Most of us have spent the last nineteen months or so wishing for some way to transport ourselves back in time, back to before masks were a must-have when leaving home, and before things like social-distancing had to be factored into all of our plans. Most of all – especially for all of us who live and breathe music in so many ways – we just wanted to have music back in our lives again. That feeling of longing, of nostalgia, of better days left behind us, is what BACK IN ’68, the brand new single from DONIE O is all about.
Written by his fellow Tipp man, the late John O’ Connell, BACK IN ’68 – in normal times – would have a touch of lonesome hidden in its grooves anyway, name-checking as it does, so many of those venues of lore and legend nationwide where an incalculable number of hearts first danced their way into range of Cupid’s bow. Back in 1968, however, none who graced floors such as that of the Emerald in Ballinasloe, the Majestic in Mallow, the Astor in Castleisland, Dundalk’s Adelphi, the Sound of Music in Glenamaddy, or – one well-known to Donie O himself – the Premier in Thurles, would ever have believed the kind of world we’d have in our rear-view mirrors come 2021. But here we are…
And where we are, is on the move again! Slowly but surely, we can finally hear the music begin to lift us once more. And that’s where the magic lies in Donie O’s recording of BACK IN ’68. For those who can still feel the glow of those golden 20th century days and nights, this song is like running into an old friend after too long apart, something we can all relate to now. But at the same time, for those whose memories have travelled a shorter stretch of road, but for whom the last nineteen months will certainly never be forgotten, the emotions at the heart of this record are theirs too. This is a song to remind the listener – every listener, especially now – that life must be lived forward. Yes, we can remember, and yes, we should remember. We are, after all, every moment we have lived. But let us remember this too: we’re not done living yet!
While Donie O’s vocal, perhaps his most passionate yet, will call to mind the likes of the Las Vegas in Templemore, the Carlton in Kilkenny, the Atlantic in Tramore, or maybe the Crystal in Dublin, its message is not that our memories are all we have. Far from it. No, its message now, in 2021, is that we still have so many memories yet to make, so that come tomorrows yet unseen, we’ll have more songs like BACK IN ’68, reminding us that while we might glance back every now and then, we live moving forward. And we keep smiling, and we keep dancing as we go…because after all…
“Wasn’t it great in ’68/ To have been around back then…”
And it was. But as Donie O reminds us, “The best is always yet to come.”
~ BACK IN ’68, the brand NEW single from DONIE O is now available to request from radio stations nationwide, and will be general-release on all platforms from FRIDAY, OCTOBER 29th. For info on pre-adding/pre-saving his new single, follow Donie O on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @donieomusic, and at www.officialdonieomusic.com
After what felt like the longest wait imaginable, GLÓR TÍRE 2021 winner EMMA DONOHUE finally made it back on stage recently, opening for her MIKE DENVER, her mentor on the long-running TG4 show, at his concert in The Well, Moate.
Remarkably, since being crowned champion back in April, the student nurse from Ballinasloe has been patiently waiting for a chance to sing in front of a ‘live’ audience again. But, with the music world slowly emerging from eighteen months of unexpected and unprecedented silence, Emma’s moment to shine finally arrived when she was invited to get the evening’s entertainment underway at The Well.
And while the Love Me Tonight singer admitted to feeling nervous in the run-up to the big-night, her overwhelming emotions were those of excitement and gratitude…
“I knew it was only natural to feel a bit nervous having not been in front of an audience in so long, so I didn’t worry too much about that, to be honest. I knew that as the hours ticked on towards show-time all of that nervous energy would turn itself into adrenaline instead. And when that starts to happen, it’s the excitement of doing what you love that starts to kick-in. Because I was opening for Mike, though, and because Mike and his manager Willie Carty have been so good to me, I just wanted to make sure I did my best and didn’t let anyone down or disappoint anyone, that was the most important thing for me. That, and making sure I got people out on the dancefloor! [Laughs].”
With fans making the journey from her native Galway, as well as from Wexford, Offaly, Laois, and even from as far away as Donegal, one thing Emma didn’t need to worry about letting anyone there. They came in their droves to help her celebrate her first time on stage as Glór Tire’s champion of 2021…and to dance!
