Vincent Vaughan

NEWS

Press Release via AS Written, May 2022

VINCENT’S NOD TO LEGENDARY SONGWRITER RODNEY CROWELL WITH DEBUT SINGLE

When it comes to choosing a debut single, the choice can often be a tough one for a singer. After all, the world is full of amazing songs. Two rules-of-thumb, however, that are well worth being guided by if you decide to introduce yourself with a cover version, are pick a brilliant song, and then, crucially… do it justice. 

With his decision to release RODNEY CROWELL‘s 1989 single MANY A LONG AND LONESOME HIGHWAY as his first record, Tipperary’s VINCENT VAUGHAN has picked a class song, and he has put his heart into it too. 

Now available to request at radio and set for general release on Friday, May 13th – also Vincent’s birthday as it happens – Many A Long And Lonesome Highway will also be the first taste of a long-player project already in the works. The single comes hot on the heels of Vincent’s recent performance at the Smithwick’s Kilkenny Roots Festival. 

Written by Rodney Crowell and Will Jennings, and produced by Crowell and Tony BrownMany A Long And Lonesome Highway was the lead-off track from Crowell’s Keys To The Highway album, his sixth studio collection (released October 1989). The single climbed all the way to the #3 position on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart in January 1990, spending 26 weeks in total on the chart. It also went all the way to the top of the RPM Country Tracks chart in Canada. The Keys To The Highway collection was the follow-up to Crowell’s iconic 1988 Diamonds & Dirt LP, the collection that produced all five of Crowell’s #1 hits. 

For Vincent, deciding to cut a Rodney Crowell song as his debut single was made easy by the fact that – as well as being a long-time fan of the Texan – he’s also spent time in the great man’s presence. Back in 2018, the opportunity happened to come Vincent’s way to attend a songwriting workshop with Rodney in California. And not only that, Vincent has also shared a stage and a mic with the two-time Grammy winner. So choosing Many A Long And Lonesome Highway as his first single is also a respectful tip-of-the-hat to a man and an artist for whom Vincent has the highest respect, has long admired, and has always been inspired by. 

That West Coast songwriting workshop was also the catalyst for what would become Vincent’s debut album, eventually bringing Vincent’s way the chance to perform with players who have backed figures as illustrious as Johnny Cash, Robert Earl Keen, and Jerry Jeff Walker. But that’s a story for another day. 

And VINCENT VAUGHAN is a man with stories to tell, that’s for sure. Many A Long And Lonesome Highway is but the first chapter. 

MANY A LONG AND LONESOME HIGHWAY, the official debut single from VINCENT VAUGHAN, will be available to stream on all platforms from FRIDAY, MAY 13th. The single is already available to request from radio stations nationwide. You can follow Vincent on Facebook and YouTube at Vincent Vaughan Music, and on Instagram and Twitter at @vvmireland.

ENDS

Larissa Tormey

NEWS

Press Release via AS Written, May 2022

COUNTRY STARS JOIN LARISSA TO HELP UKRAINE

Larissa on stage during the VOICES FOR PEACE concert (Photo Credit: John Finnerty)

A star-packed line-up of country music artists joined singer/songwriter LARISSA TORMEY for a sold-out fundraising concert in aid of UKRAINE last month, raising almost €3,000 for the IRISH RED CROSS and their work relating to the war-torn country. 

        “I knew that anything we might be able to do would only be small compared to what’s needed right now”, confessed Larissa looking back on the concert. “But because of the scale of what’s happening”, she continued, “I also knew that I had to do something to try and help, and as soon as we could. So I also knew that whatever funds we could raise would definitely do some good. And I’m so grateful to every single person who lent their support to the success of the night in any way.”

          The VOICES FOR PEACE concert was hosted by the TUAR ARD Arts Centre in Moate on April 14th, and as well as a line-up of top entertainers including Eurovision legend Charlie McGettigan, and with Eddie Rowley of the Sunday World as MC. The event also featured a stunning backdrop of blue and yellow, the colours of the Ukrainian flag, created by Midlands based events planner LiaQbell who recently decorated Dublin’s Mansion House for the Team Ireland Olympic Ball. The presence of the backdrop became all the more poignant when close on forty Ukrainians who are now living in Tullamore arrived as the night’s special guests. 

