This month I’ll performing with Damien O’Kane, Cormac Byrne and cast of musicians, dancers and poets as part of a Wild Card Production featuring the wonderful Barnsley performance artist Keira Martin. A night of dance, music and thought provoking debate about “Where ye from?”. We’ll end the night with tunes in the bar. I’m a huge Keira Martin fan. I first saw her perform at Celtic Connections with Fidget Feet Company. I was deeply moved by her performance and hope one day to work with her. So now it’s happening. May 9th 2019 @ Sadler’s Well. Come and say hello.
Every month I or a guest musician post a video we’ve recorded for Whitby Folk Week. An easy way to share music and raise the profile of the festival. I love the festival. I’ve been going for 6 years. My wife’s family have been going for 50 years. I’m looking forward to returning in 2019. I’m just finalising what I’ll be doing there this year but there’ll hopefully some exciting flute news to share soon.
This Jig I learnt from the playing of Sligo flute legend Seamus Tansey. I call it the Humours of Lough Gowna. Gowna is small village in County Cavan in Ireland. It’s where my mum grew up and where she developed her love of music. There was always plenty of music in their house and Granny’s great friend ballad singer Margaret O’Reilly was a regular visitor. My mum passed that love of music on to me.
Don’t ever think it’s too late do something new or be too shy to ask someone you admire to work with you. … I’ve been thinking about it a lot in the last couple of days. I met my old school music teacher yesterday and she finished her History of Art Degree recently at the age of 79. What an inspiration. I’m glad I changed life paths a few years ago. I’m just listening to a recording of me singing and the music I’ve written recently. All things I’ve come to fairly late in life. I’m so glad I’ve got on and done it. This week and next week I have some very lovely and talented people working with me. Heroes all. A bit overwhelmed by it at times but grateful . I dare you to take the leap or ask. It might turn out o.k.
It’s been a hectic summer for me. It started off with the very cool Not Quite Light Festival in Salford. Curated by photographer, musician and creative genius Simon Buckley it covered multiple art genres and new works. I performed with the wonderful cellist and my neighbour Liz Hank and we premiered our multimedia collaboration with Simon Buckley. Sian Astley from https://moregeous.com enthused: “Michael Walsh and Liz Hanks silenced the room”.
Simon Buckley commented:
Next up were my adventures with my Asturian pals, the breath taking L-R (Leticia González and Rubén Bada ). I am on a mission to bring great Asturian music to the masses. The ‘Asturians in Yorkshire’ weekend started with my Tin Whistle workshop at Underneath the Stars. The tent was packed with 50 whistlers of all levels. At the end of the hour we had all the participants on stage and the Underneath the Stars Tin Whistle Orchestra was born. We whizzed over to Leeds for an Irish Arts Foundation sponsored event where I gave my guided tour to Asturian music (based on my PhD research) before welcoming L-R to the stage of The Inkwell in Leeds. L-R wowed Underneath The Stars, with guerilla Asturian dance classes and a performance that stopped people in their tracks and got the whole tent dancing. I waved good bye to my family and headed to Asturias with L-R. Two intense weeks of PhD fieldwork followed. Learning to dance and catching up with fieldwork contacts who had now become friends. I finally got to see Llan de Cubel. Llan de Cubel fiddler Simon Bradley has already recorded some tracks on my new album. The highlight of the fieldwork was dancing Jota in a tiny village of Baselgas.
We’re having a wonderful time here at Whitby Folk Week 2018. The concerts with Liz Hanks and special guest Jonathan Vidler went better than we could ever have imagined and we’ve had some wonderful feedback. It was my first outing as a solo singer and some of the material that we’ve recorded for my album. We’re ready to hit the festivals of 2019 with a very sharp set, a completed album with lots of fab guests.
I also had a busy time teaching flute. The first workshop was full and we had a great variety of participants from different backgrounds learning a new tune. I chose one of my compositions, ‘Celeste’s Jig’ to focus on. We practised learning by ear or listening rather than reading music. The A part was learnt by all. Here’s the music for the jig. For the next workshop on Thursday (11.30 a.m. Middle Earth Whitby) we’ll be concentrating on ornamentation and technique. Here’s the written version of the tune. I wrote this tune for my daughter Celeste.
