Neil Delamere

First Published December 2021

LIFE’S A DANCE

“Yeah, we’re about a week or so in. It’s very enjoyable, I have to say. You’re being trained by a world champion. I mean, how often do you get a chance to be trained by someone who’s so talented at what they do? It’s great fun. You get into it, you really get into it. The thing about me is I have nothing to judge it off from the start. I haven’t done as much as a dance class along the way, of any kind! So there’s no frame of reference for how quickly I’ll pick something up or maybe how slowly I’ll pick something up! But it’s been great fun so far.” 

With his journey as part of next year’s DANCING WITH THE  STARS IRELAND class just getting underway, there seems to be little doubt that comedian NEIL DELAMERE is taking it all in his stride. With the hit show finally set to return to our TV screens in January, Delamere – amazingly – is one of TWO Offaly men who will be aiming to get their hands on that prized Glitterball, with rugby star Jordan Conroy also looking to impress on the dancefloor. And Neil – who brings his LIMINAL tour to the Tullamore Court Hotel on March 5th next – has already seen the signs of his new sequined self beginning to emerge, as he explained when we caught up for a chat about DWTSIrl, and more, last week…

“Some things are coming easier than others, but it’s incredible how quickly you get into it, in terms of you’re doing steps when you’re walking around the house…or, I said this on The Late Late Show…I’ll put on the indicator of my car, and as it goes tick, tick, tick, I’m goin’, ‘One, two, three, four, five,six, seven, eight…!’ So the patterns are getting into your brain!” 

I suspect that Neil has a competitive side to him. Will we see that in this competition?


“Haha, well I have a competitive side to me IF I have the ability to compete! If it becomes evident very quickly that there are some people who are amazing dancers and the rest of us are just making up the numbers, well then you’ll just kind of enjoy it on that basis. But ah yeah, listen, I’ll give it what I can, and after that let the chips fall where they may!” 

Somewhere else I didn’t expect to see Neil showing up in the coming weeks was on Ireland’s Fittest Family. But sure enough, he’s taking part in the show’s Celebrity Special at the end of December. Also taking part is someone else I’m lucky enough to know pretty well, Grainne Gallanagh, who was Miss Universe Ireland in 2018. I put it to Neil that this – no more so than Dancing With The Stars – was definitely a different kind of show for him…


“Well, it came about because of Covid, and because my normal schedule wasn’t what it normally is. I was asked to do it and I said I’d love to. You have a couple of months lead-in time, about six weeks lead-in or whatever – and then you have some degree of focus, ya know. You know you have to get this done or otherwise you won’t be fit enough to do the show. It was as much about me saying this will give me some sort of structure on my weeks, because as you know, because of Covid we were restricted in what we were allowed to do and what we weren’t allowed to do. Comics, without a deadline, we tend to not be massively creative! It’s not like writing a book or doing a TV show, so you need something where you have to have a show done by X day. So, I had a lot of time, and I also didn’t have the usual structure on the year that I’d always have, so I went yeah, absolutely, I’m gonna do it. I got a team together, and it was us against Grainne, Sinead Quinlan, and the Happy Pear as well. We did it for the Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland. I can’t tell you who won, but if you look at who’s in and judge the fitness of people on sight, you’ll probably be in the ball-park of who did! [Laughs].” 

In Dancing With The Stars and the Celebrity Special of Ireland’s Fittest Family, we’d already touched on two huge upcoming events in Neil’s life. But never a man to do things by halves, there’s something even bigger coming up in 2022. In fact, it’s Neil’s biggest solo show ever, and it’s happening at the SSE Arena in Belfast in March ??? 


“Biggest solo show I’ve ever done, yeah. I’ve done gigs to ten thousand people before, but on mixed bills. Can’t wait to do it. I was up having a look at the Arena the other day, the Belfast Giants Arena, and it looks spectacular. And again, that sprang from Covid, from wanting to give myself something to aim for in these weird times when we don’t know what’s going on, ya know. So ya kind of force yourself into, ‘Oh God, this is happening…write jokes, write jokes, write jokes!’ I can’t wait for it. I think it will change the way I do the show in some ways, because a big, big room might not have the usual messing and interplay that I would have with the front row if people can’t really see the front row! [Laughs]. I know from playing the really, really, big rooms that you have to do it in a different rhythm, you almost have to wait for the wave of laughter to come back. It’s a slightly different technique. And I’m very grateful that ‘The Blame Game’, which we’re doing at the moment, is allowed a small ‘live’ audience, and that kind of keeps the name out there in the north still.” 