         And on a night where love was the theme, and peace the rallying-call, there were several more emotional moments. One of the most captivating came with the first performance of the night as a wonderfully talented Ukrainian family from Athlone – the Selve family, mother Kateryna, and her children Athenias, Ariane-Eugenie, and Aristide – in traditional Ukrainian dress, performed one of their country’s most-loved folk songs. Larissa then joined the family on-stage to perform Blackthorn Is In Blossom. At the evening’s end, several of the night’s guests from Ukraine made their way to Larissa to show their appreciation with hugs. 

          For Larissa, it was a night that proved music, love, and peace are what will always unite the world…

          “So many helped to make our ‘Voices For Peace’ concert possible, and a success, and it was such a positive and powerful experience. I was so happy that some of our friends from Ukraine were able to join us and see how much we care, and how much we all want to see peace return to their country and to their lives. Music will always be a source of love in this world.” 

MC Eddie Rowley brings all of the night’s performers back on stage for the VOICES FOR PEACE grand finale
(Photo Credit: John Finnerty)

      Joining Larissa and Charlie McGettigan on the evening’s bill were Glór Tíre 2022 winner Aishling Rafferty, Glór Tíre 2020 finalist Alex Roe, and Glór Tíre judge Caitriona O’ Sullivan, plus crooner great Dave Lawlor with Ger O’ Brien, and Larissas duet partner on her current single, I Wish I Had Someone To Love Me, P.J. Murrihy. Nolan Sound were the event’s sound and lighting partners. 

ENDS

Keith Barry

First Published May 2022

“I LIVE A LIFE OF POSITIVITY”

Part 2

A few weeks back we had the pleasure of spending some time in the company of the world famous TV hypnotist, mentalist, and brain hacker KEITH BARRY to chat about his book, BRAIN HACKS, and his RECONNECTED Tour which comes to Tullamore on June 3rd. With that date in the Tullamore Court Hotel now only a few weeks away, it’s time to bring you Part 2 of our chat with Keith. 

I feel like it’s also worth reminding you that during our chat – which was via Zoom, by the way – Keith read my mind, not once…but TWICE. Believe you me, I’ve thought about it long and hard ever since, and I still have no idea how he did it. It still feels like it should have been impossible…and yet…he did it. It happened. Even if I can’t explain it. If you missed Part 1 of this chat where I went into detail on exactly what happened, you can check it out on the official OTRT website. 

But my point is, if he can do THAT via Zoom, I can’t wait to see what he can do to, or with, a venue full of people in the Tullamore Court Hotel on June 3rd. 

In advance of our interview, I was listening to a podcast on which Keith had recently been a guest. On that podcast, he spoke about his ‘chaos-box’, an idea I love. Essentially, it’s where Keith stores ideas for inspiration. I asked him if he’d share a little about the whole concept of the box and how it came to be…

And, sure enough, with that request Keith disappears off-screen, informing me as he goes that, “Hold on, I’m going over to get my chaos-box!” 

“I’ll put it this way”, he says, upon his return into view on my screen, “this is my current chaos-box. I don’t know if I can lift it up [it is, in fairness, quite a big and full box], look, there it is there. So that’s my chaos-box. Let’s see what we have goin’ on in here. I’ve got all kinds of mad s**t in here! I’ve got Pringles. I’ve got this…I don’t even know what this is [he lifts up something that I can’t identify either]. I literally don’t know what this is, but I know it will give me inspiration. I have an everyday magic-kit. I’ve got some really old coins. I collect coins as well, so I’ve got all these really old ones. So let’s just take a coin, for example. Today, I might go, ‘I can’t make a decision about something’, so I’ll take a coin, flip it, and go heads or tails. Heads. Done. That’s the decision made. Whatever that comes up with, I’ll do that. The concept of the chaos-box just came to me randomly one time when I was stuck – just completely stuck – in a creative rut. I’d read years ago about people making a mood-board, right, where you take clippings out of magazines. That’s what I’d read. But for me, I’d tried that years and years ago, taking clippings out of magazines, but it never really resonated with me, that one thing. I could never really make it work for me. Different folks, different strokes.”