Posting on her social media platforms the day after the gig, Emma wrote, “What a night! My very first gig since winning Glór Tíre. Thanks to all my friends and family that showed up to The Well in Moate last night. It was definitely a night to remember. Thanks to Mike and Wille for inviting me to be a part of the night with them, and to Declan and Brian [Manton] for the amazing venue and hospitality as always. Hopefully there’s many more gigs to come. I’m delighted everyone enjoyed the night. I’m still on cloud-nine.”
Emma, who is one of the featured artists in the Ones-To-Watch section of the latest edition of RSVP Country, has also been back in the studio recently, putting the finishing touches to her brand new single.
“Like everything else these days, it’s taken a little bit longer to plan, and then to get it to where we want it to be. But we’re very close to all wrapped up on it now, thank God! So it won’t be too long before we can announce all the details on that. And again, no more than with actually performing, my last single was back during Glór Tíre as well, my version of Isla Grant’s ‘Love Me Tonight.’ The wait has been longer than I wanted, but I love the song I’ve chosen, and I’m really happy with it. So, the next step now is to get it out there and hopefully get to see and hear fans enjoying it. And then, of course, to get back out on the road and get playing it ‘live.’ Keep an eye on my socials, there’ll be more news on this announced there soon.”
~ You can follow Emma on Facebook and Instagram at Emma Donohue Music, and via her official website, www.emmadonohuemusic.com
“I’m very into Irish songs, especially ones like this that tell a story. And the reason it does that is all due to Brendan’s talented songwriting. It’s like a mini- history lesson more than anything.”
So said Mayo singer NICOLA O’ HAIRE (pictured) recently when speaking about her forthcoming debut single, ORPHAN GIRL. And its writer – the Brendan in question – is none other than that expert crafter of song, BRENDAN GRAHAM.
But when Nicola releases ORPHAN GIRL on Wednesday, October 6th, any feelings of elation and satisfaction will be tempered somewhat by a fact which the musical theatre graduate admits will shadow her thoughts throughout the day. For on that very day, some 173 years before, the young Irish women whose utterly heartbreaking story is so eloquently conveyed in Graham’s master-work, first set foot on Australian soil, landing at Sydney Harbour as passengers aboard the merchant ship the Earl Grey, having been forced to leave their native Ireland the previous June.
Unlike in more recent times, these luckless, helpless souls had little by way of choice in their journey. Their destiny was decided by Earl Grey, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, after whom the vessel that carried the “scarcely turned sixteen” protagonist orphan girl of Graham’s tale from a Westport workhouse to Australia where she hoped to, “…find myself a better life”, was named.Under this most heartless of schemes, one which also bore his name, Earl Grey decided that the perfect solution to the problem of overcrowding in the workhouses of Ireland, was to ship this excess number of human beings to the other side of the world where they would help to settle the new Australian colony, making up for a shortage of serving staff and domestic labourers there.
So how did Nicola – a graduate of the American College in Dublin – go from a make-shift ‘stage’ of hay bales, singing You Raise Me Up to a shed full of cattle in the wintertime at home on the family farm – just on the Mayo side of the Galway/Mayo divide – to singing in a recording studio with Brendan himself watching her take on one of his songs, something she described as being “a real ‘pinch-me’ moment”?
Nicola herself took some time out from release preparations to fill us in on exactly how it all came to be…
“There was talk of a concert involving Brendan Graham happening in my locality, and I would usually sing at any events like that, you see. Two great men for supporting their community, Ray McHugh and Paddy Rock from Cong, had me in mind to sing at it, so they put in a good word for me. It all took off from there. I spoke with Brendan about it and he suggested I perform one of his songs at the concert. And that song was ‘Orphan Girl.’ Brendan initially wrote it back in 2012, to commemorate the relocation of over 4,000 Irish orphan girls who were shipped to Australia during Ireland’s Great Famine of the 1800s.”
Due to Covid, however, that concert was never able to go ahead. But, having fallen in love with the song, and being so moved by the story, Nicola still wanted to record it. And Brendan, impressed by the version Nicola went ahead and recorded on her own, invited her to Ventry Recording Studio in Balbriggan to record a new arrangement of the song, overseen by arranger and producer Feargal Murray, and engineered by Dave McCune. And, to do so with a view to releasing it as a single.
