Cindy Reich Interviews Phil on eve of Celtic Thunder gig…Phil Coulter will be joining the wildly successful show, Celtic Thunder, when it arrives in Denver on December 12th at the Wells Fargo Theater. His accomplishments in the music world over the last 40 years are legend. Phil took time out of rehearsing at his home in Ireland to talk with Cindy Reich and the Celtic Connection about giving back, Celtic Thunder and his upcoming visit to Denver. CR: Phil, how in the heck are you? PC: Never better. For an aging rocker, I think I”m hanging together not so bad!CR: Tell me about Africa”what were you doing there?PC: Well, my wife and I discovered this country; it”s the smallest country in Africa, called the Gambia. It”s coastal. It”s sandwiched between northern and southern Senegal right on the Atlantic with huge Atlantic breakers and lovely beaches. It”s just beginning to establish itself as a destination. It”s not by any means sophisticated, it”s not by any means commercialized and it wouldn”t be everybody”s cup of tea.Apart from the attractions of the sun and the beaches, the people are so gentle, gracious and welcoming. There is another side that is about half an hour from the coastal side and the beaches and the resorts. There are no more than about 20 hotels in the whole country and that would include one star ramshackle places. But within a half hour of the coastal area, you are into third world Africa. It”s a real wake-up call when you see it firsthand. We went down with our kids”we have six kids, as you know, and it was a great lesson for them in the sort of stuff they take for granted. For example, the volume of waste in our household and most households in the Western world”what we squander. These people have so little. We have adopted a little kindergarten and there are 200 kids crammed into two little rooms separated by rush matting. They have one pencil for every ten students and each student has to take their turn with the pencil. They write on little scraps of paper that are torn out of copybooks. So we”ve set up a few little charitable things down there, including the school. The boy who became our guide over the years we”ve been going down there”we shipped down a big Land Rover jeep we had in Spain. We shipped it to Africa and set him up in business as a sort of a bush taxi and tour guide operator. It”s a very small operation, Cindy. I mean I”m not Bob Geldorf or Bono and God knows I have no desire to be, either, but it makes me feel good to be able to something like that. CR: Have your kids taken the message home? Now that they”re back home, are they more aware of how they use things? I”d love to say categorically, yes. But they need to be reinforced. We”re taking them all down to the Gambia for Christmas and our Christmas morning is going to be to pile into the Jeep and drive down to the compound of our guide and his extended family out in the bush. The kids are putting all of the money they would have been spending on themselves and their friends into a pool and we”ll buy bags of rice and bags of onions and a few drums of cooking oil. We”ll deliver that on Christmas morning along with a few bags of sweets and candies for the kids. It”s absolutely true what they say that there”s a real pleasure in giving rather than receiving. CR: What a nice way to give back. To those who are given much, there is a responsibility to give back and you are teaching your kids a valuable lesson as well as showing the people in Gambia that the rest of the world has an interest in them.PC: That makes a big difference. For people from abroad to take an interest in them. They think we are all millionaires and by their standards, we probably are. The average weekly wage there would be about five dollars. By their standards we are all rich. But you treat them with respect. It”s not just the money. You take the time to listen to their stories and show concern. Treat them with dignity. The Gambian people are very gracious and very warm. It is called the “Smiling Coast” and the people do smile a lot!We”re a small operation. We”re not building hospitals, but we”re affecting lives and we”re making people feel better about themselves. CR: Well, it”s a great thing to do, and maybe people will hear about this, both in Ireland, but also in a wider circle. PC: Strangely enough, Cindy, I”ve had a lot of response from the Celtic Thunder website. We each have our own forums on there. I log on to keep people up to date and when I told people about our African adventures it had precisely the effect you are talking about. A lot of people were e-mailing back to ask what they could do to help. You don”t need to gather hundreds of thousands of dollars, but every little bit helps. There are more good people out there than bad people, Cindy.CR: All it takes is one person to drop a stone into the water and let the ripples fan out. PC: Precisely.CR: Well, lets talk about Celtic Thunder, as a perfect segue. Last time we spoke, the tour was far in the distance. The show had just run in Dublin. Paul Byrom did a lovely interview with us, but it has been nearly a year since we had that conversation. I”ve seen the show on PBS since we”ve spoken”PC: A lot!! (Laughing)CR: Exactly. But the show has been huge with great reviews and of course it is coming to Denver in a few weeks. Has it met your expectations? Exceeded your expectations?Now that the tour has been on the road for a while in the U.S., what is your feeling, as composer and music director about the show?PC: A combination of feelings, with relief being one of the primary ones! (Laughing) Because it did represent a big investment of time, creativity, love, attention and patience. Not to mention a lot of dollars! There are no certainties in this game as you know better than most, so musically, you pull all of the strands together and you choose your five guys from a multitude of people in open auditions”and open auditions, as I”ve said before, is a tough way to find your talent, because you get the good, the bad and the ugly.But I think having persevered through all of that and finding our five guys”each with a very strong and distinctive personality and a very distinctive voice, then I team them up with songs. What my job is then, is alchemy. I”ve got to put the guys together with the songs and the songs together with the orchestrations and then pick the musicians. It is drawing on reserves of being 40 years in the game. It”s drawing on my reserves as a songwriter, doing orchestration, as a performer and record producer. Having performed in practically every state in the Union, I certainly know how to connect with those people and that”s what its all about. Connecting. It is not just good enough to have great music, great singers and a great orchestra if you don”t connect. It”s a mistake a lot of acts make”they fail to connect across the footlights. That”s the difference between being a performer and being an entertainer. In choosing the songs, and the batting order, and instrumentation”that”s drawing on 40 years of experience and you hope your instincts are correct. You can”t guarantee success, but what I can guarantee is “Shame on me if I sign off on a project like this and it would be shabby. Shame on me if I would sign off on a project like this if it would be nickel and dimed and cutting corners, Shame on me if I didn”t pay attention to detail. Having done all that, what are my expectations?My expectations are hopefully that I got it right and I think the gratification is that it seems like we did. I still have the sound of the standing ovations at the Radio City Music Hall in New York ringing in my ears. I love to read from a New York journalist who said, “This show has got the potential to make the same cultural impact as Riverdance if it stays on this trajectory”. That”s the kind of thing I like to hear.CR: Well, there is certainly no shame on you. There is no one of any age that wouldn”t enjoy this show and wouldn”t get a huge amount of entertainment from it. PC: That was the challenge, with five guys ranging in age from 15 to 40, to have as wide an a la carte menu as possible. One of the many treats I”ve gotten from this, is on the second night in Radio City Music Hall, who was sitting in the audience but Jimmy Webb. Jimmy Webb has been one of my heroes as a songwriter”"Mac Arthur Park”, “By the Time I Get To Phoenix”, “Wichita Lineman”, “Galveston”"so many hits.He came to the party after the show, and I spent about 15 minutes with him, just entranced by the conversation. We have a little bit of shared history, Jimmy and I–after “Mac Arthur Park” and the “A Tramp Shining” album he made with Richard Harris, they had a fight and Harris didn”t record for a year or so and I picked up Harris and produced his next album and out of that came the “My Boy” song, which was recorded by Elvis Presley. Jimmy was echoing what you were saying. He said, “I put it on one night (the DVD) when my wife was out and found myself being sucked into it with those five guys and each of them having different songs and a different personality. I was curious as to how you were going to treat it and it was lovely to see the respect the whole concept had for the songs.” And I think that”s the secret. The choosing of the songs was the critical part of the whole package for me. I picked songs that transcended the charts. I picked iconic songs. Songs that for many people were the soundtracks to their lives. They have that kind of resonance with people. CR: Phil, you are joining the show here in Denver while they are on tour here in America. You”ve really come to love Colorado, haven”t you?PC: It”s not by accident that I”m rejoining to take up the baton for the last lap, and where am I rejoining? Denver. Denver has been good to me for a long time. I remember the first time I played in Denver in the Paramont Theater and there was just warmth that came off the audience. You remember those sorts of things. My concerts are a two-way flow. I get lifted and inspired by the audience. I”ve always had great nights in Denver.I”ve made a lot of friends in Denver as well, and Pat McCullough is an absolute hero. A great man, a great friend and a great promoter of all things quality in the Celtic world. He is the kind of promoter that a guy like me dreams of. A guy who leaves no stone unturned and who will pull out a phone book and call up any name that sounded vaguely Irish and tell them that Phil Coulter”s coming to town! (Laughing) That”s what makes things happen.People ask me why I”ve been so successful over the last 40 years and I say that it”s because I show up to work every morning. If I”d waited for things to drop into my lap, I”d probably be teaching piano to ten year olds in my hometown. Stuff doesn”t happen–you make things happen. CR: What do you think has been the main key to the success of this production?PC: What has made this the success it has, thank God, become, is that the five guys were complete unknowns. Paul Byrom was the one guy that had professional experience. The other guys were complete unknowns, complete amateurs. So they were bringing to this a whole endearing innocence. They”re like five guys who have had their noses pressed against the window of the toy shop for years and then suddenly someone has opened the door to the toy shop and let them in. And they are having the time of their lives. There”s no cynicism, no weariness”just bring it on! They can”t wait for the next audience; they can”t wait for the next state. They”ve never been to Colorado”bring it on!They are really in a very privileged position. When we played Radio City, and we were onstage for the technical rehearsal, I got them on stage and made everyone get quiet. I said to the five guys and to the band, I said, “Just be quiet. Sit here and drink deep. I want you to sense this. I want you to smell it. I want you to see it. I want you to taste it. I want you to slow it down and lock it into your brain. Because this is very special and it is a great privilege to be on this stage in Radio City Music Hall. And you know what? It”s taken me 40 years to get here.”Celtic Thunder will be playing the Wells Fargo Theater on December 12th.www.celticthunder.ie For tickets and tour listing go to www.aeglive.com
