Category Archives: links

Grace and poise

This weekend, New Dublin Voices took part in a production of ‘Singin’ In The Rain’ at the National Concert Hall. It was a full week of rehearsals starting with the conductor, John Wilson, putting us through our paces on Monday evening before we went along to the full orchestral rehearsals during the week. It was a wonderful experience—I really enjoyed sitting beside the bass clarinet player, having done a lot of orchestral clarinet playing in university. Being inside the orchestra was great. John Wilson reconstructed the score, the original having been tragically consigned to landfill many years ago. (In an article I read in Classic FM magazine with John, he also sadly notes that a lot of the music libraries of the big studios were destroyed. There was nothing for it but to literally write it all out again. It must’ve been a mammoth task!) The RTÉ Concert Orchestra were augmented with a rhythm section (piano, guitar, bass, drums) and, behind us on stage, a full saxophone section. They had some really lovely moments in the score, providing that close-harmony sound that only saxes can do. Seriously, it was a real treat sitting in the middle of it all and watching the realisation of this sublime music.

Here’s the sequence from the film for ‘Moses Supposes’, which the amazing dancers did pretty much step-for-step at the NCH:

A couple of my friends posted links to this video, too. Jaw-droppingly good. Danny Macaskill is to a trail bike what Gene Kelly is to tap shoes.


This is quite cool indeed—a speeded-up view of what goes into making a music video. Watch this and then the finished version of this catchy tune, ‘Cameo Lover’, by New Zealander Kimbra. Her album will be out in August and it’s looking like it’ll be a cracker.

4 in a Bar

I supported the barbershop quartet, 4 in a Bar, at their CD launch at The Workman’s Club on Wednesday. I did my three best Sting covers: ‘Roxanne’, ‘Seven Days’ (with obligatory story…), and ‘Message In A Bottle’. I also did ‘The Wild Rover’, and would’ve dearly liked to have played my own ‘Trust You’ but for the small problem of having a total mental blank. I still can’t think how it starts. Brilliant.

Anyway, 4 in a Bar are actually brilliant. They showcased the songs from the CD and threw in a few others (including the haunting ‘All The Fine Young Men’, originally by White Raven). I thoroughly recommend buying their CD and getting along to see them perform. Barbershop music is vocally virtuosic, camply complex, and entrancingly entertaining. These guys are the best in Ireland and recently got a silver medal in international competition. Get them while they’re hot. I hear they do weddings…

Jonny Boyle

It’s my friend Jonny Boyle’s birthday today. He is a brilliant guitar player—melodic, jazzy, and musical beyond belief. He is doing a couple of workshops in his home town of Carrickfergus on 25 June, one called ‘Jazz Up The Blues’ and the other on ‘The Modes’. If I know Jonny, it’ll be a great, inspiring session (astonishing value—3 hours for £20, only 5 in the class) and you’ll come away with lots of tasty licks to use in your playing.

click for more info


Here’s Jonny playing a selection of solo guitar tunes suitable for weddings:

DADGAD, feminism & being artistic

These links are unconnected. But everything’s connected, right? Well, what connects them is that I found them all yesterday and I think they’re all worth sharing.

There is a connection between Sam West’s passionate speech at last week’s ‘March for the Alternative’ (he’s the son of Timothy West and Prunella Scales) and Austin Kleon’s empowering artistic manifesto, ‘How To Steal Like An Artist’. Kleon’s piece will rock your world if you want to create something—read and share.


I found Anita Sarkeesian’s Feminist Frequency video blogs via a competition the British Film Institute is running for women who are aspiring to write about film. Start with this one about ‘The Bechdel Test’. I was challenged and enlightened.

Finally, if you’re looking for something to do with your eight precious hours of leisure time, why not go along to ‘An Introduction to DADGAD Guitar‘, taught by Sarah McQuaid, in Walton’s New School of Music on Thursday 7 April? DADGAD is the onomatopoeic word used to denote a system of guitar tuning that is much used by traditional musicians. It is a beautiful sound—jangly and resonant—and it’s easy to pick out pleasing passages, even if you’re a beginner. (It actually helps to be a beginner, as you aren’t ‘stuck’ in thinking of the fretboard in a certain way.) Sarah McQuaid literally wrote the book on this, so she’s the one to give you a great start.


