Celebrating Leon

Some of the leading figures on the British folk scene will take part in an international online celebration of the music of Leon Rosselson (pictured above). Martin Carthy, Billy Bragg, Nancy Kerr, Martin Simpson and Sandra Kerr – as well as Leon, himself – are among the many artists who will celebrating Leon’s life and work over six decades, creating a sound track for unsung heroes and unspeakable scoundrels.

This online event, Turning Silence into Song: The Music of Leon Rosselson,  will provide an opportunity to revisit his classic songs or be introduced to one you never heard before.

Each of the following artists will perform one song written by Leon Rosselson:

  • Frankie Armstrong (UK)
  • Billy Bragg (UK)
  • Rick Burkhardt (US)
  • Martin Carthy (UK)
  • Russ Chandler (UK)
  • Barbara Dane (US)
  • Chris Foster (Iceland)
  • Robb Johnson (UK)
  • Reem Kelan (UK)
  • Nancy Kerr (UK)
  • Sandra Kerr (UK)
  • Charlie King (US)
  • Leon Rosselson (UK)
  • Martin Simpson (UK)
  • Dean Stevens (US)
  • Elijah Wald (US)

This live Zoom concert, sponsored by The People’s Music Network, is totally free to the public. Donations to support PMN’s year round work of presenting workshops, conferences, and songswaps are gratefully accepted.

Members of the People’s Music Network may register for free. Non-members will receive the Zoom meeting links as soon as they register after any contribution to People’s Music Network of $2 or more.

Registration will not be required to tune in to the free livestream on the People’s Music Network Youtube page. But those who register will receive an automatic reminder about the show with the option to tune in via Zoom.

In the early days of the folk revival, Leon Rosselson was a member of the Galliards with whom he made numerous radio and television broadcasts and concert appearances. He started writing songs seriously (and humorously) in the early 1960s and hasn’t stopped since.

His early songs were topical-satirical (some of them were featured on the BBC TV show, That Was The Week That Was) but he broadened out from there, absorbing different influences, from music hall to French realist song, and experimenting with different song forms.

His song, The World Turned Upside Down, has been recorded and popularised by, among others, Dick Gaughan and Billy Bragg (who took it into the pop charts in 1985) and has been sung on numerous demonstrations in Britain and the USA.

His Ballad of a Spycatcher, ridiculing the ban on Peter Wright’s book, went into the Indie Singles charts in 1987 in a version backed by Billy Bragg and the Oyster Band.

Rosselson has performed in every conceivable venue around the country and toured North America, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland and Australia. He has written songs and scripts for Inter-Action’s Dogg’s Troupe and the Fun Art Bus, songs for a stage production at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, of They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? and shows for performance with Roy Bailey and Frankie Armstrong, including the anti-nuclear No Cause for Alarm.
 
In addition to writing songs for children and giving children’s concerts in both Britain and the USA, he has had seventeen children’s books published. His first book, Rosa’s Singing Grandfather, published by Puffin, was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal in 1991.
 
A stage show based on his children’s story, The Greatest Drummer In The World, was premiered in London in December 2002. His latest books are Pumpkin’s Downfall and Home Is A Place Called Nowhere. 
Martin Carthy
Sandra Kerr
Billy Bragg
Nancy Kerr
Martin Simpson

Belfast Song Gathering with Len Graham

Len Graham

This year’s Belfast Song Gathering will take place on Friday May 13 and Saturday May 14. The annual celebration of Ulster songs and singing is organised by Belfast Traditional Music and Dance Society in collaboration with An Droichead Arts Centre.

The gathering begins on Friday evening in the American Bar in Dock Street where the Belfast Singing Circle will host a singing session from 9pm.

On Saturday, former All-Ireland under-18 singing champion, Katie Boyle, will host a special singing workshop for families and children in the Green Room at the Black Box in Hill Street from 11am.

The Green Room is also the venue for Len Graham’s presentation entitled It’s of My Rambles at 1pm.