The musical partnership between Alasdair Fraser, long regarded as Scotland”s premier fiddle ambassador, and the sizzlingly-talented young California cellist Natalie Haas may not seem an obvious one. Fraser, acclaimed by the San Francisco Examiner as “the Michael Jordan of Scottish fiddling,” has a concert and recording career spanning 30 years, with a long list of awards, accolades, television credits, and feature performances on top movie soundtracks (“Last of the Mohicans,” “Titanic”). Alasdair has been sponsored by the British Council to represent Scotland”s music internationally and received the Scottish Heritage Center Service Award for outstanding contributions to Scottish culture and traditions. Natalie Haas was just 11 when she first attended Alasdair’s Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddling School in California. She responded to Fraser”s challenge to find and release the cello”s rhythmic soul and four years later, when Natalie was just 15, they played their first gig together. Now regularly touring with Alasdair and creating a buzz at festivals and in concert halls throughout Europe and North America, Natalie is in the vanguard of young cellists who are redefining the role of the cello in traditional music.Don”t miss their dates in Colorado Springs and Denver.…………………………………Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas ConcertBenet Hill Center Auditorium2577 N. Chelton Road, Colorado Springs COFriday, December 5th 7:00pm, Doors at 6:30pmTickets available: 719- 494-0666 ………………………………..Fiddle and Cello WorkshopsBenet Hill CenterRooms 110 and 111, 2577 N. Chelton Rd,Colorado Springs COSaturday, December 6th10:00am-12:30pm. Players of all instruments welcomeCost: BRAS members $30 non-members $35For more info or to reserve a space at the workshops:Call Moira Theriault 719-494-0666……………………………….Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas ConcertCameron Church1600 S Pearl St, Denver, CO Saturday, December 6th8:00pm, Doors at 7:00pmTickets available: 303-777-1003
Only 132 Irish applicants were chosen last year mainly because so few people knew how to apply for it.The application period ends noon on Dec 1 but applicants are advised to apply now as the online system has been prone to crashes in the closing days.People who were born in Ireland and Northern Ireland are eligible to apply whereas people who were born in Britain are not eligible.Applications must be made at www.dvlottery.state.govThis is the ONLY official site. The program is free (if a website asks you for money it is not the official website.)Interested applicants can also visit their local TD, Senator or councillor’s office for help applying.
(Editors note: In the next couple of months The Celtic Connection will spotlight the bellwethers of the reels and roots music heard up and down the Rocky Mountains. These men and women donate not only their time “on air”, but also the many hours needed to prepare each show. Perpetuating traditions of excellence through their love of music they bring to you a variety of music, from dusting off a long lost golden oldie to introducing you to new contemporary sounds. The series begins with Karl Kumli who hosts the Seolta Gael show on KGNU out of Boulder, Colorado. By day Karl is an attorney at Dietze and Davis, P.C. His practice emphasizes primarily public utility law and water law. He currently is President-Elect of the Boulder County Bar Association and involved with way too many more groups and associations for a mere mortal. On top of it all he is a family man. We asked Karl if he preferred to by interviewed or he could submit his own words.People who know Karl know that he does not lack the gift of the gab. He says he is not Irish ” you be the judge…
Best, Pat M.)Alright Pat, in keeping with the political season, I”d like to make the painful disclosures first. Genetically speaking, I”m not Irish. Not Scottish either. Nor Welsh, Manx, Breton, or Galician. I was born Italian and Swiss, but raised as a very traditional Irish Catholic (my first school was Incarnate Word Academy).In 1962 my family was living in a small apartment. Jack Kennedy was at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. I was attending St. Rose Elementary School. And my dad had fallen headlong into the folk music revolution that was sweeping the country. At our place, the old 33-and-a-third rpm LPs were constantly played on a scratchy phonograph. I remember four of them in particular. The first was a multi-record set called “Folk Songs and Minstrelsy,” which featured Tommy Makem singing, “The Cobbler.” Its infectious chorus was just the sort of lilting that is easily memorized by a six year old, oblivious to the ghoulish subject matter of the song. The second was the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem album “Hearty and Hellish.” I knew every song on that album by heart before I entered second grade at St. Rose.St. Rose was just about the epitome of a parochial school of the day. The pastor was Fr. Patrick Mulligan; the associate was Fr. Jerome Dooley and the nuns (Sisters of St. Joseph of Newark) were strict devotees of the penguin school of fashion design. To my six year old ears it seemed every priest or nun I”d ever met was from Ireland. And in those days the Catholic liturgy was still in Latin. I made the obvious connection at that time that people who spoke with a brogue must have done so because they were clergy and had a “Latin accent.” St. Rose had three major holidays: Christmas, Easter and St. Patrick”s Day. All the kids from first grade on learned some sort of a simple reel or set dance as part of the St. Patrick”s Day festivities, which were held in the school gym under Fr. Mulligan”s watchful eye.Fast forward to the early 1970s. We had a young priest at our parish named Simon Twomey. Fr. Simon is a big Kerryman from Killarney. And back in the day he was wicked-cool. It was Simon who turned me on to the Chieftains, the Dubliners and the Wolfe Tones. With that music ringing in my ears I left for college in 1974. And at that point I began to get more serious about my infatuation with Celtic music. I took a year of Irish Gaelic. I learned a little bit of step dancing and set dancing. I began frequenting the bars and halls where the music was played. And then I got into radio.Beginning in 1975 I was hired as a summer replacement DJ for a small network of radio stations in Washington State. There I did everything from pulling a six hour air shift, to commercial production, to reading news, to emptying the trash (as the last guy out of the station at night when we went off the air at night). I played some country, some top 40 and most of all, rock “n” roll. It was heaven.Fast forward again to St. Patrick”s Day 1982. I”d just moved to Boulder and called the local public radio station, the blessed KGNU, wondering whether they”d be playing Celtic music on March 17th. No, I was told, they didn”t have anyone who was familiar with the genre. My own Celtic record collection (this was still before CDs or MTV) had grown beyond a few dozen by this point. I offered to come in and do a show. “Probably not,” I was informed. After all, “you”d have to have a radio license [still a requirement in those days] to pull an air shift.”“But I do have a license,” I replied.And twenty-six years later, it”s still happening. The show has grown and changed right along with the station. It is now part of a World Music series on KGNU called Musica Mundi. I seldom play vinyl anymore ” though the thought of an all-vinyl show is really beginning to take shape in my head. We do lots more live music than in the old days, as KGNU”s new studios are wonderful for that kind of live on-air concert. And we have amazing live show engineers in Fergus Stone and George Figgs. We still do every show live on the air, but the program is also webcast, and is available via podcast for two weeks after it airs.The playlist? Widely varied ” or at least I want it to be. We try to play music from all over ” the Seven Nations and all their progeny ” the Celtic Diaspora (the States, Canada, Australia, Germany and beyond). We try to mix trad (both vocal and instrumental) with Celtic rock, or the rock and jazz influenced stuff. “Within the Celtic continuum, you might hear a range from the good old Clancy Brothers, The Dubliners and Clannad to Flogging Molly, The Dropkick Murphys and Black 47. “Plethyn, Robin Huw Bowen, Dervish, Lunasa, Capercaillie, Old Blind Dogs, Silly Wizard, Poor Clares, Altan, Cherish the Ladies, Great Big Sea, Natalie McMaster, The Chieftains, The Elders and many more make appearances as well. “Guests appear regularly, both via phone and in studio, where the list has ranged from The Chieftains (Paddy Moloney and Matt Molloy), Kevin Burke, to local favorites Colcannon and Skean Dubh.Pat McCullough has even gotten me to abandon my original prejudice against “Danny Boy,” which I thought had become maudlin and overplayed. Of course, the fact that Pat”s incredibly talented wife, Tanya, has taught our girls to sing may have had a little to do with that, as well. In addition to the girls who”ve danced and sung, the eldest of our boys returned last year from a semester of study in Ireland, where he took courses in both the Irish language and traditional Irish music at the University of Limerick. So the Celtic knotwork continues.
