This has become an all to infrequent journal. I just don't seem to have time anymore...Must try and change that.
I am writing this at 5.30am local time in Columbia, Missouri. Jetlag has woken me and it seems a good moment to write something. Very quiet and still. Reminds me of Christmas morning when I was a child.
I am about to start a shortish tour in the States with Patrick Street. We have been rehearsing stuff from our new album which we hope to introduce, gradually into the set. I'm having difficulty remembering the different musical passages between the verses of "Rich Irish Lady"! I ad-libbed them on the album and the others followed. Now we have to learn them! Also playing totally different lines at the same time on mandola and harmonica for "Galway Shawl" - a bit of a challenge! Thank God I have a split personality...!
Perhaps a good time to review the year of 2007?
January is remembered for a really great gig in Sixmilebridge, Co. Clare. It all looked a bit tacky when I got there. Big barn of a room in the back of a pub. Soundman didn't seem confident. But.....it came together 'on the night'! Really GREAT audience! It was like every Andy Irvine fan that ever there was, was there. I was bowled over.
Two great nights in Kavanagh's in Port Laoise. Tiny room but stuffed on both nights. First time I ever got to play in Port Laoise!! Sweeneys Men used to make a first stop here in the 60s, coming from Dublin and heading for the West. There was a chipper that sold enormous pieces of chicken - we used to call it Port Laoise chicken. I would have hated to meet a complete, live Port Laoise chicken. They must have been about 5ft high.
February was spent in Australia and New Zealand. Played the usual venues in Oz. Harp in Sydney, Clarendon Hotel in the Blue Mountains and The Artery in Melbourne. One really great gig in Lithgow in NSW. The Workers Club put me on, on a Sunday afternoon. A free gig for it's members. Men, women, children and others. Could have been a tricky gig but me and the audience were old hands and pulled it off together!
New Zealand was looking it's best when I got there. How beautiful it is when the sun shines - which it doesn't always even in Summer. I remember a beautiful concert outdoors in the English Garden at the Hamilton Gardens Festival.
Hamilton Gardens: I was so impressed by the place that I got up at the crack of dawn to visit all the gardens they have set out there. Apart from the English one they have Japanese, Indian, Chinese and Italian Renaissance gardens. To view them in the early morning Summer sun with no one around was a big treat.
After the tour, I had a few days holiday and drove up to Northland - north of Auckland. I didn't really have the time but nothing could stop me driving up to the most northerly point in NZ. Cape Reinga lighthouse, Ninety Mile beach - how I love the highways and byways of the world.
March was highlighted by a visit to the North Coast of Antrim. It had been a cloudy, dull day but as we approached the coast, it became apparent that there was a thin sliver of cloudless sky right on the horizon and it occurred to me that, as the sun went down, it would pass through this narrow band for about half an hour maybe.
We got to the Giants Causeway, parked the car and ran down the couple of kilometres of rocky path, arriving at the Causeway ten minutes before the sun set. It was magic. I wish I could show you the photos.
Had a week in Budapest, playing a concert with Márta Sebestyén in the Concert Hall. Everyone from the Hungarian music scene was on that concert. I was amazed how times have changed. Big concert, no back stage bar! And NOBODY - except me - even looking for a drink!! All my former drinking buddies have grown mature and sensible! All buggered off after the gig as if they had been at the Office...
Went to see an exhibition of photographs by an old friend Béla Kasa. He specialises in photographing Gypsies mainly from Transylvania but these photographs had been taken in a remote part of Northern India/Pakistan of the semi-nomadic tribe - Rabari. Wonderful! I wish I had more walls to hang photographs on. See www.kasabela.com
April in Ireland was very special. Every day the sun shone all day out of a blue sky. I had a quiet time. Climbed all the mountains around me in Co. Fermanagh and got a little fitter...I love April anyway but when the sun shines, it's a big bonus. I thought it augered well for the rest of the Spring and Summer but I was a bit wrong there.
