2017 Heart of Ireland Tour: Ancient East May 15 – 25, 2017

LandscapeOur May 2017 tour, Ireland’s Ancient East, begins on the majestic river Shannon at Athlone Castle and the 6th century monastic site of Clonmacnoise. We also visit Loughcrew passage tomb, one of the Boyne valley’s historic gems that pre-dates the Egyptian pyramids. We explore Viking Waterford, medieval Kilkenny and Cahir Castle, a stronghold of the Butler family in Elizabethan times.  An aristocrat’s play cottage, the oldest working lighthouse in the world and the Leviathan, Ireland’s famous 19th century telescope are among the fascinating sites we will see. The spectacular Rock of Cashel, Lough Gur crannog, and Ireland’s largest stone circle round out our eclectic mix of historical and cultural delights. All that and music every night! For more info go to CelticaTours.com.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

Here’s a St. Patrick’s Day treat for you…
From photos taken on my recent Heart of Ireland tours… and the song “The Man From Connemara”.

(Still a couple of seats available on the May 2013 tour

2010 Celtica Tour

Map of west IrelandThe itinerary for next year’s Celtica Heart of Ireland Tour, The Best of the West is now up online and available for booking. I have never seen the bookings come in so quickly. There seems to be a pent up demand from those who were wary of going earlier this year because of economic uncertainties. We also have several repeat passengers, which is wonderful. The 2010 tour will ramble up the west coast from West Cork to Mayo taking in some fabulous places along the way including three islands, Garnish Island, The Great Blasket and Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands. We will also visit some of my favorite towns – Kenmare, Dingle, Doolin, Galway, Cong and Westport, among others. Some of my favorite hotels are also on this itinerary. Benner’s Hotel in Dingle is one of the places people never want to leave and Renvyle House in Connemara has an amazing chef and serves some the best food in Ireland. I can hardly wait. I’m ready to leave right now.

I’ve been back in the studio for the past few days, putting the finishing touches to the new Clancy Legacy CD. Hopefully, it will all be finished in the next month or so and ready for release before Christmas.

I have some interesting gigs coming up, starting this weekend with the Maritime Folk Festival in Portsmouth, NH. I want to thank Celtic Crossing in Portsmouth for their generous sponsorship that made my participation possible. I’m looking forward to checking out their store while I’m there.

In a few weeks I’ll be doing a concert on board the square-rigged ship Balclutha in Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco. I did this a few years ago and really enjoyed it so I’m looking forward to going back. It’s a great feeling to be singing sea songs on an actual ship.

On my way out, I’ll be stopping in Tucson, AZ to do a concert, kindly organized by Melissa and Chris Tatum. I have always loved Tucson and it’s been several years since I was last there so spending some time there will be an added bonus.
The weekend prior to that, I have a duo concert with Mick Moloney at the Blackstone River Theatre in Cumberland RI. The following day, I’ll be with Aoife Clancy at the Irish Heritage Festivalin Quincy, MA.

The first time I went to St. John’s, Newfoundland I was bewildered by the sense of familiarity that I felt. The people all looked like the people I had grown up with in Waterford and the accent was almost the same. It’s not surprising since it’s mostly people from Waterford, Wexford and Kilkenny who first settled the area. They first went out fishing for cod on the Grand Banks in the summers and gradually began to spend the winters there as well. St John’s got its name from the St John’s parish in Waterford city where I was baptized so I feel a real sense of connection there. It looks like I’ll be doing a few concerts in Newfoundland in November. I’ll have more on that in a week or two or you can just check my Concert Calendar, if you are in that area. That’s about it for now. I hope you all enjoy the lovely fall weather.

The Clancy Legacy lives on

The Clancy LegacyI have just added a bunch of new shows to the Concert Calendar. Most of them are Clancy Legacy concerts as Aoife, Donal and I are trying to do as many shows as we can together. We are in the process of recording a new CD and you can listen to a few of the rough mixes at The Clancy Legacy on My Space.

It should be a great session this Sunday afternoon at the Oakhurst mansion in Whitinsville, MA. We are expecting some great singers like Dan & Bonnie Milner, Bridget Fitzgerald, Michael O’Leary and many others. I’ll kick things off with a short concert and then it morphs into an open session where everyone can sing. See the Concert Calendar for more info.

