First Published July 2021
LONG LIVE GLÓR TÍRE
Sometimes, just by being around for long enough, what you do can end up being massively taken for granted. Case in point, the hit TG4 show, GLÓR TÍRE. Despite the many complications caused by Covid-19, and the subsequent restrictions and guidelines which needed to be put in place and adhered to, the team behind the show managed to make sure that the 2020 series eventually came to a conclusion late last year. More than just that, though, they also found a way to make sure that the 2021 series went ahead.
A key-word to pay attention to in everything I’ve just pointed out, is ‘team.’ Because that’s what it takes to make Glór Tíre happen each year. And it’s a team that is in part unseen, but yet, without the talents of all involved, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the on-screen contributions of judges Jo Ní Cheide, Caitriona O’ Sullivan, and John Creedon, as well as presenters Aoife Ní Thuairisg and Séamus Ó Scanláin, and of course, the fabulous house-band. The show is not just about each year’s contestants, it’s bigger than that.
And yet, if you were to judge things by some of the vile, vicious, attention-seeking, and often desperately ill-informed vitriol that was regularly spewed forth in social media comment sections during the course of this year’s series, you’d assume Glór Tíre and almost all involved with it to be something akin to a TV Taliban, only to be reviled as a gang of clueless chancers. And that description, as colourful as it might be, doesn’t even approach the levels of hyperbole achieved by some of the country music ‘fans’, and indeed, self-appointed commentators of sort who felt the need to grace the world with their opinions. It certainly opened my eyes to some people, and how, and when, and in what manner they seem to like to share their thoughts with the world. All good to know, though.
Full disclosure, by the way, I had the pleasure – and it was a pleasure – of working with EMMA DONOHUE during her successful Glór Tíre campaign under the mentorship of MIKE DENVER this year. Without a doubt, Emma has everything it takes to carve out a career for herself on the Irish country scene. I’m more than certain that her natural talent, a work-ethic that’s simply second-to-none, and a personality that’s every bit as genuinely warm and funny off-stage as it is effortlessly comfortable on-stage, would have ensured this anyway, regardless of how things went for her on the TG4 show this year. I can say that with my hand on my heart.
Despite working with Emma this year, the last time I actually saw her in person – and probably her mentor Mike as well – would have been at the Keltic Country TV Irish Entertainment Awards at the Tullamore Court Hotel in November of 2019. As far as anything to do with her campaign went, we did everything by phone, email, messenger, you name it. We had little choice, of course, given the complications of the last year and the disruption that Covid has caused in all areas of life. This was my fourth time working with a contestant on the show, and my first time to be involved with a winning act. So I’ve been there before, seeing someone I believed in and wanted to succeed being voted out, or falling just short at the last hurdle. I’ve seen it happen, not understood it, been completely mystified by judges’ decisions, and ended up feeling completely deflated, frustrated, and disappointed. But I’ve never once become abusive about the show or anyone involved in it online, in either a direct or an indirect manner.
Normally the nights of the ‘live’ shows down at Quays Bar in Galway are bursting with excitement, full to the brim with fans and supporters of the contestants. Despite the nerves, the tension, the inevitable waiting around that comes with television, and sometimes the disappointment, the adrenaline and the fun of those nights always makes them memorable. That ‘live’ element of Glór Tíre has been a crucial factor in making the show the success it has been for close on two decades now. So it would have been understandable to some degree if the show’s producers had decided that the 2020 series could not finish, nor the 2021 series get underway without a ‘live’ audience being able to attend. But, to the credit of all involved, the power of that evergreen mantra of those who work in the entertainment industry – the show must go on! – was invoked. The 2020 series finally came to a conclusion in November of last year with Offaly’s own Alex Roe – with whom, by the way, I also had the pleasure of working with during his campaign – narrowly missing out on the crown of champion. And following that, also in November of last year, filming got underway for the first episodes of the 2021 edition.