Neil’s current tour is called Liminal (relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process) and from the meaning of the word, my guess was that it’s to do with the place the world finds itself in with Covid, amongst other things as well. I wondered if I was correct in that assumption, and if I was, where, in fact, does Neil think we – as a country and a planet – are with Covid at this stage? 


“I think overall Ireland has done very well. Our vaccine roll-out has been amazing, and I think our vaccine uptake has been amazing. Smaller countries in Europe tend to do better than their larger neighbours in terms of social cohesion. In terms of how many people passed away, our figures were much lower than say the UK. I don’t know how far we are into this. My worry would be that we may not be as far in as people think. And selfishly, I suppose, for people in the arts, we’re wondering what’s going to be left at the end of all this. My worry wouldn’t be for the people that are going ten or fifteen or twenty years, that they’ll be removed from the scene. My worry is for the younger people – either younger in age or in experience – doing their respective music, dancing, comedy, whatever it is. They may well have been washed out of the system by Covid. So we could lose all these important and exciting new voices. The rest of us will be fine. If we’ve built up enough touring, and enough TV shows, and enough radio, we can afford – almost – to take a hit. But my worry is that we would lose the next generation of people, ya know.” 

Neil mentioned how the way he performs his show in a bigger venue might have to change slightly, but I wondered if how he writes his material had to change over the last twenty months or so too. So much of what he does is observational, comes from being out in the world, around people and with people. Did the lockdowns, and Covid in general, change his creative process much? 


“That’s a very good point. I suppose it didn’t change the observation as much as much as it changed the anecdotal stuff. A lot of the time you’re telling stories and you’re animating the stories with observations and characterisations and stuff. But you are still telling stories about what had happened to you. If you haven’t done anything [laughs] – because most of us didn’t do anything for a fairly protracted period of time – what do ya talk about? ‘Dancing With The Stars’ and ‘Ireland’s Fittest Family’ have given me ten minutes of material sort of thing. It’s not why I did them [laughs], that’s a beneficial extra from the two of them. But it’s such a strange world to be thrust into, that you can’t fail to get some stuff out of them. Also, I probably have a decent closer for the SSE Arena and for the Tullamore Court Hotel and everywhere else, because I know Des [Bishop] when he did it years ago, I think he used to bring his pro dancer and they’d dance at the end. So, ya know something…I wouldn’t rule it out! I haven’t talked to my pro dancer about it yet, but it seems like a cool way to end a really big show. It’s something I would definitely consider if I was any good anyway [laughs].” 

Looking at everything that’s happened since March of 2019 when Covid kicked in – and even going back a little bit before that to when Neil and I last spoke – there’s been so much absurdity. From almost everything to do with Boris Johnson in the UK, to Trump and January 6th in the States, to the whole anti-vax movement here, and more. From a comedian’s perspective, what’s been the most absurd moment of it all? 


Well January 6th was completely off the wall, I thought. I almost couldn’t believe that was happening. If a couple of things had gone a different way, maybe if Mike Pence had made some decisions in another way, it could have been much more serious. That, in terms of one day, was bizarre. The Dominic Cummings thing and how he was supported by a Prime Minister who has since completely removed his support. I mean, Cummings driving to Barnard Castle to test his eyesight was so absurd! Boris Johnson is the gift that keeps on giving. All I’ll say is his testicles are as fertile as his imagination! As good as he is as a comedy source, I wouldn’t wish him as a Prime Minister on anybody. We criticise politicians in Ireland, but there’s a lot to be said about a steady, seasoned hand at the tiller, both in terms of Michael D. Higgins and some of the members of the government. I think we can be overly harsh on them in a very difficult – VERY difficult – scenario for them.” 

Going back to events on the horizon for Neil, he’s also filmed Pointless Celebrities


“I did! I love a quiz. Since we last spoke, I did Richard Osman’s ‘House of Games’, which is the big one, you do five episodes and you’re on for the entire week. I managed to nip a victory in that at the last minute. So you’re paired with somebody else in ‘Pointless Celebrities’, and all I’m saying is I DID ok! My partner, however…may be a different story [laughs]. So people can look out for that fairly soon as well [laughs].” 

