Maria Butterly

NEWS

Press Release via AS Written

MARIA’S MUSICAL MUSE HELPS UKRAINE AND MORE

Maria on stage during her performance at the MOTHERS OF UKRAINE charity concert

 Singer/songwriter MARIA BUTTERLY is leading the way in demonstrating the helping and healing power of music.

          The Meath based artist was the driving force behind a hugely successful fundraising concert in Drogheda’s TLT in recent weeks, and has also just launched a new songwriting workshop which has wellbeing as its focus.

          MariaMothers of Ukraine Charity Concert on April 13th saw a glittering parade of entertainers share their talent and time by banding together to raise funds for UNICEF and its work relating to the war-torn country. Maria has since been able to present a cheque for €10, 028.25 to UNICEF representative Amy Maher, funds sure to go a long way in providing help to those most in need of it right now.

          The concert – which was in association with Pat Egan Management – featured performances from Sean Keane, Donal Lunny and Paddy Glackin, violinist Vladimir Jablokov, St. Peter’s Male Voice Choir with MD Edward Holly, the powerhouse Ukrainian singer Maryna Odelksa, and Maria herself. That stellar line-up was backed by an equally heavenly backing band with the steady hand of the great Bill Shanley (who also produces many of Maria’s songs and albums, including her recent single Hero) leading James Blennerhasset on bass, and Jason Duffy on drums throughout the night, while LMFM presenter Sinead Brassil orchestrated proceedings as event MC.

Deputy Mayor of Drogheda Declan Power, Maria, Amy Maher of UNICEF Ireland, and Marian Agrios, President of Drogheda Lions Club

          Reflecting on the concert – which saw Counsellor Ms. Olena Shalopu, Deputy Head of Mission for Ukraine, join Drogheda Town Mayor James Byrne among those in attendance – Maria remarked that every artist had treated the audience to performances “from the heart”. While it was almost impossible for her to stand one moment apart from the next, Maria noted that several moments had struck a chord with large numbers of those who enjoyed the TLT event…

          “The consensus among people who have been in touch with me since is that Sean Keane really set the crowd alight in opening the show. Likewise, the beautiful renditions of classic songs with their eloquent harmonies as performed by St Peters Male Voice Choir & MC Edward Holly will live long in the memory. Donal Lunny and Paddy Glackin – as you’d expect – raised the roof, and Vladimir Jablokov wooed all before him with pieces like ‘Libertango’, ‘Radetsky March’, and the famous piece from ‘Schindler’s List’, too.”

          “And in what was a very special moment for me personally”, Maria added, “Vladimir also beautifully performed an Irish tune I wrote, one titled ‘Tonn na hEireann’, which means ‘Irish Wave’.”

          While Maria was very much to the fore in bringing the Mothers of Ukraine concert from the good idea phase to reality, she readily acknowledges how that journey would have been incredibly difficult without the support that poured in from so many directions…

          “There wasn’t one single instance where I asked someone to help in some particular way, and where that didn’t happen. That’s a reflection of how willing so many people were to do whatever they could, and I honestly can’t express enough my gratitude or appreciation for every single person and organisation who came on-board. I’d like to send a special thank you, though, to Drogheda Credit Union in particular, for their immediate and very generous support as one of our prominent sponsors. I’ve been a member of the Credit Union since I was just ten years old, and it was through them that I was able to purchase my first car.  They were the first local business to come on board and support this event in the very early stages.”

          A full list of Maria’s thank-you’s is available on her official website, www.mariabutterly.com

          Maria also composes music for film and TV, and runs a recording studio which has just opened to the public in Meath (for more information on Maria’s studio contact mariabutterlymusic@gmail.com). 

Given that Maria is so involved in the music world in so many ways, and with the vast depth of her musical experience, it’s hardly surprising that she has decided to pass on some of her knowledge in a way that has the potential to be of huge benefit to others.

         To that end, she has recently launched a Songwriting Workshop with a focus on wellbeing, designed to cater for post-primary students and adults of all ages and levels, from beginners right up to those of a more advanced skillset. The workshop, which is in association with Exit Entry / IBM and Windmill Lane Recording Studio, will see students learn to compose hit melodies and lyrical hooks, how to record their songs, what they need to set up a home studio, and, of course, the all-important business side of songwriting too.

~ You can find more information about Maria’s Songwriting Workshop on her official website, www.mariabutterly.com

ENDS

Imelda Kehoe

NEWS

Press Release via AS Written, May 2022

IMELDA TO PLAY NATIONAL OPERA HOUSE

Imelda will take to the stage of the National Concert Hall on June 17th

For one night only, IMELDA KEHOE – who has been described by the writer, musician, and journalist Shane Dunphy as being, “…that rare thing: a singer of remarkable subtlety and emotional resonance who also writes songs that act as touchstones everyone can grasp” – will perform original songs from her latest album, How To Be Human, at the National Opera House on June 17th (ticket info here).

          With a set-list that will also include some classics by the likes of John Prine, Buddy Holly and more, Imelda – who will be accompanied by notable jazz musician Kevin Lawlor and his Trio – will treat her audience to a night of top quality entertainment. 

          Currently writing her third studio, and with an Irish tour also in the making, the journalist and songwriter Brendan Keane has noted of Imelda, that “While her style fits comfortably into the contemporary folk category, there is far more depth to her work than any one tag could accurately encompass.” That being so, it’s no surprise that Imelda has really created her own style, one influenced not just by folk, but also jazz, blues and elements of soul. 