“But then”, he continued, “I realised objects are really important to me. So what I do is, I literally take – as you can see – a whole bunch of different things, and I chuck it into a box. There’s tons and tons of different things in there. And as I look at that chaos-box, there’s probably a hundred different things in there. When I get stuck in a creative rut, I stop, and I just play. I don’t even think about whatever it was I’d been thinking about, I just play with the objects in the chaos-box. So what this does is it opens up your creativity, gives your mind a break from whatever it is that you’re working on at that moment in time. But more importantly, again, in the background while you’re doing this, your subconscious mind is working in overdrive to solve the problem that you have to hand. So, anytime I get stuck, I just take that and I dump it out on the floor – cos’ I have loads of space here – and I literally just sit there and I play with all that kind of stuff. Then I’ll go back to the problem at hand, and nine times out of ten, my creativity will have been inspired by the chaos-box.”

The most important thing about the chaos-box, according to Keith, is that “you kind of rework it once a month.”

“I’ll actually take all those items [currently in the box] and I’ll either dump them or I’ll put them somewhere else, and put new objects in there so it’s not that you have the same things there the whole time. And, of course, it also keeps your office really tidy! [Laughs]. That’s what’s great about it, right? [Laughs]. I don’t have any of this stuff lying everywhere, my office is lovely and neat and tidy. I can’t turn my camera around now because my technician is not here. When we do gigs, if I touch any of this equipment, he kills me [laughs]. But if I did, you’d see a really tidy office. So if you’ve got a chaos-box going on, it just helps a lot, it helps with organisation, with structure, and then with creativity.” 

What, I asked Keith, is it about people – some people – that stops them from creating a better life for themselves when the methods to do so are there, and are being shared by people like him in easy to access ways, ways that are just waiting to be used? 

“Dare I say it – this will be unpopular, but I have to say it – it’s laziness! People are lazy. We’ve become so comfy in our comfy houses. I’m in a heated cabin now, and I’ve got a heated house, and I’ve got a heated steering-wheel, and heated seat in my car. I’m really comfy with all that. And then people are always looking for an easy solution. And this is an issue. I talked to somebody recently about this, on a project I was working on. But we were talking to a lot of different people, literally hundreds of people. And it turned out that over 50% of those people were medicated for either anxiety or depression. These are just normal, everyday people, right. But I asked them all – and this is the interesting thing – I asked them all, each one of them individually, when did they have the EKG machine hooked up? When did you have your brain scanned? And they were like, ‘What?’ And I said, ‘Well, the only way that you should be on that medication is if they scanned your brain and determined that the neurology of your brain is out of kilter, and you have a chemical imbalance in the brain. Because that’s what chemicals are designed to do, they’re designed to help the chemical balance. So where did you have your brain-scan, or where did you have your blood tests to prove that you have a chemical imbalance?’ And not one of them had been scanned. Not one of them had a blood test. In other words, it was just a doctor going, ‘Oh, you appear to have signs of anxiety, the signs of depression, here’s your medication.’ So the issue is, people are looking for a quick-fix.”

“The information is all there [to change your life]”, asserts Keith. “It’s like the gym. I’m currently about six kilos overweight, and I don’t look it, but I am. So I’m currently intermittent-fasting, which is not easy. It’s not supposed to be easy. Like life isn’t easy, right? I’m currently intermittent-fasting, sixteen hours a day, no food. And then an eight-hour window in which I can eat. And in that window, it’s just black coffee with no milk because I don’t want to spike my glucose levels. And scrambled eggs. Now, I’m not saying that everybody should do that. But I know I’m going to lose the weight by doing that, and if I go to the gym. But the easier thing would be to go, ‘Oh that’s too hard’, and just not bother. It’s easier to have a glass of wine on a Wednesday night. It’s easier to sit in on a Friday night. It’s easier not to go for a walk when it’s raining. But I think right now, we’re unfortunately in a world where people are looking for the easy fix. A lot of it is down to digitisation of the world. Everything has become so instant at our fingertips. We want the instant solutions to our bodies. We want the instant solutions to our minds. And that’s how people end up struggling. And people say they struggle, and they do struggle, and they recognise that so I’m not belittling that. That’s important for me to get across. I have empathy for people.”