Between getting himself ready for Ireland’s Fittest Family, and now for Dancing With The Stars, Neil – certainly from a fitness point of view – will definitely have been seeing some positive changes in himself over the last few months. Indeed, this whole period of humanity has changed many people, some in good ways, but some more – unfortunately – in bad ways. In a general sense, has Neil noticed any changes in himself and maybe how he sees life? 


“I’d be more inclined [now] to do something that’s a bit off the wall. Like, I have been approached about doing ‘Dancing With The Stars’ several times before, and either I couldn’t do it or I wasn’t ready to do it in some ways. This is the year where I kinda went, well listen, who knows what’s gonna happen next year in terms of what we’re allowed do ‘live’, but another part of me – that’s kind of the legacy of this last eighteen, twenty months – is just do something that scares the hell out of ya! Why not?! Life is too short. Particularly in the western world, we go through periods of thinking we can control things. If you get sick, you get antibiotics. If something goes wrong, well you can pay someone to fix it. If it’s something with your health, you can get an operation. We tend to think we can control things, but actually, every so often, God/ the universe/ whatever you believe in, throws a curve ball at us. And that’s what Covid has been. And there’s a freedom in relinquishing that control in some ways. Covid has made me more likely to take risks and do something brand new because who knows what the future holds really?” 

Neil has his huge show at the SSE Arena coming up next year, and he’s also had some gigs in gorgeous churches – of all places – in recent times. But, if he was to plan his perfect show, here’s what I wanted to know. Where would his venue be, what three guests would he invite along to chat to, and what musical act would he choose to close out the night? 


“Hmm. Let me see. I think in terms of places I’ve played before, I’d say Vicar Street. It’s a fantastic venue, and I’m playing there again soon. It has the roar of a thousand, eleven-hundred people, which is a great roar. But it’s physically intimate enough for everybody to feel connected to what’s going on on stage. So it would probably be Vicar Street as the venue. The three guests that I would like to interview, off the top of my head…David Attenborough would be one. I think he’s absolutely fascinating. There’s nearly a hundred years there of wisdom, and he’s such a brilliant communicator. I think he’d be first on the list. Second on the list, would be Mark Rylance who is an actor people would know from ‘Bridge Of Spies’, and from ‘Wolf Hall’, and ‘Dunkirk’. I’m actually going to see him very soon in the West End. He’s one of those magnetic presences on the screen, that you cannot take your eyes off. I’m hoping that he’d be able to replicate that if you were having a chat. I think he sees the world in an interesting way in his work. So I wonder would that be the same if you met him in person, ya know. I’ll come back to the third person, but a musical act to close the gig off entirely? I would reform Oasis! For one gig! Because first of all, nobody has ever got them to do that. And secondly, the music of when you were a teenager holds a special place in everybody’s heart. I think that would be…oh my good God! [Laughs]. What a night that would be! Just for one night only. And my third guest…let me see…I think I would pick somebody like Orla Guerin, the BBC war correspondent. I think she’s seen a huge amount of the world and what people do to each other, great heroism, great sacrifice, and great cruelty. So, assuming that the gig has been great fun, and assuming that at the end of it it’s going to be lifted in an amazingly unique way by the reformed Gallagher brothers [laughs], and assuming that David Attenborough is going to give us some wisdom, and Mark Rylance is going to give us some laughs and some wisdom, I think we can go fairly deep about humanity with Orla, knowing that that’s the light and the shade. I think that would be an unbelievably good night out!” 


Finally, and we didn’t know when we spoke that there would be another address to the nation only days later, I asked Neil to put himself at that lectern outside Government Buildings in Dublin. If either Micháel Martin had called on Neil to don the green jersey as it were, face the cameras and deliver a message to the people of Ireland ahead of 2022 getting here…what thoughts would he have shared with a weary nation? 


“I think we should be proud of ourselves and how well we’ve done so far. We do, as a small country, tend to compare ourselves to other countries, and broadly speaking, if you look at the figures, we have done very well. And we’ve done well because we’ve looked after each other. That’s what I would say. And let’s all continue to look after each other. The country is a much better place when we [all] consider other people. That old Irish phrase, ‘Ní neart go cur le chéile’ (There’s no strength without unity) is the thing that comes to my head. That’s all I’d say. The country doesn’t need me to preach to them. That’s the thing about comedy gigs. People go to them to get away from life. They go to get away from their troubles for a while. And when we have been allowed to do things, you could see that people were going to escape the news-cycle. So let’s just stick together, and this too shall pass.” 