“My dream is and always has been”, declares Nicola, “to become a successful recording artist. And every day I aspire to taking a step closer to that dream. I’ve always worked so hard to make this dream of mine come true. But I was also met with an amazing opportunity of getting to work with the incredible Brendan Graham himself when our paths crossed last year. He has made this opportunity possible for me, and has assisted me every step of the way. It has been an incredible experience for me. A very surreal one at that. This project with Brendan has been an amazing adventure, one I will truly never forget.”
And thanks to songwriters like Brendan and artists like Nicola, Ireland’s lost orphan girls will never be forgotten either.
In the end, the ‘orphan girl’ in whose voice Nicola sings, was but one of 4,114 such girls, treated as a little more than a bothersome inconvenience by those who ruled their homeland. They were seen as nothing more than a problem, one ultimately to be solved by simply relocating them to somewhere almost as far away as they could possibly be sent from that homeland. And, with hardly a thought for their well-being as human beings involved in that process.
In the song’s third verse, Nicola gives voice to what may have been the desire upon which all hope of a happier life hinged for our dear Mayo girl, when she sings, “And I will be some good man’s wife.”
That she, and more of those 4,114 orphan girls did find happiness in some shape or form while still on this earth, we can only pray.
~ ORPHAN GIRL (written by Brendan Graham), the official debut single from NICOLA O’ HAIRE, will be available on all platforms from WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 6th.
COLIN KENNY, known to country music fans nationwide as ‘the singing barber’, is back with new music this week, as the Banagher man releases his latest single, ROCKIN’ AND ROLLIN.’
The latest cut to be taken from his official debut album, ANNIE, Rockin’ And Rollin’ is set to continue Kenny’s rise to prominence as one of the country scene’s newest singer/songwriters of note. Co-written with Tipp man Brendan Carroll, the track’s feel-good, nostalgia tinged vibe comes at a perfect time as venues begin to reopen and ‘live’ music once again becomes an intrinsic part of so many peoples’ lives.
For Kenny, based in Borrisokane where his recently opened hair studio is located, getting back in front of his fans again – in real life – has been a beautiful feeling…
“There’s no feeling like it! And every time you get to introduce a new song, especially when it’s an original and one that you’ve had a hand in writing, you’re reminded of that thrill that comes with having a ‘live’ audience in front of you. There’s a certain kind of buzz that comes from connecting with people like that, and it’s nearly impossible to replicate. I was back out this weekend as part of the Nenagh ‘Live’ event when it came to Borrisokane on Sunday, and then an acoustic session in the Green Bar that evening as well, and I’ll tell ya, it’s good for the soul!”
While Kenny is now back bringing smiles to faces in person again, playing tunes like new single Rockin’ And Rollin’, and previous hits You’ve Got ThatSomething, Will You Dance With Me, Annie?, I’m A Country Singer, and more from his own catalogue, it was his regular Facebook ‘Live’ shows that did so much to keep peoples’ spirits up through the difficult and often lonely times of the last year and more. And even though he’s back on the road again now, he has no plans to call a halt to those intimate performances…
“Definitely not. They’ve become a very important part of what I do now, and they’re a great way of connecting with fans as well. With an actual gig, it’s not always possible for people to travel to see you, but when you do something online, you can have fans joining you from all corners of the country at once, and that’s a lovely feeling. What has happened a lot as well, is that I’d play some of my new songs for the first time during these online shows and that’s proved to be a great and very rewarding way of bringing new material into my set-list. So that’s something that I plan on continuing, for sure.” ~
ROCKIN’ AND ROLLIN’, the brand NEW single from COLIN KENNY (co-written with Brendan Carroll) will be available on all platforms from FRIDAY, OCTOBER 1st, and is also available to request from radio stations nationwide. You can follow Colin on Facebook at Colin Kenny Music.
MUSIC, ‘LIVE’ EVENTS, AND A GOVERNMENT THAT NEVER CARED
Anyone who couldn’t have foreseen the current government’s appalling treatment of the music and ‘live’ events sectors simply hadn’t been paying attention. The signs were on it right from the moment Catherine Martin T.D. was handed a portfolio that included responsibility for tourism, culture, arts, the Gaeltacht, sport, AND media.
The argument can rightly be made that each of these areas needs and warrants a department of its own, given the importance of each to Irish life. At the same time, however, realism, pragmatism -and, in fact, the constitution – dictate that not every area of significance and consequence can be afforded the luxury of a department in its own name, given that our government can have no more than fifteen members (Article 28), including the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, and the Minister for Finance. So in effect, minus the aforementioned, only twelve seats – at most – ever remain to be filled in the cabinet.
