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The Shamrock Shore before the backstop

Wednesday, 31 October, 2018

How the Irish border backstop became Brexit’s defining issue” was the title on yesterday’s Financial Times Brexit feature by Alex Barker and Arthur Beesley. It’s a vexed matter, the backstop, and it has the potential to do significant harm to all the actors in this drama. Brussels is playing with fire here as it ignores the fact that the UK has long supported open borders with the Republic of Ireland and it continued to allow travel to and from Ireland without a passport, even when IRA terrorists were bombing British cities and murdering shoppers and commuters, police and politicians.

Whether a new border, patrolled on land by French gendarmes or by the German navy in the sea, will be set up in or around the “Shamrock Shore” in case of a “no deal” Brexit remains to be seen, but the issue highlights the never-ending debate about the rights and wrongs in the historic relationship between the islands. The Acts of Union 1800 are a case in point. The loss of the Irish Parliament was greeted with dismay in Dublin and most subsequent disasters were blamed on that pivotal legislation.

All of this was aired in April 1976 when Paul Brady sang a wonderful, unaccompanied version of The Shamrock Shore ballad in the village of Clondra in Longford. The verses are filled with poignancy and what’s especially poignant is that the person seated to Paul Brady’s right in this clip is the magisterial piper Liam O’Flynn who died of cancer on 14 March this year. Our grief at his loss remains unabated.

“John Bull, he boasts, he laughs with scorn
And he says that Irishman is born
To be always discontented for at home we cannot agree
But we’ll banish discord from our land
And in harmony like brothers stand
To demand the rights of Ireland, let us all united be
And our parliament in College Green
For to assemble, it will be seen
And happy days in Erin’s Isle we soon will have once more
And dear old Ireland soon will be
A great and glorious country
And peace and blessings soon will smile all round the Shamrock Shore”


Víkingur Ólafsson plays Bach

Thursday, 27 September, 2018

The brilliant Icelandic pianist’s new Deutsche Grammophon album is called Bach.


Sky of memory and shadow

Tuesday, 11 September, 2018

Released in 2002, The Rising was believed to have been based on Bruce Springsteen’s reflections in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 terror attacks on New York City. The album’s main themes are crisis and community, faith, family and friendship.

Sky of blackness and sorrow (a dream of life)
Sky of love, sky of tears (a dream of life)
Sky of glory and sadness (a dream of life)
Sky of mercy, sky of fear (a dream of life)
Sky of memory and shadow (a dream of life)
Your burnin’ wind fills my arms tonight
Sky of longing and emptiness (a dream of life)
Sky of fullness, sky of blessed life


Leonard Bernstein, JFK and Yo-Yo Ma walk into a bar

Sunday, 26 August, 2018

#BernsteinAt100 “is the world-wide celebration of the 100th birthday of Leonard Bernstein, the composer, conductor, educator, musician, cultural ambassador, and humanitarian.” So declares the website devoted to the artist who was born on 25 August 1918 in Lawrence, Massachusetts.

On 29 November 1962, when the cellist Yo-Yo Ma was just 7 years old, he played at a benefit concert for an audience that included President John F. Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline. Leonard Bernstein introduced Ma to the crowd, saying: “Now, here’s a cultural image for you to ponder as you listen. A seven-year-old Chinese cellist playing old French music for his new American compatriots.”

Bernstein once said that the chief requirements of a conductor are that “he be humble before the composer; that he never interpose himself between the music and the audience; that all his efforts, however strenuous or glamorous, be made in the service of the composer’s meaning — the music itself, which, after all, is the whole reason for the conductor’s existence.”


Grace and Graceland

Thursday, 23 August, 2018

Jennifer Hudson, Stevie Wonder and Yolanda Adams will perform at Aretha Franklin’s funeral, which is set to be a four-day event in Detroit, with public viewing on 28 and 29 August at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History before a religious ceremony at Greater Grace Temple.

Talking of Grace brings us to Graceland, where Elvis Presley died 41 years ago this month. Songs like Hurt and Mystery Train cover a range of emotions, from the elation of his early days to the pain of his final days as, unhinged by pharmacopeia, he sought for answers where there are none. As Dave Marsh wrote in Elvis:

“Somewhere, out of all this, Elvis began to seem like a man who had reached some conclusions. And so he was made into a god and a king. He was neither — he was something more American and, I think, something more heroic. Elvis Presley was an explorer of vast new landscapes of dream and illusion. He was a man who refused to be told that the best of his dreams would not come true, who refused to be defined by anyone else’s conceptions.

This is the goal of democracy, the journey on which every prospective American hero sets out. That Elvis made so much of the journey on his own is reason enough to remember him with the honor and love we reserve for the bravest among us. Such men are the only maps we can trust.”


Rosalía: Pienso en tu mirá

Saturday, 28 July, 2018

A recurring motif in the video of Pienso en Tu Mirá, the latest single by Rosalía, is that of a man in a chequered suit dancing el baile flamenco at night on a pile of embers. It’s a vivid representation of her fusion of old and new Spanish influences because Rosalía was born in Baix Llobregat, a comarca on the coast of Catalonia, some 30km from Barcelona and some 1,000km from Seville, where the heart of flamenco beats.

