Thursday, March 23, 2017

Life Lately...

We have been so busy I have neglected to blog. 

After Christmas, we had about six weeks off. We organized the house, Haley studied a lot for school, and we enjoyed some relaxing weekends. We eased back into our crazy life with six days in Kansas City, MO where Haley and Dylan had an official showcase at The Folk Alliance International Conference.

Haley and Dylan doing a private showcase in the wee hours of the morning.
The conference was definitely an experience. I got sick on Day 1, so it wasn't as fun for me as it might have been but the kids had a blast! They performed a great official showcase and four private showcases, saw old friends and met new friends, watched/listened to lots of music, played lots of music session-style, and barely slept...some private showcases were at 2am. The entire hotel was taken up by music. There were three floors with private showcases in each room and walls covered in poster advertisements of where people were performing. There were so many conference rooms for official showcases of every type of folk music available to listen to. 

March Madness began with the yearly gig at Cumberland County College where Haley, Dylan, and Corey performed. The following weekend Haley and I headed to NYC for a show on Broadway at Symphony Space with Mick Moloney and friends for A Celtic Appalachian Celebration. Haley spent the entire day working with the other musicians to put the show together then they performed that evening, receiving two standing ovations! The show received wonderful reviews and was fabulous! The next day we were back at Sacred Heart Church in Camden with Mick, Athena, Liz, and Billy for a fundraising concert.

Haley with 2016 NEA National Heritage Fellow, Billy McComisky

Here's what putting a show together looks like...

The view from backstage at Symphony Space.
 Last weekend, Haley had two at the Philadelphia Art Museum on St. Patrick's Day and the other at Cathedral Basilica in Newark, NJ. 

St. Patrick's Day at the Philadelphia Art Museum (*photo credit to Ray Banas)
This weekend we are slowing down a bit for a performance at a nursing home on Saturday and a packing event for Feed My Starving Children on Sunday.

Besides the many gigs of March, we have been busy...

-We are firming up plans for a three week "tour" in South Carolina and Florida next month. 
-The charity CD for the Mercy Centre Music for Mercy was released two weeks ago and Haley finished getting it up on CDBaby this week... check it out here. The CD is wonderful and I am so proud of all the work Haley and her friend, Patrick Finley, did on the project.
-Haley and I (as her chaperone) were invited by Mick and Father Joe to visit the Mercy Centre in June. Mick has performances planned with Haley at the Irish Embassy and university in Bangkok and she and I will be able to get to know the children who live at the Mercy Centre. We are very excited!!
-We have our summer camp schedule set and registrations are all finished.
-Haley has been working hard on her school courses and learning new classical pieces, happily practicing hours each day.
-I have been fighting a cough since the conference in February.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Making the World a Better Place...

Over two years ago while in Boston for a gig, we stayed with Brian and Lindsay O'Donovan. Brian had invited Haley and Dylan to perform an opener for a weekly live music show he hosts.

As I readied her breakfast that first morning, Haley read a newspaper clipping on the refrigerator about Lindsay and a music CD she had produced called Lullabies of Love. Lindsay had visited an orphanage in Africa, invited various Irish musicians to record a lullaby, then sold the CD and sent the proceeds to that orphanage. Haley immediately told me she'd like to do something like that but with young musicians.

The idea was tabled for a while as Haley, at the time, was working on recording her first solo CD but every once in awhile the next year or so, she'd write down ideas of who she'd like to approach about her idea and we talked about how to go about it. Last March, we were in Boston again and Haley and I talked to Lindsay about her idea and about how Lindsay had produced her own charity CD. After that talk, Haley started planning more seriously. She wrote out a list of young musicians (under 21 years old) from all over the United States, Canada, and Ireland who she has met through Irish music.

Then Haley had to decide on a charity to support with the CD. She wanted to make sure the project would appeal to young musicians from around the world so a more global than local charity and that the money she raised would go toward the children rather than covering high salaries for people in charge. Her first and final choice was The Mercy Centre in Bangkok, Thailand. For the past four years, Haley has been invited to participate in a fundraising concert in New York City for the Mercy Centre. Mick Moloney and Donie Carroll are two wonderful, generous Irish musicians who have supported and visited The Mercy Centre for years. Last year, Haley wanted to do a little more than perform in the concert so she sold her hand decorated mutes and donated the proceeds to the orphanage. The Mercy Center is a home for abused and neglected street kids many of whom have been born with the HIV virus. The Mercy Centre is everything for those who have nothing.

Once she had her list of musicians and charity chosen, Haley composed an introductory letter telling them about her idea and asking if they would be willing to donate a track.

The positive response was overwhelming!