          Imelda’s songs have received national airplay in Ireland and on radio stations worldwide such is their easy way of making listeners feel part of the stories they tell. Her unique voice and vocal performances draw listeners in close, with her “Beautiful, heart-breaking pop inspired songs that trip along and pull you in to their melodies and chord structures…”, that are, according to the songwriter, playwright and actor Billy Roche, “… reminiscent of Paul Weller’s ‘Butterfly Collector’ or ‘English Rose.'”

          The soundtrack to a childhood spent moving around and living in beautiful properties that her parents would renovate was her father’s record collection. And this audio-goldmine led Imelda into life-long love affairs with the music of Nat King Cole, Buddy Holly, Simon and Garfunkel, Mamas and Papas and the Beach Boys, to name only a few. She describes these early influences as shaping her love of good melody.  

          Imelda trained as a Nurse in Leeds, working in inner City A&E and Intensive Care departments, and she cites these experiences as being influential in her songwriting.  Having moved to Ireland some years back now, Wexford is now very much ‘home, sweet, home’ for Imelda. 

“You don’t need bells and whistles with a voice so honest and songs so beautifully classic in their arrangement. This album really did stop me in my tracks, and I am thankful for it.” – Bobby Green (musician.ie) – on Imelda’s album, How to Be Human

“Her voice is of the folk-tradition, but it also brings a freshness and vitality that is both exciting, compelling and all her own.  Imelda’s songs are And distinctive, delicate powerhouses: leaping genres effortlessly, they often embrace unusual time signatures and challenging melodic structures, while managing to appear deceptively simple.  She is something very special.” – Shane Dunphy, Writer, Musician, Journalist. 

~ IMELDA KEHOE will perform songs from her latest album – HOW TO BE HUMAN – at the NATIONAL OPERA HOUSE on JUNE 17th. For more information on Imelda, check out her official website, www.imeldakehoe.com. For ticket info and booking, go to nationaloperahouse.ie 

ENDS

Brendan Graham

First Published May 2022

“IT’S ALL ABOUT THE SONG”

Part 2

Photo by THOMAS CONNEALLY

We’re now just a week away from the moment when all of Ireland’s EUROVISION dreams will either fade quietly into obscurity for another twelve months, or possibly bloom gloriously in a way that writes the name BROOKE SCULLION into our history books forevermore. The hopes of a nation rest on the Derry girl’s shoulders as we await Ireland’s turn to step into the international spotlight during the second semi-final next Thursday, May 12th. A few weeks back when Brooke won the National Song Contest, OTRT confidently proclaimed that – at last – after years of depending on luck and the whim of the hand of fate, we finally had a song in THAT’S RICH and a performer in Brooke who had a real chance of leading us to our eighth Eurovision title. 


But…the one thing that worries me now is how the song’s presentation has been ‘revamped’ by those who apparently ‘know’ what Eurovision needs. When Brooke performed the song on The Late Late Show last week, she could hardly have been more clear in stating that it wasn’t her idea to lose her backing dancers. This decision, in my opinion, serves neither the song nor Brooke, and is a big mistake. A huge part of the song’s appeal when it won it won the right to represent Ireland at Eurovision was the energy between Brooke and her dancers, and what that in turn added to the song. Without going all the way back to the era of the Spice Girls about it, the presence of her backing dancers and how they and Brooke worked together brought a certain ‘girl-power’ vibe to the performance. That wasn’t there on The Late Late Show last week, and if it’s not going to be there in the semi-final either, then someone somewhere has made a decision that will actually lessen Brooke’s chances of making it to the Grand Final on Saturday, May 14th. 
Thankfully for Ireland, Brooke has talent to burn, as the saying goes, and a personality that will illuminate one of the biggest stages and occasions in the world of entertainment. No matter what happens, she’ll do us proud during her time in Turin. 


Should Brooke take home the crown, she’ll be following in the footsteps of a man who has walked that path himself, and not once, but twice. Back in 1994, BRENDAN GRAHAMs beautiful ROCK ‘N’ ROLL KIDS, performed by Charlie McGettigan and Paul Harrington, gave Ireland her sixth Eurovision #1. It followed Dana with All Kinds of Everything (Derry Lindsay, Jackie Smith) in 1970, Johnny Logan with What’s Another Year (Shay Healy) in 1980, and Johnny again with Hold Me Now (Sean Sherrard aka Johnny Logan) in 1987, Linda Martin with Why Me? (Johnny Logan) in 1992, and Niamh Kavanagh with In Your Eyes(Jimmy Walsh)a year later. Then, in 1996, Brendan repeated his victory when Eimear Quinn conquered Europe with THE VOICE.


Just over a year ago, OTRT had the pleasure of sitting down for a chat with Brendan on the occasion of the release of his song Lullaby for the World by The Mahers. But given Brendan’s remarkable place in Irish and international music – he has also, let us not forget, penned the lyrics to Westlife’s huge hit, YOU RAISE ME UP, a song that has been covered more than 1,400 times, and by artists including Josh Groban, Aled Jones, and Celtic Woman – there was so much more to talk about as well. Including, of course, his memories of those very special nights in 1994 and 1996. This week, with Eurovision 2022 almost upon us, we’re delighted to share some more from that chat with Brendan…

“I actually don’t do many interviews”, revealed Brendan, “and that’s on purpose because I like to let the songs speak for themselves. The people who need to find me and who look for songs, will get me anyway. So, I don’t have an online presence. I remember Louis Walsh going on The Late Late once – and we didn’t have a telly at the time – so, I think it was Fr. Brian D’Arcy who rang me to say, ‘Did you see Louis Walsh on The Late Late?’, and I said ‘no’, and Brian said, ‘He’s trying to find out where you are to let you know that your song is going to be #1 in Britain next week!’ It also makes it simple for me to get on with things. I can go out and about and live life and sure nobody knows who I am. As long as they know the songs…and if they say, well that’s a Westlife song, or a Josh Groban song, or a Seán Keane song, I’m happy enough with that because that’s the way things work. I like the focus to be on the artist rather than on me.”