New albums!!

I hope record stores never disappear, just like I hope books never become extinct. I got a voucher to spend in Liffey Valley shopping centre from my in-laws for my birthday. It’s so long since I bought a CD, so that was my single aim when I arrived at the centre the day after my birthday. (Vouchers are always better spent as soon as possible. Apart from the fact that stores make a lot of money from unspent vouchers, there’s little more depressing than finding an expired voucher. Well, that’s not true, but it’s pretty frustrating…)

I hovered over Elbow’s new album, but it’s still selling for top dollar. Looking forward to hearing it, though. Still remember first listening to ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’ while reading the lyrics in the beautifully illustrated album booklet PDF thing.

I wandered over to the jazz section and thought about getting Kurt Elling’s latest album ‘The Gate’. He’s someone I’m really intrigued by, although I don’t have any of his albums. Still, too expensive—I’ll get it on iTunes.

I keep a note of music recommendations and stuff I want to hear in a Google tasklist. Most of it’s from people I follow on Twitter; a track rated here, an album raved about there. A lot of it’s classical (including lots of recommendations from @WrenAmok).

My three choices were:

  • ‘My Dark Twisted Fantasy’ – Kanye West
  • ‘Teen Dream’ – Beach House
  • ‘The Suburbs’ – Arcade Fire

So far I’ve listened to Kanye’s album in the car once and, as I write this, I’m listening to it again through my nice Bose headphones. One thing I’m noticing is that I’m not really listening at all this time because I’m writing… I used to think I could have music in the background while I worked, but now I realise that I cannot attend to both at the same time. You know those brain scans that show how your brain lights up when it’s ‘on’ music? Yeah, that means you can’t do much else while still even pretending to listen to it. Driving is eminently possible, maybe because it’s largely visual…dunno… I think it’s one reason why it’s going to be *very* difficult to persuade folks to abandon motorised vehicles as their primary transport. Things sound good on car stereos these days.

click through to an interesting article...

Anyway, Kanye’s album is staggeringly good and a real piece of artistry. You all know this, of course, because it’s been out for ages 🙂

I’m loving Beach House, too. Fascinating to learn that it’s just two people. Very inspiring.

Haven’t listened to Arcade Fire yet at all.


Here’s a friend of mine, Jonny Boyle, working his magic on ‘Wonderwall’ by Oasis. There are some other lovely instrumental gems on his YouTube channel – subscribe for sporadic surprises 🙂

Tonight with Craig Doyle

On Saturday I was on Craig Doyle’s show, singing with James McMorrow. My fellow backing singers were Jill Deering and Peter Ryan and I did some tambourine, too. We sang a track from James’s album called ‘This Old Dark Machine’ and, unusually for telly, did it completely live and acoustic.

Here’s a link to the lyrics of the song, on James’s website…

It was a great thrill to be part of the show. It’s recorded on Wednesdays and we were shown to a dressing room (with a nice big box of jelly beans to munch on), and had a lovely runner guy who took our dinner order and got us whatever we wanted. We were all too nice to ask for a while, but then I ventured a request for a Diet Coke (rock’n’roll, eh?). Doubtless the guys were summoning all sorts of debauchery after I left and they got a bit more bold 😉

Here’s the clip (the song starts at 03m13s…):

Thankfully the TV people taped our bit first, as I had to rush off to play piano for my girls choir at Loreto Senior Primary in Crumlin. They were doing their Spring show and I had two choirs to play for: the 88-strong group that had taken part in the Hallelujah Chorus project (massed school choirs get together each year to do a concert with a full orchestra), and the younger ‘school choir’. The 88 did an Abba medley and the school choir did two songs I’d been working on with them this term – ‘Colors Of The Wind’ from Pocahontas by the amazing Alan Menken (look him up and marvel at his body of work) and ‘The Peanut Vendor’, a Cuban song about a dude who sells peanuts. I got there with minutes to spare before I was meant to be on…I think the poor head teacher was a little emotionally frayed by the whole experience! Of course, I breeze in with not a bother on me 🙂

Here’s the Abba medley:

And here’s ‘The Peanut Vendor’: