It’s been a long time since the last chat. I tried to start a few times but ran out of steam, ground to a halt. Chats usually come together when I am on the road, away from home for a few days. In recent months all the work has been home based. I have been very busy here in the workroom, but busy in a way that defies inclusion. Hopefully there will be something to show for it in due course. So far this year the work has been most enjoyable. When he is available we have been joined by Cathal Hayden on Fiddle and Banjo. A masterful player of Traditional Irish Music he is also an exceptionally gifted contributor to songs. Tasteful and creative, prepared to take chances, to risk a riff, to solo into the (almost) unknown. I love that, Declan has it in spades. Playing with Declan Sinnott, Cathal Hayden and Jimmy Higgins these past months has been exhilarating for this singer. Recent nights in Vicar St, Naas, Mullingar, Ennis, Clonmel, Limerick, Waterford, Dungarvan and Gormanstown have found us hitting some sweet notes and having fun and frolics with our loyal and enthusiastic listeners. Lots of new songsters turning out to hear the songs, many visitors flying in from distant climes to share a chorus with us. The ongoing phenomenon is truly humbling and the encouragement, listening, and commitment is always appreciated and never taken for granted. Last year’s LILY CD and JOURNEY DVD are done and dusted, safely installed on the shelf here in the work room. The Planxty retrospective also entered the archive.
All in all, 2017 was quite a busy year. Now we are stuck into 2018 and looking ahead. Scotland looms once more. A new venue in Hamilton for which we have been rehearsing a particular song. Then on to Auld Reekie and the RCH before climbing the stair one more time – “to hell or to heaven we’ll go”. I have decided to do a series of Solo Gigs this year in the month of June. It is such a different experience. I did 2 solo gigs in Carlow and Carrick-On-Suir last year. Initially I felt totally exposed by the sparse sound and the lack of colour but as the evening continued I began to rediscover the freedom of solo playing. Old songs long since forgotten appeared out of the mist of time. It seems easier to busk intros and to gallop off in different directions. It’s also strange at first being alone in the dressing room, both while preparing for the gig and, even more so, in reflection afterwards. I have various recording plans in mind – about 5 different albums wrestling in my head, but one is already in preparation and may see the light of day in the Autumn. Lots of interesting gigs in place and I am happy to be returning to The Marquee in Cork. We have now played it every year (bar one) since its inception. We’ll give it De Banks. Back to Southern England in the Autumn. Delighted to play the Royal Festival Hall again in September plus a few other Cities not yet confirmed. Something I must share – In recent years I have received songs from hundreds of writers. I regret that I simply cannot respond to you all. I do my best to listen but I have work here that I must prioritise on a daily basis… maybe I will one day get to listen to them all.
The tour continues, the songs reverberate, new listeners turn up as others move on to fresh pastures. We spent a lot of time last year assembling the tracks that made up “On the Road” which was released a few months back and has been well received. It was only after it was released that I remembered the name of my first album, “Paddy on The Road” which was released in 1968. A small part of me still lingers in that Old World but most of me has moved on to these more-or-less enlightened times. I love this current band with Declan Sinnott, Jim Higgins and Cathal Hayden. It’s a pure song band – everyone working towards the song, no other agenda among the rank and file. Lovely spontaneous music which lifts the songs every night. We have loose structures, We have neither set list or running order. Breaks and instrumentals emerge depending upon “the feel’ on any given night.
17th March 2018
Here we are on St. Patrick’s Day 2018. Our lives have been turned upside down by the passing of Liam O’Flynn during the week. We bade him farewell yesterday. 6 of us had the lonesome honour of shouldering our beloved comrade into the Church in Kill, County Kildare. There, along with his darling Jane, his sister Maureen, his family and friends we celebrated his life. We recalled his music and played him off. Liam and Jane have had a hard year as he struggled with declining health but, through it all, the sparkle was always there. His dear friend Paddy Glackin was steadfast in his commitment to Liam and kept us in the picture over recent months. Despite the inevitable, it still came as a shock last Wednesday morning. I have known Liam for 55 years but the enormity of his contribution really hit home when we heard the news. Liam, more than any other, brought the “Uileann” sound around the world. He was and remains “The Master” of our times. His influence upon Irish Music is incalculable. That he carried his music with humility, compassion and with a gentle sense of humour endeared Liam to all who encountered him. That sense of endearment shone through the music played yesterday in the small Church in County Kildare.
Our Piper is gone but his legacy resounds.
Click HERE for an interview with Liam O’Flynn
Click HERE to watch a documentary about Liam O’Flynn