Before we got on to the subject of Eurovision, I wanted to ask Brendan about his songwriting and its process. 

Brendan’s song Crucán na bPáiste was written about a burial ground for unbaptised children near his Mayo home. And I couldn’t help but wonder if, in writing a song like that – because of the subject matter – there was an added emotional weight in what he was trying to create, one that might have presented some different challenges than those usually encountered when writing a song? 

“Songs are different. Some songs you sit down to write. And then there are songs, if you like, that you’re called to write. ‘Crucán na bPáiste’ was one of those latter ones that I felt summoned to write. I think that the special songs find us, we don’t find them. I had set a lot of my first book for Harper-Collins, ‘The Whitest Flower’, around the area where I live in Mayo, which includes the area of Crucán na bPáiste and Maumtrasna. I’d go up to that area to sit on the rocks and just think, and soak up the stories and history buried in the valleys and the streams. [With] Crucán na bPáiste, I began to think about how it’s in this extraordinarily beautiful place up high, and there’s only boulders that mark the graves. And I just wondered what would it be like for the parents burying those children, who would not see the beauty that I was seeing. That started me thinking. The place became a kind of a claw on my gut. I knew the song had to be written in Irish to be true to the time and its geography – it’s in a Gaeltacht area. And around that time, I think it was just before that, I’d gone back to do a ten-week course in Irish at Gael Linn, myself and Bill Whelan went. And we were all put to shame by the best person in the class who was a young Japanese student who was working with one of the government departments. So, all of the timings came right together. Crucán became kind of a pilgrimage to me, I had to go there. Bit by bit, the song kind of spoke itself, and then I was set free of it, and it had found its voice. I learned an important lesson, which is to keep out of the way and let the song write itself. The way I looked on that one, I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, and something that often I don’t fully understand is given voice and is heard. It’s a special song. I placed the melody around a traditional melody and then took the liberty of adding some of my own music to it. It has seemed to connect with people, even people who don’t understand Irish, they get the feeling from it. That’s down to the fantastic artists who have recorded it, like Karen Matheson, Cathy Jordan, Eimear Quinn and others who understand the song and bring the emotion out of it. It’s a very special song to me, and one of only two that I’ve written as Gaelige. And it’s special because the place is special.” 

Most writers tend to rack up a long list of former jobs as they go through life before eventually – hopefully! – getting some kind of lucky break that makes all of those years pay-off. In all the time before his unquestionable success, and the recognition that has come his way for his talent as a writer, was that writer within him always alive? Always active? Or were there perhaps times when Brendan didn’t write for long spells, or wrote much less? 

“I suppose I was always interested in it, but y’know, you have a full-time job so you’re tipping away at songs at night and at the weekend. And the family is growing, and they’re going to music lessons, and athletics, and basketball and netball, all of that stuff! And I was playing sport up into my forties, competitive basketball. Now, not at the very top level, but it was still competitive. So songs were squeezed in here and there. I suppose really, I became a songwriter by default in 1993 when I was made redundant. I’d had conversations with friends, other writers and artists, and they might say to me ‘well, you should go full-time’. But I didn’t know anybody who was just a full-time songwriter. I knew people who wrote songs but who were artists who performed and I didn’t want to be that. I just thought it would have been too much of a risk to give up a job where I got a cheque every week to go into something that was unknown. So, in 1993, I was out of work and I had to do all sorts of bits and pieces to keep going, and I thought I have to make a go of this songwriting now. I have to put up or shut up. Fortunately then in 1994 ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Kids’ came up so I began to earn some money, then in 1996 ‘The Voice’ also came up. I always had a hankering to be a full-time writer, but was always afraid to take the leap into that unknown. But I think I would have kept writing anyway, whatever happened, because I just loved it. I loved the process.” 

And of course, I couldn’t talk to Brendan without asking him about those most special nights in 1994 and 1996. What do those moments actually feel like? To be right there, at the centre of the storm, when history is being made in front of your eyes and out of your very own life in so many ways? 

“I was thinking about this, because ‘The Voice’ was twenty-five years ago this year (in 2021 when we spoke), and with time you kind of forget the trepidation of the votes coming in, and the exhilaration when they do come in! So, casting my mind back, it was absolutely magnificent. I had been trying for three years to get ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Kids’ into the National Song Contest, and I was dogged about it until it got in. I actually decided on the night of the Eurovision at the Point not to go into the Green Room. I wanted to sit out front with the family and see the two lads come out and perform my song, and get the feeling that the audience was getting. And I also wanted to see Bill’s ‘Riverdance’, he had invited me to go into rehearsals and I said no, I’d wait for that night. He was about seven rows in front of me and when the boys did the song he turned around and gave me the thumbs-up. Then, when ‘Riverdance’ came out and blew us all away, I was holding all my thumbs up [for him]! It was wonderful. And then to see the crowd reacting, and our President, and our Taoiseach, and all of the people…it was a huge moment of just sheer joy. There was also, a sense of having represented your country, and that you’d done well for it. The other factor was that with ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Kids’, the song was presented exactly as I had envisaged it. I didn’t want an orchestra, I didn’t want anything interfering with the interaction between Paul and Charlie and the storytelling. I wanted it small. God and his mother were telling me ‘oh no, you need to use the orchestra, you need a string-quartet, you need this n’ that’… But I was probably old enough and dogged enough at the time to say ‘no, trust me, it’s gonna work’. And that was tough on the boys. They had nothing around them. But that created the vulnerability and it allowed them to interact. They were magnificent. ” 