We still have space available on this year’s Celtica Heart of Ireland Tour. Aer Lingus just announced a sale on flights to Ireland so, between that and the stronger dollar, this is a great time to join me on our Northern Sights Tour. You can call 1-800-299-CELT (2358) for more info or if you have any questions.

I heard from Brian O’Donovan, host of WGBH’s Celtic Sojourn radio show that they are archiving their “live” Boston Sessions and the first one is now available. I was delighted to be part of it, along with a bunch of wonderful musicians like Hanneke Cassell, Flynn Cohen, Emerald Rae and many more.

Coming on to Christmas

Amid all the doom and gloom in the air in recent months, I took great joy in witnessing the historic election of Barack Obama. and in seeing him introduce his cabinet on TV today. As someone who had chosen American citizenship, rather than being born into it, I had many misgivings about that decision during the past eight years. Now those doubts are put to rest.

I do not expect him to perform miracles but, at the very least, intelligence and dignity have been restored to the office and the man knows how to pronounce “nuclear.” I decided to make a list of the top ten qualities that I admire in Obama. That’s when the trouble started. I accidentally hit the return key after the fourth line and I almost died of shock. Here’s what I saw:

Dignity
Intelligence
Charisma
Kindness

Charm
Honesty
Energy
Nobility
Equanimity
Youthfulness

You may think this is a coincidence but I am convinced that Cheney is ensconced in his evil lair with some dastardly machine that he uses to manipulate Obama’s mind. I was already suspicious when I heard that he had kept the Republican, Robert Gates, on as Secretary of Defense but this is the last straw. Does anybody know what time the next bus leaves for Canada?

However, I have some good news too. The new Green Fields of America CD is now available at Celtica Music Shop.

Compass Records will not officially release it until February but you can get an advance copy now and give it to yourself or someone else as a Christmas present. I recently did an interview with Brian O’Donovan for his Celtic Sojourn radio show on WGBH. We talked about the Green Fields group and played some tracks from the new CD. You can listen to some of that interview here. It’s a fairly large file so it may take a few moments to download.

Thanks to all of you that have emailed me to say how much you have enjoyed reading “Clean Cabbage in the Bucket.” I just got in a new supply for Celtica Music Shop. It makes a perfect present for any Irish music aficionado who would enjoy a behind the scenes look at the life of the traveling Irish musician or as we are known in scientific circles, Homo Hibernicus Musicus. I think I may have been watching too much PBS recently.

Speaking of PBS, you can see A Christmas Celtic Sojourn on TV in the Greater Boston area on Wednesday, Dec. 3, 7:30pm on WGBH 2, Sunday, Nov. 30, 4:30pm and Friday, Dec. 5, 3:30pm on WGBH 44. It may be on other PBS stations as well so keep an eye out for it.

It is a recording of the show at the Cutler Majestic Theatre that I was part of in 2006 with, our congenial host, the aforementioned Brian O’Donovan. The huge cast consisted of Karan Casey, The Mulcahy Family, George Keith, Shannon Heaton, Navan, Tony McManus, Billy Novick, Kieran Jordan and many more. The Boston Globe called it, ” A musically resplendent stroll through Celtic Midwinter.” There is also a CD and a DVD of the show available from Celtica Music Shop.

Of course the best present of all, for yourself or someone you love, would be a Celtica Tours trip to Ireland, with me, next May. This time we are exploring the Northern Sights of Ireland. I shied away from touring in this area for many years because of the “troubles.” However, the peace process has really worked and it is now possible to safely visit so many of Northern Ireland’s magnificent places like The Glens of Antrim, The Giant’s Causeway and the Grianan of Aileach. It’s the best of all possible worlds, wandering around scenic rural Ireland in the beautiful month of May and listening to great Irish music every night. Please call me at 800-299-CELT if you have any questions.

“Yes, I’m the Great Procrastinator, Woe Oh, Woe Oh….”

Sometimes, procrastination pays off. This time last year, I put some free MP3 downloads of Christmas songs on my website and, you guessed it, they are still there for the taking. I almost did the same with the Christmas lights but I finally got them down in July, which was early for me. And what good did that do me? Now I have to put them all back up again. Why can’t everyday be Christmas? It would make life so much easier.

I hope you all enjoy the upcoming holidays and New Year. My New Year’s resolution is to write my blog more often but don’t hold your breath.