DANCING WITH THE STARS returns to our screens in January. Before then, on December 29th, you can catch Neil in the Celebrity Special of IRELAND’S FITTEST FAMILY. Neil brings his LIMINAL tour to the Tullamore Court Hotel on March 5th, with tickets ON-SALE NOW. For more details, check out www.neildelamere.com 

ENDS

Hot Country TV

NEWS

Press Release via AS Written, December 2021

FREE HOT COUNTRY SHOWS TO MAKE IT A MERRY CHRISTMAS FOR FANS

It’s been a long twenty-two months or so for country music fans in Ireland, but HOT COUNTRY TV is about to make it a very merry Christmas at least, with founder and host HUGH O’ BRIEN announcing that SIX FREE hour long HD STREAMING shows are on the way. 

Beginning at 5pm on Christmas Eve on the official Hot Country TV website – www,hotcountrytv.com, the shows – titled AN IRISH COUNTRY CHRISTMAS –  promise fans a wonderful mix of chat, storytelling, and even some very special Christmas videos that have never been seen before. Featuring some of Irish entertainment’s star names, including

Daniel O’ Donnell, Nathan Carter, Olivia Douglas, and Sabrina Fallon, the shows will be presented by Hugh and Eilish O’ Sullivan. And the Corkman sees the shows as a way to bring some cheer back into the lives of fans who – for the most part – wouldn’t have been able to see all of their favourite artists ‘live’ this year…

          “The Irish country music scene, for as long as its existed in any form at all, has been built around people coming together to enjoy the artists they love. Live shows and gigs, days and nights like that have been the heartbeat of the scene, and of so many peoples’ lives. So everything that’s happened since March 2020, or should I say, everything that hasn’t been able to happen, has been a complete shock to the system for so many people. We thought this year would be better, and that things would all go back to normal, but unfortunately that’s not how it turned out to be. And that’s why we’ve decided to make our ‘An Irish Country Christmas’ shows free for everyone to enjoy this Christmas.” 

Set to be the biggest country music event of the festive season, An Irish Country Christmas will also bring to our screens artists from Nashville (including the great songwriter Max T. Barnes), Scotland (accordion maestro Brandon McPhee), Malta (Marisa D’ Amato), Russia (Larissa Tormey, now living in Ireland), and Sweden (Ellinor Springstrike). 

“Not only are we making all six of these shows free for everyone”, remarked Hugh, “we’re also making them easily available, so that as many country music fans as possible can enjoy them over the Christmas. Each of the shows will be available FREE and in FULL HD on our website, www.hotcountrytv.com, and people at home will also be able to cast them to their Smart TVs when the website is entered using Google Chrome browser, this is a must. Another great idea is to log onto the website through all Smart TV’s in-built browser.”

Hugh went on to point out that the shows would also cast directly from laptop and desktop computers – and Android phones such as Samsungs, to all Android Smart TVs, and to all Smart TVs when using a Google Chromecast dongle (about €25 to buy), and that there are millions of Chromecast devices in operation around the world.

“For at least an hour on six different occasions over Christmas”, continued Hugh, “we’re looking forward to bringing top-class artists like Margo, Dominic Kirwan, Derek Ryan, and Cliona Hagan – as well as some rising stars of the scene like David James, Aishling Rafferty, Claudia Buckley, Alex Roe, Colin Kenny, Dae Allen, Jamie Donnelly, Simon Peters, Norman Borland, Liam Kelly, Eimear Furlong – and so many more, into peoples’ homes and back into peoples’ lives again.” 


~ For more information on the AN IRISH COUNTRY CHRISTMAS shows – which begin at 5pm on Christmas Eve – please visit the official Hot Country TV website, www.hotcountrytv.com

Hot Country TV has been broadcasting for over twelve years and is available on all digital devices worldwide.

ENDS

Alex Roe

NEWS

Press Release via AS Written, December 2021

IT’S ‘ROE, ROE, ROE’ THIS CHRISTMAS!

Whatever about the more traditional “Ho, Ho, Ho”, we’re pretty sure it’s also going to be a case of “Roe, Roe, Roe” in the Claus household this year, with the news that country music star ALEX ROE has released his very first Christmas single! 