PAUL HARRINGTON and CHARLIE McGETTIGAN being ROCK ‘N’ ROLL KIDS in 1994

Brendan continued, “And ‘The Voice’ then, I had actually started writing this around the time of ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Kids’, I had started to wander into songs that had an elemental side to them. In ’94, I had a song called ‘Winter, Fire and Snow’ that Anúna and Katie McMahon recorded, and subsequently Eimear Quinn recorded. That was set to a poem by MacDara Woods. I was starting to get interested in the world around me, the elements, the sounds, voices that you hear in the trees. So I had started work on ‘The Voice’ in ’94, ’95, I was tipping away at it, it took a long time. Anyway, we went off to Oslo with the wonderful Eimear, and she was fantastic. It was tough, she was still at college, and while she was singing in a choir, she hadn’t really sung that much as a soloist. And I wanted to put a traditional band around her, so it was going to be a different type of song to ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Kids.’ And as well as being magnificent, she was also a fantastic ambassador for the country. At all the press receptions and interviews she was really well beyond her years in terms of how she carried herself and dealt with stuff. Interestingly, on her album that has just come out in the last year (‘Ériu’), she has done a new version of ‘The Voice’ with a full orchestra, calling it ‘The Voice 2020.’ Everybody had said to me, ‘Oh don’t enter it again, your chances of winning it the second time are gazillions-to-one!’ [Laughs]. But that didn’t deter me, and I was excited that it was a different kind of song. And again, it was wonderful to feel that you did the country proud and that people related to what you had written, and still do.” 

One of the interesting things about ‘The Voice'”, remarked Brendan, “which I think probably isn’t widely known, because it speaks about the famine and our bloody history and so on, but it ended up on the GCSE syllabus in Britain! Which was probably unusual for a Eurovision song! But I also thought there was a lovely sense of irony about it. That’s just one of those little strange things that happen with songs sometimes. They find their own way.” 

EIMEAR QUINN winning Eurovision 1996 with THE VOICE

As Brendan mentioned that he had played competitive sports into his forties, I wondered if winning Eurovision twice – given his competitive nature in a sports sense – brought with it any extra or added sense of joy? 

“You get the song right. You start from the bottom. It’s all about the song. Then you get the right artist. Sometimes, we’re sending songs with…not the right artist for that song, if you know what I mean? But at the time, RTE were actually very good and open about how I wanted the songs to be presented, even down to what people wore on stage. It was very much a team-effort. So I wasn’t ‘just the songwriter’ and out to the side. That was interesting for me to see. I also think that we’ve moved away from that notion of getting the right song, and it’s all about other stuff now. Which is a pity. But I wasn’t thinking about winning it twice or anything like that. I was thinking make it as good as it possibly can be. Give Eimear all the support that I can, and then I have to sit on the sidelines and she and the band had to carry it. But I think I got into a little bit of trouble with The Late Late at the time, because myself and my wife had decided that win, lose, or draw, we were going to go way up to the most isolated part of Norway that we could find! And of course, we won! Then we got home – the Irish delegation – and people were saying well where’s the songwriter? I was in a fisherman’s cabin that was on long-stilts, that sat in the water, looking at the twenty-four hour sun dip and come back up again [laughs]. I wasn’t being dismissive or anything, we had just decided that was what we were going to do.” 

In doing my research for my chat with Brendan, I came across a remarkable story relating to a Mr. W.G. Whelan. There was a message left on Facebook – on an article about Brendan – by a chap from the theatre in Nenagh letting Brendan know that a lady had found a diary belonging to a gentleman whom they believed to have been a relative of his. The aforementioned W.G. Whelan had fought in WW1. I wondered if indeed, he had turned out to be a relative of Brendan’s? 

“The answer is I don’t know. I probably dropped the ball there. But I am interested in genealogy and the family history. My maternal grandfather from Nenagh used to write for the Nenagh Guardian, and he wrote this headline once that totally mortified my mother and my aunts, saying ‘The Whelan Millions’, and he had a line drawn back to connect our Whelan’s to the Tsar of Russia [laughs]. Somehow! James Whelan was his name. But there is an interesting story on the other side. My father’s father was a judge at the Olympic Games finals in London in 1908, and he judged the sprints and the high-jumps and so on, and I didn’t know that until a few years ago when my aunt, who passed away, left me – out of the blue – this Olympic judges medal. I couldn’t believe it. And I found the official record of those Olympics, and there he was with his name for 100M and 200M finals, and hurdles and all that sort of thing. And [here’s] an even more extraordinary thing”, Brendan continued…

“My wife’s maiden name is O’ Brien, she’s from Mayo. RTE had this Big Music Week event in 2013, and they asked me would I write the song, a kind of anthem for it. So, I was wondering what would I write, because they had choirs, pop singers, country singers, rap singers, traditional, every kind of singer. I thought well I can’t really write a song that pulls in everyone for half a line. At the time, Ireland was going through a rough time, so I thought I’d write a love song to Ireland, and I called it ‘The Fair, Fair Land.’ I had an idea for it, and I had a melody which was good, and I probably could have worked it up. Then the Chieftains had recorded a song of mine, ‘Lullaby for the Dead’, and they were premiering it with the Symphony Orchestra in the National Concert Hall and Paddy (Moloney) invited me along, and I was delighted to hear it get its first performance in that manner. Before all that, the Chieftains on their own played this tune. It was beautiful and as soon as I heard it, I thought, it would be so right for what I was working on. I went backstage and checked with them if it was a traditional air. It was and  they were calling ‘Dóchas.’ I thought I’d make sure it was out of copyright, so I went to the Traditional Music Archive and they said the tune’s proper name was ‘Amhrán an Dóchais.'”