Now, here’s a point that simply can’t be stressed enough when it comes to Glór Tire. I’ve mentioned it already, but it’s worth repeating. The show is not just about whoever the lucky contestants are each year. Yes, the focus of the show is on the contestants. But the show itself is not just about them. And that’s a distinction that seems to have been lost on a lot of people this year. Without the production crew, the presenters, the judges, the mentors, and of course the band… there is no show. It’s as simple as that. Every year a line-up of new contestants get the opportunity to perform on ‘live’ television, to a national audience, because the Glór Tíre set up is in place. Without each of those elements being in place, the spotlight never lands on any artist.
This year, everyone involved in the show was asked to accept a certain level of personal responsibility in adhering to the guidelines and regulations necessary for the safety of EVERYONE involved in the show. These guidelines and regulations were not in place just to protect the contestants. Again, they were there to protect the contestants, AND the production crew, AND the presenters, AND the judges, AND the band. And by extension, the family, friends and loved ones of all of those people. Those guidelines and regulations were in place so that the show had a chance to go ahead at all this year. They were in place so that six more new and young country music hopefuls could have a chance that simply does not come their way through any other media outlet in Ireland.
Everyone knew what was expected and needed from them at the beginning, and everyone agreed to it.
Now, if you were to base your assessment of how well or otherwise this year’s series of Glór Tíre went from what you might have seen on social media at the time, you’d have been forgiven for thinking it was nothing less than an unmitigated disaster, organised by amateurs, and unnecessarily and recklessly cruel to some contestants. And not only that, you’d possibly end up being fully convinced that the show achieved nothing other than bringing country music into disrepute while calling the future of the whole scene into question.
The problem, of course, is that social media has become the best possible example of how the court of public opinion is so often formed on ignorance, and a few quick lines thoughtlessly thrown out into cyberspace with either no basis in reality or one that can usually be dismissed in well under a minute with a little careful examination. Simply put, a huge amount of the social media reaction to this year’s show was disgraceful nonsense. It served only to betray a lack of knowledge about the music industry in general, and – what’s worse in this case -a lack of any kind of genuine care about the country scene as a whole in particular.
Most of that negativity stemmed from the fact that two contestants had to withdraw from the show for breaching the Covid guidelines and regulations that were in place. According to some who felt so compelled to share their wisdom and insight, these guidelines and regulations should not have been enforced at all, and doing so only made a mockery of the show. Gimme a break. Two contestants broke the rules (whether accidentally, unintentionally, or unluckily), and had to withdraw, which was only right. But FOUR contestants did everything that was asked of them, from the beginning of their involvement on the show, to the end. Now this point has nothing to do with who those contestants were, on one side or the other, because that doesn’t matter. It’s irrelevant. If, with circumstances such as they were, anyone broke the rules that were in place to protect EVERYONE, then the only right and fair thing to do was to leave the competition.
However, to go by the reaction of some (and I mean some supporters of those contestants here, not the contestants themselves, let me be very clear about that), you’d swear that when the two withdrawals occurred, there was absolutely no point in continuing on with the show from that point. The show was slammed in various comments as being a sham, rigged, nothing but a money-maker, and having only useless singers left in it anyway. Pardon my language here, but… bullshit, all of it.
If you think the rules of anything should only apply to whoever you care about, you’re deluded. If you think the best way of showing your support for someone is by throwing out insults in the direction of others, then you’re an asshole. If you seriously think that a show which has been a hugely valuable platform for new artists for so long should suddenly cease to exist just because your favourite contestant had to withdraw as a consequence of their own actions, then you’re a selfish, deluded asshole.
And it’s not just for new artists that Glór Tíre has done some service, either. Don’t forget that each mentor gets to perform a full-televised show every year as well. That fact should not be forgotten so easily. Long, long before The Late Late Show began trying to paint itself as an altruistic endorser and supporter of Irish country music – which it isn’t – Glór Tíre was there. While Glór Tíre creates a space for new and emerging talent to begin to make a name for themselves and build a career, The Late Late Show has a view of country music that can only be described as willfully and woefully myopic. The future of the Irish country music scene depends far more on Glór Tíre than it does on The Late Late Show, just as much as the country music as it is today, owes far more to Glór Tíre than it does to The Late Late Show.
