole my heart away”. It was Brendan Kennelly. That Kingdom Man of Poetry, of Trinity and of Humour, Kindness and Observation.
Three Nights in the Button Factory, Temple Bar, Dublin.
I wanted to do something a bit different. Paddy Doherty and Conor Byrne came up with the idea of doing 3 Monday Night Gigs in The Button Factory. (Conor is my nephew. He is a musician who also runs The Liffey Bank Music Sessions) I saw it as an opportunity to play with, and to hear, some of my favourite musicians. We contacted Liam O’Flynn, Laoise Kelly, Mairtín O’Connor, Cathal Hayden, Seamie O’Dowd, Jimmy Higgins and they were all up for it so Paddy and Conor got to work and pulled it all together. We had three great nights of music. The whole process left me wanting more. Singing in the midst of these players is pure pleasure. I liken it to being wrapped up in a cosy blanket of comfort and intense colour. We just gotta do it again.
Monday July 2nd
Liam O’Flynn and Laoise Kelly arrived into the venue at 5 and we got straight down to picking some tunes and running through the various pieces. So many memories came back when Liam began to play. Perhaps more than any other musician Liam’s music affects me deeply. It’s been 6 years since we last played together. The final concert of the last Planxty tour at the RFH London. I have never sung with Harp before. Since hearing Laoise Kelly play at The Bantry Masters a few years back I have wanted to sing with her accompaniment. All my hopes were fulfilled. Laoise has focus, discipline and great enthusiasm. Add these facets to her beautiful playing and singing with her was indeed a great experience. We had a great gig. We played…
1. Conor Byrnes Reels.
2. Magic Nights
5. Tyrone Boys
7. Michael Hayes
8. Wicklow Boy
9. Ruby Walsh
11. Brendan’s Voyage
12. Yellow Furze Woman (joined by Laoise Kelly)
13. Achill Air.
14. Wandering Aonghus
15. Back Home Derry
16. Puttin it off
17. Honda 50
18. Liam O Flynn’s Foxchase
19. The Gold Ring.
20. Ensemble… Sí¬ Bheag Sí Mhór
21. Cliffs of Dooneen
22. Raggle Taggle Gypsy
23. Chattering Magpie
24. Easter Snow
25. An phis fhliuch
26. Lord McDonalds
Monday July 9th
I was very excited by the prospect of playing with Mairtín O’Connor’s band. I had heard them playing earlier in the year and just loved their sound. I wrote a review of the gig (see chat Oct-Nov 2011).We met up at 4pm on the day of the gig and got down to it straight away. From the off it just clicked – 4 musicians all with an ear for the songs. The accompaniments fell into place quickly with lots of grace notes, rhythms, supporting riffs, lovely breaks. All the things a singer dreams of were here in abundance. We had a great time. It was like singing whilst flying on a magic carpet of sound. Not everyone agreed with me on this but I only consider my own feelings when writing these few words about my own experience. We played…
1. Conor Byrne’s Jigs
2. This is The Day
3. Morecambe bay
4. Sacco and Vanzetti
5. Magic Night
6. Tyrone Boys
8. Curragh of Kildare
9. Yellow Furze Woman
11. Victor Jara
15. Well below Valley (with Jimmy Higgins)
16. Pity the Poor Immigrant (Ensemble)
17. Road West
18. Cat Walk
19. Cedars of Lebanon
20. O’Connor’s Reels
21. Los Gatos
22. As I roved out
23. Missing You
24. Johnny Jump Up
28. Cathal Hayden’s Selection
Monday July 16th
It had been my intention to make this a solo gig.as the days approached I began to get a bit shaky. By the time Monday came around Declan had agreed to come along. We both did solo sets and then played it out together.