That fact notwithstanding, however, the decision to ask one minister to take on responsibility for six sectors which, each in their own right, play such prominent roles in Irish life, seemed crazy at the time. And nothing that has happened since has shown otherwise. Now, to be clear here, I understand that there’s seldom a perfect way to do anything in politics, and that no matter what any government – or minister – might do, there will be someone on hand straight away to say why they should have done the opposite. That, unfortunately, is the way of politics in general, and certainly in Ireland.
Moreover, when it came to the easing of restrictions, it’s perfectly understandable that a phased approach had to be taken, and that whatever such approach was decided upon, it would end up with some group or section of society having to bring up the rear. A phased approach makes sense. But a phased approach could still have included all stakeholders to some extent.
What this situation has also revealed – laid bare in no uncertain terms, in fact – is that politicians – for the most part, there have been some exceptions – simply have no idea how the music or ‘live’ events sector. It’s not a matter of turning a key, opening a door, and hey presto…back in business, back to normal all in one move. There are very, very few music or ‘live’ events of any nature that happen without the need for a lot of advance planning. A lot of planning from a lot of people. Artists, their management team, their PR team, venues, sound and lighting experts, ticket outlets, and more. Everything needs to be coordinated on multiple levels.
To be able to plan ahead, you need to be able to see ahead. And yet, as I write this, with September only a couple of sunsets away, no line of vision on a return to normality for the music or ‘live’ events sectors has even been hinted at in any detail, let alone laid out in black and white.
For a profession so fond of hiring advisors, the ability of most politicians to communicate is worse than abysmal. A politician’s job, no matter what anyone says or thinks, is incredibly tough. There’s no doubt about that. Yes, they’re well-rewarded, but most of the people who only or primarily focus on that fact wouldn’t put up with the abuse that comes with the job for even a day. And to be fair, if they tried working as a councillor, a TD, or a minister for a week, they’d quickly find out that most in those roles – most…not all – more than earn their living. And that’s across the board, politicians of all parties and none.
A quick word on abuse, while we’re here. While frustration and anger, and a lot of other emotions are all understandable given where we are in this time of Covid, and everything that we’ve already had to deal with and come through, resorting to name-calling – sometimes in a way that’s really vile, vicious, and completely unnecessary – is not to be condoned. That’s just bad manners, childish, reflects extremely badly on those who do it, and it helps absolutely no-one in any way at all. Anybody who acts like that, regardless of who they are, doesn’t deserve to be a part of finding any way through this.
However, there are many things that politicians could so easily do to make their own lives easier, and the lives of their constituents better. Communication is top of that list. And right up there with it, is respect. And respect is not shown to anyone by running a so-called ‘pilot’ concert in a way that precisely zero events without further government funding could ever run in the real world. And respect is not shown by overseeing a grants process that sees several artists awarded more than one, while hundreds more received no help at all. That is not respect. Of course it was impossible to make sure that everyone who applied for funding of some kind got something that would help them. But what was always completely within the power of those who ran that operation to control, was making sure that no-one received multiple grants. Simple.
Anyway, respect is what takes me right back to my opening point, that how little this government thought of the arts was evident from the moment the Green Party’s Catherine Martin was tasked with heading up a department that included six portfolios; tourism, culture, arts, the Gaeltacht, sport, AND media.
Now, as far as Minister Martin herself is concerned, I admire her for having the courage to take on such a workload, and I have nothing but sympathy for the mess that she’s found herself at the centre of as far as the return to normality of the music and ‘live’ events sector goes. Even at the best of times, in a ‘normal’ Covid-less world, Catherine Martin would still have only twenty-four hours in her day, and seven days in her week, all to be divided between the six different portfolios for which her department has ultimate responsibility. Even at that, her task is monumental. Throw in Covid and its complexities, and it’s not just one magic wand she’d need, it’s a new one for every hour of every day of every week!
The gov.ie website currently lists eighteen official government departments, and only one really comes close to Catherine Martin’s in terms of the spread of its duties, the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, overseen by Minister Roderic O’ Gorman, although there are clearly more obvious links between each of those. There are some departments, which, understandably and for obvious reasons, must stand alone. Health, Foreign Affairs, and Justice. But surely, back when this government was being negotiated, more thought and care could have been given to the overall balance of things? I, for one, believe so. And have done for a long time. The madness and mayhem of the mess that has been the government’s treatment of the music and ‘live’ events sectors over the last number of months have only served to reaffirm that belief.