“But…! People need to start taking some responsibility for their own self-discipline. Like, literally, get a journal and write down the sh*t that you want to do in life. And then get up and get on it. You’ve got to maintain that discipline. Before I did anything this morning, I did four rounds of Wim Hoff breathing, I did twenty-two press-ups, exactly twenty-two press-ups for a reason. Then I got into a freezing cold shower, I’m talking about a brain-crushingly cold shower, for five minutes. Then I came out and I did twenty-five press-ups because currently I’m doing a press-up challenge with my friends – there’s four of us – we’re adding on two press-ups a day, so I think one-hundred-and-twenty-two press-ups is what I’ve got to get in today. That’s why I did twenty-two, twenty-five, I’ll do another twenty-five, and then I’ll have fifty left to do. It’s easier not to do that! But, life will give you what you put into it. You’re right, the information is all there, and it’s mostly free. If not, it’s in a book like my book. I’m not saying this in any way to be egotistical, but everything that you need to fix your mind is in my book. But whether you want to use that or not, and apply that or not, is down to the reader. I’ve got some amazing stories of people who have said that the book has actually changed their lives, which is fantastic to hear.”

However, what Keith thinks people really need to understand is that they can fix themselves… 

“I think they need to understand that the solution is within themselves. I think they need to stop being lazy. I think they need to activate themselves every day and stop playing the blame-game as well. Like, it’s easy for us to go, ‘Oh, the oil prices are going up because of the Russians’, or ‘Oh the banks have screwed me!’, or ‘I wish this year was better.’ Don’t wish anything was better. Wish YOU were better. Isn’t that an interesting concept? Don’t wish that the pandemic didn’t happen. Wish that YOU were better during the pandemic, ya know. I have that mindset. We all have to deal with illness. We all have to deal with bad times. We all have to deal with good times. What are we in now? We’re in spring now, summer is coming. Then after the summer, autumn is coming. Then after the autumn, winter is coming. Are we going to get another strain of this sh*t? Probably. Are we all going to get downbeat and downtrodden? Maybe a lot of people will. I won’t. Because I’m already preempting it. That’s a big thing that I do, I preempt obstacles. Start to take a step back and go, ‘Actually…I can control what’s inside my brain.’ You can’t control the world. I can’t control Putin. I can’t control [what’s happening in ] Ukraine. I can’t control Joe Biden. But I can control my responses. My response is to limit the absorption of that information. And to show my support lovingly to Ukraine, which I think we should all be doing. And then, after that, there’s not very much I can do.”

For Keith, it’s about putting habits in place every single day to ensure that he lives a life of positivity. 

“I live a life of positivity. That’s what I do. If you look at my Instagram, I was on Ventry pier the last three days, jumping into the sea, going for a freezing cold swim. There wasn’t a soul in sight, there weren’t even people walking on Ventry beach when I was down there. So, am I right? I don’t know! But all I can tell you is that’s what works for me. But I don’t just do ONE thing that works for me, I do LOADS of things. I do sea-swimming. I do my breathing. I do my own meditation. I do my own visualisation. And it takes time. It takes self-discipline. And, I fall off the wagon. I’m not perfect. I fu*k up like everybody else. But when I fu*k up, I recognise it, and then I take control of it. So right now, my fu*k-up, if you like, is that I’m 89 kilos and I’m starting to film in two and a half weeks for RTE. I should be 85 kilos at least, if not 83, so I’ve got to get that weight off quick! Which I will do. But, it’s not easy! So yeah, I think people need to start to take that responsibility again.” 

~ KEITH BARRY’s RECONNECTED Tour comes to the TULLAMORE COURT HOTEL on JUNE 3rd. For ticket information, check out www.ticketmaster.ie. Keith’s new book, BRAIN HACKS, is also OUT NOW, available in all good bookshops nationwide. Parts 1 and 2 of this interview with Keith are available to enjoy in full at the official OTRT website, www.ontherighttrax.com 

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

Tullamore Tradfest

First Published April 2022

TRADFEST RETURNS – MEANING MORE THAN EVER

I’m pretty sure that I’m not alone in feeling like 2022, although just entering its fourth month in the last few days, already feels like it’s been one of the heaviest years we’ve ever known. There’s been so much that’s been way out of the norm to process in the last few months, that sometimes – if I’m being honest – it all kind of numbs you a little bit. Covid is still with us, for one thing. But at least with that – at last – it looks like we might be reaching a place where some kind of ‘normal’ as we knew it before is possible again. 