1. Wounded Hussar (Conor Byrne)
2. Conor Byrnes Jigs
3. Go Move Shift
4. Spanish Lady (Adam Sherwood’s call)
5. Down by the Liffeyside.
6. Hey Ronnie Reagan.
Declan Sinnott Set
15. The Noise it makes
16. Sun Shine In
17. Broken Glass
18. I see the world from here.
19. Billy Gray
20. Missing You
21. Quiet Desperation
22. Honda 50
23. Duffy’s Cut
Woody Guthrie Set
24. Ludlow massacre
25. Sacco and Vanzetti
26. Los Gatos Valley
27. Michael Hayes
30. Ride On
33. Cliffs of Dooneen
There was so much to like about these three gigs: Meeting up and playing with so many great musicians, gigging in a Dublin city centre club space again. Memories of Coffee Kitchen in the 60’s, The Meeting Place in the 70’s, The Baggott Inn in the 80’s, Mother Redcaps in the 90’s. There were some in the audience that have followed the songs right through all those times and lived to tell the tale. Once the Button Factory Gigs were done I began to focus on the upcoming gig in The Galway Arts Festival.
July 20th 2012.Galway Arts Festival the Big Tent on Fisheries Field
The Concert was opened by Four Men and a Dog who are Gerry O’Connor, Cathal Hayden, Gino Lupari, Kevin Doherty and Donal Murphy. They kicked off the night in style and had the audience bopping… after “The Dog” Declan and I played…
1. This is The Day
2. After the Deluge
3. Ordinary Man
4. Black is the colour
5. Missing You
6. City Of Chicago
7. North and South of the River
8. Ride On
9. Joxer goes to Stuttgart
10. Sonny’s Dream
11. Go Move Shift
12. Nancy Spain.
13. Quinte Brigada
14. Bright Blue Rose.
15. Biko Drum.
16. Back Home in Derry
(Set with the Dog)
19. As I roved out.
20. Raggle Taggle.
21. Cliffs of Dooneen.
It was very much a juke box of a set. I realised early on that familiarity was the order of the night. The tent was a heaving mass of songsters’ young and old and everywhere in between. Right down to the very back canvas they were ready to sing. Any attempt to perform new or recent work brought on a rapid decline in interest so I succumbed to the demands of the night and rolled out the auld reliables. Declan and I could hear little or nothing on stage but we hung on for dear life and kept the gig going (a few times I hoped that were we playing the same song!)”The Dog” joined us for the finale and that was sweet. I first met this band in a lay-by Finland 25 years ago and then did a gig with them in Helsinki. It’s taken all this time for us to play together. Speaking of lay-bys in Finland, I wish to offer the wooden spoon to our National Roads Authority who oversees our new road systems. Our new highways suffer a disgraceful lack of facilities to park, rest and freshen up before continuing on a journey. what few “pull ins” do exists have nothing to offer but discarded rubbish, overflowing bins, nappies and dog shite and, maybe, the opportunity for a quick illegal toilet at the side of your vehicle. The Board of Directors number 14. They are all political appointees. It is sometimes baffling to try and figure out the lack of joined-up-thinking that exists in Government and Bureaucracies.
I would like to include here an interview with Kernan Andrews which took place in the run up to Galway Arts Week. I first met Kernan 35 years ago when I visited his parents’ home in Craughwell Co Galway. He was just learning to walk. Kernan is a son of the late Joe Dolan, founder member of Sweeny’s Men with Johnny Moynihan and Andy Irvine. I thought it a fine piece and asked his permission to include it here…
Interview with Kernan Andrews of The Galway Advertiser
His first time in Galway was in 1962 as a teen folk singing wannabe. A decade later he was back as part of Irish trad’s first “supergroup”. Ten years later he was a controversial supporter of the Hunger Strikers. And tomorrow he headlines the Galway Arts Festival Big Top.
Christy Moore is no stranger to Galway and has played the city numerous times across his near 50 year career as a folk singer and songwriter. The first time the Kildare man set foot here was as a teenager in 1962.
“My first visit was Race Week that year”, Christy tells me. “I was a 17-year-old with a guitar. The late Christy O’Connor got me up in O’Connor’s out in Salthill where I sang “Roisín the Bow” and “The Jug of Punch”. He invited me back the following night and myself and John Flood got off with two nurses. Ten years later I came back with Planxty to play in The Hangar where Leisureland now stands.”
At that now legendary show, the quartet of Moore, Donal Lunny, Andy Irvine, and Liam Óg O’Flynn blew headliner Donovan off the stage, and from there would dominate the 1970’s Irish folk revival as one its most brilliant and inventive acts.
Those were also days of wild and outrageous behaviour. In his book, One Voice, Christy mentioned dropping a tab of acid while playing with Planxty and The Dubliners during the Galway Races in 1972 and “seeing strange stuff, not all of it friendly”.