Had a great gig at the Cathedral Quarter Festival in Belfast in May. The Black Box - a nice crummy room with bar and people feeling comfortable in their surroundings. Loved it.
Went to visit my old Sweeney friend, Galway Joe Dolan, in his back of beyond retreat in Connemara. Johnny Moynihan was also there and we had a great night of reminiscence and laughter.
Also in May, I went on the Afri Walk again. It seemed easier the second time...(see below May 4th 2005)
Went for an actual 'holiday' in June! Not a great success though. Never stay at a hotel called Golf Hotel unless Golf is your only reason for being there. Nice enough place around Biarritz but hotel was crap and with hindsight it would have been better to have been in the town rather than 7kms away, even though we had a car. Nice outing to San Sebastian though. Tapas bar crawl in the old town. Drove east from there on an impulse to visit Guernica. No map and no signs on the road. Had to turn back. Guernica is the town made famous by Pablo Picasso's painting after the town was bombed on a Market Day in 1937 by the German Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil war. The Spanish Civil War always makes me cry. It always seems like a crossroads in the history of mankind where we took the wrong road. Everytime I read a book about that war, I am moved to tears and find myself hoping that the story will turn out differently. We used to think, as children that only Satan and Adolph Hitler were in Hell. I hope Franco is spending a few millennia there too.
Also in June, Deirdre Drew died - Ronnie's wife. Moynihan and myself went to the funeral together. Big gathering. Couldn't get into the church. Amazing how many people you meet at funerals that you haven't seen for donkeys years.
I hadn't seen Deirdre for about 35 years but every couple of months I would think - "I must ring Deirdre". Now too late.
I spent the rest of June helping Donal Lunny remix Mozaik's album - 'Changing Trains'. This album has been a long and frustrating saga. Originally recorded in Budapest in November '05, it has taken nearly two years to come to fruition. However it is now out there!! If you can't get it in a shop, get it from me!
July came and the lousy weather continued. No chance of playing any cricket for Merrion..
Also came a whole bunch of musicians I knew from Argentina. They had been brought over to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the death of Admiral William Brown, an Irishman from Foxford in Co. Mayo who was the father of the Argentinean Navy. It was lovely to see them - all very good musicians playing Irish music con brio! They were lodged and fed but...no money. Much concern when they learned that their flights home to Buenos Aires were not for about ten days after the conclusion of the event. The Argentinean Peso being worth hardly anything on the currency exchange these days, a pint of Guinness was like a gold bar.
I took in a good friend of mine - the bouzouki playing Sergio Gonzalez and I hope the rest of them got home okay.
Jackie Daly has announced that he is retiring from Patrick Street and the road. We played a lovely gig in Farmleigh House in the Phoenix Park, Dublin. We decided to stay as a four piece and not replace him and two gigs in Donegal without him were a very interesting comparison to what had gone before. Without the accordion, there seemed more 'air' in the music. We will miss him though. It was a long association. Good luck, Jackie!
July also saw Sweeneys Men take the stage again! Fiddlers Green Festival in Rostrevor, Co. Down. Had hoped we might 'blaque' Galway Joe Dolan into doing it but he hasn't been on a stage for about two lifetimes and that wasn't going to work. Johnny had hit on the great idea of asking Paul Brady to play with us as Paul had stood in for Dolan at a gig in Limerick in 1967 after Joe's speedy departure for Israel and the 6 Day War.
The gig was brilliant! Not sure the music would repay a close inspection but the vibe was something else. As Monigan broke into 'The Handsome Cabin Boy', I looked over at Brady. He was pissing himself with laughter. It was catching and I spluttered into my harmonica for a verse. Afterwards, I asked him what exactly he was laughing at. "Oh just Moynihan sounding exactly as he did 40 years ago". It was like that. The audience was way into it and when we got off the stage, I was surprised to find myself back in 2007. For an hour and a half we and the audience had transported the whole shooting gallery back 40 years..