I would, however, point out that Switzerland has its own Celtic history. From about 500 B.C. to A.D. 400, several Celtic tribes, especially the Helvetians, were settled in Switzerland. So perhaps I”ve spoken unadvisedly, and am genetically Celtic after all. (Listen to Karl Kumli the first Wednesday of the month, 7-8pm, on KGNU 88.5 fm in Boulder or 1390 am Denver or online at www.kgnu.org)
Since 2000 the Denver based non-profit organization has sent over 154,000 toys to kids in 60 countries. It was that year that Marlin Dorhout and friend Ben Perri traveled to Nicaragua to work with Habitat for Humanity. The director of HH asked the two men if they would bring some toys for the kids. “We didn”t want to bring battery-operated toys,” said Dorhout, “so Ben designed these wooden cars and I had the woodworking skills and tools to make them.” When Dorhout arrived in Nicaragua he handed out 120 of his handmade wooden toys. “I became the most popular person in the village,” he said, recalling the overwhelming response that came from the happy children. “After that, I knew what I wanted to do.”Upon returning home to Denver, Dorhout officially founded the Toys for God”s Kids. He recruited a group of World War II veterans to help cut, assemble, and sand the wooden pieces and more recently has also been working with nursing homes and retirement centers to work on some of the toys. Dorhout spoke highly and often about the volunteers, “They all care about other human beings, especially children…when they see photos of those kids they feel so good about what they”re doing.”Not only is Toys for God”s Kids made up entirely of volunteers, it has no budget. Much of the wood used for the toys is scrap lumber donated by Stairs Inc. in Louisville and Masterpiece Stairs in Denver. Worldwide distribution is through relief organizations, church groups, airline pilots, soldiers ” virtually anyone or group who wants to pack a box or suitcase of the wooden treasures. Last month Dorhout was contacted by Carl Piazza of Pentagon Cargo of the Rockies who offered to ship 1260 toys to kids in the Philippines ” this month he will ship another 1800 to arrive in time for the holidays.Photos and thank-you notes are often sent to Toys for God”s Kids from around the globe by grateful social workers, children and parents – and once he even got a phone call. “The call came from Mexico – I had a hard time understanding the guy, but his daughter came home with a toy with our phone number stamped on the bottom, and he was so grateful he called to say thanks.”“The feedback illustrates how little these kids have, but also how important toys are to kids,” he added as he pointed out the more obvious comparison for the need of food, clothing and medicine, “Toys make them feel special, and they can also help kids develop planning, problem-solving, and social skills.”Toys for God”s Kids goal is “to place a toy in the hand of every needy child”, and Dorhout and Co. sends toys to all parts of the world regardless of religion or political strife or differences. He gave an example of the almost 7,000 toys sent to Iraq and Afghanistan to date.“We never hold a child responsible for some silly idea their parents or leaders have,” Dorhout said with a slight smile and twinkle in his eyes, then continued in a more serious tone. “We don”t proselytize, there are volunteers who help that are not religious at all, but they”re wonderful people.” He said that he believes in God, and that the name of the organization had brought more support than obstacles. “I”m not one of zealots that say, “If you don”t believe in God you don”t count.” I have been taught that everyone is God”s child.”Dorhout, a retiree from Gates Rubber Company, spends many hours a week working to bring joy to children whom he most likely will never meet. “This is good for me too, I”m staying too busy to get bitter,” he said with a laugh. “I”m having a lot of fun, and every one of us feels very proud to be making these toys. We call ourselves the “smile makers”.”If you are interested in Toys for God”s Kids and would like to help in some way email Toys for God’s Kids or call 303-733-2284. More information is also on the internet at Toys For God’s Kids.