Talk of the show being rigged, or a sham, or just a money-maker are each so equally preposterous as to warrant immediate dismissal rather than too much further time. But also, such ridiculous notions should never be just let slide. So…
Everybody knows the format of the show, and how the voting system works at the outset. It’s no secret. And nobody ever has a problem with it until…again…their favourite supposedly falls prey to something as sinister as…the obvious! Contestants who get the least votes run the risk of being in the bottom two, and having their fate then decided by the judges. If a contestant ends up in that position, that’s not the show’s fault, or the judges’ fault, or any of the other contestants’ fault. The system is the same for everyone, from start to finish. Now, I’m not for a minute saying that I’ve always agreed with every decision that the judges have made, because I most definitely have not. There have been occasions, including this year, when I’ve been left somewhat baffled. But, in those situations the judges are doing their job, and doing so as they best see fit. And that’s exactly what they’re there to do. And their opinions should be respected. Opinions will always differ, after all. That’s the nature of everything.
Perhaps the most sickening – and stupid – comments that kept showing up in one form or another revolved around the aspersions cast on the ability of the singers involved this year. Just think about that for a moment. Everyone who vomited up such ill-thought-through opinions considered themselves to be better judges of talent than the actual mentors on the show, AND the people involved in the production of the show who go through this process every year. Imagine being able to strut through life with that level of blissful arrogance? Must be some feeling. And every time comments such as those were posted, even if they didn’t actually name any of the remaining contestants, imagine how that felt for the singers who remained in the competition. Because the contestants would have seen them and heard about them, don’t think they didn’t. So imagine how that felt. How it felt for their families. Just think about that for a moment or two…
They’d done nothing wrong. They were just doing something they love, chasing a dream in what is a really tough industry to ‘make it’ in anyway. And yet, they were being subjected to such shameless and unnecessary negativity.
You can take it as fact that the people who were posting such comments did not – not even for a heartbeat – consider the feelings of anyone except themselves on those occasions. They were angry, they wanted to vent, so vent they did, just playing up to the online crowd by contributing their two-pence worth to a sewer of ramblings and ravings that never amounts to more than the manifestation of a ‘mob’ mentality in these situations. If they were in possession of even a shred of self-awareness, and for even half a heartbeat had thought about what they were writing and saying before finally publishing those comments, the sheer embarrassment of relaising that they were acting in such an entitled, childish, and – in some cases – just plain stupid way, would have been enough to make them delete every word as fast as possible.
But something else that you can take as fact is that those people would never come out with such rubbish if they ever found themselves standing face to face with any of the people involved in Glór Tíre and whom their comments were directed at. Just wouldn’t happen. Cowards tend to become rather shy when they venture out into daylight.
Being chosen to participate in Glór Tíre this year (as it is any year) was a brilliant achievement for all concerned. It should have led to a host of moments they could look back on proudly for the rest of their lives, regardless of where their careers do or don’t go following the show. And hopefully all six contestants will be able to look back on some moments that will always warm their hearts to remember. Unfortunately, however, everyone’s experience will have been tainted somewhat by some of the nonsense that polluted the comment sections on so many posts about the show.
One of the main reasons that seems to have allowed this to happen, is that a certain number of country ‘fans’ have come to take the existence of Glór Tíre in our lives, as part of the country music calendar, very much for granted. What a mistake, and what fools.
Glór Tíre has offered so many artists the chance to perform to a national audience for the first time. And the chance to perform on television for the first time. And sometimes, to perform with the backing of a full, professional band for the first time, too. Opportunities like that are priceless in the development of any new or emerging artist’s career. And, as the show always sees some of the more established artists on the Irish country scene mentoring each year’s contestants, you have a coming together of different generations, with some of those who have already been stars forever and some of those who are the stars of today, meeting and sharing their hard-won wisdom and experience with the potential stars of tomorrow.
THAT is what Glór Tíre makes happen every year. THAT is what Glór Tíre does for Irish country music every year.
And none of us should be taking it for granted. It deserves better.
Long live Glór Tíre.