Did a week of gigs with 'Andy Irvine & his Australian Friends' mark 2. The Wise Family Band were a great success and a pleasure to play with. Lovely harmonies and slightly off beat songs. Come back again, please!
Next year, we return to Mark 1. Kate Burke & Ruth Hazelton and Nancy Kerr & James Fagan. next July. Anybody who saw us all in 2005 will surely remember what fun that was.
August came and went in a grey cloud. An outdoor gig in the Amphitheatre in Ballykeefe outside Kilkenny was hit by the weather. Fortunately, the stage area was huge and roofed and the audience and me packed into it and had a lovely intimate gig.
Spent two weeks in Central America. I had been in Costa Rica a couple of years ago and it was a pleasure to get back there. Carribean Coast, Jamaican style cooking, then the Arenal Volcano, active and spectacular. The gig in San José was fun as I aired my pathetic Spanish and then to Panama. What a contrast! Like a US city. Spent half a day goggling at the Canal and played a sold out concert. Many new friends and look forward to going back one day soon.
Nightmare journey home. We had to collect our baggage at every stop and re-check in. So weary by the time we got to Schipol Airport in Amsterdam. As we waited at the baggage carousel for our luggage and instruments, I saw the Dutch Customs Officers lining up at the exit like a Gauntlet Run. I remembered how Rens van der Zalm always says he gets stopped at Schipol and grilled about where he bought his instruments. I steeled myself for a confrontation at which I do not excel..'Keep the head, Andy'. The first customs man made an arrogant beckoning gesture and I knew I was going to lose it! 'Where are you coming from?', 'Costa Rica', 'You have bought this instrument in Costa Rica?'.
Red faced and nearly apoplectic with rage at the stupidity of the thought that anybody would buy a bouzouki-guitar in Costa Rica, I opened the case to show him it was not exactly new. 'And the other one? It was bought in Costa Rica?'
Opened Mandola, nearly choking with rage. Same result. Dismissed with arrogant wave of petty Hitler-like hand.
Fit to be tied for five minutes and had to be bought brandy! I'm just no good when it comes to petty authority treating me as if I were a criminal. Paranoia? Need to see shrink? Yes, maybe. I just wish they would be a little less arrogant in their positions of petty power.
Great Mozaik tour in September. The Whelans gig in Dublin was of Planxty-like grandeur. As the audience got higher and higher and we got better and better! It was some gig. After that a few memorable gigs in UK and one last blast in Belfast at the Open House Festival. Mozaik has been in existence since March 2002 and has not had the easiest of births. Because we play music which is quite hard to put in a pigeon hole, promoters and audience alike have been a little bit slow to come forward. Those who do step up are usually knocked out by the band's music. We have decided, that, having no pigeon hole, we will just have to keep playing as much as possible until everybody knows what we do and we don't need a pigeon hole! Tours of Japan and USA are likely next year apart from more Ireland and UK dates.
October has just passed. Started the month with a gig in Whelans. 'Andy Irvine one man show - The Life and Songs of Woody Guthrie'. A charity gig for Huntington's Disease, the dreadful genetic disease that Woody had inherited from his mother. I was petrified. I had done a good bit of brushing up on Woody's life. As my foremost hero, I have a fairly clear knowledge of his life but I never knew what I was going to say next, how long the show would be or what songs I would sing..About 15 minutes into the second half, I felt like I was in a long black tunnel with no light at the end of it. It was already getting late. When I finally finished, I had been on the stage for about 2 and a half hours!
The audience clamoured for more, God bless them and I finished with 'Never tire of the road'.
We made a couple of thousand for HD, I think and the members and volunteers of the HD assoc of Ireland were there in great numbers and sincerely grateful for bringing this obnoxious disease to more people's consciousness.
THEN....Spent three days rehearsing with Paul Brady for a gig at Celtic Connections in Glasgow on Jan 30th!!
After 30 years, Paul and myself have decided to get back together and play concerts again! The rehearsals were a big thrill and we are looking forward with excitement to being on stage together again.
Now for Patrick Street and the USA....