And quite amazingly, Brendan discovered that it had been a runner to be the national anthem back in the 1900s. It had Irish words put to it by an Irish scholar. But that was far from where the story ended, as Brendan went on to reveal…

“But then I looked it up further, and found out that the melody was older and came from the mid-1800s and was played by a Scottish piper down in Coolfree in the Cloyne area. And it was called Mór Chluana, ‘Mor of Cloyne’, about a queen who had this wonderful singing voice, so much so that she was kidnapped by the fairies. And the name attributed to it was Lewis O’ Brien. I asked my wife did she have any musicians in the family and she said ‘no’. But about a year later, an O’Brien cousin of my wife was over from Scotland, and ‘Did you know’, she says, ‘I found out that our family came from Scotland, and one of them was a piper who settled in Coolfree in the mid-1800’s?’ So the air that I had stumbled upon, that the Chieftains were playing, was collected in 1862 from Lewis O’ Brien, who was the great-great-great grandfather of my wife! He had moved up to the Mayo-Galway area at some stage, we don’t know why. I thought that was some sort of a sign. Eventually we did the song, and that had its debut on The Late Late. I wanted four female Irish voices to represent the different ‘voices’ of Ireland.  Marianne Knight, a fabulous traditional singer from Mayo, opened with the first verse. Then, Eimear Quinn was the other-worldly voice of the spéir-bhean. Nono Madolo, newly in Ireland  from Africa, sang a verse in Irish to demonstrate the potential of the richness of transition between different cultures. Then, the incredibly talented Celine Byrne brought it all to a stunning finale, giving  it that stately anthemic feel along with the RTE Concert Orchestra and guests. And all to raise funds for Barnardos Childrens’ Charity. I have been truly blessed by the songs that have been gifted to me over the last 50 years or so and by the very many wonderful singers, musicians and arrangers, who have given of their own talent in breathing them into a life…more than they could have been on their own. To them all – buíochas mór óm’ chroí.”

Now lest anyone think for a moment that the highlights of Brendan’s creative output might shine only in the past, we can assure you that this is far from the case. Look out for a brand new single from the great Red Hurley in the coming weeks, co-written by Brendan with Tommy and Jimmy Swarbrigg, plus exciting projects with Róisín O’ Reilly, Cathy Jordan, Feargal Murray, and Eimear Quinn between now and the year’s end. 

And not only that, Brendan has also penned the lyrics to a moving song called FOR ME, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Norway. The song was officially launched last month by Anette Trettebergstuen, Norway’s Minister of Culture and Equality. 

Speaking to Hot Press magazine about For Me recently, Brendan said, “I wrote the lyric to be an expression of individual empowerment and left it open to be an anthem for diversity and recognition, whatever the cause – gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation… whatever it be as a general, or individual expression of self-realisation and identity.” 

BROOKE SCULLION will perform THAT’S RICH, Ireland’s EUROVISION 2022 entry, in the second semi-final which takes place on THURSDAY, MAY 12th. Show your support for Brooke by following her on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter! 

ENDS

Sabrina Fallon/ George Murphy

First Published April 2022

KEEPING THEIR HEARTS IN THEIR MUSIC

Singer, songwriter, country music star, and artist SABRINA FALLON at the launch of her WE LOVE COUNTRY MUSIC exhibition in Galway.

This week I want to tell you about two phenomenal artists who, by how they live, keep their music in their hearts in a way that’s a lesson to anyone in the music business. Some people preach it, but by God do country star SABRINA FALLON and folk favourite GEORGE MURPHY live it. 

I’m lucky enough to know them both, and in the last week, I’ve been further reminded of why I hold Sabrina and George – as people and as artists – in such high-esteem, and why I’ll never tire of telling anyone who’ll listen that they should take any chance that ever comes their way to spend time in the company of both. 

SABRINA FALLON, as regular readers of this column will know, is someone whom I’ve always considered to be one of Irish country music’s finest voices. It’s as simple as this: If you ever come across someone who wants to know what a country song should really sound like, when sung the way a real country song should be, just tell that someone to go listen to Sabrina Fallon. You won’t need to offer any further explanation. Once they listen to Sabrina, they’ll FEEL all they need to know about what real country music is. But Sabrina isn’t just a great country singer. She’s also a remarkable songwriter, as evidenced by her recent release in honour of her beloved parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, Waltz With Love.

“I wanted to express my parents’ love for each other”, she explained at the time, “a love they still hold on to 50 years down the road. Mum (Eileen) told me that she and dad (Patsy) waltzed in the kitchen when Valerie Hughes played it on Galway Bay FM. As long as mum and dad see how much their love has inspired me, that’s enough.” Sabrina’s artistry extends to creation in so many forms, and now, she can add the gorgeous WE LOVE COUNTRY MUSIC exhibition to that list.

This exhibition is a visual art and music project born from the clear love of country music always demonstrated by the participants of the That’s Life Community. Officially launched on April 22nd, the exhibition will run for a week at Nun’s Island Theatre in Galway.

We Love Country Music includes wonderful personal video messages projected onto a large screen, with contributions from Daniel O’ Donnell, Mike Denver, Nathan Carter, Brendan Shine, John Hogan, Ray Dolan (as a representative of the late Joe Dolan), and former Glór Tíre contestant Damien Davis (as a representative of the late Big Tom), all of whom received personal handwritten letters from the participants to which they are replying in these messages. 

