Sunday, 17 May 2009

Big Whistle

8th May 2009

Big Whistle Weekend, Bury.

Take an unlikely event, such as a festival which concentrates primarily on the humble tin whistle. Take an unlikely setting for such a festival, such as Bury in Greater Manchester. What you get is the Big Whistle Weekend. Our chums, The Battlefield Band, were performing on the Thursday night and Friday saw us make the trip south to play a concert with that jazziest of tin whistle players, the brilliant Cormac Breatnach. After his set, we played our usual song-based stuff whilst attempting to please the whistle loving audience with extra whistliness at all times, including a spontaneous rendering of our old favourite from 3 Ravens days, "Mary's Dream", which we originally got from Mike Katz of the Battlefield Band, thereby closing the circle nicely!

On Saturday morning the non whistlers were obliged to leave the area, ostensibly due to their plebian ignorance of the dark arts of the tin whistle, but actually to fly to Denmark for a tour while Mark, the only paid up member of the Whistlers Circle took part in a workshop entitled "The Tin Whistle and Me", wherein aspiring members of the Whistlers Circle asked pertinent questions like "Why aren't we learning to play something a bit more sexy, like the flute or the pipes or something?"

So whether we use it as an entry in to music generally or make it our main instrument, here's to the tin whistle, cheap and common little thing that it is. Where would we be without it?

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Northern Ireland

Wednesday 29th April 2009

An early start to the day see's us driving to Portstewart after a huge breakfast. The North Derry coastline looks incredibly wild against the backdrop of horizontal rain! Played at the Dominican College to most of year 8 who were an incredibly receptive audience and then drank several cups of tea accompanied by classic staff room banter. Lunch in the Portstewart Bakery followed by a drive to Limavady blew the cobwebs away and prepared us for an afternoon concert in Limavady High School. The highlight was at the end of the concert one of the students, Charmaine, sang a song accompanied by Mr Dunlop on the guitar.

The evening gig took place in the Letterkenny Regional Cultural Centre meaning a quick trip across the border and prices being cunningly rounded up from 1 pound to 2 Euros 50! The audience and venue were excellent and we had a great night. A huge thank you to Guy and Harriet for looking after us so well.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009


Friday 1st May: We arose to another of Eleanor’s fine breakfasts of Scrambled Eggs, Bacon, Tea and Toast, and resolved to do a bit of walking, pre-gig.
Mark drove us to a most spectacular local beauty spot – Kinbane, on the north coast of Antrim.
We were unable to walk right out to the headland as to do so you have to navigate your way through an old ruined Castle, and there had been a fire the previous week. It was all cordoned off. Nevertheless we had a great walk in the sunshine, marred only by Mike having to endure a ‘phone call from his accountant! On the way home we stopped in Ballycastle for Icecream.
Later, the Malinky-mobile was packed and the crew headed for Omagh for our final gig of the tour.
Only one small mishap on the way – the GPS took us to Market Square Newtown Stewart, instead of Market Square Omagh, luckily this was only ten miles off our intended target.
The Strule Arts Centre is a beautiful new theatre, only two years old and was a fine venue for our last gig of the tour.
We’re all looking forward to Denmark next week!

Friday, 10 April 2009

Home from the USA

Well we've been back a few weeks now and it's been a busy time amongst families, day jobs and paying the bills, so things like website updating and blogging haven't been on the top of the 'to do' list. So here goes, at long last.

We've made a few changes to the website lately, (maybe nothing hugely noticeable to anyone but us!), and one thing we hope to be more on top of is our mailing list and a new tour blog, with tales, pics and videos from on the road.

Day 1 - Sunday 1st March
Our second trip of 2009 to the US saw us land headlong in a wintry storm-ridden east coast. We made our first run out to Cape Cod, the other side of Buzzards Bay from where we were last summer at New Bedford Summerfest. However, we didn't see it at its best, in fact miles away from the idyllic vacation destination of the Kennedys and such like. I don't think the big 'Cape Cod' sign as you arrive is meant to be white with snow.

But we had a great first night hosted by the Woods Hole Folk Music Society, reuniting us with Clyde Tyndale who'd done sound for us at the Old Songs festival back in summer 08 in New York state. Mike and I sayed with Jan Elliott and Tim Radford, and Tim and I soon got lost in folklorists heaven, swapping yarns about various folksong collectors and the like, with Tim telling me about a great project he's working on with the songs of a singer from his home area. Songs from Home?!

What a hardy bunch of navvies all! I should point out, Dave is merely holding a shovel, myself and Mike (complete with very non-waterproof slip-on shoes) were the ones exercising the elbow grease the most ;-)

Day 2 - Monday 2 March
Jan herself is an accomplished concertina player amongst other things, and during breakfast conversation Mike confessed to not knowing what a crumhorn is, so we had our first ever crumhorn tour breakfast serenade!

Jan had been out in the morning already 'digging the car out'. This was no exaggeration. We went to meet the rest of the gang at the place they were staying, and alas their British Isles snow instincts - or lack of any?! - meant that they hadn't thought about moving the car which was now in a good 8 inches of snow. We were due to leave shortly, so before they had even grasped what was going on, Mike and I grabbed shovels and got busy. That's teamwork guys eh? Thankfully after about 15 minutes digging and maneouvering, things were looking up.

We were due to travel up to Maine to see Phill McIntyre who runs Skye Theatre in South Carthage. Now there's another snow story....

[to be continued...]