Fall Update

I finally got around to updating the concert calendar on my website. I feel a bit like the Energizer Bunny. I’ve been going non-stop all summer and I just got back from Ireland where I spent a great few weeks. One of the problems with being away so much is that you are constantly playing catch-up. But, at least, I now have the concert calendar up to date for a while. Robbie’s Concert Calendar

In addition to solo gigs, I’ll be doing shows with Aoife and Donal Clancy as The Clancy Legacy, including our Celtic Christmas Concert. Our first gig will be in Mattapoissett at the Kinsale Inn next week. Kinsale Inn

The Green Fields of America is going on the road again. The current line-up is Mick Moloney, John Doyle, Billy McComiskey, Athena Tergis, Jerry O’Sullivan and myself. We recently completed a new CD which will be out on the Compass label in February 2008. I have no idea what the title will be but I will post all the relevant info as soon as I have it.

I will also be doing some shows with George Keith and with Matt & Shannon Heaton including a Mexican Riviera Cruise in January. Irish Music Cruises

The new book, “Clean Cabbage in the Bucket and Other Tales from the Irish Music Trenches,” has finally been published and is available at Celtica Music Shop.
Dennis O’Rourke, Seamus Kennedy, Frank Emerson and Harry O’Donoghue and I got together and compiled a collection of our adventures on the Irish music scene over the past thirty years. We had great fun writing the stories and the reaction so far has been tremendous.

Earlier this year I produced a new CD of Marie Duprey called “Watch The Tide” which I think turned out great. Usually when you finish working on a new recording you don’t want to hear it again once it is finished. But I can’t stop listening to this album. It’s just a lovely collection of great melodic songs and Marie’s singing is excellent. It is now available at Celtica Music Shop

Celtica’s “Best of the West” Irish tour is now booking for May 2008. There’s nothing as beautiful the West of Ireland in the month of May and space is limited so please check out the itinerary before it’s too late. Celtica Tours
With the falling value of the dollar, this is an incredible deal so come with me and I promise you will have the time of your life.

I hope to see you all at some of the shows. Come backstage afterwards and say hello.

Summer Update

I hope you are all enjoying the start of summer. I just updated the concert calendar on my website with a bunch of new shows so I hope you will check it out. Robbie’s Concert Calendar

I will be teaching a class on Songs, Singing and Performance at both the New York Irish Arts Week and Irish Week at the Augusta Heritage Arts Workshop in Elkins, WV
Class Description

The Celtica Heart of Ireland Tour in May was a huge success and, as usual, we had a wonderful time. I’ll be joining Brian O’Donovan again in September on a WGBH learning Tour called an Irish Sojourn. This will be our 4th WGBH tour and it is almost sold out. So if you are interested in that, please don’t delay in contacting WGBH Learning Tours for more info.
Visit Ireland with WGBH learning Tours

For those of you interested in the May 2008 Celtic Heart of Ireland Tour, we are still working on the itinerary but it should be on the website in the next few weeks. Celtica’s Heart of Ireland Tourl

Last year I joined the board of the Blackstone River Theatre in Cumberland, RI. Russell, Bob, Mary Lee and all the volunteers have have created an amazing venue for both performers and audience. I have been a great admirer of the wonderful work they did in restoring a beautiful building and the incredible line-up of acts they bring through there each year so I am delighted to now be part of it. This year, on July 21st, they are having a Celtic festival at Diamond Hill State Park in Cumberland, RI. I lived in Franklin, MA for many years and every time I drove by the park, I though it would be a great setting for a festival. Now it is about to happen so I am really looking forward to it. They are also in need of volunteers for both the festival and the theatre so if you are interested, please contact them.You can find out more at:
Blackstone River Theatre Festival

Over the years I have played with lots of different musicians and I always enjoyed it. It keeps the music fresh and gives a little edge to the performances. This summer will see a few new musical collaborations. I am looking forward to doing more shows with Aoife and Donal Clancy and George Keith as the Clancy Legacy as well as with James Hamilton, the flute player, who will be joining us for the first time in Webster, MA and in Butte, Montana. Sea songs have always been a special favorite of mine so I am thrilled to be doing a Sea Music Festival in Quebec with Dan Milner, one of my favorite singers.