And not only that, it’s made him a chart-topper again by taking the #1 spot on the Irish iTunes Country chart, and seen him keeping company with Ed Sheeran, Elton John, Dua Lipa, and Mariah Carey by peaking at #3 on the All-Genres chart.

The midlands man has recorded a version of the SHAKIN’ STEVENS festive classic MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE. And, regardless of whatever he finds under his tree come the morning of December 25th, this is already a dream come true for him…


“For as long as I can remember singing, I’ve known that I wanted to record a Christmas song someday. There’s just something about this time of the year that’s so special. As soon as you start to hear the first of the Christmas songs on the radio, your mood just starts to change as well. That’s how it is for me anyway, and for a lot of people I know. It doesn’t matter how cold it is or anything like that, because you don’t think of it as being winter anymore. When the Christmas songs start to play, that’s when it becomes Christmas! And this year – at last – I’ll have my voice on one of those songs that puts so many smiles on peoples’ faces. That’s what I aim to do in my music career anyway, but to be able to do that at Christmas, yeah, there’s just something extra-special and kind of lovely about that.” 


Originally released in November of 1985, Merry Christmas Everyone – written by Bob Heatlie and produced by Dave Edmunds – went on to claim the coveted Xmas #1 spot for Shakin’ Stevens that December. Despite only spending eight weeks in the charts back then, the record has gone on to establish itself as one of the musical touchstones of the festive season, with the digital revolution playing a big part along the way. In 2007, with downloads now included in the UK Singles Chart, Merry Christmas Everyone re-entered the Top 30 and hit the #22 spot. Returning to the charts every year since, the song has now spent more than seventy weeks as one of the hallmarks of Yuletide, climbing as high as #6 on the UK chart in both 2019 and 2020.


For Roe, well aware of the song’s standing as a seasonal staple, the chance to add his voice to its history this year – and indeed, for the years to come – is something that he sees as an honour, as well as being another moment in his career where he gets to live out a childhood dream…


“I’ve sung this very song at so many Christmas shows over the years, between being on stage and when I’ve just been out to enjoy myself with family or friends. So it already means a lot to me, even before this. But now, the fact that it will be my very first Christmas single, that gives it a place in my heart forever. And I really want it to become a special part of other peoples’ Christmases too.” 

~ MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE by ALEX ROE, is OUT NOW on all platforms and to request from radio stations nationwide and beyond.

ENDS

Larissa Tormey

NEWS

Press Release via AS Written, December 2021

ALL IS BRIGHT WITH LARISSA’S ‘SILENT NIGHT’

Singer/songwriter LARISSA TORMEY has released her Christmas single this year. The Russian-born, Killbeggan based entertainer has recorded a very special version of one of her favourite seasonal numbers, SILENT NIGHT. The record has already gone to radio, meaning that it’s available for request nationwide, and became available to fans via all digital platforms on Friday, November 26th. 

Speaking about the single, Larissa shared that for her, it only really feels like Christmas when she finally gets a chance to sing Silent Night…

          “I think for most people, hearing or singing ‘Silent Night’ is as much a part of it being Christmas as putting up a tree, or building snowmen, or writing letters to Santa. It’s a song that feels like it’s been around forever, and feels like it belongs to the entire world. I remember as a child myself, how enchanting and peaceful it always was to hear this song. So I’ve always wanted to record it some day, and share my version of it with fans and anyone else who might come to hear it and hopefully like it.”


          Written as a Christmas carol by Franz Gruber in 1818, to lyrics by by Joseph Mohr in the small town of Oberndorf bei Salzburg in Austria, the most famous rendition of the Silent Night, and perhaps the definitive one, belongs to the American crooner and film star Bing Crosby. His 1935 version – at last count – had amassed a whopping ten million sales as a single. 


          While Bing’s achievement seems sure to stand the test of time for a few more winters yet, Larissa has definitely added her personal stamp of originality to her take on the song that was declared an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation) back in 2011. What always proves to be one of the most popular songs in her set-list is her beguiling dual-language offering of Danny Boy, singing the old Irish classic in both English and her native Russian. And that’s a treatment that she’s now applied to Silent Night as well. 


          “People have always loved hearing ‘Danny Boy’ performed in both English and Russian, I think it adds another dimension to the song, and to its beauty. Even when you might not understand the words, you can still really feel what the song is about through the music. And it seemed to me that ‘Silent Night’ also shares that same sense of magic. It will find its way to your heart all by itself, all you have to do is listen. More music, and more listening, that’s what we all need a little more of!” 