by Cindy Reich
Alan spoke with Cindy Reich
from the Celtic Connection
via phone from his home in Scotland.Cindy: The last time I spoke with you Alan, was a long time ago when the band were playing in Denver. John McCusker had just joined, which will tell you how long ago THAT was, and looked about 14 years old! However, you are the last man standing, Alan, as a founder member of the band. Did you ever think, thirty plus years down the road, you would still be touring, making albums and such?Alan: Not at all, Cindy. Brian McNeill was the original founder of the band and I joined a few months later. When we decided to quit our jobs and try music for a couple of years.. that was back in 1975 and I don”t think we ever dreamed the band would endure for thirty plus years. When you”re that age, you”re not thinking of what you”re going to be like when you”re middle aged. I remember thinking in my thirties, ach; I”ll probably retire when I”m fifty. I”ve passed that particular hurdle and I”m still going strong! Cindy: That”s a great testament to the success of the band. There”s tens of thousands of bands out there that became relatively popular and were finished in a few years. Alan: There aren”t too many bands who have spanned the decades we have and I tend to think of it as a phenomenon. An achievement that the band is still thriving and producing good music regardless of who is in the band. I think when you get a band that has lasted as long as we have there”s an interesting story to tell. I can think of other bands who are older than us. The Dubliners who are in our sphere of music and the Rolling Stones in another sphere of music. I think its just amazing these “institutions” if you can call them that, can last for decades and decades.I think what we have in common with the Rolling Stones if I can be so bold as to compare ourselves in any way whatsoever, is the fact that both bands really love playing live. I”m sure none of them need the money, so why do they still go out on the road and play? I”m sure they don”t need to do it, and yet they still do it for playing to live audiences. And that is one of the reasons I think we”ll still around. We”re willing to travel and we still like to play to live audiences, and the response we get is one of the things that keep us doing what we”re doing. Cindy: Well, that is still the best way to see The Battlefield Band ” in a live situation. The recordings are all nice and lovely, but my favorite album would be “Home Ground” which is a live album. The energy, the vibe and the spark off the audience is fabulous. When the pipes, which are such a trademark sound, when those pipes come on stage, it just electrifies everybody ” visually as well as listening. And to have the pipes in such an intimate setting as Swallow Hill should be fantastic. You have had a lot of great musicians come in and out of the band over the years, but the ability of the band to be a fluid entity has also been a part of its success. You maintain a great sound and the caliber of the musicians has always been of the highest order. The Battlefield Band is always The Battlefield Band. The sum seems to always be greater than the parts. Alan: I think that is what has made us a little bit different from other bands that have gone on for a long time. Although we have had a lot of people come through our ranks over the decades, basically, our lineup has been the same in terms of instrumentation. When a piper leaves, a piper joins, when a guitarist leaves, a guitarist joins. The basic sound of the band remains the same, although there are subtle differences. Battlefield Band aficionados have come to recognize over the years that no one is irreplaceable. If someone whom they”ve admired leaves, they can be assured that whoever replaces them will be equally adept. The standard we expect our members to aspire to never changes. Cindy: It is that standard of excellence I want to address, especially as it pertains to songwriting and the original tunes. Its what keeps me coming back to the band, as yourself and many others have penned so many great new tunes and great new songs. Alan: I started writing songs about twenty-five years ago. One of the reasons I started doing that was that bands like us that were touring all seemed to be looking at the same resource books and looking to the same source singers for material. It never occurred to us to write an entirely new song instead of looking for an obscure song and putting a twist to it. It was quite a daring thing to even think of, never mind to actually do.Brian McNeill started and then I followed on and it has become something that really interests me in fact. Personally speaking, I am more interested and get more satisfaction from that than any other aspect of my musicianship. In more recent years, I”ve been writing more songs, especially about historical things in Scotland. I”m just about to bring out an album about the rise and fall of Bonnie Prince Charlie that”s going to be incorporating some quite well known traditional songs as well as five new songs I”ve written myself. Of course, I”m still writing for the band as well, so on every album that comes out, I have one or two songs on it. I”ve also got a whole album”s worth of material on the life of John Paul Jones, the hero of the American Revolution, who was born in Scotland. Cindy: You seem to be a bit of a historian, and one song of yours I really was interested in, as I knew nothing about it, was the failed colony in Panama called “Darien”. A lot of your songs are about historically significant events.Alan: I”m particularly interested in stories that are not well known. I”ve just recently written a song about the Scotsman called John Rae who was an Arcadian who went to work for the Hudson Bay Company. He ended up looking for the Lord Franklin expedition which had gone to look for the northwest passage and got lost in the north of Canada. This guy brought back the story that they had all perished and that some had even resorted to cannibalism. The establishment in England completely disregarded his information because it was based on the testimony of Inuit Indians and the English establishment said that these English gentlemen could never have succumbed to such a desperate act and they would not believe the word of savages. So this fellow was completely ostracized and ridiculed. And it was John Rae who actually did find the Northwest Passage. So when I look at that, I think, wow, that”s a great story and hardly anyone knows about it! I think I”ll make that into a song. Cindy: Ah, but see that”s a great example of the power of song. I became interested in Lord Franklin”s expedition from hearing the song, “Lord Franklin”. I just recently read a great book on it, called “The Terror” (one of Franklin”s two ships- “Terror” and “Erebus”) that was about 900 pages, but was fascinating. If it hadn”t been for hearing the song, I would never have delved into the story. Another Battlefield Band song that I truly love was written by the late Davy Steele ” “The Last Trip Home”. As a horsewoman, I really appreciated that song, and I know it was played at Davy”s funeral. I want to have it played at mine as well. It is a great example of some of the music to come out of the band. Alan: Davy was much loved by the audiences all over the world in the short time he was with the band. It was obvious when you were watching him that he was just having a ball and that he managed to transmit that joy to the audience. He had a beautiful voice as well”a great quality to it. I really enjoyed singing harmonies with him. An album came out here several years ago and every song on it was about Clydesdale horses (“Gentle Giants” Greentrax). Robin Laing compiled that album and he wanted “Last Trip Home” to be the first track on the album. I wrote a song as well, which appears on the album. It”s not just a folk album, there are some rock tracks as well, but every single song is about Clydesdale horses.Cindy: You released a new album last year, “Dookin” (Temple Records) and there”s an album and DVD out as well. What new material might you be bringing with you to Denver? Alan: The DVD was filmed a few years ago and most of the material is from the previous album, “The Road of Tears” but there are one or two tracks on it that didn”t make the album. Most of our material is still from Dookin” but we”re starting to incorporate some new tracks as well, which will appear on our next album which we will be working on soon. The Battlefield Band will be performing at Daniels Hall at Swallow Hill on Friday, November 7th. The show is at 8pm. For more information on The Battlefield Band, their website is: www.battlefieldband.co.uk