But even if you forget about the pandemic for a while, what we’re seeing happen in Ukraine, the senseless devastation wreaked on that country by a man who will never again deserve to be known as anything other than a crazed dictator – and those around him, and on the ground in Ukraine doing his bidding…he’s not alone -is heartbreaking. 

Where that ends, well, that’s still anybody’s guess right now. But that it will end soon is something that we all pray for. 

When it comes to remembering 2022 here at home, in Tullamore and the midlands, and indeed, throughout the entire country, the shock, the horror, and the pain at what happened to Ashling Murphy at the beginning of the year will be felt by all of us – and deeply – for many’s a long year to come. But, in recalling how swiftly that darkness descended upon us, we must also remember to shine as bright a light as we can on the wonderful person that Ashling already was, and was in the process of becoming. And at the heart of Ashling’s life was music. 

This year, as TULLAMORE TRADFEST returns – and meaning more than ever before – Ashling’s friends in the trad music community are going to remember her in a way that she will, quite simply, always be with us…through the beauty and the power of music.  

The Tradfest committee recently announced their delighted at being able to confirm some of the headline acts who will be appearing at the CEILIÚRADH CEOLMHAR ar ASHLING MURPHY in the Tullamore Court Hotel on April 10th. Among the acts performing are Ballyboy C.C.E., the Macalla na hÉireann Tour Group, the Sacred Heart School Choir and Orchestra, and the legendary Best Foot Forward. Thanks to the support of Hymany Films and TG4, this celebration of the life and music of Ashling Murphy will be live-streamed. 

In a recent post on their official Facebook page, Tullamore Tradfest said, “We also feel privileged to be the first organisation to fundraise for the ‘Ashling Murphy Memorial Trust’. This trust fund was recently set up by the Murphy family who will administer donations received to causes and organisations relevant to Ashling’s memory. As tickets for this event were made available for free and performers are giving of their time and talent for free, we are appealing to those attending the event either in person or via live stream to support our GoFundMe campaign (link available on the Tullamore Tradfest Facebook page). All donations are greatly appreciated, and all funds raised will go directly to the Ashling Murphy Memorial Trust.”

Back in 2019, in looking back upon that year’s first edition of Tullamore Tradfest and looking forward to the 2020 festival, I had the pleasure of sitting down with one of the visionaries behind bringing such a brilliant event to Tullamore in the first place, the one and only Tommy Craven, the then chairperson of the Tullamore Tradfest committee. 

Now, as we look ahead to the return of the event this year, and, as I’ve already said, at a time when we need it more than ever, it’s worth taking a little trip back in time to that chat with Tommy (first published September 2019). And it all began with him explaining how Tullamore Tradfest actually came to be in the first place…

“Well how it came about was a group of us were down at Dingle Tradfest, and my wife, who wouldn’t be a trad-head at all, said ‘Ye guys travel all over the country, why don’t ye bring the festival to ye for a change.’ And there was logic there that we couldn’t argue with, ya know [laughs]. So that was the initial spark for it all. And it snowballed then after that.”

So what exactly is Tradfest? 

“The gist of Tullamore Tradfest was that we intended to flood Tullamore with traditional music over the weekend in question. The core element of any tradfest is the session trail, so we put that in place and then built in other elements around it. We had a big concert on the Friday night which was sold out, three-hundred people were at that. We had workshops then on the Saturday morning with one-hundred-and-twenty kids in for them. On the Saturday night we had the Festival Club, which was also sold out, at two-hundred capacity. And then the session trail again on the Sunday.”

Who featured in that Friday night concert? 

“We had a great act. We had Brid Harper on fiddle, Darren Breslin on accordion, and they had Brian McGrath on keyboard. It’s gas that you ask that, actually, because we tried to be strategic in who we picked, ya know, you have to be. And Darren would be kind of a cult figure, He actually brought people from Glasgow and Leeds, as in they came from there just to see him alone! So even though traditional music doesn’t have superstars, it does have its own little folk or cult heroes all the same.” 