She created a private Facebook page for the musicians to share information. She found a friend, Patrick Finley, who is not only a wonderful young fiddler but also has a gift for graphic design. She and Patrick spent many evenings messaging back and forth to come up with a cover design. Eventually, the tracks started coming in from the amazing young musicians along with bios and photos. Gabriel Donahue, a multitalented musician and generous soul, agreed to mix and master Haley's project so we met with him one evening to go over tracks.

Once all the tracks were submitted, Haley ordered them, sent the order and bios/photos to Patrick to create a pamphlet to go along with the CD, and developed an Indiegogo campaign to raise enough money to print the CDs (along with a bit extra to help pay the shipping costs to mail finished CDs to the participating musicians in Ireland to sell). Please click on the link above if you are interested in learning a bit more about the project.

I am so proud of all the musicians who participated in this charity project. In an age when people often lament the next generation,  on the Music for Mercy CD are over twenty six young musicians who have studied their individual instruments and practiced to a high standard then happily and enthusiastically put those talents to use helping young people in Thailand who are less fortunate than themselves.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Snowballs...and a New Year!

Haley's life often tends to bring to my mind the image of a snowball rolling downhill picking up more and more snow and speed as it goes. Years ago I panicked a little inside during those times but I have mellowed a bit with age/experience.

There is no guidebook, path, or even others' lives to follow with what Haley has decided she wants to do. Without specific plans guiding her on this musical journey, it seems luck, fate, or God is a determining factor. Events, experiences, and performances yield other, sometimes seemingly unrelated, experiences and performances, leading to even more...the momentum sometimes seems to build exponentially.

She has had some amazing experiences that seem accidental or driven by fate/God...being invited by Mairead to perform on Irish TV with Altan when we happened to attend an Altan concert we learned about from a friend at the last minute while Haley was at camp a couple summers ago...winning All Ireland Championships in both her events the year we had originally planned not to go to Ireland...winning the Junior Fiddler of Dooney the year we chose not to do the All Ireland due to money issues but decided to go to Sligo in October because I happened to click on a random link about SligoLive and learned about the competition a couple months before and flights were half as much as in August....or her participation in Studio2Stage when the producers agreed to give her a chance even though she was three years younger than their age cut-off.

Other events and experiences are quieter/more personal but no less important in her life...playing with certain musicians in sessions, meeting people who later become very important in her life, spending time with friends, or helping out at fundraisers for charities.

People we have met through music have become wonderful friends and huge influences in Haley's. life. I can't even name them all without being afraid of leaving someone out. Some have taught her directly, mentored her, influenced her musically in other ways, had faith in her, given her a chance to perform, played music with her, encouraged her to compose, influenced her as a person, etc.... They come into her life at just the right time and/or interact with her in just the right way.  I will be forever grateful to them all!

Living life somewhat "on the fly" is uncomfortable for me, the consummate planner, but I am learning to accept it as part of our lives. It takes a certain day by day approach and is teaching me to make the most of each day and enjoy life as it comes. I should have known when my oldest made his surprise entrance into the world six weeks early that being a parent meant learning to go with the flow.

Sometimes we can plan especially in the short-term. Decisions are made to participate in certain events, take lessons with a particular teacher, buy equipment, learn certain pieces/tunes, attend a camp, etc…  Behind each decision is the parental (maybe mother's) worry about making the "right" choices. Sometimes I lie awake at night second guessing decisions and choices for all my kids.

I have found the older Haley gets, the less "all important" I view each individual decision and the more she guides those choices. She seems to have a vision in her head of what she wants to do even if she doesn't have all the answers on how to get there yet. She is an amazing young lady, beautiful in every way that matters. She constantly surprises me. I am so proud of her!

In the past few months, we have had some big decisions to make in Haley's life. Everything from high school planning to "music career" oriented decisions. I pray for wisdom in helping guide Haley on her journey. A few of these opportunities are up in the air and I have no idea how any of them will turn out or what other opportunities the future holds. I will certainly share details once plans are finalized.

2017 looks to be an amazing year for this young lady....

Monday, December 05, 2016

Our first trip to England and Scotland...

Months ago while perusing Irish Music Magazine, Haley and I saw an advert for the Scots Fiddle Festival in Edinburgh. We were in the process of sending out inquiries to other fall festivals and Haley thought it would be fun to go to Scotland so she sent them some info.

We never thought we would hear anything back from them, between the two of us we'd sent piles of inquiries and only heard back from a small percentage...but a little while later a representative from the festival messaged saying they were interested. We did not agree straight away but made some inquiries to find a few other places to play while over, figured out an itinerary, and then decided to give it a go even if only to have a chance to see Scotland.

Haley and I flew over on a Thursday night flight. (Can I just say I love British Airways? The plane seats were so comfortable, the crew allowed us on early so we could stow Haley's fiddle in the overhead while there was room, and the flight arrived early at London Heathrow.)