(Editors note: Last month The Celtic Connection began a series to spotlight the bellwethers of the reels and roots music heard up and down the Rocky Mountains. These men and women donate not only their time “on air”, but also the many hours needed to prepare each show. Perpetuating traditions of excellence through their love of music they bring to you a variety of music, from dusting off a long lost golden oldie to introducing you to new contemporary sounds.) In October, we introduced many of our readers to Karl Kumli who hosts the Seolta Gael show on KGNU out of Boulder, Colorado. This month we are spotlighting Cindy Reich who you can hear hosting the Long Acre show on KRFC 88.9 FM in Fort Collins or online at www.krffmc.org every Monday 1-3pm. She”s on Critter Patter on Thursdays and often on the Live at Lunch show.If Karl is King of Colorado”s Celtic airwaves then Cindy is without a doubt the Queen. Both have an impressive tenure on radio dating back to the 80″s. Like Karl, Cindy did not get her love of Celtic music genetically. Her ethnic make-up is primarily Native American, which she celebrates regularly, and German (she doesn”t drink beer or eat Wiener Schnitzel?). She contributes monthly to The Celtic Connection as reviewer of live and recorded music, as well as periodic interviewer for features. Her reviews and interviews have been printed in magazines here and abroad (Irish Music Magazine, Living Tradition, etc), and published in Irish newspapers around the country. Her paid job is working with horses ” judging, breeding, or teaching at a university. Because of her busy horse-judging schedule of late that takes her out of town, we did this interview through an exchange of emails. Best, Pat M.)CC: Cindy, it probably is safe to say that your two main loves/interests are horses and music. We will get into music ” but first tell us about you involvement with horses (background, judging, etc).I grew up on a family horse farm.” My mom raised Arabian horses and I have always been around them. I showed for over 30 years ” equitation, Western, English, etc.” I got started judging when I was 9 years old and in 4-H.” I judged sheep, cattle and pigs.” It taught me how to evaluate an animal”s structure.” I was in 4-H for 10 years and from there, judged for Colorado State University on both the horse and livestock judging teams. I really liked judging, so applied for my USEF (United States Equestrian Federation) card as soon as I was eligible at age 21.” I won”t tell you my age now, but I”ve had my card for several decades!!” Since they can”t get rid of me, they send me off to judge in exotic places like Brazil, Uruguay and Australia.” I have had no argument with that.CC: So how did you get turned-on to Celtic music? I got hooked on Celtic music when I heard Christy Moore on the radio in Colorado in the late 70′s.” It stopped me in my tracks (Ride On) and I went to the phone and called the station and asked who it was that was singing. About two weeks later I heard another song (Sonny’s Dream)”by the same guy and it was fabulous. I then started to look for music by Christy which was very hard to come by in those days.” I stumbled across Planxty because Christy was in it, which was a good way to start. Prior to that, I couldn’t have pointed out Ireland on a map, and other than the fact that they have great horses, I couldn’t have told you anything about the country.” Because of my intense interest in the music, I ended up living over there for a number of years and have been going over yearly for 21 years. CC: When/How Long/Why did you live in Ireland?In the late 80″s I quit my job, sold all my stuff and tried to go over there and live”Bad idea. There was a reason everyone was coming over HERE to get jobs!!Got smarter and went to do a Master”s in animal reproduction at University College Dublin in 1995.”I lived in Celbridge, County Kildare for a couple of years.” Also, in 1992 I was working at a horse farm and living in Belgium. My mom came over to visit. She had always wanted to visit Ireland, so off we went, after touring Scotland for a week. Well, my mom ended up with a detached retina on her first day in Dublin and had to have surgery at the Mater Hospital.” She couldn”t leave Ireland for 6 weeks because they had to inject an air bubble into her eye.” Was quite an experience for her staying in the public ward at the Mater. All the ladies in her room got her hooked on the Late Late Show. She became quite a fan of Gay Byrne!CC: You”ve made some good friends in the music business over the years ” hopefully you won”t alienate any of them with this answer ” can you list your top ten live music concerts/experiences?This was a great question ” really brought back great memories trying to decide!!” Sure I can”t do a top twenty???Christy Moore ” Ballyhaunis, Co. Mayo, 1986 ” The Midas ClubFirst time I got to hear Christy Moore live. Kieran Goss was the opener. There is a great story to this night for another time. However, my first introduction to the music on Irish soil.Jimmy Mac Carthy – Mother Redcap”s, Liberties, Dublin” mid 90″s?Jimmy sat with a guitar and sang for over 2 1/2 hours. Nearly every song he sang was one he had written. One of the most extraordinary nights at a gig ever.Concert for Frankie ” various ” Olympia, DublinAn emotional night of music to celebrate the life and music of Frankie Kennedy after his death from cancer.” Over three hours of music from fellow Altan members, Christy Moore, Luka Bloom, Paul Brady, Mary Black, Donal Lunny, Clannad, Sharon Shannon, Liam O”Maonlai, and on and on.” Everyone then moved on to the Harcourt Hotel for an amazing session.” I left reluctantly at 6 am to go to school.Planxty ” Vicar St. Dublin ” 2004I never got a chance to see Planxty when they originally played, although I had every album.”The chance to see them play 30 years on was magic. Raised the hair on the back of my neck.” I have never seen anything like the ovation they received when they entered the hall and it only got better from there. St. Brigid”s Night, St. Brigid”s Cathedral Kildare town ” 1996(?)Wondrous night of music with Sinead O”Connor, Noirin Ni Rian, Luka Bloom, Christy Moore, Conor Byrne, Liam O”Maonlai, Jimmy Higgins, and many more. “Afterwards a mighty session with many of the above until about 4 am at a local down the street.Hughes” Pub ” behind the Four Courts in Dublin.Spent many an amazing evening there just listening to the musicians that showed up. Could be local, could be superstars. Just fabulous music.” Might have Kevin Glackin on fiddle, Brendan Begley on accordion, Conor Byrne on flute..Bewley”s, Grafton Street, Dublin Christy”s sister Eilish ran a folk club on the 3rd floor of Bewley”s for about a year or so in the mid-90″s. It only seated about 50 people and there was no mic. Saw one of the best gigs I”ve ever seen Christy Moore do there ” Unplugged!Ditto for Glen Hansard who did a completely acoustic gig. Leaving the crowd singing the chorus from “Revelate”, he gently laid his guitar down on the floor and walked out through the audience and out the door, while we all continued singing. Stunning.Harcourt Hotel, Dublin ” 1995-1997The Harcourt used to have great gigs every week on Mondays. They would do “Banjo Night” where it was all banjos with the likes of Gerry O”Connor and Eamonn Coyne and Barney MacKenna and others all playing banjo at the same time. Sounds disastrous, but twas brilliant!”There was “Fiddle Night” and “Flute Night”, etc.”Dunlewey, Co. Donegal ” Frankie Kennedy Winter School One year it snowed like crazy. Took me and a friend 6 hrs do drive from Dublin to Letterkenny. And then two more hours on to Dunlewy where we hiked through the snow to the Leisure Center on moonlit night.” Liam O” Maonlai entranced the hardy crowd who made it with harp, keyboard, voice, whistle and stories. The wind howled outside and the branches of the trees were bent double.” A true seanachie on the night.Armstrong Hall, Colorado Springs ” Christy Moore” 1990 Christy”s first and only appearance in Colorado.” Extraordinary gig. For all but ex-pats it was their first “Christy” experience. I had many seasoned gig goers tell me it was the greatest gig they ever heard”Tommy Peoples ” Lafayette, Colorado A very rare appearance by Tommy in Colorado. The hall was completely silent as Tommy played and the music wrapped everyone in a cloud of wonder on the night. Going-away gig ” Ferryman pub, Dublin docks After finishing my degree at UCD, I was returning to Colorado. A few friends organized a farewell session” Conor Byrne, Eilish Moore, Luka Bloom, Glen Hansard, Liam O”Maonlai and others played a magnificent session with other pub goers joining in until the wee hours of the morning. Made it very hard to get on a plane and leave such a place.Hill of Allen, County Kildar.The path up the Hill of Allen was lit by burning tapers at 6am on a cold February morning. As the sun rose, Luka Bloom and others serenaded the group of people at the top before heading out on a ten-mile famine walk.” An instance where you really understood the connection between song and place.That”s more than ten, but if I don”t stop now, it will be the top fifty!” I also want to note that while a lot of these gigs contained “names” in the industry, there were hundreds of phenomenal sessions and gigs I went to with extraordinary musicians and singers who remain nameless but were every bit as phenomenal as the better-known musicians.CC: Wow, some great memories Cindy, and we know that you have hundreds more. We”ll have to expound in future issues of The Celtic Connection ” or maybe you should just write a book!CC: You have seen many live shows ” name a few bands that you have not seen live that are on your “to do” list?For sure, Damien Dempsey, Roisin Elsafty, Karine Polwart, Lau, Beoga.CC: What has been playing on your CD of late?Stuff I have to review for a certain paper I know in Denver!” The work never stops. However, I”m really looking forward to the new Guggenheim Grotto!CC: How did you become a DJ on the radio?I sort of fell into radio by complaining!” I was living in C.Springs and they had a Celtic show on KRCC every Saturday and Sunday evening.” Obviously, some d.j. who really wanted to do a rock show got stuck with the Celtic show.” It used to make me mental, because she would announce the wrong names for tunes played and mispronounce the names of songs and groups. The one that put me over the top was when she announced a song by “Boys of the Low-ugh” (Boys of the Lough, pronounced “lock”). When I went in to pay my membership premium during fundraising, I complained about the person, because she obviously didn’t care about the music and was not doing it any favors.” “Can you do better”? was the reply.” “We have a volunteer training class coming up”.” I replied that I had never done it before, but I couldn’t possibly do worse than the person doing it at the time.” I got the job. Sure, why wouldn’t I?” It was a volunteer position. When I took a paying job on a ranch near Westcliffe, I used to drive over the mountain”every weekend to do the show and even did a number of Ft. Collins/Colorado Springs runs to do the show.”CC: So how long have you been doing the radio gig?I’ve been doing a radio show weekly on a regular basis for 11 years (Colorado Springs, Ft. Collins). Have done it off and on for another 10 ” I started in 1987 at KRCC in Colorado Springs. Did a live weather