We Love Country Music also features a large-scale textile exhibition created by Sabrina as a celebration of country music.

Sabrina had worked with the participants on several occasions and witnessed first-hand how much love they all displayed for country music. As she investigated the possibility of bringing the idea for this project to life, Sabria asked participants to gather some of their favourite and most treasured mementos collected from over the years, with some of the items eventually presented ranging from ticket stubs to the late Big Tom’s autograph.

Participants were also able to write to their favourite country singer because Sabrina herself – because of her position as a much-loved and respected recording artist and performer in Irish country music – was not only able to personally deliver those letters, but also get a personal message or letter in response from many of the country scene’s top performers. Many of  these beautiful pieces were then photographed, and using a process known as a sublimation print, Sabrina created her large-scale textile exhibition. 

This project has highlighted the wonderful two-way relationships between the performers and people with intellectual disabilities. It has, as Sabrina points out, “… many forms of beauty interlocked together”.

As well as getting in touch with their country music heroes and idols, the participants also had the fabulous opportunity – guided by Sabrina’s gentle hand and caring eye – to write their very own country song. The result is called Music In Our Hearts and it wonderfully and touchingly expresses the participants love and joy for country music. Music In Our Hearts was then professionally recorded and is now available to request from radio stations nationwide. Among the many highlights of last week’s official launch was Sabrina performing Music In Our Hearts ‘live’ for the very first time. Further adding to the all-round feel-good factor of that night were typically whole-hearted performances from both the legendary Johnny Carroll and another of the country scene’s friendliest faces and most enjoyable entertainers, Shane Moore

The We Love Country Music project has been more than a year in the making, a fact which perfectly demonstrates Sabrina’s unwavering commitment to transforming the project from something that was simply an amazing idea to begin with, to something which has already touched countless hearts in unforgettable ways through the process of making it a spectacular, emotional, living, breathing, tactile reality. 

When we sat down for a chat with Sabrina almost exactly a year ago, her excitement at what she was so passionately devoting her time to was easy to feel…

“I’m working with the That’s Life project, which is the Brothers of Charity. It’s an artistic community project that they’ve developed over the years, and it’s absolutely fantastic. Specifically, I’m working artistically with people with intellectual disabilities. I was singing for them once a week, because a lot of them – A LOT of them – LOVE country music! And I mean really love it. They, the Brothers of Charity, have created this project for me to explore why these people with disabilities love country music, to find out what it is that they love. To find out how it makes them feel. That’s what I’m working on now for the next couple of months with them. Part of the project is that each participant will bring in an item – not bring in, send in obviously, because this is all being done via Zoom at the moment to keep everyone safe. That could be a picture of their favourite artist, or them with their favourite artist, their favourite experience of them with their artist. Or maybe they have a stub of a ticket from a concert they were at. One gentleman is going to send in his cowboy hat. We’re going to get professional photos taken of all of these, and then have those superimposed onto fabric to make a big country quilt! Another part of it as well, is that they’re going to send letters to their favourite artists, hand-written letters, because there’s no such thing as a hand-written letter anymore. And hopefully, they’ll get one back from their artist as well. And using sublimation printing these will all be put onto the fabric so we can create a big, beautiful piece. The other part of that project as well, is that we’re going to be recording a song! So the participants are going to write their own country song about why they love country music, and we’ll be releasing that. I’ll be singing on it as well, so it’s a very exciting project. I’m really lucky to be working with them.” 

And all of the participants are equally lucky to have had Sabrina step into their world. And so too, for that matter, should the country music scene count its blessings to have someone like Sabrina as a representative. Her selflessness and care for others is the perfect example of how we can truly keep music in our hearts, and a vital antidote to the rhetoric of some who throw around like confetti empty words or phrases, designed and intended only to impress without ever making any substantial difference to anyone’s lives but their own.

Sabrina, on the other hand, through her music – and because of her heart – is changing lives in the best and most beautiful ways. Gimme that any day. 

Fiddler of London finalist KIMBERLEY DELANEY with GEORGE MURPHY after George’s gig with THE RISING SONS in Hugh Lynch’s of Tullamore.

Last Friday night GEORGE MURPHY and his band, THE RISING SONS, brought their combined musical powers to Hugh Lynch’s in Tullamore. Now, George, as many of us will remember, first shot to fame on RTE’s You’re A Star show back in 2003. Just out of school and only seventeen years old, his talent was – and remains – beyond question. In the years since, George has been both a solo artist and for a period of time, a member of The High Kings, thrilling fans across the world with his musicianship and a voice that ranks among the most sublime of all that Ireland has ever been able to lay claim to. It’s a voice that warrants descriptions such as ‘breathtaking’, ‘spellbinding’, and ‘spine-tingling.’ And yet, even they feel like they lack the accuracy to fully explain what happens in a room when George begins to sing. 

And like Sabrina, George is also a gifted songwriter. Check out Hands Of Time and Shadowman (co-written with Donnacha Fox) on The Rising Son’s Live In Dublin album. And now, as he writes in the liner-notes of that same long-player, George has – in the company of ‘the Sons’ – rediscovered a love of music in a place so close to home that it took him by surprise…

“The setting up of The Rising Sons is my proudest musical achievement. I am still amazed that it was completely spontaneous that I would find my favourite experience in music on my doorstep and in the local pub. That really is the beauty of music.” 

And he’s right. The beauty of music is that it transcends all else, brushes away differences, and illuminates gloriously what is shared. Emotions. Feelings. Hopes. Dreams. Possibility. Defiance. Resilience. Remembrance. Love. For those with music in their hearts, this is always true. What’s also true, though, is that in the music business, it’s not always the music that rules all hearts. Often – too often – ego dominates. The stage and the spotlight can be seen as being only so big. 