For the past couple of years I have been working on a book of stories from the Irish music scene with four other singers, Dennis O’Rourke, Seamus Kennedy, Frank Emerson and Harry O’Donoghue. Dennis came up with the idea and edited the book which is a collection of stories and anecdotes about life on the road, the gigs, the characters and the craic. It is called, ” Clean Cabbage in the Bucket and Other Tales from the Irish Music Trenches” and it will be available in July. I will do a special emailing when I receive some copies and it will be available on the Celtica website and from Amazon.com. It was a lot of fun writing the stories and Dennis did a great job of pulling it all together. Having five different voices telling the stories gives it a broad range and an interesting variety of styles so I think it will be a great fun read.

It’s going to be a busy summer for me but I am looking forward to it and I hope to see you all at some of the shows.

St. Patrick’s Day Rant

I warned my readers in the beginning that this blog might contain occasional rants. So far I have kept the lid on but no longer. When I see our great rite of spring referred to as “St. Patty’s Day,” I am ready to blow a gasket. Where did this abomination come from?

St. Patrick’s Day is fine if a little formal. “St Paddy’s Day” is comfortable and unpretentious especially for those of us with a healthy skepticism of religious formality. But what kind of fiend coined “St. Patty’s Day?’ Every corpuscle of my Irish blood rebels against this Disneyized, Hallmarked, Fox-newsed abomination. Like the anemic spawn of a morning television show presenter and puerile sitcom star, this appellation has all the insincerity and triviality of a game show. I never once met a man called “Patty.” It might suit a hamburger or a peppermint but not the patron saint of Ireland even if he was a Roman Briton. This has to stop. Don’t let them get away with this.

I know that other problems like global warming and the war in Iraq and Nero in the White House may seem more pressing but 1600 hundred years of Irish history and culture are at stake here and deserve to be treated better than minced beef.

Okay, I think I’m all better now, at least until next March.

Luckily, Aoife, George and I got out to Chicago on Thursday night last to meet up with Matt & Shannon. If we had waited until Friday, we might very well have been stuck here in Providence with the snowstorm that disrupted flights for four days. We had lovely gigs Glen Ellyn, IL, Wausau, WI and Schaumburg, IL and great weather to go with them. Many of our friends on the east coast had to cancel gigs because of the weather so we felt very fortunate.

Isn’t it odd that in thirty years of traveling around the USA and Canada in the month of March, the only gigs ever cancelled due to bad weather were in Dallas, TX and Richmond, VA? We had some close calls in other places. I remember rushing off stage into a taxi on Prince Edward Island in a mad dash to the airport to get out before a blizzard hit and crunching through the snow on Third Avenue in New York when a taxi could not be found at any price. But overall the show went on regardless and people turned out no matter what the weather. I guess it’s all part of March madness and I don’t mean basketball. So here’s to Naomh Padraig and the rites of spring!

February is so long for a short month

Maybe it was spending a couple of weeks in Hawaii but I’ve had enough of winter already. As winters go around here, it was not a bad one but the high winds and low temps this past week are keeping me inside and I’m getting cabin fever. I love living near the ocean but the constant winds at this time of year are the price that must be paid.

Hawaii was beautiful and exceeded my expectations. I thought it would be much more developed. I loved Maui and Kauai in particular but all the islands had a lovely laidback feel to them. One of the great things about being on a cruise is that you get to sample all the islands. It was also great to hang out with all the other musicians and swap yarns. Liam Clancy was in rare form and gave a masterful performance at our Wednesday concert on Maui as did the Makem and Spain brothers in Honolulu before the cruise. You can find out more about the cruise here: Irish Music Cruises
Details of next year’s cruise of the Mexican Riviera may not be posted yet but they should be soon.

Maui is also home to Hamish Burgess who helped promote the cruise and joined us on board. He is a fine highland piper and an inveterate surfer, but not at the same time, I hope although I would definitely pay money to see that. Believe it or not, he runs a business called Maui Celtic that is well worth avisit:
Maui Celtic
And I always thought the Celts only made it as far as Maine!