I’ll be finishing off Whitby Folk Week with a session in The First In Last Out Pub at 5pm on Thursday 23rd August 2018. All welcome. Thanks to everyone who came to our concerts, the volunteers who kept things running smoothly. The wonderful musicians we shared the stage with and the Festival organisers for booking us. Please leave a comment below to let me know what you thought of our music or the workshops.
My much needed sabbatical from the PhD In Asturian Flute Playing gave a me a little time to think. Reflecting on my past visits to Asturias and time with various fluters, it was clear that there was an increasing trend to refocus the music on its link with dance. I wanted to understand the rhythms of the music connected to the dance. One criticism of the revival groups of the 1980’s and groups outside of Asturias playing Asturian tunes was that they played the music too fast, the music was smoothed out. The anacrucis (the upbeat or beats before the first down beat in the bar) at the start of a tune part was lost. The phrasing was too much like the reels and jigs of Ireland and Scotland. I’ve learnt some Asturian repertoire and recorded it for my album. I noticed that I was dropping the anacrucis. I am used to playing Irish music and the beginning of an A or B part of a tune is often the place I take a breath. Inspired by Asturian revival musicians learning to dance, after years of playing dancing music to a non-dance audience, I committed to learning to dance.
I have a funny old relationship with dance. I took to Irish dancing at the grand old age of 12. For a brief period I was a bit of a whizz at the Lally School of Irish Dance in Manchester. A tad lazy at this point in my life I decided dreaming was much easier than doing. At some point later ‘I married a morris dancer’. Now there’s a title for a book. I aspired to wear the green trousers of Sheffield City Morris. I made slow progress but dreamed of high end hanky waving, stick cracking and hazy summer days, the faint whiff of morris sweat and real ale after a good dance out. Fate and family life got in the way and I had to leave my remedial morris classes behind.
This year saw the resurgence of my dance exploits. In attempt to see each other a bit more beyond tired conversations at the end of the day, my wife and I signed up for Flamenco classes in Sheffield. Once a week we meet in town. I slip on my clicky Cuban heels and attempt some dances of southern Spain. My wife is a great dancer. One of the reasons I fell in love with her. High speed Rapper dance with swords, North West Morris with clinking bells and a whiz at Clog Dancing. She has great focus, coordination and poise and memory for dance moves. All of which I struggle with. The lessons go like this…
Our teacher Barbara calls us to the dance. “Ok everybody vamos, let’s go”. I struggle through my Fandango steps….1, 2, 3, 1,2,3. I channel my inner duende. I call out to the flamenco gods for inspiration. My left foot is willing, it’s like Michael Flatley after ten cups of coffee. In my head I’m Jaoquín Cortéz. My hair is long and drenched in flamenco sweat. I am topless, my body is lean, wearing only tight black dance pants (save us from this!) and my specially commissioned clicky sparkle boots catch glints of the single spot light shining down on me. The stadium erupts with shouts of ‘Olé!’ and ‘Vaya!’… and then I notice my right foot. My right foot. My poor old dragging behind when I’m tired right foot. It does its own thing. It dances its own dance. My left foot screams.. “Focus yes!”… clicky de click… my right foot says “Fuckit, I’m staying put”, or “No way will I make it over that ever so slight incline in the floor surface”. Its disobedience spreads to my head. I hear music I’m working on. Die ya didle die dee dom da didlle. Oh a bit of fiddle there… some more cello please. “Michael, what are you doing?”. I hear the cry of the dance teacher. I look down to my feet over my protruding belly. I’m not doing the same as the others save for a bit of effeminate hip waggling which, for men, is a no no. Hasn’t she heard of queer Tonada? If ate a few less biscuits I could be the flamenco Rodrigo Cuevas. (Rodrigo Cuevas is a sensation in Asturias fusing Queer aesthetic and dance music with Tonada, traditional song of Asturias.. more of which in a forthcoming post)
This is usually accompanied by “Well done Sarah”…. And a ripple of applause for another performance nailed by my wonderful wife. I have three choices. Get back in the zone and focus, do a comedy side click of the heels leprechaun style or run and hide in the loos. Most of the time I get back on it. It’s great exercise and it’s interesting to look at dance from the Iberian peninsula from different to that in Asturias.
There’s enough in my dancing ability to make me believe I could dance a Jota. The Asturians are coming to Yorkshire, so I prepare myself…..