          Produced by Glen Flynn, the idea for Larissa to finally go ahead and take her version of Silent Night into the recording studio was sparked by Hot Country TV founder and host, Hugh O’ Brien. The Corkman suggested it to Larissa for last year’s Hot Country Christmas Concert, which will be repeated this year (check out the Hot Country TV Facebook page for full details). Having heard and seen peoples’ reactions to Larissa’s version of Danny Boy, O’ Brien encouraged her to follow the same path with Silent Night, something for which Larissa remains grateful. “Hugh has always been a great supporter of my music since I came to Ireland, and he’s a great man for ideas, and ways to put a little twist on things.” 


          For fans who would like to hear Larissa sing her version of Silent Night, there’s a chance coming their way on Friday, December 17th (previously scheduled for Saturday, the 18th, so please note the change of date), when she’ll be performing a special online Christmas Concert at 4pm via her official Facebook and YouTube accounts. All donations from the event will go to charity, with Larissa set to reveal all the details about that soon on her social media and website, www.larissatormey.com


SILENT NIGHT, performed in English and Russian, is the new Christmas single from LARISSA TORMEY, now available to request from all radio stations nationwide and beyond, and also available to stream and download from all digital platforms.

ENDS

Liam O’ Connor

First Published November 2021

THE ENTERTAINER

I can still remember the very first time I actually saw LIAM O’ CONNOR perform ‘live.’ It’s going back a few years now, but truth be told, it might as well be just yesterday in so many ways. If I take a deep breath and close my eyes, I can still picture the scene and remember the feeling. The venue was the wonderful Tuar Ard theatre in Moate, and Liam was a guest artist on a show being run by a good friend of mine, the very talented singer/songwriter Stephen Rosney, also of the Back Axles fame. 


“Wait until you see Liam play”, Stephen assured me with all the confidence of a man who knew exactly what was to come, “the audience are gonna go madfor him! They always do.” I knew Liam by reputation, of course, and I’d probably seen him on television a few times as well. But look, when it comes to an artist of his ability, then you’ve never truly seen them play until you’ve actually SEEN them play, right in front of your own eyes. Backstage, when we met before the show began, Liam could have been anyone. And what I mean by that is you’d scarcely have known he was even there, that’s how quiet he was. No airs, no graces, no anything except a little polite and softly-spoken chat with everyone.


But then…BUT THEN…when it was his turn to take to the stage, everything changed, in an instant. Stephen was right, the audience went mad for Liam as he channelled a musical energy that seemed to be a lifeforce all of its own. Trying to find one word to describe it is a tough task simply because there’s no-one who can do what Liam does, in the way he does it. But there was definitely a touch of Elvis about it all, that’s for sure. I remember catching Stephen’s eye side-stage, and the look on his face was saying, “See, didn’t I tell ya!” And he did, he sure did! 
So when the chance came along for me to have a catch-up with Liam last weekend, I didn’t need to be asked twice. 


There’s a thousand things you could talk about with someone who has done as much in his career as Liam has. But, the Corkman whose home has been Killarney for many years now, has a very special event coming up next month, so that’s where we started. On December 8th, Liam will be joined by Moya Brennan, the Saint Brendan’s College Music Group and Soloists, and guest-speaker Joe Canning for what will be a night to remember at Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Killarney…


“Yeah, well this is my ninth year in Saint Brigid’s College where I do these concerts. I go and teach the kids for so many weeks, and then we do a college concert together and we bring a special guest, both a singer and a speaker. Our last speaker was Joe Schmidt, we’ve had the President of UCC Michael Murphy, we had Mick Galway, we had Kieran Donaghy, Tony Buckley the Munster man. We’ve had Christy Dignam, Brain Kennedy, Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh, so the names are good, you know. There’ll be some students there, of course, but this event is open to the public to come along as well, that’s why we sell-out every year. We had Danny O’ Reilly as well one year. I’m a part of Music Generation as well, but I started this, I suppose, nine years ago in Saint Brendan’s College because I had two sons going there myself. Saint Brendan’s College in Killarney is also known as ‘the Sem.’ It was a seminary before, you see. It’s a famous college, a lot of famous footballers went there, but I got the music going there as well. There’s some great music teachers there now. Mish O’ Donoghue is a music teacher, and Niamh O’ Connell is also a top of the range music teacher. So I brought in this idea of bringing in professionals [musicians] and getting the students on stage, and helping to give the students confidence for being on stage.” 

