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Tag: music

Ye soft pipes, play on

Saturday, 17 November, 2018

“Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on.” — John Keats

Water music


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”


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.”


Madonna at 60: Take A Bow

Thursday, 16 August, 2018

Take a Bow is a track from Madonna’s sixth studio album, Bedtime Stories (1994), and the story of the song’s video says so much about Madonna (Happy 60th Birthday today!) and her impact on the worlds of music, fashion and culture.

The clip was directed by Michael Haussman and filmed in Ronda in southern Spain. Madonna arrived in the city in November 1994 with a team of 60 people and wanted to shoot at its most famous bullring, the Plaza de Toros de Ronda. Her request was rejected by the Real Maestranza de Caballería de Ronda, however, who considered it a desecration of the arena, since her name was associated with provocative sexual imagery. The refusal was unpopular because many in the city believed the video would be of great PR value.

Eventually, money changed hands and a permit was obtained to shoot inside the palace of the Marquis of Salvatierra and at the Plaza de Toros de Ronda, where matador Emilio Muñoz performed alongside three fighting bulls. Madonna wore a fitted suit by John Galliano, and other designers who provided accessories included Donatella Versace and then then-unknown shoemaker Christian Louboutin.


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.


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.


The news being carried to fair London town

Tuesday, 1 May, 2018 0 Comments

“The news being carried to fair London town
Wrote on London gate
‘Six pretty maids died all in one night
And all for George Collins’ sake.'”

For the past ten years the Nest Collective, “has been London’s way to experiencing folk, world & new music, creating a community that seeks unique sonorous experiences in unusual spaces.” The Nest Collective is one of the many creations of the English singer and traditional music specialist, Sam Lee. The Ballad of George Collins, who walked out “One May morning / When May was all in bloom,” gets the typical creative Sam Lee treatment here.

“George Collins walked out
One May morning
When May was all in bloom
And who should he see
But a fair pretty maid
Washing her white marble stone
She whooped
She hollered
She called so loud
She waved her lily-white hand
‘Come hither to me
George Collins,’ cried she
‘For your life, it won’t last you long.'”


Liam O’Flynn: Seán Ó Duibhir a’ Ghleanna

Saturday, 14 April, 2018 0 Comments

It’s been a month since the uilleann piper Liam O’Flynn died and not a day has passed since without a reflection on the void left by his absence. Like many Irish traditional musicians, he began his musical journey with the tin whistle and his attitude to this humble instrument was typical of his approach to all things: respect. Here, he plays the air of the 17th-century song, Seán Ó Duibhir a’ Ghleanna.

Note: Seán Ó Duibhir a’ Ghleanna (John O’Dwyer of the Glen) was the subject of many songs in Irish and English that portray him as a romantic, rebellious symbol of the old Gaelic order crushed during the Williamite War in Ireland. Its fate was sealed on 12 July 1691 when the Dutch general Godert de Ginkell defeated the French commander Marquis de St Ruth at the Battle of Aughrim in Galway. This led to the Treaty of Limerick and the scattering of the Irish troops (“The Flight of the Wild Geese”) to Europe, where they found employment in the armies of France, Spain, Austria and Prussia.

“Here’s a health to your and my King
The sovereign of our liking
And to Sarsfield, underneath whose flag we’ll cast once more a chance.
For the morning’s dawn will wing us
Across the seas and bring us
To take our stand and wield a brand among the sons of France.
And though we part in sorrow
Still Seán Ó Duibhir a’ Ghleanna
Our prayer is ‘God save Ireland and pour blessings on her name’.
May her sons be true when needed
May they never fail as we did
For Seán Ó Duibhir a’ Ghleanna, we were worsted in the game.”