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.

WGBH to film Christmas Celtic Sojourn

I got an email a few days ago from Brian O’Donovan, who is organizing and hosting the Christmas Celtic Sojourn at the Emerson Majestic Theatre in Boston next week. The five shows are almost sold out and they have added an addition show on Monday 18 December. We were going to be there anyway on Monday as WGBH television is filming the concert for future broadcast but now due to demand it has been opened to the public. If you are interested in being part of the recording, you can email Brian for more information.

The first posting

For the past few months I have been spending a lot of time in the recording studio. I just finished producing Marie Duprey’s new CD. Marie has a beautiful voice and the album is a wonderful collection of traditional and contemporary songs, including several fine songs written by Marie and her fiancé Michael Ross. It should be available early next year. I have also started work on my own new CD and I will also be producing Aoife Clancy’s next CD so it looks like I’ll be spending even more time in the studio.

Luckily for me, Mockingbird Studio opened in Mansfield, MA about a year ago. It’s great to be able to work close to home and Derek Pisano is a wonderful engineer with a great sense of humor. Recording can often be a stressful experience but laughter is a great tension breaker. We’ve had a lot of laughs while getting the job done and it has been a great working environment. It reminds me of the time Johnny Cunningham produced a CD for me and I would literally go home a pain in my face from all the laughing.

Debbie Casey from Irish Music Cruises tells me that there is still some space available on the January 22 -29 Cruise. If you want to break up the winter, you could join us for a great week of Irish music and cruise the Hawaiian Islands while your envious friends are stuck here in the January doldrums. Check out the great line-up of performers. I have never been to Hawaii so I’m really looking forward to this cruise. You can get more info on the website or at 888-56-IRISH (888-564-7474).

I have also been busy writing stories for an upcoming book called Clean Cabbage in the Bucket. It is a collection of stories from the Irish music scene over the past few decades. There are five contributors, Dennis O’Rourke, Seamus Kennedy, Frank Emerson, Harry O’Donohue, and myself. Dennis came up with the idea and he has also done a marvelous job as the project editor. Anytime musicians get together, they tell stories of their adventure and mis-adventures on the road and he thought it would be great to let people listen in. There are all kinds of stories; some of them hilarious and the five different voices make a delightful mix. We all got together last month at Kevin Barry’s in Savannah, GA to have some pictures taken and we spent a most enjoyable couple of days hanging out and telling yarns. The book should be available in February and you will be able to find it at Celtica Music Shop. I’ll do an update on it when I get more news.

I recently visited WGBH studios in Boston to record a live concert for Brian O’Donovan’s Celtic Concert series. Along with two superb musicians, George Keith and Shannon Heaton, I spent an hour before a live audience singing and chatting with Brian. The show will air this Saturday, 25 November between 12:00 and 3:00 PM on FM 89.7 in the Boston area. It will also be available online live and in the archive at WGBH.org. Just follow the links to “radio” or “Celtic Sojourn.”

Shannon, George and I are also part of A Christmas Celtic Sojourn that Brian will host in Boston, December 14–17. I was part of the first show in 2003 at the Somerville Theatre and it has now grown into a Christmas tradition and moved to the elegant Cutler Majestic Theatre in downtown Boston and grown from one show to five. If you are interested in going, don’t delay as I hear it is almost sold out already.

I will also be doing a Christmas Concert with Aoife and Donal Clancy and George Keith in Fairfield CT on December 2nd. Info about this and other upcoming gigs can be found here on my calendar.

As I have done for the past twelve years now, I will be taking a group of music-mad adventurers to my favorite parts of Ireland in May 2007 on our Celtica Heart of Ireland Tour, South By Southwest. You can check out the itinerary at the Celtica website. As usual, we will have several repeat passengers and Alice, Sean, Joe and I look forward to seeing them all again as well as making new friends on our rural rambles and at our nightly music sessions. The tour is about half full at the moment and filling fast. For more information call 800-299-CELT (2358) or email me.

Some of my recordings will soon be available for download at the Apple iTunes Store. The link is not active yet but will be in the next couple of weeks so if you get an iPod for Christmas you will be all set. As always, my CDs and many others are available at the Celtica Music Shop. We expect to add some new titles before Christmas.

Here’s a little sound clip that my friend Don Blain sent me and it’s so funny I just have to pass it on. Click to download MP3.

I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving, the best holiday of them all.

Robbie