report for Radio Kerry in Killarney and did an on-air try out for a pirate station in Dublin ” they wanted to hire me, but I didn’t have a reliable way to get there when I was living in Ireland. No car and couldn’t get bus for the late night shift… I”ve been presenting “The Long Acre” show now for 5 1/2 years on KRFC (Fort Collins) That”s www.krfcfm.org at 1-3pm for everyone reading this, although I”d never use this forum to advertise my show”".CC: I detect a smiley face with a wink! You are welcome to flog your great show on KRFC anytime ” folks would be wise to check it out.CC: You”ve had a slew of special guests on your shows, can you give us a taste?Guests that have been on the shows over the years, either live or via phone ” Christy Moore, Luka Bloom, Niamh Parsons, Liam O’Maonlai, Glen Hansard, Damien Dempsey, Martin Hayes, PJ Curtis, Nicolas Carolan (curator of Irish Traditional Music archive), Susan McKeown, Phil Coulter, Tommy Peoples, Hothouse Flowers, Solas, Altan, Gerry O’Beirne, Colcannon, The Elders, Paddy Maloney and Kevin Conneff of the Chieftains.. etc., etc., etc. CC: Having heard their music, and maybe seeing them live in concert, have any of the guests surprised you when you have gotten together for a chat?Most of them have been amazingly well behaved!” No, actually, many of these people have become friends from my time in Ireland, so we enjoy a chat on or off the record!I was most surprised to get Tommy Peoples on..he is very shy and it was a big effort for him to talk on the air. I was very grateful to him for that. The wonderful thing about these musicians is that they are so willing.” I have never been turned down when I”ve asked someone.” Something that people may not know about me is that I am really shy (yes, really).” The hardest thing I do is get up the courage to ask artists I don”t know for interviews. I always feel like I”m imposing.” But to their credit they say yes.” I try to do an interview that is different from what they would usually do.” I try to come up with interesting questions and I always do my homework.CC: Are you a closet musician?” Do you sing in the shower?” I play instruments in the shower!” I used to sing in choir as kid. I love to sing to songs…just not when anyone is listening. The nice thing in Ireland and Scotland is that everyone sings at gigs, so I join in, too!” You can listen for me on Luka Bloom”s “Amsterdam” CD.” The whole thing was recorded at the Carre Theatre in Amsterdam ” audience as well.” Hmm”must add to Top Ten list ” Luka Bloom at Carre Theatre!I have been known to beat on goats and used to play hammered dulcimer before trading it for a harp that I never got”maybe it”s for the best.CC: Rumor has it that the pay on radio is not that great ” why do you do it? Cause I would hope to touch someone like I was touched when I heard Christy for the first time on my local radio station in Colorado! PM
When the Democratic National Convention takes place in Denver August 25-28, the city will be taking advantage of approximately $50 million provided by the federal government to cover security costs for the event. One man will be heading up the cause to ensure that only those federal funds will be used for convention security”not the taxes of local Denver citizens. That man is Dennis Gallagher, Auditor of the City and County of Denver.Gallagher, a Denver native and proud Irishman, was elected to the Colorado House of Representatives in 1970. Since then, he has built an impressive political career of public service, culminating in his being awarded the Community Leader Award on May 14, 2008. The award recognizes Gallagher”s work to modernize and streamline the Denver Auditor”s office. Ever since Gallagher was elected Auditor in 2003 (Denver is one of only a few cites where the position is an elected one), he has been working to protect the city”s taxpayers by acting as a financial watch dog, and eliminating waste — going so far as consolidating his own department. In January, he helped to change the city charter to establish a truly independent audit committee, one that conforms to nationally accepted standards and avoids any conflicts of interest. Gallagher is the man who is literally keeping our local government honest. “I tell truth to power,” Gallagher says. “Whether they want to hear it or not.”While the branches of his political career span almost 40 years, his roots of Irish heritage go deep. Walking into his office in the Wellington Webb building in downtown Denver, you may be greeted in Gaelic. Above his bookshelf is the statue of a harp, the symbol of Ireland. And not only are his Irish roots deep, but also they are firmly planted in Colorado soil. His grandfather, William Joseph Gallagher, immigrated to Denver from Sligo in the early 1900s, finding work on the railroads. This was a time when Protestants and Catholics marched together in Saint Patrick”s Day parades. (They later split after the Irish civil war.) William was a member of the Irish Fellowship Club, and the United Mine Workers. “You look up the death rolls in Leadville,” Gallagher says of the old mining town. “There”s lots of Gallaghers buried in Potter”s Field.” Gallagher”s passion to protect the citizens of Denver surely stems from his grandfather”s Irish-American experience of hard work, solidarity, and love of freedom and opportunity for the common man. “God bless America and the union label” was a regular refrain in the household, and his son, Gallagher”s father, went on to become a firefighter. Things were very different in those days, and not always easy for Irish immigrants during the Ku Klux Klan era ” even as far north as Denver. Gallagher tells the tale of his mother, Ellen Flaherty, a young coat check girl at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, being ushered into a hiding place among the jackets one night so the roving Klansmen couldn”t find her.From North Denver, Gallagher attended Skinner Middle School, where there were “37 straight years of Gallaghers,” he says. While he only had one sibling, a brother, his aunt had 11 children. A recreation center has to be rented just to accommodate family reunions.After Skinner, Gallagher attended Holy Family Grade and High School, and then went on to Regis College, where he earned a BA in English Literature and minors in Latin and Greek. That”s how the hook of public service finally became firmly implanted in his hungry mouth. At Regis, he was exposed to, and greatly inspired by, classical writings on arts and public policy, especially Cicero”s speeches against the tyrants of the Roman Republic. After Regis, Gallagher attended Catholic University in Washington, D.C., where he majored in Speech Communication, which he has been teaching for the past 42 years. He returned to Regis, where he is now Professor Emeritus.An astonishingly learned and well-read scholar, Gallagher shows no signs of slowing down after his retirement from Regis in 2003. He leads cemetery and neighborhood tours, utilizing his encyclopedic knowledge of his city. In July, he led a group of Regis students on a two-week tour through Ireland, to explore the nation”s literature, culture, history and politics. When he returns to Denver, he will continue to advise city administrators on how they can do things better, and more efficiently. “I should have been an anthropologist,” he says. “What we”re doing is trying to change the culture, to make the city more accountable and improve the business processes.”With a desk buried under copies of the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence, (which he distributes), it”s apparent that he truly loves America and what it stands for. His grandfather from Sligo instilled in him the “idea that you could give something back. The country was good to us.”Denver is lucky to have such a committed, vigilant servant keeping his watchful eyes on taxpayer dollars. While the upcoming Democratic National Convention will fill Denver with high hopes and celebrations, Gallagher will continue to save us money, and to protect the money we already have.Editors note: Dennis has just been named Grand Marshall of the 2009 Denver ST. Patrick”s Day Parade. As an Irish-American and public servant Dennis has marchedin the annual parade for many years. On Saturday March 14 he will be honored for his service to the Denver community and his support and perpetuation of his Irish roots and culturePublished in August 08 Celtic Connection
by Katie WeberThe Good Hotel Guide (GHG) has been my best source for finding unique, small hotels, inns and B&B”s in Ireland, and Great Britain for many years. I first used it during my honeymoon in the early 1990″s and found a dramatic difference in the quality and overall experience between its hotels and those recommended by other guides.The reasons for this are twofold. First, it is difficult for a hotel to get into the Guide. To be included, plain old travellers like you and me, must stay in a hotel, and be impressed enough to then sit down, write out a review, and send it in to the Guide. If enough travellers recommend a particular hotel, the property is then checked out by an anonymous inspector and if it passes muster, included in the Guide. Second, the GHG, unlike most of its competitors, accepts no payment of any kind from hotels and that includes advertising and hospitality. The Guide pays the cost of its inspections, all of which are anonymous. Operating in this way, it has built up a reputation for independent and reliable judgement. Its editors, Adam & Caroline Raphael have a long and distinguished history of quality journalism, working over the years for The Economist, The BBC, The Guardian, and The Observer.The result is that the GHG is a treasure trove of weekend breaks, one night stays, and holiday locations. From lakeside country houses to seaside B&B”s, townhouse hotels to wonderfully eccentric guesthouses, there is something for everyone.Travellers have different needs, tastes, wishes and pockets, so the range of places in the Good Hotel Guide is wide. Classic country houses are listed