That’s why what George and his bandmates did in Tullamore last Friday night is a rare enough sight, and one deserving of praise. In calling on Kilcormac’s champion fiddler KIMBERLEY DELANEY to join him on stage for a poignant and hauntingly beautiful version of When You Were Sweet Sixteen, in honour of Kimberley’s former teacher, the late Ashling Murphy, George – and indeed all of the Sons – showed the size of their hearts. Having been given a heads-up on Kimberley’s talent and her recent achievement in being chosen as a Fiddler of London finalist (only ten fiddlers selected out of open entries from all over the world), he extended the invitation for Kimberley to join him at his show in Tullamore. 

No headlining artist is ever obliged to share their audience with anyone, be it an opening-act or any other kind of guest-appearance. That’s just a fact. And that’s fair enough in some ways. But, if and when they do, however, they are literally giving the gift of their audience to someone else. And that takes a lot of trust and belief in the talent of whoever that someone else might be. It also demonstrates a huge amount of grace and kindness. And that’s exactly what George and the band showed Kimberley last Friday night. After only meeting her in person for the first time for the soundcheck to run through When You Were Sweet Sixteen, George very graciously offered Kimberley the chance to stay on-stage after that song and play a couple of tunes herself. 

Trust. Belief. Grace. And kindness. That’s what George and the Sons showed to a seventeen year old who they had only just met. That’s the beauty of music, too, that talent can so easily recognise talent, and know that talent is all that counts. Not age, not experience, not being some ‘big-name.’ And that’s what happens when people – people like Sabrina and George – live with their music in their hearts. 

Kimberley, deservedly, earned herself a standing ovation at the end of her performance. And so too did George and The Rising Sons at the end of the night. And again, completely deserved. I’ve been to a lot of shows in my time, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a closing number as powerful as when George and the Sons break into The Auld Triangle. The Sons, by the way, are (as named on their Live In Dublin album); Declan Parsons, Joey Hughes, Luke Cosgrove, Jimmy Morrison, Tom Whelan, David Brown, and Shane O’ Hannigan. Throughout their set, the quality of their musicianship is as clear as a winter’s night sky in the countryside…stars in all directions. But what really steals the show and makes their performance unforgettable, is when everyone in the band – literally every member – takes a verse of The Auld Triangle.

George Murphy and The Rising Sons will be back in Tullamore again. And next time they are, whatever it takes, make sure you’re there. Nights like these – and bands like this – don’t come along often. 

And neither do people like Sabrina and George, who keep their hearts in their music in every way. Legends. ~

 MUSIC IN OUR HEARTS by SABRINA FALLON is OUT NOW, available on all platforms and to request from radio stations nationwide. For more details on her WE LOVE COUNTRY MUSIC exhibition, follow Sabrina on Facebook and Instagram. 

Sabrina has also released two great duets recently, both of which are also available on all platforms and to request at radio. They are The Taxi’s Waiting (written by Finbar Furey) with P.J. Murrihy, and a beautiful version of If Teardrops Were Pennies with Shane Moore. Sabrina’s TV show, COUNTRY SHOWTIME WITH SABRINA, continues to air on Sky channel 365 at 7pm every Thursday. 

You can follow GEORGE MURPHY on Facebook and Instagram, and THE RISING SONS on Facebook. 

ENDS

Caitríona O’ Sullivan/ Chayce Beckham

First Published March 2022

MUST-HEAR NEW SINGLES FROM TWO EPIC VOICES

We all know Kerry’s CAITRÍONA O’ SULLIVAN from her long-running role as a judge on TG4’s hit show Glór Tíre. But what some people may not be as aware of, however, is that the wealth of wisdom and advice which Caitríona shares with contestants on the show each year isn’t just that of a passive observer. Far from it, in fact, because Caitríona herself is quite the accomplished recording artist and performer too. And to prove it yet again, the singer/songwriter and TV personality has just released DON’T SAY GOODBYE, an original pop-country style record that big name American country acts such as Lady A would be proud to call their own. 

And the good news for country fans in the midlands is that we’ll soon be able to enjoy Caitríona ‘live’ because she’s among the artists who will be lending their support to the VOICES FOR PEACE concert at the TUAR ARD Arts Centre in Moate on April 14th. Caitriona will join event organiser, the singer/songwriter Larissa Tormey, along with P.J. Murrihy, Charlie McGettigan, Alex Roe, this year’s Glór Tíre winner Aishling Rafferty, Dave Lawlor, Ger O’ Brien and the night’s MC Eddie Rowley of the Sunday World, for the fundraiser which will donate proceeds to the Irish Red Cross in aid of Ukraine. 


With intimate yet powerful vocals and catchy hooks, Don’t Say Goodbye is a heart-felt, radio-friendly, modern pop-country love song co-written by Caitríona, Stephen Andreucetti and John Walsh / Symphonic. It was produced by Ray McLoughlin and features some of Nashville and Ireland’s top instrumentalists. The track was mixed and mastered in Ireland and the UK, and was released on all digital platforms on March 25th, giving Caitríona a #1 in the process. The accompanying video was shot in the beautiful Barrow House, Tralee by Cinetex films and is scheduled for release on April 1st.

Caitríona also scored a #1 hit on iTunes in the Irish country music charts with her original duet This Country Girl in 2021a co-write and duet with renowned Irish country-rocker Johnny Brady. That single earned the duo airplay across both national and regional radio stations. 

