On the high seas


This year’s Irish Music Cruise was a great success. I really enjoyed playing with Aoife, George, Matt & Shannon. Since we were setting out from Los Angeles, Willie Quinn organized a great concert for us in Santa Barbara beforehand. We had a great time but were surprised to find the weather was cold and wet. It was weird to see snow on the mountains around Los Angeles and it didn’t really feel hot until we got to Acapulco. We spent a few days at sea but we had some great sessions on board the ship. Cabo San Lucas is a strange place. When you go ashore they greet you by putting an iguana on your head. Thanks to Hamish Burgess for the photo.

We had some great additions to the roster this year with Danny Doyle, Fiona Walsh and Ciaran Sheehan. Danny’s show about the 1916 Rebellion was brilliant. The only downside of the week, for me, was the Patriot’s loss in the Super Bowl. I still can’t believe they got out-coached and out-played but hats off to the Giants for playing so tough. They won it fair and square. The 2009 cruise will be in the Caribbean and we will get to visit a lot of Mayan ruins. I’m really looking forward to that. The information should be up soon at Irish Music Cruises .

I’ll be doing my first gig in Bristol, RI next Saturday at the Stone Church Coffeehouse.
The Clancy Legacy will be back at the Kinsale Inn
in Mattapoisett on Sunday March 2nd for an afternoon show at 4.00 PM. There are a bunch of other shows coming up in Michigan, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Massachusetts and West Virginia and you can find all the relevant on my Concert Calendar.

Keep an eye out for a Concert Film and Documentary, called Absolutely Irish, by award-winning filmmaker, Paul Wagner. The world premiere screening will take place on March 2 nd at the Irish Arts Center in New York. It is edited down from about 8 hours of performances we did last April and features an amazing cast: Mick Moloney, Susan McKeown, John Doyle, Seamus Egan, Eileen Ivers, Karen Casey, Liz Carroll, Joanie Madden, Athena Tergis, Niall O’Leary, Darrah Carr, Tim Collins, Jerry O’Sullivan, Mike Raferty, Billy McComiskey, Brendan Dolan, Rhys Jones, Mac Benford and Jo McNamara. And, oh yeah, I’m in there too. I haven’t seen the film yet but it was an incredible concert so I have high expectations. There’s a clip of the Fiddlers on You Tube. The full show should be on most PBS stations in the month of March. It will also available soon on CD and DVD.

The Blackstone River Theatre in Cumberland, RI is hosting a photographic exhibition, called In the Heart of the Hibernian Metropolis by Fionan O’Connell until March 20th. Fionan is my first cousin and an amazing photographer as well as one of my favorite people on the planet. You can read more about the exhibit and see some of his work at Fionan O’Connell.

I’m getting together this week with Aoife and Donal Clancy to work on material for a new CD. We hope to do some recording next month and get a Clancy Legacy CD out by the end of the year. With all our different schedules, it’s tricky finding times when we can get together but with a little luck we should be able to do it. By the way, we will be playing together at the Dublin Ohio Irish Festival this August.

I’m looking forward to the Irish tours this year. I’ve had enough of winter and I can’t wait to be in Ireland in May. The WGBH tour is sold out but we still have a few spaces available on the Celtica, Best of the West Tour May 19-28. Wandering around the west of Ireland in the month of May is hard to beat and you can join us if you wish by contacting Celtica Tours.

Christmas season 2007

Some of you may remember that this time last year I was one of the performers in the Christmas Celtic Sojourn at the Emerson Majestic Theatre in Boston. That concert is now out on DVD and CD. Either one of them would be a great present for any fan of Irish music.

Another great gift idea is the book I co-wrote with four other performers: “Clean Cabbage in the Bucket and Other Tales from the Irish Music Trenches.” It was published just a few moths ago and the response has been amazing. The first printing is almost sold out so don’t wait too long to get your copy. Here are a couple of early reviews:

“IT IS FIRST AND FOREMOST, FUNNY; BUT ALSO MEMORABLE, AT TIMES SHOCKING, POIGNANT, INSIGHTFUL AND A VERY COMPELLING READ. THE ONLY TIME I PUT IT DOWN WAS TO GIVE MYSELF TIME TO STOP LAUGHING.”
JOHN O’BRIEN IRISH AMERICAN NEWS OCT 07.”

“The book gives you an insider’s view, painted by these expert storytellers, of a musician’s life…. Just try reading one story and putting the book down. It is impossible. The great yarns come one after another, so plan on spending a large block of time with it once you crack it open.”
Mike Farragher: www.celticlounge.com

The book, DVD and CD are available at
Celtica Music Shop and will ship in time for Christmas if ordered before 18th December.

Last Saturday, Aoife and Donal Clancy and I kicked off our Clancy Legacy Celtic Christmas tour with a sold out show at the wonderful Blackstone River Theatre in Cumberland, RI.
This weekend we will be in Germantown Maryland and the following weekend in Sewell, NJ, West Hartford, CT and Mattapoisett, MA. After that we will be in Dennis, MA and Milwaukee, WI. You can find all the details on my Concert Calendar

One of the great things about being a procrastinator is that sometimes it works in your favor. The guy who still hasn’t taken down his Christmas light from last year only has to plug them in again this year. In a similar fashion, the free MP3s of Christmas songs I put on my website this time last year are still there. How’s that for procrastination? Feel free to download them at you leisure. It is probably safe to assume that they will be there for a while.
Free MP3s

Several people have asked where they can find my song The Winning Side. It is on the Never Learned to Dance CD, which will be re-issued in the next few months. However, you can download a free MP3 from the Songbook section of my website.
The Winning Side

The Celtica Heart of Ireland Tour 2008, The Best of the West is now half full which is very good for this time of year. Once again we have several return passengers who can’t wait to get back to Ireland in May. With the US dollar so weak against the Euro at the moment, it is incredibly good value. You can check out the itinerary and all the details at Celtica Tours.
Celtica Tours

I would like to wish you all a Happy Holiday Season and a Wonderful New Year!