After coming through customs and immigration, we quickly found our host (John Whelan's dad), Denis, who picked us up at the airport. He drove us home where his partner, Sally, cooked us up a breakfast fry then Haley and I took a nap...we don't sleep well on planes. We woke in time for supper then Denis took us into London to The Auld Triangle for a wonderful local session.

No better way to begin a trip than a good session!!!

We met some wonderful musicians and heard lots of great tunes! Everyone was so friendly and the music was amazing!

The next morning after receiving our instructions on public transportation, Haley and I rode into London on the train then mastered the tube system to get around and see the things we wanted to see. It was a chilly, drizzly day but we didn't let good English weather slow us down.

We started off at Piccadilly Circus then walked until we came upon the National Art Gallery where we walked around for a couple hours seeing works by Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, and others. Amazing! We wished we had all day to see everything but we had a lot to get in. From the gallery, we walked to the Coliseum, Buckingham Palace, St. James Park, 

Phone booth at Piccadilly Circus

View from the top of the stairs at entrance to National Gallery

Van Gogh's Two Crabs...Daddy loves crabbing.

The Coliseum.

Buckingham Palace
We saw someone (possibly the mayor?) in a carriage with a mounted police escort heading to the palace then a parade of palace guards. Haley's phone died and with it our map. We made our way back to the subway and headed toward Big Ben. We found some food as it got dark then made our way to see Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. The architecture of the buildings is fabulous in that area of town!

The next morning we had to pick Dylan up at the airport then there was a session held for the kids at the CCE near Luton. At the session, we met some people we'd only "met" virtually prior to our trip including the man who once reviewed the kids' CD for Irish Music Magazine and the father of their accordion playing friend from Studio2Stage. The session was great and they had Haley and Dylan play a little set of tunes followed by food. It was a nice afternoon!

The next morning, we were up early. Denis drove us to the Luton airport where we picked up our rental car, a sporty little red Fiat. We drove first to see Stonehenge. I am fascinated by prehistoric structures. I like to imagine what life was like for the people of that time.

Our stop for the night was Bath. Haley is a Jane Austen fan and one of her "must see" places for the trip was Bath. What a fabulous town!! I will definitely get back there someday to experience and see more!

We didn't arrive in town until nearly dark so we checked into our perfect little B&B then took a walk into town to get our bearings and come up with a plan of attack for the next day. Anyplace we might want to visit was closed so we ate dinner at Sally Lunn's (on Sally Lunn buns, of course) then went back to the B&B.

The next morning, after an amazing breakfast, Haley got in a bit of practice, we packed up the car, then checked out before walking into town. We took a fascinating tour of the Roman baths (and tasted Roman bath water...yuck, warm mineral filled water that tasted like metal, visited the Jane Austen museum, walked around town a bit more, then went back to Sally Lunn's because we wanted to try a dessert bun (no room in our tummies the night before) before driving on through the Cottswalds to Painswick for the night. During that drive I saw a number of small towns I'd love to go back and take a closer look at. Painswick was a quaint little town. Our B&B hostess there made us dinner reservations at a nice pub and we spent a quiet evening.

Roman baths from the street level

Jane Austen museum

Bridge that was a whole street block complete with shops.

The next day was filled with driving (5 hours) from Painswick to Ravenglass in Cumbria where we had reservations to stay in the carriage house at Muncaster Castle for two nights.

Muncaster Castle probably has many visitors during the tourist months but this time of year it is rather isolated. Prior to our trip, we'd read it was haunted and when we arrived and very few people were around, we were spooking ourselves rather easily. Add to that a funny little experience and we spent our first night locked in our room with furniture moved in front of the door. 

Here's what happened... When we checked into the B&B (in the carriage house), we found out we were the only ones staying that night. We walked around a bit before dark then headed into the town of Ravenglass which also has some tourist attractions, but not this time of the year. We drove down a one lane road into town where the tide was out leaving boats in the muck around the inlet and there was not a car or person in sight. We found a large parking lot and were the only car parked in it. I parked in the middle, paid at the pay station, then put the ticket in my window before we walked two blocks to a pub we'd passed coming into town.

We entered the pub and the three people in there, the bartender, a man tending the fire, and someone drawing in the corner, just stared at us before the bartender eventually told us they were not yet serving food but we might find something to eat at the hotel on the next block. When we left the pub, Haley told us they only had a 2 of 5 health rating so she was glad they were not serving food. The hotel was also rather empty...three workers in the dining room and two men on computers. They agreed to cook for us even though it was early and we had a very nice meal. 

Walking back to our car, Dylan walked a bit ahead of Haley and I and disappeared around a line of trees near the parking area. I had a passing thought of what it might be like if he wasn't there when I rounded the corner but he was standing next to a car against a bus stop in one corner of the parking area. I quickly wondered why he was there then noticed our car was not in the middle of the lot where I had left it. Dylan said, "Why is our car here?" 