After lunch, the gathering will reassemble upstairs in the Sunflower Bar in Union Street at 4pm for another feast of singing hosted by the Nightingale Singing Session.

Each event in this year’s gathering is free of charge. All singers and listeners are welcome.

Another fine album you’ve gotten me into!

John C. Reilly (right) as Oliver Hardy, with Steve Coogan as Stan Laurel
(Photo by Nick Wall, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics)

In early 2019 on a visit to Ireland to promote Stan and Ollie – the film which he headlined with Steve Coogan – the American actor, John C Reilly, struck up a friendship with Séamus Begley, based on their mutual love of Irish songs. When their friendship was renewed later that year in Los Angeles, as John joined Séamus and Téada bandmate, Oisín Mac Diarmiada, on stage at the final date of their Christmas tour, the germ of an idea for a unique collaboration on the next Téada album began to take root.

Pandemic restrictions made the process of recording John’s vocals trickier than normal, but everything fell into place in 2021 when John found a suitable recording studio in Los Angeles to record the Percy French classic, Eileen Óg. On the album, John’s striking vocal tones are blended with the subtle sensitivity of Séamus’ singing to deliver a beautifuilly crafted arrangement.

Reilly’s growing engagement with Ireland was further cemented last month when he was the official International Guest of Honour at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin. And according to Séamus Begley, he is likely to be seen even more frequently in this country in future: “Now after finding a house of his dreams there, it looks like John C will be spending more time in his beloved Kerry and I look forward to some more late-night singing sessions and revelry in the local hostelries.”

Hollywood actor John C. Reilly featured on new album by Téada.

Coiscéim Coiligh – As the Days Brighten – due for release next month in May – will be Téada’s sixth studio album and will mark a musical partnership that has not merely endured but thrived for 21 years and has brought the band to concert platforms and festivals throughout Europe, North America, Africa, Asia and Australasia.

Available for sale (CD format) and digital download now at www.teada.com and www.gael-linn.ie,

For details of track listings, etc, see https://fonn.online/product/teada-coisceim-coiligh/

Nós Nua to perform Mohsen’s world premiere for Drogheda

The world premiere of Causeway, a specially commissioned work by award-winning Scottish musician, Mohsen Amini, will be performed by Nós Nua – the Louth Youth Folk Orchestra. Delayed by two years because of the pandemic, the premiere will finally take place on on May 1 in Drogheda’s Barbican Centre as part of the Drogheda Arts Festival.

Inspired by the legend of the Giant’s Causeway, Causeway celebrates the cultural connections between Scotland and Ireland. As well as the premiere, the event will see a special performance by concertina virtuoso, Mohsen Amini, along with award-winning fiddler, Bene Morris, his bandmate in the trio, Talisk. The pair will be joined by Fermoy piper, Ryan Murphy, who is a member of Mohsen’s “other band” – the renwned instrumental quintet, Ìmar. Completing the line-up for this special concert will be guitarist, Shane McCartan.

Founded in in 2017 as a joint initiative of Music Generation Louth and Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, Nós Nua draws its membership from across Louth, Meath, Monaghan, Cavan and Armagh. Nós Nua was the first folk orchestra to perform at the Festival of Youth Orchestras in the National Concert Hall, Dublin. They have performed on TG4’s Fleadh TV, at Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Drogheda and recently recorded music for John Creedon’s Atlas of Ireland.

The Causeway project is funded by the Irish Arts Council through the Young Ensemble Scheme.

