May '15 was a sad month in Ireland's singing circles with the passing of two dear elderly friends, Packie Manus Byrne and Micil Ned Quinn. Both were great storytellers, singers and characters the likes of whom will not be seen again. May their songs always be sung. R.I.P.
The ten day Willie Clancy 'week' in Miltown Malbay had the best opening session I have experienced down the years with Piper Mick Coyne and singer Dick Hogan leading the fray in magnificent form in the back room of the Malbay Luxury Hotel. The following night Paddy Keenan turned up at the door of our rented Spanish Point cottage whereupon a further three days and nights of great music and fun ensued. The 'official' singing sessions which used to be such an integral part of the Miltown festival are now held out of town at the local Golf Club, a venue which many of the singers boycott because of its lack of atmosphere, stiff formality and distance from town. Fortunately, the South Roscommon Singers were involved in several great singing sessions around Miltown, particularly in the back room of the Malbay, at which Declan Coyne and Johnny Johnston included 'noble calls' on every noteworthy singer present.
Our Clare crew's annual Aug bank holiday weekend in Thomastown, seemed to be headed for disaster when the two leading instrumentalists didn't make it, but - to the great relief of all concerned - my friend, Katie Theasby, showed up and saved the day... C'mon the Kilfenora K.T. Band.
On August 8th my daughter, Georgia, gave birth in London to a 9lb 5oz baby boy, Matthew. Mother and child are both doing fine and I've found new joy and meaning in life - hallelujah!!!
One door opens, another closes - my good friend, Tony Hobbs, who managed several great music pubs in London inc. the Stags Head, the Osbourne and the Toucan Two, finally succumbed to longterm illness and passed away. R.I.P.
At the Tonder Festival I was asked to put together the Sunday night finale for which I organised young rising star Adam Holmes (of Scottish trad band Rura, and his own outfit The Embers), country songwriting hero John Prine, Australia's Walin' Jennys and primo European bluesman Hans Theesink to lead the singing of The Circle following a spectacular Second Line procession through the audience and on to the stage by New Orleans band Meschiya Lake & The Little Big Horns. Fellow performers and the audience all seemed to love it. Thank you one and all.
October was heralded in by the 36th Cork Folk Festival. I attended several great events. Particularly memorable for me were afternoon gigs by Jimmy 'the Voice of Cork' Crowley including a version of my song Maria De La Rosa and two concerts at the fine upstairs venue in the Oliver Plunkett bar - marred only by unnecessarily noisy bar staff - where I caught up with old Topic Records colleague Martin Simpson. His stunning guitar work had me making mental notes, great to see and hear ya again Martin. Cork's own Greenshine (Mary Green, Noel Shine and their daughter Ellie) in support were truly delightful. The following day the Voice Squad were as 'wonderful as ever.
The presentation by the Dungarvin Singers Club of a Lifetime Achievement Award in the shape of a beautiful piece of Waterford Crystal, while very welcome and much appreciated, did have the effect of making me feel prematurely old! Nevertheless, sincere thanks to all concerned, especially my dear pal Joe Power. Of the many awards I have been fortunate enough to receive over the years, it is often those which might be perceived as 'less' prestigious which mean most to me personally because they come from peers and fellow performers as opposed to the often meaningless citations by the business and media side of this music world whose main objective is an increased sale of product - I sometimes feel that many people from the music biz would be more at home selling shoes or sausages!!
Micil Ned Quinn