as well as simple, rural guesthouses. Restaurants-with-rooms are included, as are pubs with good food and accommodation. Budget B&Bs are also there alongside historic houses and informal homes away from home. In the cities, modern designer hotels sit alongside more traditional establishments. The Guide conveys the spirit of each place, written with wit and evocative style. Perhaps the best thing about the Good Hotel Guide is that it is a delight to read. As noted in The Philadelphia Inquirer, “Half the fun of this book comes from reading the comments, which usually have the warm, entertaining quality of letters from an old friend.”There are approximately 850 hotels listed in the 2008 Guide, more than 70 of them in Ireland. Here are excerpts from reviews for two of them:Ballinderry Park in County GalwayIn “glorious isolation in the eerily desolate countryside of east Galway”, this “beautifully proportioned Georgian building” has been restored from ruin by George and Susie Gossip, “a charming couple”. The Gossips”receive guests in Irish country house style, with an honesty bar, “disguised as a cupboard”, and communal dining. “The restoration owes much to George”s good taste,” says an inspector in 2007. “The drawing room, with a roaring log fire, is cosy on a chilly day. Our bedroom was not large, but warm; a cleverly installed bathroom.” Mr. Gossip, who lectures on cooking game at the cookery school at Ballymaloe House (qv) in the off-season, serves a set “but flexible” four-course dinner (tastes are discussed, and vegetarians catered for). “I had expressed an interest in game and was served with woodcock, shot on the land by the man himself.” “Well-behaved” dogs allowed. A fine stopping place for any aficionado of the Irish country house.Flemingstown House in County Limerick“Superb. Imelda Sheedy-King is the perfect hostess. Top-quality dining at a reasonable price.” A tribute in 2007 to this “flawless” guest house on a working dairy farm near an important medieval town. The 18th century building, “comfortable rather than luxurious,” has a “cosy lounge with mostly 19th-century pieces.” The “energetic” hostess, “the heart and soul of the place,” welcomed returning visitors “with extraordinary warmth, and insisted on helping with our luggage.” “Attention to every detail makes your stay special.” Bedrooms are spacious: “Our well-lit room had a cheerful air, a crystal chandelier, superb views across field to the Ballyhoura mountains. “Dinner, in a room with big stained-glass windows, is “the highlight of a stay; scrumptious and plentiful.” Mrs. Sheedy-King”s five-course menu (up to four choices for each course) features traditional dishes, e.g. leg of Irish lamb with mint sauce. Her sister”s own Cheddar cheese might be offered. “Give plenty of notice that you wish to dine, and bring your own wine.” Breakfast has home-made breads, cheeses, jams and cakes; fresh juices and a range of cooked dishes including pancakes with banana and grapes. Families are accommodated. They can explore the farm and watch the cows being milked. The local pub has live music on weekends.For the past 32 years, the GHG has specialized in discovering outstanding places to stay for its thousands of devoted readers. For its American readers, it has the added virtue of taking them on a trip to Ireland, England, Scotland or Wales that they will never forget. Stay in just one place recommended by this Guide, and you will never go back to your old way of choosing hotels. The Guide also contains discount vouchers, worth $250, which enable visitors to get 25% off the normal rates at participating hotels. The Good Hotel Guide Great Britain & Ireland 2008 can be bought via its website: www.goodhotelguide.com or directly from the publisher, The Good Hotel Guide, 50 Addison Avenue, London W11 4QP, England. It is also available via Amazon.com
In July the Colorado Irish Festival enjoyed a financial, cultural, and musical success. Featuring world class entertainers like Gaelic Storm, Solas, The Elders and Cathie Ryan this year”s festival drew 32,000 visitors or a 50% increase over last year. In its 14th year the Co President Kacey O”Connor took no bows. Instead, as usual, she pointed to others.“The Festival”s success is largely due to the visionaries, 14 years ago, that started the event. Without them and their fanatical determination we would never be where we are now. We have 400 volunteers tirelessly committed to the festival. We are expanding and hopefully improving the Festival each year. Ciaran (Ciaran Dwyer the other Co-President) and I get the accolades but really it”s the management team and the volunteers that are responsible for our success.”The festival made two changes this year and one caused a mild controversy. First of all the old smaller location in Clement Park became too congested. The festival management team decided to move west in the park to a larger area with an amphitheatre. The change presented a few logistical challenges but the new site worked well and the guests enjoyed it. The second decision was the selection of Coors as exclusive vendor for beer sales.Kacey explains. “In reality the decision was a no-brainer. Coors offered us a significant contribution. Their people are fabulously cooperative and huge supporters of the festival. Their contribution helps us bring the world renowned talent to the festival.”A visit to Kacey”s store reminds one of a visit to a store in a small village in Ireland. It”s quaint, clean, well stocked with merchandise and staffed with warm friendly people. Daughter Lillie helps with managing as well as purchasing dance outfits, shoes and wigs. As Kacey puts it “Lillie is tuned into what young girls want in their dance outfits. She is invaluable in our purchasing.”Humor seems to surround Kacey. On a recent Saturday a huge middle age gentleman came to the store to connect with his newly discovered Scottish roots. After browsing for awhile he settled on a kilt. Returning from the change room he proudly pranced around the store. Lillie saw the customer and almost collapsed trying not to laugh. He had put the kilt on backwards. She rushed to her mother and Kacey diplomatically approached the egotistical customer with “that looks fabulous on you and it”s surely the right size but I think it would look much better turned around.” The customer sheepishly returned to the changing area, turned the kilt around and left with his first kilt. Charming, hard working, feisty and fun loving, she is a credit to the Irish community.
Irish folk legend Ronnie Drew – the former frontman of ballad group The Dubliners – has been given an old-fashioned Irish wake by his family. The gravel-voiced singer, who passed away on 16th August, was waked in his Greystones, Co Wicklow home, by hundreds of fans, friends, family members and neighbours before his funeral in the nearby Church of the Holy Rosary. Among those dropping in to pay their respects to his son Phelim and daughter Cliodhna – and Ronnie himself – was composer Phil Coulter, singer Paul Brady, Riverdance composer Bill Whelan, Eurovision Song Contest winner Shay Healy and Sinead O’Connor.Local people in Greystones supplied food and drink for mourners who had traveled from far and near. And Ronnie was laid-out inside in his coffin in one of his best suits.His agent and friend Brian hand said: “He wanted a big party more than anything else. This was a celebration of life. He was a real man of the people and that was what he wanted. So he got it.”Ronnie was laid to rest in Greystones cemetery after a service that include music from his old Dubliners colleagues Barney McKenna and John Sheehan. The church was so full, loudspeakers broadcast the ceremony to the hundreds outside in the car park.Ronnie ” regarded as the ultimate Dubliner ” passed away after a long battle with throat cancer. Last year his wife Deirdre, who nursed him through the initial stages of his illness, contracted cancer herself and died. But he battled on enduring bout after bout of exhausting chemotherapy, supported by his children, five grandchildren and extended family.Earlier this year U2 star Bono was behind a tribute song to him called The Ballad Of Ronnie Drew. It reached number one in the Irish charts and featured contributions from The Edge, Andrea Corr, Moya Brennan of Clannad, Sinead O’Connor, members of The Dubliners and a host of others.Ronnie was suitably embarrassed by the tribute, which was broadcast in a TV special while he sat in the audience. The song was co-written by Bono and The Edge along with contributions from Robert Hunter, the lyricist with legendary American band The Grateful Dead.While Bono attended Deirdre Drew’s funeral last year to console Ronnie, there was no sign of him at the singer’s own funeral. He was believed to be on holiday with family and friends at his home in the south of France.But manager Paul McGuinness was there to represent the supergroup, while President Mary McAleese and Taoiseach Briwn Cowen were also represented by aides. And colourful Pogues singer Shane MacGowan arrived in a black top hat to pay his respects.The Dubliners formed in the early 1960s and were originally called The Ronnie Drew Group. But the changed their name to The Dubliners after the James Joyce book that group member Luke Kelly was reading at the time.In 1967 they were the first Irish act to appear on British chart show Top Of The Pops singing the controversial Seven Drunken Nights, which was banned on Irish radio. Nearly 20 years later they teamed up with punk-folk band The Pogues to appear on the same show singing The Irish Rover.As famed for their drinking sessions as their songs, they toured for decades. But nearly 20 years ago Ronnie called a halt, quit he group and gave up drinking.Since then he performed regularly, doing solo shows, readings, pantomime and occasionally re-uniting with the band for special shows.With a voice of gravel that belied a heart of gold, he died peacefully in St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin surrounded by his family. A true Irish legend.