 

Mohsen Amini

The Wilsons Take Howth By Storm

The WIlson Family at the Howth Singing Circle's 21st Anniversary Concert in the Abbey Tavern

The determination of the Howth Singing Circle to mark its twenty-first anniversary with a celebratory concert, despite the lingering concerns around the pandemic was rewarded in a special evening of music and song of the highest calibre in the Abbey Tavern. The Wilson Family from Teeside in England first appeared in Howth in the early days of the Singing Circle in the Pier House [now O’Connell’s] and so were an obvious choice as the principal guests. Unfortunately, Tom tested positive for Covid the day before and could not travel. So brother Ken stepped in to join his siblings, Chris, Steve and Mike, for a truly remarkable night, as Francy Devine explains:

“They were simultaneously powerful, melodic, harmonic, passionate, funny and constantly compelling. They delivered two tremendous sets. The late Graeme Miles – an old friend of theirs – provided songs like Farndale Daffodils, an appropriately seasonal song while they opened with the English/Scots folk classic John Barleycorn. Gateshead’s Alex Glasgow’s Close the Coalhouse Door – originally in the play by Glasgow and Alan Plater – was delivered with great poignancy and appropriate anger. After the Aberfan disaster in 1966, a verse was added: Close the coalhouse door, lad. There’s bairns inside, / Bairns that had no time to hide, / Bairns who saw the blackness slide, / Oh, there’s bairns beneath the mountainside./ Close the coalhouse door, lad. There’s bairns inside. / Close the coalhouse door, lad, and stay outside.’ Mines closures and deindustrialisation were themes of the brothers’ material, thought-provoking and illustrative of their class background and Teeside culture, urban and rural.

Throughout, the brothers paid tribute to those who had influenced them, like Peter Bellamy whose re-working of Rudyard Kipling’s Big Steamers continued the working theme. The Peat Bog Soldiers (Die Moorsoldaten) probably stirred ghosts – not just of those socialist/communist prisoners in Nazi labour camps in Lower Saxony in the 1930s who wrote the song – but also of Luke Kelly and The Dubliners who were performing it in the Abbey Tavern fifty years before. Young Banker was one of many songs that raised the audience’s voices high. A tribute to The Waterson’s, the song’s familiar chorus echoed down the Howth years – ‘Young banker he had such a handsome face / And all around his hat he wore a band of lace / Besides such an handsome head of hair / For my young banker I will go there’.

“Steve Wilson’s re-worked Byker Hill, Graeme Miles’ The Running Fox and the Copper Family’s Thousands Or More kept the songs flowing, filling the room with warmth and camaraderie. The boys concluded with a trio of songs that reflected the mining traditions of their native North East. Graeme Miles’ Sea Coal with its evocative call was followed by Ed Pickford’s stirring I Am Coal – ‘I am coal / I am coal / Progress and destruction in my soul / The lepidodendron tree died and them gave birth to me / I trade for blood for energy / I am coal.’

“Professor Ken explained that the lepidodendron was ‘an extinct genus of primitive vascular, scale tree’ and was ‘part of the coal forest flora’. Chris repeatedly blew his tuner, Steve said they would ‘get through a lot of songs tonight’ and Mike asked Ken ‘was he absolutely sure about that?’ Either way, the song was performed with great style. They concluded with The Miners’ Lifeguard – ‘Union miners stand together / Victory for you’ll prevail / Keep your hands upon wages / And Your Eyes Upon the Scale.’  It lifted the roof, with many in the hall recalling our support efforts for Welsh miners in 1984-1985.

“The evening had begun with the Howth Singing Circle’s own singers – with the benefit of some coaching by renowned Scottish guest singer, Shona Donaldson Anderson, in a magical rendering of Burns’ White Cockade, the threepart harmonies not only astounding the audience but also many of the singers, themselves! They also began the second half with the shanty Leave Her, Johnny, Leave Her.

“Shona also delivered two peerless solo sets – with the “voice of a bell” as Niamh Parsons observed. The hall joined in the chorus with her on Sands o’ the Shore before the moving ballad The Unquiet Grave produced an absolute hush. Her Green Grow the Laurels and Mary o’ Argyll are Howth favourites as Shona has been a regular guest, particularly at Burns Nichts. She concluded with a Burns set, Rattlin Roarin Willie, Robin Shure in Hairst and Hey Ca Thro, reminding us that ‘Burns is no jist fae January but fae life!’. In her two sets, she also sang I’ll Be Mairret and, acknowledging her parents Matt and Grace in the crowd, In Praise o’ Huntly, her hame toon.

