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:
“ Michael and Liz performed at my Not Quite Light festival in the machine room of a working mill. Whilst they performed we projected images onto them and the wall behind. The atmosphere that they managed to create in this unusual space was, cliche though it might be, simply magical. There was a poetic brilliance of the music, and the performance was absolutely one of the highlights of the weekend “.
Michael Walsh Tin Whistle Workshop @Underneath the Stars. Photo by Gunnar Mallon
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.
I came to England for Whitby Folk Week. We did a secret house concert in Sheffield to warm up and raised some money for Dementia Care. I played 4 concerts with the Liz Hanks, led two flute workshops and a wonderful session and finally made my debut as a singer. We received great feedback from our concerts Colin Irwin from Mojo Magazine…
“Flute and cello? That’s not going to work is it? Is it? Well, it bloody does in the hands of Michael Walsh and Liz Hanks! Beautiful. Art music for the soul.” Colin Irwin (Mojo Magazine).
I’m really excited about what the Autumn brings. I’m catching up with my old pals from Leeds Ceili Band next week. They’ve invited me to lead a session at Leeds Irish Centre on 15th September. I’m tutoring at the Yorkshire Youth Folk Weekend next month Bryony Griffiths, Will Hampson and Jamie Roberts. I’m back in the studio to finish my album and record the final guests. Sometime the best is worth waiting for. I have a couple of Festival announcements for 2019 to make shortly. Watch this space.
In May 2016 I was preparing for a PhD fieldwork visit to Asturias. 2016 had been a hectic year. Taking part in the Ó Riada Gold Medal in Cork, starting my flute album, getting my Spanish up to speed and keeping two children healthy and happy. I was rushing up and down the stairs one morning and I slipped and jarred my shoulder. With family in tow, I rushed off to Avilés, then on to Lorient Interceltic Festival, Whitby Folk Week and back to Sheffield for the start of the school year.
October arrived and the excruciating pain I’d felt all summer began to dim. By this point I had very little movement in my left shoulder, to the extent that couldn’t put my hand in my pocket (no jokes about me being tight with money please). My doctor sent to me a physio and he immediately diagnosed it as frozen shoulder. My choices were either let it heal by itself, which could take a couple of years, or operate. I chose to have an operation. Playing music and looking after my children had become impossible. I had also underestimated the mental strain of the condition.
I was lucky to get a quick referral to a surgeon and an operation within weeks. In November I had my operation.
Frozen Shoulder Face
If you’re squeamish scroll to the music at the end, if not…..
The surgeon carries out Arthroscopic Capsule Release. It’s a lot like a very small kebab shaver you might see when you’re getting your post-beer nutrition. Using a keyhole procedure, Mr Shehani shaved away the layer of scar tissue that was was locking my shoulder joint. I found out later that he’d removed some bone too. Thankfully this was done under a general anaesthetic. I woke an hour or so later in a codeine induced haze with my father-in-law looking at me with an admiring gaze (See photo below). Thank you Bob Dalrymple. The poor man said he saw more of me than he ever would have liked to and needed a stiff drink to recover.
After some ferocious surgical sock waving I grabbed Bob’s attention and we headed home. Pre-op, I was told that depending on what they found during the operation I would have a sling on for a day or six weeks. Thankfully there wasn’t too much long term damage and I had the sling off after one day. The scarring was minimal. I have a large floral tattoo on my left shoulder I had done when I left my ‘proper’ job eight years ago to always remind me to do work that inspires me. The little surgical nicks look like little thorns. Six weeks of physio followed and I was given the all clear to get on with the slow process of getting back to normal.
It’s the end of January 2017 now and my daily physio is paying dividends. I’ve got much of my movement back and I’m just starting to play for longer periods of time.
There are a number of possible causes for Frozen Shoulder. It can be genetic, that applies to me. It can be related to bad posture, my posture in general is good. A big factor can be stress. The last advice my surgeon gave me was to slow down and relax. He noted that I was always rushing to get somewhere.
So the challenge this year is to slow down. Maybe I was trying too hard in 2016. The time away from playing music and research has given me chance to put things into perspective. I’m going to go slowly with my projects and put some off till 2018. I’m really rethinking how I play, concentrating on relaxation. I’m really looking forward to teaching on the BMus degree for a couple hours per week and starting to think more than do for my PhD. The time out has also reminded me of how precious my time with my son and daughter is. My son will be at school in a year or so. So for now more time with the children and maybe a little less time on the music.
I managed to play a tune for the Whitby Folk Week #Tunesday last month. Not my greatest performance and I was still in a considerable amount of discomfort. I’m putting it here and keeping it on Youtube as marker of my progress.
I’m delighted to be asked to run two Irish Flute workshops at Whitby Folk Week this year, 20th to 26th August 2016. You can also join me in a session and I have an another special surprise to announce shortly. More details to follow shortly.
I'm Michael Walsh. Musician, Singer, PhD Ethnomusicology student @ University of Sheffield Music Department, Teacher and Composer Specialising in Traditional Music from Ireland, Asturias and beyond. Dad of two and a husband.