(Published in September 08 Celtic Connection)World-Class musicians from around the U.S. and abroad will travel to Huerfano County in south central Colorado for the Spanish Peaks International Celtic Music Festival September 25 -28. They will give concerts, offer music lessons, talk on the music traditions, and partake in impromptu music sessions along the way. The towns of Walsenburg, La Veta, Cuchara, and Gardner, all take part in the County-wide festival ” and it all started in a shack and trailer that Jack and Barbara Yule called home.Jack and Barbara moved with their four cats from Scotland to Gardner, Colorado in December of 2000 just in time for Christmas. In the previous spring they came across for a month so Jack could “knock up a shed” where they could live while he single-handedly built the two-story house he had designed for the couple to live. Luckily they had an old tiny used trailer to stay in while this job was being completed. The shed turned out to be 16″ by 20″ ” divided the long way for a half to hold Jack”s work tools and the other half for them to live in ” no amenities, including no electricity the first year. World-Class musicians from around the U.S. and abroad will travel to Huerfano County in south central Colorado for the Spanish Peaks International Celtic Music Festival September 25 -28. They will give concerts, offer music lessons, talk on the music traditions, and partake in impromptu music sessions along the way. The towns of Walsenburg, La Veta, Cuchara, and Gardner, all take part in the County-wide festival ” and it all started in a shack and trailer that Jack and Barbara Yule called home.Jack and Barbara moved with their four cats from Scotland to Gardner, Colorado in December of 2000 just in time for Christmas. In the previous spring they came across for a month so Jack could “knock up a shed” where they could live while he single-handedly built the two-story house he had designed for the couple to live. Luckily they had an old tiny used trailer to stay in while this job was being completed. The shed turned out to be 16″ by 20″ ” divided the long way for a half to hold Jack”s work tools and the other half for them to live in ” no amenities, including no electricity the first year. American born, Barbara went to Scotland in 1978 with her then eight year old daughter Heather to study for a doctorate in folklore at the School of Scottish Studies, Edinburgh University. Jack and Barbara met and married and her stay extended beyond the degree for 22 years. Jack had been first a boat builder in a East Lothian boat yard, then a cabinet maker and somewhere in between he worked in the building trade. His final challenge after he and Barbara were married was to learn how to design and make Celtic harps. He became so successful at his art that in 2004 the Smithsonian Institute invited him as the only harp maker from Scotland to exhibit his harps at their Washington D.C. Folk Life Festival honoring Scotland and their finest traditional artists. Besides working in wood, Jack”s other love was playing his squeezebox or melodeon, a popular folk instrument in Scotland. He learned to play while growing up on various farms in East Lothian where his father was a ploughman. Barbara set the backdrop for the family Yule, “Our little cottage in the hamlet of Silverburn south of Edinburgh drew musicians both professional and amateur for regular ceilidh evenings. Storytelling, my field, was also popular at these events. This was Heather”s upbringing including getting the opportunity when she was still a schoolgirl to accompany me on many of my field collecting trips. We traveled widely throughout the country so I could record traditional stories told by the traveling people (formerly known as tinkers). It is no wonder Heather eventually went on to become a professional Celtic harp player and storyteller herself.”When Jack and Barbara moved to Scotland, Jack was and still is the only Scotsman living in Huerfano County. It took him a wee while to find other amateur musicians like himself who enjoyed playing Scottish and Irish music. He did find a few such men and they met regularly once a week to jam together.Barbara explained how the seeds of the Celtic Fest were planted. “In the summer of 2001 a couple of our musician friends from Scotland came across to camp on our land, and so we organized a ceilidh in their honor. The word spread, as seems to happen easily out here in the country, and about 75 people showed up with food and drinks and we had a rip roaring good time. Another ceilidh was held the following year and the year after that ” whenever one or more of our friends would cross the ocean, instruments in hand. Every summer participants to these rather spontaneous events increased and dancing and sing-alongs were added. After the 2004 summer ceilidh a number of us thought it might be fun to organize an actual weekend Celtic music festival.”With only a start up loan of $2500, all Barbara could think to do was to phone several of their professional musician friends who, because of Jack”s profession, were predominantly harp players, and ask them if they would come at their own expense to help launch a new festival. “To my surprise everyone I asked agreed!” said Barbara. That first year included Scottish ballad singer Alison Bell, world renowned harpers Billy Jackson (Scotland), Grainne Hambly (Ireland), international jazz harpist Park Stickney who flew in from Switzerland and Alfredo Ortiz, master player of the Paraguayan harp, and finally Jane McMoran, a fabulous Celtic fiddler from Tennessee. “Jack volunteered to host the concerts and his dry humor made such a hit that he still has that job today. We even had our daughter Heather across that year to take part as a harp teacher and storyteller. We couldn”t guarantee these wonderful artists the price of their flight tickets let alone offer them a fee! – As it turned out in the end we were able to reimburse all their expenses, pay back our loan, and still have a little money left over as a start for a second year!”Not bad for the first try especially so when you figure the preparation for the festival took place in the 8″ by 10″ living-work space in the shed that Jack built, still without running water and just a wood stove for heat, and six cats (they had added two American strays to their family). At least the shed now had electricity and an uncertain telephone that was on the blink more than it worked ” they would have to wait for their telephone poles later along with a well for water.The next years saw many more great international and American artists join their festival ranks. From the very first year outreach programs were presented by the guest artists to all Huerfano County schools K-12 during the week leading up to the festival itself. During the weekend they offered classes, workshops and demonstration talks especially with musicians and lovers of Celtic culture in mind. The festival has grown in number and popularity year to year, but by design it strives for quality and not quanity.“Ours will always be a small festival because our concerts (this year 5, one of which is free) and our strong educational music program does not have as broad an appeal as say, a Highland Games event,” explained Barbara, “We try and bring in artists as much as possible from Celtic countries, or Americans with direct Irish and or Scottish ties who perform internationally to offer participants an opportunity to hear, enjoy and learn from artists not normally accessible to Southern Colorado. We hope in the future to include more of the exciting best Celtic musicians Colorado has to offer as we are getting to know them from their visits to our festival.” This year the festival have two popular duos with local Colorado ties ” the delightful Willson and McKee who actually are rooted in Walsenburg and Shannon and Matt Heaton who have a big Colorado following from their years displaying their skills in their Colorado based band Siucra (Shoo-cra, Irish for “sugar). The Heatons will be joined on stage for the Saturday night concert at the Fox Theater in Walsenburg with internationally renowned Irish fiddler Liz Carroll, premier Uilleann piper Jerry O”Sullivan, and Kieran Jordan, a beautiful master of Sean-Nos (Old Style) Irish step dancing.As the festival closes in on its fourth year Barbara, as festival director, continues to take on the mighty task of presenting the pure form of Celtic music and dance to Colorado, while Jack single-handedly builds a house and home. Progress has been slow but steady -Jack and Barbara moved into their unfinished house (November of 2006) and now they have running water as well as electricity! Stop down to the beautiful Spanish Peaks region the last weekend in September and enjoy the fruits of their labor. “We welcome all to another festival we think you will find exciting, and this time, you will be pleased to know, we finally have found a great pub in La Veta happy to welcome late night session players! For more information visit www.CelticMusicFest.com