Category Archives: lyrics and lines I especially admire

Finlandia

Up early this morning and off into St Ann’s to assist with the music. Charles is playing a ‘Fugue, Canzone, and Epilogue’ by German composer Sigfrid Karg-Elert. He played a bit of it for me yesterday and I’m looking forward to hearing it again. After the organ opening (in what *looks like* F# major…), there comes a part for violin and also female chorus. They sing the last line of the creed, “I believe in the life everlasting”. I’ll be turning pages.

I’m going to be having another crack at leading the congregation in a hymn, too: the mighty ‘Finlandia’ by Jean Sibelius. It’s a poignant hymn and its stoic words are very fitting for Remembrance Sunday. One of the most prominent features of St Ann’s is its memorial to those who died in The Great War – the names flank the altar. I often look at them as I sit up beside the organ console. One is a Wilson, one is a Dobbin (my step-father’s name).

The memorial in St Stephen’s church (which lost as many of its young men) is to the side of the church. Consider the painful discussions that must have gone on in churches all over these islands.

Be still, my soul…

Scorn Not His Simplicity

My Dad was a big fan of Phil Coulter. He was at Queen’s at the same time as Phil and liked to tell us about the time Phil locked him and a bunch of other students in a room on the campus to rehearse them! As a boy, I went to hear Phil Coulter and his orchestra a number of times—in Craigavon Leisure Centre, in the Grand Opera House at least once—and his albums were staples of family car journeys. I enjoyed his arrangements of Irish folk songs and I still remember going to Matchett’s Music in Belfast one Saturday morning to get a copy of his piano book (which I still have, complete with pencilled-in letters on ‘The Town I Loved So Well’ under the ledger line bass notes that Anna and I hadn’t learned yet). Actually, it’s through Phil Coulter that I got to know most of the tunes in the first place. Definitely a big inspiration to me. I still have a couple of signed photos somewhere with him posing at the piano in a billowy white shirt 🙂

His songs were what particularly made an impression on me. He started his songwriting career at a run, penning a Eurovision winner and a one-point-off-the-top runner-up at a time when doing so meant that, (a) it was a good song, and (b) they were destined to be massive hits. Check out his website for more of his story—it’s very readable, clearly written by him, and filled with loads of stories about the amazing career he’s enjoyed.

I was prompted to write this today by one song in particular, though, ‘Scorn Not His Simplicity’. Written from Phil’s personal experience, this song was first introduced to the world by the wonderful Luke Kelly. Here’s a lovely, intimate recording from a Tallaght pub in 1974:

Today parents, teachers, pupils, Special Needs Assistants and others are taking to the street outside the Dáil here in Dublin to protest the cutting of funding for SNAs. Listen to this song and let your heart go out to them.

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’:

The Marriage of Figaro

In my first year at Edinburgh University I was involved in the student production of Mozart’s opera, ‘The Marriage of Figaro’. The cast sang in English, as I recall (the opera is originally in Italian). It contains some of the most wonderful music and, from my position in the orchestra (I played clarinet), I watched each night as the drama played out. Mozart loved the clarinet – a relatively new invention in his day – and he gives it some lovely melodies.

I knew the guy playing the continuo part, an older student called Gareth Wilson, and he would excitedly point out the sublime, exquisite harmonies with which Mozart tells Da Ponte’s story of class struggle and love. The words ‘sublime’ and ‘exquisite’, if not invented for the purpose of describing Mozart’s art, surely found their calling when he began to write his music.

Don’t take my word for it – go and see this production by Opera Theatre Company!

My other excitement about this particular staging is that my fellow Edinburgh music graduate and fellow Northerner, Emma Morwood (pictured), is playing the lead female role of Susanna. You know those people who just stand out from the crowd and draw people in with their warmth, good-nature, and sense of humour? Emma was one of those at university and she lit up the music faculty 🙂

Don’t take my word for it – go and see this production by Opera Theatre Company!

DUBLIN May 7+8, DUNDALK May 11, SLIGO May 13, GALWAY May 15, DERRY May 20, CARLOW May 22, TALLAGHT May 25, THURLES May 28, TRALEE May 30, BRAY June 2
Tickets: €18-€30. Booking fee may apply.

The Rainbow Connection

A few weeks ago I did a recording for one of my fellow tenors in New Dublin Voices, jazz pianist Stephen Kenny. He has formed a duo with a Finnish singer called Milla Mamia and they needed a demo so they could advertise. I used my Zoom H4 recorder in my kitchen to make the recordings. Firstly, Milla and Stephen did the song and I took a direct stereo output from my Nord Stage piano. Then, I was able to have Milla listen back to that piano track through headphones and sing into the Zoom’s built-in stereo microphones. I then did some editing to do in Audacity, the final stage of which was adding reverb to Milla’s voice.

Check out their website: midnightbluejazz.com

One of the songs they recorded was ‘The Rainbow Connection’ by Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher. This song was pipped for a Grammy in 1979, the year Kermit the Frog sang it in The Muppet Movie. It’s been covered by many people since then (check out the list on Wikipedia’s entry for the song) but I couldn’t find one I liked as much as Milla & Stephen’s. Actual tears!

Kermit is, of course, the benchmark 🙂 I love the attention to detail – the way his hand moves on the chord changes and he strums the correct pattern. Genius puppetry.

Poisoned By McDonalds Blues

My friend Jonny posted this as his facebok status about an hour ago:

POISONED BY MACDONALDS BLUES went to macd’s for a wispa mcflurry now im running to the toilet in a hurry went to macd’s, got me a big mac spent the next day flat on my back went to macd’s for a diet coke outta my way im gonna boke went to macd’s, got me some fries now i feel like im gonna die i aint ever goin back to eat that food although i hear the big tasty is quite good i got those poisoned by macdonalds blues

So I did a wee recording.