“I have put all that behind me now” is all Christy will say today, before adding mischievously, “these days you are more likely to find me at confession with the Redemptorists, at the side entrance to the cardiac unit, or coming out after a bit of after-hours reiki…all that acid stuff was but a figment of my imagination…”
Throughout his career, Christy has never been afraid to take a strong stand on highly controversial issues, most famously against the proposed nuclear power plant at Carnsore Point in Wexford in the late 1970’s, and in support of the republican Hunger Strikers in 1981. Taking such positions met with a vitriolic reaction.
In “One Voice” Christy recalled how Galway had a “very vocal anti-Republican element back then and he was “taken aback at the way people turned on me”. However the city’s musicians did not abandon Christy and one who stood by him and played the concert was the late fiddler Mickey Finn.
“I can remember that he put all his money in the basket, that he played his heart out and that Galway has never been the same, for me, without him” says Christy.
Playing Galway these days is a different experience and Christy has regularly played Leisureland over the last couple of years to near instant sell-out audiences. How does he feel the city has changed in that time?
“Everywhere has changed in my life time”, he says. “I remember Galway winning three-in-a-row; the Bishop of Galway banning “mixed bathing” – the dirty minded bollocks; Des Kelly and The Capitol being Number 1 in The Irish Charts; when there was only one De Danann; Michael D presenting me with a platinum disc; Moving Hearts falling asunder in St.Patrick’s Hall, and reforming two hours later in The Skeff.”
Christy’s companion at many of his Galway shows over the past number of years, and the Big Top show will be no different, is guitarist Declan Sinnott. How and when did the two men meet?
“I first met Declan at Hyde Park Corner in London in 1972”, says Christy. “He was after leaving Horslips and I was greatly impressed by his Afghan jacket and flares. He let on he did not recognise me. I thought that was really cool”.
What does Christy most value about having Declan by his side at the shows? “He always has spare plectrums and plenty of good movies on his Mac”, he replies.
Christy says he and Declan are determined to “take the Galway Arts Festival by storm”.
“It is our intention to drive the snakes from the field back down The Corrib”, he declares, “to awaken the spirits of Mickey Finn, Pete Galligan, Corky and “Mate” Lydon. Myself and Declan are hoors for the bit of art.”
As well as playing many of his best known and loved songs, Christy will also be performing songs from his critically acclaimed Folk Tale album, which was released late last year. Not surprisingly, given the turmoil of the times brought about by the recession, issues of emigration and eviction abound.
The album opens with “Tyrone Boys” which ends with images of people sitting in an airport waiting to leave: “All the young ones are leaving the island”.
“This is a reworked version of a song I wrote and recorded in 1986 for an album called Unfinished Revolution”, says Christy. “We still export the cream of the crop, people still being hunted from the land”.
Continuing the theme of eviction is “Michael Hayes”. It is not hard to see this as a song where the past echoes contemporary concerns for people fearing their homes may be taken from them if they cannot keep up mortgage payments.
“Eviction can be a cruel weapon of oppression”, says Christy. “Michael Hayes could take no more and struck out in anger and fear, it was his last resort”.
The album is not all doom and gloom though; there is plenty of Christy’s trademark, irreverent humour in “Weekend in Amsterdam” and “My Little Honda 50”.
“Weekend in Amsterdam” was written by my old neighbour in Newbridge, Paul McCormack, who is the resident bard of my home town”, says Christy. “He assures me this song is based entirely on hearsay and second hand information. I am indeed familiar with Amsterdam but, of course, not with the areas referenced. I tend to visit the galleries and churches of the old city. You’re more likely to find me on my knees in prayer than on my back in some coffee shop…
“My Little Honda 50” written by Tom Tuohy, perhaps the greatest songwriter ever to come out of The Bog of Allen. My first ride on a Honda 50 was in 1961 when Slicey gave me a pillion over to Lawlor’s Ballroom in Naas to hear Brendan Bowyer.”
(End of interview)
After Galway I bade farewell to Declan, Paddy, Michael, Dickon, Johnny, David and Geoff as we all went our separate ways until we gather again in Dingle later this month.
Keep in touch; see you along the way …