So, what could have been done differently then, back when this government was formed? What would have given Minister Catherine Martin a fighting chance of representing artists and musicians with all of her might, which I genuinely believe she has always sincerely wanted to do? Well, let’s have a look…
The Department of Transport, as important as it is, could surely handle something else too. Tourism, perhaps? And do we still really need a Department of Finance AND a Department of Public Expenditure and Reform? Make them one! And, would not the Department of Rural and Community Development be a fitting and natural home for the care of the Gaeltacht as well? These questions give us somewhere to start from.
With the Department of Finance becoming the Department of Finance, Public Expenditure, and Reform, that immediately frees up one department. The portfolios of Higher and Further Education should also come under the watch of the Department of Education, full-stop. That would mean that we then have a stand-alone Department of Research, Innovation, and Science. From the burden that rests on Catherine Martin’s shoulders right now, let’s actually go ahead and move Tourism to the Department of Transport seeing it become the Department of Transport and Tourism. As mentioned earlier, have the Department of Rural and Community Development become the Department of Rural and Community Development and the Gaeltacht. Now, Catherine Martin is left with just Arts, Culture, Sports, and Media in her charge. But, we’re not done here yet…
By making the Department of Finance become the Department of Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, we freed up a department. This can now become the new Department of Sports and Media, taking two more briefs away from Minister Martin. A possible step further even, make it the Department of Sports, Media, and Communication, leaving us with a Department of Environment and Climate as well, because that’s a portfolio that will certainly need as much time as possible devoted to the growing challenges it will continue to face in the years to come.
And we’re not done even at that, because there’s one more move which would also make sense in two ways. If we take Heritage from the current Department of Housing and Local Government and Heritage, and move it to what Catherine Martin still has on her desk, we end up with a Department of Housing andLocal Government (and as with a Department of Environment and Climate, a Department of Housing and Local Government will have more than enough on its plate!), while Minister Martin heads up our Department of Arts, Culture, and Heritage.
To my mind, this paints a much more balanced overall picture. But crucially for the music and ‘live’ events sectors, Minister Martin would, right from the get-go, have been in a significantly better position to champion these sectors. There’s just no question about that. Her workload and areas of responsibility would have been literally cut in half. The time and energy that she’s had to put into dealing with the tourism, Gaeltacht, sports, and media briefs since taking office could all have been devoted to her efforts on behalf of the music and ‘live’ events sector, as part of her Arts, Culture, and Heritage brief. There’s no way in the world that this wouldn’t have made some difference to things, and perhaps even enough for these sectors to – at last – be looking beyond Covid.
So why would any government in its right mind even attempt to wedge six portfolios – each one so important in its own right, let me stress that again – into the department of one single minister? Well, it has to be said that the answer looks simple enough at this stage. For those of us who work in the music and ‘live’ events sectors, the problem isn’t just that this government has been acting like it doesn’t care right now. It’s that now, at last, maybe it’s becoming clearer to see that they never really cared at all. This government has already sanctioned the return to Croke Park of 40,000 fans for the All-Ireland hurling final. At the time of writing, public transport is set to return to full capacity next week (from Monday, August 30th), and schools are also due to reopen, if they haven’t already done so. But the music and ‘live’ events sectors? Still waiting on a ‘road-map.’
Just to be clear as well, very few who work in or are involved in the music or ‘live’ events sectors have any problem at all with the return of crowds to Croke Park or any other sporting occasions in large numbers, if it can happen safely. No problem at all. More luck to all involved. The point is, the exact same thing could already have been happening – in some shape or form – for concerts, festivals, and theatre too, as well as smaller ‘live’ music occasions. And the fault for that not being so, for this delay, and the embarrassing absence of clear communication on all of this, lies, ultimately, with the government. Not with Nphet as some would like us to believe. Throughout this whole pandemic, Nphet have been doing their job, which is just to advise the government. The final call rests with the government.
And that’s who thought it was a good idea to ask one minister to take on the portfolios of the arts, culture, tourism, the Gaeltacht, sports, and the media in the first place. Those same decision makers are why the music and ‘live’ events sectors are still waiting on a ‘road-map’ instead of being well down the road to some kind of normality again.