 

Shona Donaldson Anderson

“The Howth Single Circle’s former Young Singer/Musician in Residence, Cathal Caulfield, provided an excellent musical foil to the singing. Partnered by Catriona Kennedy, they began with the classic Planxty Davis and continued with three polkas, The Gullane, The Palestine’s Daughter and The Lakes of Sligo, the latter featuring Cathal’s unique vocal style and spreading smiles across the room. An air and mazurka followed: Myth Island and, reflecting Catriona’s Donegal roots The Kilcar Mazurka – before they concluded with three rousing reels – O’Donnell’s Sligo Mad, Around the World for Sport and The Derrylee.

One of the unsung stars of the evening was undoubtedly sound engineer, Chris Boland, whose technical skill ensured that both audience and artists enjoyed a perfect sonic ambience.

“The hall stood to sing The Parting Glass remembering those who had passed during the club’s twentyone years, particularly Brendan ‘Bull’ Moore in whose memory it began and two late HSC Presidents, Willy O’Connor and Diarmuid Ó Cathasaigh.”

While there remains an understandable reluctance on the part of many to attend in-person events in the present climate, the Howth Singing Circle is to be commended for its efforts to celebrate its legacy with such a remarkable event.

All photographs: Francy Devine, Howth Singing Circle

Howth Singing Circle Singers with Shona Donaldson Anderson
Catriona Kennedy (left) and Cathal Caulfield

Online Sean-Nós Workshops start on Saturday

Singers interested in polishing their sean-nós technique can avail of a series of online workshops being organised by Comhaltas in Britain.

The three online workshops will each cover a different regional style – Donegal, Conamara and Munster – and each led by a leading exponent, Diane Cannon, Caitríona Ní Cheannabháin and Clare Horgan respectively.

Diane Cannon
Caitríona Ní Cheannabháin
Clare Horgan

Places on the workshops, which can be booked through Eventbrite, are free to Comhaltas members – while for non-members there is a charge of £12 (plus booking fee).

The first workshop on the Donegal style with Diane Cannon takes place on Saturday, April 23; the second on the Conamara style with Caitríona Ní Cheannabháin on Sunday, May 22; and the third on the Munster style with Clare Horgan on Sunday, June 5.

For more information, see:

 

Singers join dons to reflect on songs

A major weekend conference on traditional songs and singers will take place in June at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at the University of Limerick (pictured above).

Jointly organised by two major interest groups – the British-based Traditional Song Forum and the Traditional Song as Cultural Heritage Research Cluster – under the all-encompassing title, As I Roved Out: Traditional Songs, Singers and Collections of Britain, Ireland and Beyond, the conference aims to celebrate shared song traditions and highlight those that make each culture unique. 

The singing traditions of Britain and Ireland are richly intertwined. Songs, singers and collectors have travelled throughout the islands and beyond, uncovering a tapestry of tradition all the more rich and complex for their cultural interconnections.

The conference will open on the evening of Friday June 3, with a reception followed by dinner and a singing session. The business end of the conference begins on Saturday June 4 with a full day of papers – each followed by a question-and-answer session. The day will conclude with an after-dinner concert. Sunday June 5 will see another day of papers with a singing session in the evening. For those staying in Limerick on Monday, June 6, there will be a free singing tour in the morning, with the possibility of a lunchtime singing session afterwards.

Throughout the event, staff of the Irish Traditional Music Archive will also be on hand to present a pop-up exhibit.

For would-be participants who cannot attend the event in person, the main conference sessions will be available as live streams at a reduced cost. Recordings of the formal proceedings of the conference will be available after the event for all registered participants.