Hamish also does a weekly two-hour Celtic radio show on KEAO community radio. You can listen online every Sunday at I:00 PM Eastern time:
KEAO
That’s 7:00 AM in Maui or “sparrow fart” as we used to say when I was growing up. I’ll never forget that phrase as it got me in big trouble when I was in primary school. I had to recite a W.B. Yeats poem called the Ballad of Father Gilligan that contained the line, “Upon the time of sparrow chirp, When the moths came once more.” You guessed it. I greatly improved the poem by substituting “sparrow fart” for “sparrow chirp” but my literary improvisation did not go over well with the teacher. The ridicule that followed may have stifled a budding writing career.

I am addicted to the Internet and one of the things I enjoy most is Internet radio. RTE, the Irish radio station has some wonderful shows: RTE Radio 1
as does the BBC: BBC Radio

Both stations have large archives and there are some rare gems to be found there. Irish and English radio is much more eclectic than in the USA where programming is geared to marketing to certain demographics.

The archived shows on RTE can be found here:
Past Shows

For you traditional music lovers I recommend the following:
The Late Session
The Rolling Wave
Mo Ceol Thu

The series “Documentary On One” had a show on the great accordion player Tony McMahon that was stunning. It really captured the Ireland of the 1950’s and Tony’s honesty and sincerity were riveting. To my mind, this is radio at its best.
Port na bPucai

For those more interested in songs, there’s the brilliant series presented by Ian Lee that explores the connections of the songs of Ireland, England and Scotland.
Shamrock, Rose & Thistle

Tommy Sands did a short series that is a must-listen for all of us Tommy fans Songs to be Sung

His brother Colm did a lovely series too Rootin’ About

Pádraigín Ni Ullacháin has a series on the songs of Oriel, South East Ulster that is a perfect companion for her wonderful book ” A Hidden Ulster.”
Songs from a Hidden Ulster

The late great Franks Harte’s Singing Voices series is also wonderful. Singing Voices

Sunday Miscellany is not a music show but has been a favorite of mine for over thirty years. RTE describes it as follows: “Now in its fourth decade on the airwaves Sunday Miscellany is one of Ireland’s longest running shows on RTE Radio 1. Today the programme’s mix of ‘music and musings’ continues to be as fresh as ever with contributions to the programme coming from open submissions and commissioned work delivered on the air with new voices complementing more established writers across each programme. From radio essays to reportage, appreciations, memory pieces, poetry, travel writing to personal accounts of events and happenings this programme is essential listening on the radio and the web to thousands of people all over the world.”
Sunday Miscellany

I got a Nokia 9300i Communicator recently that has an Opera web browser and Real Player so it can double as a radio for online stations as well as a phone. To my great disappointment it does not play “.smil” files which is what RTE uses. However after weeks of combing the web for a solution, I discovered Radio Feeds
It covers just about all the internet radio stations in Ireland and Britain and is
a handy way to access stations in different formats. They had a connection to RTE as a ram file so now I can listen on my phone. Luckily I have an unlimited data plan so it doesn’t cost me anything extra.

I guess I’d better stop now. This is only the tip of the iceberg and I haven’t even mentioned the BBC shows. Remember too that many of these shows are also available as podcasts, a great way to shorten the road on long trips. So turn off that TV, throw a couple of logs on the fire and listen away to your heart’s content.

Speaking of TV, I just have to mention Deadwood, the HBO series. My kids gave me the first two seasons on DVD for Christmas and it is spectacular. I always hated westerns but this is not at all what I expected. It is the best series I have ever seen on TV. It is positively Shakspearian at times. It is not for the squeamish or prudish and if you are offended by colorful language and sexual situations you might want to stick to the Disney channel. The writing is phenomenal and the acting is excellent. Ian McShane, in particular, is incredible. This may be old news to many of you but I always lag behind when it comes to pop culture. I like to get in when the winnowing has been done for me.

By the way, I’d love to hear your suggestions for must-listen downloadable shows or podcasts. Just click on “comments” to include yours.

Last but not least, check out this clip on YouTube.
Introducing The Book
Brilliant! Thanks Gene.

The Great Procastinator

Being Irish, I have the procrastination gene in abundance but, on Thursday, I actually took the wicker chairs off the porch and put them in the cellar. I had been thinking about doing that since October and it felt so good to get it done that I even put up Christmas lights. Not only that but I stacked firewood and burned the remaining gas in the lawnmower and cleaned and covered the gas grill. What the Hell is wrong with me! If this keeps up, I may start working on my taxes. I’m pretty sure it’s just a passing aberration but I’m going to keep an eye on myself just in case.