We were immediately freaked out. I gave him the key so he could back the car up and I could shine a light on it to check for damage. There was none. We could not figure out how a car in gear on a non- inclined parking area could have rolled forward and to the right, then come to a stop straight onto the bus stop without damage. We thought about ghosts and creepy townsfolk and scared ourselves before quickly getting into the car and driving back to lock ourselves in our room for the night. We decided to leave the next morning if anything else weird didn't and things looked better in the morning with people around working at the castle.

It was raining the next morning. We walked to the little restaurant and ate breakfast alone in it. We then took a walk around the grounds in the rain, visited the bird sanctuary to see the hawks and owls, had tea and cupcakes in the coffee shop, then watched an owl exhibition. Haley and Dylan practiced together for awhile then we walked some more, took a drive into town to conduct scientific studies and figure out how the car had moved the day before, then stopped at a little convenience store to pick up frozen pizza which we then cooked in the kitchen at the carriage house before some more practice and bed.

Haley loved the owl exhibition...owls are some of her favorite creatures and having them fly over our heads and scrabble around our feet was very fun. There was only one other family at the show because it was cold and rainy plus it's the off season. Our second night was much less eventful than our first and we rose early the next morning to head off to Edinburgh after breakfast...another five hour journey.

The drive was beautiful...snow covered mountains, sheep everywhere, little towns and farms!!! We arrived in Edinburgh in early afternoon. Dylan was tired from driving most of the way and rested in our B&B while Haley and I took a walk to stretch our legs, get our bearings, and figure out where we needed to be for sound check at the festival that evening. The concert was great! The people running the festival were extremely nice, the audience was full of fiddle enthusiasts, and Haley and Dylan played great to open the show. We enjoyed listening to the main act perform with great seats high up in the balcony. 

Drive through the snow.

Photo taken during their set by Eilidh Steel at Scots Fiddle Festival
Haley and Dylan during their set. Photo by Scots Fiddle Festival.

Haley and Dylan during their set. Photo by Scots Fiddle Festival.

The Queens Hall in Edinburgh...concert venue.
Here's a video of them playing that I took from the balcony...

After the concert, there was an after concert party in another venue called the Festival Club where various artists were asked up to play for about 20 min each. We walked over to listen and Haley and Dylan to played another short set for the audience there as well. It was a great night and we didn't get in until the early morning hours.

The next morning we got up and walked the Royal Mile, seeing shops and sights all the way up to Edinburgh Castle and meeting William Wallace for a photo op. We caught up with Dylan for lunch at the Elephant House where J.K. Rowling wrote much of the first Harry Potter book then went back to the festival so Haley could hear a performance of gypsy jazz.  Afterward we ate pies for supper at Deacon Brodies and walked back up to the castle to see it in the dark.

William Wallace showed Haley how to hold a sword.

Men in kilts were everywhere (due to a local rugby match) but  this guy played those bagpipes all day!!

On Sunday, Dylan wanted to sleep in a bit so Haley and I went to brunch at a cute place, South Pour, we'd noticed during our walks the day before...delicious. A wonderful Scottish fiddler, Catriona MacDonald happened to sit next to us with her family and after we'd talked for a bit, she recognized Haley. After breakfast we walked back to the festival to hear a talk that didn't happen because the man giving the talk was ill. There were various artisans and music shops with stalls set up in one room, a huge session going on in the middle of the room, and in another room a luthier was working on a new violin. He had a few of his violins set out for sale. Haley fell in love with one and played on it for awhile. She called Dylan to bring his guitar and play with her to see how it sounded and another fiddler joined them. Haley and Roger taught each other some tunes and fiddled around for almost two hours. Haley eventually decided she wanted to walk the other half of the Royal Mile to the Holyrood before dark so we took the walk then met Dylan back at South Pour for supper and went to the final concert of the festival that night.

Brunch at South Pour

Haley with Catriona MacDonald

Haley and Dyl jamming on a freshly made fiddle

Small jam session

Petting an owl

Holyrood Palace

Haley with Greyfrier's Bobby
We spent Monday driving from Edinburgh back to London. We made a stop off at Wallsend to see the end of Hadrian's Wall. There was a little museum which we walked through including an observatory to view the remains of the Roman fort at the end of the wall. Rain, fog, and traffic made for a difficult drive but we made it back to Denis' safely. 

Haley and Dylan had a gig in the basement bar at Green Note in London on Tuesday night. We took the train and tube into the city, walked around a bit, searched for someplace to eat, eventually found an open curry restaurant and went to the venue to eat our take-out. 

Dylan invited a new friend, Tad, to join them on bodhran. Green Note was a lovely little venue with an appreciative audience. The three of them sounded great.

The following day Denis took us on a tour of the Luton area. We then headed off to the Railway Tavern in London for an awesome session!!

Thanksgiving morning we woke early to get the airport for our holiday flight home!