Tommy stressed that Tradfest is not about any element of competition, but rather inclusion, so that anyone who wants to play and be part of it all, has the chance to. The workshops he referred to would have, I imagined, played a huge part in helping people to further develop their love of trad music, or perhaps even discover it? 

“Absolutely. The workshops were key for us. We wanted to give an opportunity to local music students to come and learn from some of the best tutors from around the country, giving them a flavour of some of the regional styles. We had Aoife Granville on flute from Kerry, we had Oisín MacDiarmada as well, and Brid Harper on fiddle, who would have brought a kind of a northern style. They were all hugely popular and all sold-out. We even had one fella on the day who just turned up, without any prior contact with us at all, he was on his holidays from Canada. And up he rocked with a fiddle to take part! [laughs]. There were loads of little incidents like that, little surprises. And when you think about it, those one-hundred-and-twenty kids in the workshops, they all bring mammies and daddies along, too. So it’s great to have them around the town and bringing a bit of business to Tullamore, which was also one of our aims.” 

Tommy mentioned a core group who had kicked-off the whole Tullamore Tradfest adventure…

“That gang of us who were down in Dingle would have been myself, my wife Eimear, James Hogan, his wife Lorraine, and Ann-Marie Kearns and her husband Damien. That’s where it all came out of to start. But since then, we’ve been joined by Frank Walsh, Denise Bracken, Brian McDaid, and Paddy and Mick Buckley. It’s a great committee. Now I don’t like the name chairperson, even though that’s what I am [laughs], because everyone I’ve mentioned provides leadership to the group. We all work really well together.”

I wondered what the response was like from the businesses and the people of Tullamore when the idea for Tradfest first came to light? 

“The whole Tullamore community was absolutely phenomenal. The first people we approached were the vinters, to get them on board for the session trail. And they were super. From there, we followed on with the hotels, with Offaly Local Development Company, Tullamore Credit Union, all the local media like the Tullamore Tribune and Midlands 103, and so many more. The response in general was amazing. And that great response from everyone really allowed us to push the boundaries with what we could try and do and achieve in year one. I think at times we sell ourselves a bit short here in Tullamore. There’s no reason why events like this can’t happen, ya know. We have the facilities, the infrastructure, and most importantly of all, we have great people locally. That was one of the biggest parts of the feedback from our 2019 visitors, they couldn’t get over how welcoming and friendly and helpful everyone was.” 

Since this year’s Tullamore Tradfest Tommy and others who were involved in its organisation have been around Ireland at similar events, and word on the success of the initial festival in Tullamore seems to have spread far and wide…

“It has. And it gives us a great sense of pride and achievement, so it does. Obviously it’s the people who came and visited us this year who have gone home and spread that good news about us around the country. We’ve been to other events over the summer, some of the more established and well-known festivals, and we’d be meeting new friends as you do. Say you’re from Tullamore, and they’d be like, ‘Oh we heard that ye had a super first festival up there, we heard great reports about it. Ye looked after the musicians really well.’ Now that wasn’t just us, of course, the committee. That was all of the local people here in Tullamore. It was everyone they met while they were here. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to all the local people and agencies who helped us out in that regard.” 

Have the Tradfest folk anything planned for Culture Night at the end of this week? 

“We have, we’re hosting a trad music session in Digan’s pub at nine-thirty. Everyone’s welcome to come along, and we’d love to see as many people there as possible to enjoy the night with us.” 

So onto 2020, and Tullamore Tradfest which will be happening in April…

“It will! It’s the third, fourth and fifth of April next year. And we’re easily gonna double everything that happened this year. So we’ve doubled our own efforts for a start to make that happen. Not only are we gonna have one concert on the Friday night again, we have plans for one on the Sunday, too. We have plans to double-up on the instrumental workshops in Colaiste Choilm, and plans to extend the session trail onto the Monday as well. Because we had such a great year-one, and because we’re getting such great support again, we’re pushing the boat out further this time, too.”

I wondered if Tommy and the rest of the committee even had a chance to sleep over these weekends?! 