The conference fees are:

  • In-Person: Full Conference plus Lunch and Tea €59
  • In-Person: Concession Admission (for students and over 65s): €52
  • Online Only: €17
  • Add-Ons:  Conference Dinners: €23 each for Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings

Registration is possible online at https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/as-i-roved-out-songs-singers-and-collectors-of-britain-ireland-beyond-tickets-300847170987?utm-campaign=social&utm-content=attendeeshare&utm-medium=discovery&utm-term=listing&utm-source=cp&aff=escb

Bursaries

The Traditional Song Forum (TSF) is offering bursaries for students and others under the age of thirty to attend the conference. There will be two bursaries of £130 for attendance in person at Limerick University, and another two bursaries of £15 each for online attendance. Applications for these bursaries should be made to Martin Graebe, Secretary of the TSF at martin.graebe@btinternet.com, with details of the applicant’s study interests and specific reasons for his/her attendance at the event.

Accommodation Information

Bed-and-breakfast accommodation will be available on the University of Limerick campus for those who wish to avoid the commute. Details of the facilities are available from conference@ul.ie – at a rate of €59 a night for a single room. Double rooms are also available.

The Traditional Song Forum is a national organisation based in the UK that brings together those interested in the research, collecting and performance of traditional song.

The Traditional Song as Cultural Heritage Research Cluster is a group of song scholars/ performers at the Irish World Academy, focused on performance, preservation and transmission of traditional song in Ireland.

South Sligo Summer School set for July

The South Sligo Summer School is scheduled to run from July 10 to July 16 this year with a packed programme of formal and informal events for the week, including masterclasses, céilís, workshops, talks, concerts, sessions and more.

Based in Tubbercurry, Co. Sligo, the school places a particular emphasis on the Sligo style of fiddle and flute playing and this, alongside an extended range of workshops and new innovative elements each year, attracts people of all ages and abilities from near and far to attend and spend a week of total immersion in the local culture.

Dartry CéilI Band

Full Programme

Workshops

Daily workshops for all ages across a wide range of traditional instruments, singing and dancing.

July 11-16 10am-1pm (10am-12pm on 16):
St. Attracta’s Community School: Fiddle, Flute, Whistle, Button Accordion, Banjo, Guitar, Mixed Instruments for Adults 
North Connaught College: Uilleann Pipes, Bodhrán
Teach Laighne: Traditional Singing and Lilting, Sean-Nós Singing
Kennedy Picture Framing: Harp
St. Brigid’s Hall: Set Dancing,
 
July 11-15: 2.30pm-5.15pm
St. Brigid’s Hall: Sean-Nós Dance
 
Tutors:
  • Leonard Barry (Uilleann Pipes – Improver/Intermediate)
  • Aileen Bourke (Concertina – Intermediate/Advanced)
  • Jarlath Brennan (Banjo – Improver/Intermediate)
  • Junior Davey (Bodhrán – Intermediate/Advanced)
  • Fiona Doherty (Mixed Instruments for Adults)
  • Stephen Doherty (Flute – Advanced)
  • Tommy Doherty (Button Accordion – Improver/Intermediate)
  • David Doocey (Fiddle – Improver)
  • John Dwyer (Whistle – Advanced)
  • Marian Egan (Whistle – Intermediate)
  • Declan Foran (Fiddle – Advanced – Sligo Style)
  • Bernie Geraghty (Concertina – Improver/Intermediate)
  • Holly Geraghty (Harp – Intermediate/Advanced)
  • Daithí Gormley (Button Accordion – Intermediate/Advanced)
  • Fiachra Guihen (Harp – Improver/Intermediate)
  • Séamus Hernon (Flute – Improver)
  • Kerrie Herrity (Banjo – Intermediate/Advanced)
  • Michael Hurley (Flute – Intermediate)
  • Caoimhe Kearins (Fiddle – Intermediate)
  • Fionnuala Kerins (Whistle – Improver)
  • Oisín Mac Diarmada (Fiddle – Advanced – Sligo Style)
  • Shane McGowan (Guitar – Improver/Intermediate)
  • Conal McCormack (Bodhrán – Improver/Intermediate)
  • Caitríona Ní Cheannabháin (Sean-Nós Singing)
  • Eiméar Mulvey (Sean-Nós Dance – All Levels)
  • Pat Murphy (Set Dancing – All Levels)
  • Siobhán O’Donnell (Traditional Singing and Lilting)
  • Séamie O’Dowd (Guitar – Intermediate/Advanced)
Leonard Barry
Kerrie Herrity
Caoimhe Kearins
Oisín Mac Diarmada
Caitríona Ní Cheannabháin
Séamie O'Dowd
Daily lectures from 2.30pm-3.30pm in St. Brigid’s Hall
  • July 11: The World of Francis O’Neill, Collector and Cop, presented by Michael O’Malley 
  • July 12: In Nearly Every House – Irish Traditional Musicians of North Connacht, presented by Gregory Daly
  • July 13: Great Duets of the Sligo Tradition, presented by Daithí Gormley
  • July 14: The Making of a Traditional Irish Album, presented by Brian Hughes and Dave Sheridan
  • July 15: Musicians and Entertainers from Killavil and Surrounding Area, presented by John Joe Brennan
Daily céilithe in St. Brigid’s Hall from 8.30pm-11.30pm 
  • July 10: Swallow’s Tail
  • July 11: Matt Cunningham Céilí Band
  • July 12: Dartry Céilí Band
  • July 13: Salamanca Céilí Band
  • July 14: Swallow’s Tail
  • July 15: Salamanca Céilí Band
  • July 16: Glenside Céilí Band