Moya Brennan will join Liam on the 8th of next month. How far back do the pair go? 


“We go back a good bit. Our first connection was through Maureen O’ Hara, actually. I used to do a good bit with Maureen O’ Hara. Moya was to perform in a concert for Maureen and I was doing it as well. But Moya couldn’t do it on that particular occasion but I did. But anyhow, we connected, and I just followed it up then.” 

I definitely wasn’t expecting to hear Maureen O’ Hara’s name pop up in our conversation, so just to be sure, I had to confirm with Liam that he was, in fact, talking about THE Maureen O’ Hara???


“Yes. Yes, yes. I did a lot of work with Maureen. You’ll see some of that footage that I have in my show when you get a chance to come and see it sometime. Her last recording was actually with my daughter, Saoirse. She was the last person to record Maureen’s full interview about her life before she left Ireland and died. We have some brilliant photos on that as well. Saoirse now is twenty-one, she was only eleven that time. There’s a good story there as well.” 

There certainly is! And it’s one we’ll be returning to in 2022. 


On December 20th, Liam was due to bring his ‘Liam O’ Connor Show’ to Liskennett in Limerick for a night in support of the Liskennett Equine Therapy Centre, an occasion on which he was going to be joined by Brian Kennedy. That show, however, for reasons so obvious we don’t even need to mention them, has now been postponed until February 20th of next year…


“Yeah, that’ll be at 3pm on a Sunday now. We have a great connection with the Equine Therapy Centre. This will be our second year doing that concert. David Doyle is the man that drives all that, and he’s a fantastic man, we’re very good friends with David. We came up with a concept that we should do something to lift the spirits and that’s where the idea of the concert there came from a few years ago. It’s for both the parents and the kids to enjoy. But with the situation we’re all in at the moment, we just moved it to February. We’ll have Brian with us then, of course, and we go way back with Brian. He’s been in ‘the Sem’ as well. I recorded a song with Brian last year, around Christmas, ‘I Wish I Had Someone To Love Me’, it was recorded once by the Dubliners too. I’ve recorded a couple of songs with Brian. I recorded ‘Message In A Box’, and ‘You Raise Me Up.'” 

Before Liam’s December 8th concert and his return to the Equine Therapy Centre in Liskennett in February, he was due to have another big night out close to the end of this month. Now, you may have picked up on the use of the words “he was due to” in that last sentence. And the reason – naturally – is that this event is another to have fallen to the times we’re in. However, when you’re a Cork man receiving a Pride Of Cork Award, having to wait a little while longer for it to happen only keeps the smile on your face a little bit longer too…


“Yeah, that’s gone now as well, to the 11th of March. Do you see the way things are moving? It’s a nice honour to get any award, but this is a Pride Of Cork Award so it’s lovely for me. I’m from Newmarket in Cork, living in Killarney now. It’s nice to be acknowledged and it’s always nice to get any award. They just emailed me [to let me know], and asked would I accept it, and of course I said I would. It’s a nice honour, it was a surprise. Any award is a surprise!”


June of this year marked twenty-five years since Lord Of The Dance first lit up the venue that used to be known and loved as The Point. In a post on his personal Facebook page to mark the occasion, Michael Flately named and thanked some of the people who were pivotal to the show’s outstanding success. One of them was Liam. I asked Liam for his memories of that time, and of course, of Michael himself…


“Brilliant. All brilliant. Michael is a master. Was AND IS a master. It was a great honour to work for him. And it was a great honour to be on the original team. I recorded all the ‘Lord Of The Dance’ accordion pieces on the original album. That’s something that I’ll always be very proud to have been involved with. And a big thank-you to Michael Flately for that. He really is the master of performance. That first night in the Point, it was the Point Depot at the time, that really stands out for me because my dad was there. He’s not around anymore now. My mom died when I was quite young, so my dad was there on that night. That’s why that one, the first night, stands out so much.” 

Even though Liam himself is also – as he described Michael – “a master of performance”, I wondered if, on nights like that, he ever gets nervous before a show? 