“No [laughs], sleep is at an absolute minimum over that weekend! But look, it’s great fun. We all do this on a voluntary basis, there’s nothing in it for us only the enjoyment of getting to play a few tunes at the end of it!” 

Tommy referred to ‘year-one’ on a few occasions, which was this year, with year-two obviously being what’s coming in 2020. It all suggests that the committee have a long-term vision in mind for what Tullamore Tradfest can become? 

“Yeah, we do, and that goes back to the committee again. We have serious people involved there. We were able to announce the dates for 2020 on the Sunday at the end of the festival this year, and once we had 2019 over and behind us, we started developing a vision for the future. It’s going to be an annual event, and we have a five-year plan that we’re already working on. I can’t tell you yet exactly what we have planned for Year-Five [laughs], but we do have that plan in place with something special coming down the line in Year-Five.” 

And what about Tommy himself as a musician? 

“Well I’d be far from an accomplished musician, I’d be very average, if the truth be told, ya know. But that again is another element to the Tradfest idea. It’s an event for everybody. You don’t have to be a champion musician. It’s to give everybody a chance to come together, and to collaborate, and to learn tunes and share tunes. And you get to make friends, have fun, and have the craic as well. It’s just about throwing yourself into it and making the most of it.” 

Looking back on this year, and on putting it all together for the first time, can Tommy remember any particular moment over the course of the weekend where he felt like, ya know what, we’ve made something great happen here…!

“There were one or two moments like that for me, alright. So I’m a teacher in Colaiste Choilm, and we finish at lunch-time on a Friday. I hopped over to the Court Hotel just to check in on things with them, to make sure everything was o.k. for the weekend. And as I approached reception, I was met by two carloads of lads from Dublin who were down for the weekend! They had banjos, fiddles, and all their gear for the weekend with them. The trad community is small enough, you’d know lots of people, you’d know them to see. But I didn’t know who these eight, nine, ten lads were. I had no idea. So that was a kind of a, ‘Jesus, we could be onto somethin’ here, this could be a great weekend!’ [laughs]. That was one moment. The concerts were great. The workshops were great. The session trails were great. There was so much to enjoy about everything really. But the Festival Club with Damien Mullane on the Saturday night, that was something totally different, something that Tullamore had never had before. It’s not a sit-down concert. Damien Mullane and Eugene Quinn, for the Festival Club they get up on stage and, in his own words, ‘puc tunes out of it!’, for two hours! [laughs]. Everyone gets up and jumps around, and just has the craic. That was special. And the Sunday sessions were very special as well, the session trail seemed to be wedged no matter which pub you went to. Everyone, even at that stage, were saying they were looking forward to 2020. And like I said, we already had dates ready to go, posters ready to go, and we announced the dates on the Sunday so that people could book in for the following year when they were checking out of where they were staying. And the feedback from the hotels was that yeah, people had been doing that.”

How satisfied are Tommy and the rest of the committee that what they’ve put together for Tullamore matches the standards of similar events they’ve experienced around the country? 

“Well from the feedback we’ve got from people who attend festivals all the time, what we’ve heard is that Tullamore Tradfest far surpassed the vast majority of festivals around the country and was well on its way to matching and meeting some of the top ones, the ones that are already well established. So that’s what we’re aiming for. Now look, we didn’t get everything 100% right this time, but that’s part of the learning process. We tried to include as many people as possible, but even then, on the weekend of the event, people were coming to us saying they would have loved to have been involved. So we’re open to anyone becoming involved and we welcome anyone contacting us, be it myself or any of the committee members, to chat about that.”

~ TULLAMORE TRADFEST 2022 kicks on FRIDAY, APRIL 8th. For a full listing of events that will be taking place over the weekend, check out the official Tullamore Tradfest Facebook page or visit www.tullamoretradfest.com 

The CEILIÚRADH CEOLMHAR ar ASHLING MURPHY – a special musical tribute and celebration of the life and music of Ashling Murphy – takes place in the Tullamore Court Hotel on SUNDAY, APRIL 10th AT 6PM. Donation to the ASHLING MURPHY TRUST, a charity established by the Murphy family, can be made at the event. This concert will also be live-streamed by Tullamore Tradfest and TG4. 

ENDS