In recent times Caitríona has also enjoyed performing and releasing numerous songs on social media with Mark Cahill on The Ivory Sessions, and numerous other online and live gigs such as her Sounds of Cinema series performed with Kerry’s Scotia Ensemble, a project that met with great enthusiasm from music fans.

Hailing from The Munster Bar in Tralee, Caitríona grew up listening to and performing a wide variety of music there in her parents’ bar. Classically trained in voice and piano, she studied at the Kerry School of Music and went on to study opera with renowned voice coach Dr. Veronica Dunne in the Royal Irish Academy of Music. She has a first class honours B.A. in music and Irish, B.Mus. and was awarded a scholarship to pursue a Masters in music from UCD.

A prolific songwriter, Caitríona wrote the Irish language lyrics to the chart topping tune Fionnghuala in 2016 in collaboration with John Walsh / Symphonic which featured on the Eir ad and on The Late Late show in 2016, and was sampled by renowned DJ Vini Vicci.

Caitríona’s musical story also includes a very successful album of original songs entitled Fallen Angel froma few years back. That project included the single I’ll Be There, which topped the airplay and Irish music charts, being playlisted on radio stations nationwide. Some of the tracks from that album were featured on RTE’s award winning drama-documentary Proof


As her long stint as a staple on Glór Tíre suggests, Caitríona is also passionate about the Irish language and is author of no less than EIGHT Irish language secondary school textbooks for Gill Education, including Aois na Glóire 1, 2 and 3, and she is co-author of Mol an Óige 1, 2, 3 , Samhlaíocht and Spreagadh.

One man we’d love to hear Caitríona duet with someday is CHAYCE BECKHAM.

Now it sounds like a cliche, admittedly, but when it’s true, it’s true, and the fact is that Chayce is one of the most buzzed about newcomers in American country music today, having won over millions of hearts while competing on Season 19 of ABC’s American Idol. The reigning Idol winner and 2022 Artist to Watch – from the likes of Country NowSounds Like NashvilleCountry SwagMusic Mayhem Magazine – has released the smooth, southern comfort track TELL ME TWICE. With what Wide Open Country has described as Chayce’s “raspy, blues-rock voice” front and center, the catchy, easy-listening track boasts a vibe reminiscent of that golden-era of 90s country.

Beckham, who Katy Perry said sounds “like the heart of America”, was also scheduled to perform on ABC’s American Idol on Monday of this very week March 28th at 8/7c (1am BST), as he mentors the remaining hopefuls through Hollywood Week.

“This title was my mom’s idea for me to write because it was something we had said to each other,” reveals Beckham in talking about his new record.

“It made me think about all the things in life that you should just do and not have to think twice about it. Growing up I really did learn the value of a dollar because I watched my family work hard for everything we had. This song is a reminder to not take the good things in life for granted and remember to appreciate them.”

After winning American Idol and the hearts of fans across the nation just last year, Beckham released his self-penned track 23 that skyrocketed to the top of numerous viral charts, racking up more than 75 million on-demand streams, a figure that’s still very much on the rise even now. 

Also climbing the country radio charts with his sensual yet supercharges duet Can’t Do Without Me with label-mate Lindsay Ell (the recently announced host of Canada’s Got Talent and an artist we’ve been privileged to chat to for OTRT), the “rugged, country crooner” as Beckham has been pronounced by USA Today, really shows the depths of his artistry with the life-lessons taught in his new track Tell Me Twice. 

Written by Beckham with Isley Juber and ace producer Ross Copperman, the song highlights how it’s the simple things in life that are most important, with Beckham singing lines like; To take a day off when you need the rest / Loosen up the drag on a two-pound test / Drink a cold beer when the weather’s right / But you don’t got to tell me twice.” 

Beckham actually auditioned for American Idol after undergoing a particularly difficult year, but went on to become the first-ever show winner to claim the title with an original song, an achievement which kickstarted his journey to fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming a singer, songwriter, and entertainer. With his family, his hometown of Apple Valley and now America behind him, the mellow 25-year-old released his debut single, the aforementioned 23. 

The song, a semi-autobiographical account of his struggles with alcohol and of the lows it can take on a person, quickly shot to the top of both the iTunes Country and All Genre charts, and numerous viral charts, racking up on-demand streams in the millions upon millions. Now signed to 19 Recordings in partnership with BBR Music Group/Wheelhouse Records and finding his home in Nashville, Chayce is getting ready to share his signature sound with his legions of fans with more new music slated to drop this spring, with Tell Me Twice giving fans their first taste of what they can expect. 

Currently on tour with Jimmie Allen, Beckham is also headlining shows across the country and will join Luke Combs on the road this autumn. For more information and a full list of tour dates, visit www.chaycebeckham.com.


DON’T SAY GOODBYE by CAITRÍONA O’ SULLIVAN is OUT NOW, available on all platforms and to request from radio. 

Caitríona is also one of the featured artists performing at the VOICES FOR PEACE concert at the TUAR ARD in Moate on APRIL 14th, with proceeds going to the Irish Red Cross in aid of Ukraine. Also performing on the night are LARISSA TORMEY, P.J. MURRIHY, Eurovision legend CHARLIE McGETTIGAN, ALEX ROE, Glór Tíre winner 2022 AISHLING RAFFERTY, DAVE LAWLOR, and GER O’ BRIEN, with EDDIE ROWLEY from the Sunday World as MC. Tickets are just €20, available from the Tuar Ard box-office at 090-6482042. 

TELL ME TWICE, the brand new single from AMERICAN IDOL winner CHAYCE BECKHAM, is also OUT NOW and available on all platforms. 

ENDS