Talking of beats, Rosalía’s music uses lots of traditional handclapping and those hoods worn by the dancers are a nod to the outfits worn by the Nazarenos and Fariseos brotherhoods during the Semana Santa (Holy Week) observances in Spain. All of this is combined with Latin Pop to create something new, something different.


James Delarre & Saul Rose

Wednesday, 25 July, 2018

Cabin Fever is the title of the debut album by James Delarre and Saul Rose. Here, the English folk duo play Sauter Lapin and Freca, two tunes with lots of Cajun touches. Fiddle and melodeon in perfect harmony in this set.


God’s Plan

Wednesday, 18 July, 2018

“Yeah, they wishin’ and wishin’ and wishin’ and wishin’
They wishin’ on me, yuh”

When God’s Plan was released in January this year, it racked up the largest on-demand streaming count in history, breaking Apple’s first-day record upon release with 14 million streams, and breaking Spotify’s single-day streaming record with 4.3 million plays in 24 hours. It’s all working out nicely for Drake.

God's Plan

“God’s plan, God’s plan
I hold back, sometimes I won’t, yuh
I feel good, sometimes I don’t, ayy, don’t
I finessed down Weston Road, ayy, ‘nessed
Might go down a G.O.D., yeah, wait
I go hard on Southside G, yuh, wait
I make sure that north-side eat”


Dawes: The Laurel Canyon sound continued

Saturday, 14 July, 2018

In Laurel Canyon by Michael Walker, which was published in 2006, the author described the eponymous place high in the Hollywood Hills as “the slightly seedy, camp-like neighborhood of serpentine one-lane roads, precipitous hills, fragrant eucalyptus trees, and softly crumbling bungalows set down improbably in the middle of Los Angeles.” There, in 1968, something magical happened when Joni Mitchell was in the ‘hood: “So it was that Nash, Stills, and Crosby sat in Mitchell’s living room on Lookout Mountain, in the heart of Laurel Canyon, in the epicenter of L.A.’s nascent rock music industry, and for the first time, began to sing together.”

It’s been said that the Los Angles rock band Dawes are the continuation of the Laurel Canyon sound by new means. The members are Wylie Gelber, Lee Pardini and the brothers Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith. Living in the Future is the first song on their new album, Passwords, which was released last month.

Note: Passwords has been described as an album “for and about the modern age: the relationships that fill it, the politics that divide it, and the small victories and big losses that give it shape.” Dawes are marketing the album with campaign that encourages fans to search for “passwords” posted across the internet. Once a password is found, it can be entered on the band’s site where each part of the password represents a musical note. When entered correctly, these musical notes play bits from Dawes songs and unlock exclusive content, including a Spotify playlist curated by Griffin Goldsmith.


George Ezra: No. 1 with a Shotgun

Tuesday, 3 July, 2018

Can the chart success of George Ezra be regarded as a good omen for England tonight in their World Cup contest with Columbia at the Sparktak Stadium in Moscow? Shotgun has become Ezra’s first number one single in the UK right in time for summer soccer celebrations. Hat tip to Ian, who expects, tonight.


Eurovision: Lucky Night for Moldova?

Saturday, 12 May, 2018 0 Comments

Simon Goddard, author of Mozipedia: The Encyclopaedia of Morrissey and the Smiths, claims the Lancashire singer is a fan of the Eurovision Song Contest. “My fascination with the show had an almost religious aspect,” Morrissey confessed to Goddard.

Who will Moz be cheering for tonight? Sweden’s Benjamin Ingrosso with Dance You Off? Not, we hope. Yes, it’s perfect pop in the peerless way that only the Swedes can make perfect pop, but the perfection is passionless. More joyful is Norway’s That’s How You Write A Song by Alexander Rybak, who won the Eurovision in 2009 with the highest points total, ever. Both Sweden and Norway are Top 10 candidates tonight, for sure.

And the UK? Nice dress, shame about the song, SuRie. Ireland? Ryan O’Shaughnessy’s Together is simply dire. Will Germany finish last again? Michael Schulte’s You Let Me Walk Alone is so obviously an Adele copy & paste job that it has to be a serious contender for zero points.

Our tip is My Lucky Day by DoReDoS from Moldova. Using a simple white wall as a prop, Marina Djundiet, Eugeniu Andrianov, and Sergiu Mita have created a slapstick show that mixes Danubian polka and the Charleston. This is proper Eurovision kitsch.

Back to Morrissey. His video of You Have Killed Me opens with a pastiche that mirrors the Eurovision from its glory days in the 1960s and ’70s, and for interval music during his 2006 tour, Morrissey used the immortal Pomme, Pomme, Pomme by Monique Melsen, who represented Luxembourg in 1971 and was awarded 13th place for her efforts. By the way, the 1971 Song Contest was held in Dublin and was won by French singer Séverine representing Monaco with Un banc, un arbre, une rue. Neither Luxembourg nor Monaco is in tonight’s Grand Final in Lisbon, but Australia, Israel and Albania are. The old order changeth.