“You’ll always have a few nerves. That’s part of it being one of the biggest shows in the world. You’re working with some of the best in the world there. When you’re playing your own shows, and doing your own stuff, or doing anything with anybody, there’s always a few nerves. If there isn’t, there’s something wrong! That’s what makes it [performing] that bit of a thrill.” 

Liam, it’s more than fair to say, doesn’t just play the accordion. He has developed a style of performance that makes it simply impossible for people to take their eyes off him. In fact, he’s often been referred to as the Jimi Hendrix of the accordion, and no wonder! But how did this on-stage flair develop over the years? 


“I suppose it was a feeling inside. But getting on stage with Michael Flatley, all of those things are building confidence. You can’t be afraid. Do it the way you want to do it, that’s it. But I didn’t set out to do that. It’s a feeling. I created my own show then because you should try to be what you want to be. Don’t ever be afraid. I’ve done ‘The Late Late Show’ now with all three presenters; Gay Byrne, Pat Kenny, and Ryan Tubridy. I also did ‘This Is Your Life’ for Eddie Jordan, with Michael Aspell. That’s some stuff that people mightn’t know. But all those things are stepping stones along the way for buildingyour confidence. But really, it’s just a feeling. Some people like it. Some people love it. Some people hate it! But that’s fine, you know.” 

A lot of performers talk about how they’re almost a different person when they walk on-stage. Liam always comes across as a very quiet, shy, almost reserved person off-stage, in complete contrast to the man he becomes on-stage. Does he feel like he has a different persona for when he performs? 


“Off-stage, I’m just me. And on-stage as well. But when I’m on-stage, I’m passionate. You have to use the stage when you’re up there. I’m a performer at the end of the day. I’m up there on-stage playing music. It’s all about the music, yes, but it’s also about the performance. You’re entertaining people as well. You have to give everything up there.” 

After American actor, singer/songwriter, and comedian Charles Esten (most consecutive weeks to release an original digital single by a music act, with his Every Single Friday campaign beginning on July 15th 2016, and ending on July 21st 2017), I think Liam is only the second person I’ve ever interviewed who has been in the Guinness Book of Records. Back in 2008, Liam was – and remains, actually – the fastest fingers in the world on the accordion. I asked him to tell me about that experience and process…


I was playing over in Scotland and the Guinness Book of Records people were there so they asked me. There were five adjudicators, and they had a repertoire of tunes that you must play, you pick one of those and do it. I went on and I broke it then again. But look, it was a bit of fun, and it was nice to be in the Guinness Book of Records. And I’m still in it! So it’s still good [laughs].” 

The speed at which Liam can play, was that something he set out to do through practise, practise, practise? Or was that speed always part of his natural talent anyway? 


“No, no, no. I play many different instruments, but I have a good feeling for the accordion. But it’s not about speed at all, music is not about speed. I love music and I love the right tempo and all that. There’s an old saying, ‘Give time time’, ya know. Take your time. It’s not about speed, but I suppose I can play fast and that’s ok too.” 

Some wonderfully talented names had come up during the course of our chat, from Moya Brennan to Brian Kennedy, Maureen O’ Hara to Danny O’ Reilly, and others too. But who else, I wondered, might Liam love to perform with or for? 


“Well I did the famous flashmob with Christy Dignam on the streets of Killarney, that was another big one. If anyone searches flashmob and my name they’ll find that. Who else would I like to work with? Well there’s so many famous artists, isn’t there. It all depends. If we cross paths, that’s important. I have some beautiful new music coming out, a couple of tunes I recorded with Michael McGoldrick during lockdown. They’ll be coming out in the new year. Just a couple of singles, a couple of tunes.” 

Liam had mentioned his daughter Saoirse who now performs with him, as do his sons Oisín and Cillian too. And I’m sure Liam has been able to give them some priceless pieces of advice for working in the entertainment and showbiz worlds. If he could share one or two similar pieces of advice with anyone else already in those industries, or coming into them, what might he say? 


“Work hard. Practise. Be honest about it. And don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid of being yourself. And don’t be a bad copy of anybody else.” 


~ LIAM O’ CONNOR will be performing at Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Killarney on December 8th, with MOYA BRENNAN, the SAINT BRENDAN’S COLLEGE MUSIC GROUP and SOLOISTS, and with guest speaker JOE CANNING. Tickets available from 064-6631021 and ticketstop.ie Show begins at 8pm. 

ENDS