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.

Christmas 2006

Ten days ago, we finished the last of six Christmas Celtic Sojourn concerts at the Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston to sold-out crowds. Congratulations to Brian on establishing this as an annual Boston Christmas tradition in just three years. I participated in the first one at the Somerville Theatre in 2003. It was just one show and I never imagined that it could grow so quickly.

It was interesting to get a glimpse of what it is like to be in a theatrical run of a musical or play. There are many hours of technical preparations before the curtain rises; sound checks and lighting cues, prop placement, exits and entrances. All these things have to be planned for twenty musicians, singers and dancers, a task that was handled with impeccable skill and diplomacy by the director, Paula Plum. For a couple of days before the show opened, we did a lot of sitting around and waiting on stage or in the dressing rooms. But there was great camaraderie between the cast and we had a lot of fun as well. The hardest part was seeing so little daylight. There were nine high-definition television cameras there to record the final show so it should be on a TV near you next Christmas. They taped almost three hours of material for a one hour show so hopefully one of my bits will survive the edits.

At one point in the show, Brian and I talked about the Irish Christmas traditions that we miss here in the USA like 26th December, St Stephen’s Day, and the custom of going off with the wren or the “wran” as it is usually pronounced. The Wren Boys can still be seen in many parts of Ireland. In the old days, groups of young men would kill a wren and place the body in a holly bush. They would then dress up in costume and carry the holly bush and wren around to neighbor’s houses and sing the Wren Song outside the door. This usually resulted in an invitation inside for food and drink. Coins were also collected to defray the cost of burying the wren.

The wren, the wren, the king of all birds
St Stephen’s Day was caught in the furze
Although he was little, his honor was great
Jump up me lads and give us a treat

As I was going to Killanaule
I met a wren upon the wall
Up with my wattle and knocked him down
And brought him into Carrick town

Dreolin, dreolin where’s your nest
‘Tis in the bush that I love best
‘Tis in the tree, the holly tree
Where all the boys do follow me

Up with the kettle and down with the pan
And give us a penny to bury the wren

I followed the wren three miles or more
Three miles or more, three miles or more
I followed the wren three miles or more
At six o’clock in the morning

I have a little box under my arm
Under my arm, under my arm
I have a little box under my arm
A penny or tuppence would do it no harm

Mrs Clancy is a very good woman
A very good woman, a very good woman
Mrs Clancy is a very good woman
She’ll give us a penny to bury the wren

In more recent times, we would forego the wren part and just disguise ourselves with greasepaint and homemade costumes and go wandering around to country pubs singing and collecting money for local charities like Meals on Wheels. We’d often have a convoy of ten or fifteen cars roaming around little villages like Kilmoganny, Tullahought and Ballypatrick.

My uncle Bobby Clancy, Aoife’s dad, was our our fearless leader. He had the ability to persuade even the shyest person to improvise a costume and join in the fun. I remember one year when I was about 7, Bobby appeared at our house in Waterford to take us “off with the wran.” My mother was delighted but my father, who was not an extrovert, adamantly refused to participate. But Bobby was relentless and he finally convinced my father that he could disguise him so that even his own mother wouldn’t recognize him. He told him that he didn’t have to sing; all he had to do was collect the money for the Meals on Wheels. So with a blackened face and a floppy woman’s hat and a toga, my father set out with the gang. Still fearing that he might be recognized, he had solicited a promise from Bobby that they would stay well away from any pubs in the city. True to his word, Bobby packed us all in his old black Ford and headed off to the village of Kilmacow in county Kilkenny. We stopped outside a pub and started singing before going in. So far, so good. The pint-drinking patrons received us warmly. My father went around with a tin can collecting money. There was another little room off the main room in the bar and as he stepped through the door, a voice piped up, “How’re you Sean? Did you have a good Christmas?”

He was mortified. I’m sure his face must have turned a bright red beneath the layers of black greasepaint. He wanted to murder Bobby, who found the whole incident highly amusing. I don’t remember what happened after that but I know that my father never again went out with the wren.

During the show’s run, we stayed at Jury’s Hotel in Boston, a ten-minute walk from the theatre. It was a bit like running the gauntlet with all the smokers standing outside on the sidewalk getting their fix. The smoke smells even more toxic outside, maybe because you don’t expect it. It was such a relief to step inside for a breath of fresh air. How things have changed!

I read in today’s paper how iTunes had to shut down temporarily over Christmas as it was swamped with orders. If you just got an iPod as a present, you might be interested to know that my CD Recollections is now available on iTunes.

I will hardly get time to blog again before December 31st, so I’d like to wish you all a very Happy and Wonderful New Year!

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 Clancy Legacy


Last Saturday, Aoife Clancy, Donal Clancy, George Keith and I did a concert in Fairfield, CT as The Clancy Legacy. Last summer at the Irish Arts Week in the Catskills we did a workshop together under that title and it looks like the name has stuck. Gregg Burnett of the Shamrock Traditional Music Society was one of the people at that workshop and he asked us to do the concert in Fairfield. We really enjoyed it and now we are planning to do more concerts with that line-up and that name. Don’t hold your breath but “we’ll be back.”