If you want to know more about Flamenco in Sheffield and the saintly Barbara Thornes check: https://www.flamencoinsheffield.com/
I have a few gigs and workshops coming up over the next few weeks.
Underneath the Stars Festival, Yorkshire:
Friday 20th July 2018: Tin Whistle workshop. 3.30 p.m. https://underthestarsfest.co.uk/
Irish Arts Foundation Leeds:
Saturday 21st July 2018: Introduction Talk: ‘Contemporary Links between Asturian, Galician and Irish Music’ with L-R @ The Inkwell, Leeds. 7 p.m. http://www.inkwellarts.org.uk/
Whitby Folk Week with Liz Hanks (Cello):
Sunday 19th August 2018:
Rifle Club 3.00 p.m. – 5.30 p.m.
Spa theatre 8.00 p.m. – 11.30 p.m.
Monday 20th August 2018:
Metropole 3.00 p.m. – 6.00 pm.
Coliseum 8.00 p.m. – 11.30 p.m.
I’ll also be running a flute workshop and some sessions during the folk week. I’ll let you know when they let me know. http://whitbyfolk.co.uk
I think it is fair to say I’m not up to this regular blogging mullarkey. This is the first post in almost a year. I’ve spent a lot of time doing and reflecting but not necessarily feeling the urge to share all my private family happenings. I continued to grieve for my late dad but poured it into the creative process and being constructive. Conscious that my time at home with my children was coming to an end as full time education hurtled towards us, I left traddad alone, beavered away at the music in the mornings and concentrated on savouring our afternoons messing about and getting geared up for school standard self sufficiency. I’ve decided to return to the site for a while. Writing about my musical adventures but leaving my children to their own private world. Less dad more trad.
During the last year I’ve made slow but good progress on recording. I think when I look back on my first foray into recording a solo album it will be better for taking my time. During the long nights of grieving I made lists of what I wanted to express through music and who I thought would be my dream companions for making the music I wanted to make.
I continued to develop ideas with my neighbour and wonderful cellist Liz Hanks. We managed our debut gig as part of the Front Room series at Spinning Discs Sheffield and a further performance at the Not Quite Light Festival in Salford organised by the brilliant photographer and musician Simon Buckley. We received a wonderful reception and it confirmed to me that the music we were making would move people.
We finally got back in to the studio late last year at Powered Flight In Sheffield with the wonderful Tom Wright. The first sessions were with Liz Hanks Cello and Helen Gubbins on lovely Red Paolo Soprani box and tin whistles. Liz and I returned to the Powered Flight studio in 2018 with the arrival in Sheffield of Llan de Cubel legendary fiddler Simon Bradley. It’s lovely recording in Tom’s studio. He has a great way with him, making us feel relaxed and sound the best we can.
I wanted to find a Manchester voice for how I felt about the loss of my dad and could hear the voice of Manchester poet Mike Garry in my head. I’ve known Mike for years and watched his work with admiration. ‘Gorton Girls Know All the Words to Chaka Kahn’ is my favourite Mike Garry Poem and he’s perhaps best known for his Ode to Saint Anthony, his tribute to Anthony H. Wilson. I asked him to write something on the theme of fathers and sons and he came back with the most beautiful, heartfelt prose. We got him into the studio on the day of his last concert in Manchester. He popped round to Michael McGoldrick’s and recorded it in one take. Some cello from Liz Hanks and samples and wizardry from Michael McGoldrick. It’s a thing of beauty and I can’t wait to share it.
I’m off to Asturias next week to record a duet with one of my favourite singers. My first time singing at the front of stage. I’ve been lucky so far with the generosity of the musicians involved. I’m waiting for some very special guests to add their contribution in the next eight weeks. Fingers crossed.
When it came to images for the album, there was only one person for the job, Simon Buckley. We hooked up online last year. He liked my Tunesday videos and I was blown away by his work on Not Quite Light. Simon has morris dancing pedigree. I’ll leave him to tell you about that. Last Sunday morning we arose at 3.30 a.m. and shot the photos in the centre of Stockport, my home town. The results are wonderful. Chasing the light to get the right shot until it was fully day time.
The wonderful Simon Buckley @http://notquitelight.com
Liz Hanks @ http://www.lizhankscello.com