 

Concerts

  • July 11: Tribute to Declan Folan (St. Attracta’s Community School) 8pm-11pm
  • July 12: Fiddle, Flute and Whistle Recital (The May Queen) 8pm-10pm
  • July 13: Button Accordion, Concertina, Banjo and Guitar Recital (The May Queen) 8pm-10pm
  • July 14: Bodhrán, Harp, Uilleann Pipes, Sean Nós and Traditional Singing Recital (The May Queen) 8pm-10pm
  • July 15: Grand Traditional Concert (Venue TBC) 8pm-10pm

Muireann to host new show on RTE Radio 1

Muireann Nic Amhlaiobh

RTÉ has announced that musician and singer Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh will join the RTÉ Radio 1 schedule on Saturday nights at 10pm, for a new show dedicated to folk music, Folk on One.

“It’s a huge privilege for me to host the new show Folk on One on RTÉ Radio 1,” said Muireann. “Folk is a very broad church, one that I am proud to be a part of. Many years as a touring musician has exposed me to folk and traditional music from around the globe and I’m excited to share these artists with the listeners and also to platform new Irish folk music. Is cúis mortais dom chomh maith go mbeidh an clár seo dhá-theangach mar go bhfuil nasc láidir idir an dteanga agus an cheoil.”

“Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh is well known to our listeners as a singer and musician. She now takes on a programme in her own right, bringing her knowledge and discernment to radio,” said RTÉ Radio 1 Head, Peter Woods. “This music is central to what we do.”

Muireann joins a weekend line-up on RTÉ Radio 1 which includes Céilí House with Kieran Hanrahan, The Rolling Wave with Aoife Nic Cormaic and South Wind Blows with Philip King.

The Megaphone Project

There is a certain irony in the idea of traditional singer, Macdara Yeates, curating a series of performances under the title of the Megaphone Project – since of all the singers who frequent the many singing sessions in the Greater Dublin area, Dara is least in need of a megaphone or even a microphone – such is the power of his vocal projection.

The Megaphone Project is a series of pop-up performances exploring Irish traditional song in the modern cityscape as part of the MusicTown festival. The pop-up performances will be facilitated in May by placing a megaphone and soap box at various outdoor markets for short 30-minute sets featuring a selection of Dublin’s finest traditional singers.

MacDara Yeates

The project has been inspired by the archival recordings of John Martin, the charismatic street singer who travelled the fairs of Ireland in the 1950s using a large megaphone in order to amplify his voice so that it could be heard above the noise of the ever-increasing traffic volumes on the streets of towns throughout Ireland.

The venues, dates and performers involved in the project will be announced in due course.

In the meantime, more information on the Musictown Festival is available on https://www.musictown.ie.aomplify