Showing posts from October, 2008

Blogcards from Aukland, New Zealand (on way home)

As expected, there’s emotions as we leave overseas countries after a tour. We have had a wonderful time in Australia and New Zealand with people who have been the most welcoming of hosts. On top of that has been the beauty of scenery, mainly wonderful weather, excellent accommodation and superb food. During the past couple of days Claire and I have been present at the New Zealand Irish Association Feis shared between Kapiti Coast College, about an hour’s drive from Wellington, and Kapiti Club Ceili. The Feis was fun and encouraging. New Zealand people with a connection with Ireland through birth there or relations there were present in wonderful numbers with their youngsters sharing extraordinary talents in Irish dance, poetry, storytelling, songs and music. There are superb teachers on both North and South Islands combined with a motivation and enthusiasm from the young people. These people have taken Ireland’s culture and made it their own, which i find is refreshing, just like the

Blogcard from Wellington, New Zealand (part two)

Just getting ready to make an appearance and presence at the Kapati Coast Feis but also reflecting on a very moving day yesterday at the enormous Te Papa museum on Wellington Warf where one huge floor is dedicated to the history and traditions of the Maori people. The biggest surprise to me was the awareness that Maoris only arrived in New Zealand a couple of hundred years before the colonial white men. I was so used to hearing of the cultures of Aborigines, native Americans, middle easterns and Indo Chinese going back into thousands of years BC and so I was Initialy unable to accept that no man lived in New Zealand until about 1400 AD !!! It was explained to me that possibly the main reason for this was due to fear of the dense forests and steep mountains and cliffs that side much of the New Zealand coast. Well, most of the forest is gone now. White man exported a lot of forest, turned the forest land into farm land then ravaged Pacific Polynesian islands of phosphates for fertilise

Thoughts On Celtic Connections

Celtic Connections just sent me their latest news. Each year I promise myself to go but never made it. This is a wonderful annual festival in Glasgow, Scotland, during January that just gets bigger and bigger each year. The list of artists performing this year is the most incredible. There is a huge focus on fusion by grouping Scottish and Irish singers and musicians of tradition with popular overseas folks of world music. The most exciting events for me are the fusion of Senegal singer Yassou n’Dour with the Old Blind Dogs, Irish singer Gráinne Duffy backed by Californian boogie and blues band Little Feat who have been a long time closet favourite of Paddie Malloney of the Chieftains. Also interesting are Richard Thompson presenting 1000 years of Popular Music and squeeze box whizz Norman Chalmers providing a spoons playing workshop. I am surprised at the lack of harpists. No Wendy Stewart, Natalie Macmaster or Patsy Seddon. The excellent Rachel Hair will be there, though. I am al

Blogcard From Wellington, New Zealand (part one)

And yet to another world making me wonder if I am still in the same country, but then in the UK if we hopped from Exmoor to London to Northumbria and over to Liverpool its different worlds, before we even enter Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Initialy it was hard letting go of being in the paradise of western South Island and accepting and embracing being among the wonders of Wellington but over breakfast, looking at the buildings and people passing all kinds of wonders inspired me here and aroused my curiosity. First, Wellington comes across to me as being a northern England city, like Leeds, Bradford or Blackpool, in the 1950s. The architecture is so similar for one, making me wonder if the Norther England architects emigrated here for a “better life”. Also, and I have not found this out yet, Wellington may have or may have had a relationship with the sheep and wool industries like Bradford and Leeds once had. In addition to the architecture there are the small roadside, pav

Blogcard From Wanaka, New Zealand (part two)

At first I was reserved about how the weather of today would be, but when Ivy arrived at about 10:00 am and took me to a different breakfast house the beautiful sunny clear weather returned. This was going to be the “road trip” day. I was having a passion about going to the famous Milford Sound, one of the seven wonders of the world, but the road network to there from Wanaka is incredibly detoured and could have taken us 5 hours in each direction. Where we did go to proved to not only beautiful but much more important in the spirit of pilgrimage, though i did not know this until I returned. Our “road trip” from Wanaka was to Glenorchy, at the northern end of the long Lake Wakatipa. Until the making of Lord of The Rings, Glenorchy was a world unknown village seemingly hidden in an Avalon style place in a shangri-la among the heights of the Southern Alps of New Zealand. Barely a road with tarmac for miles and the smallest wooden buildings for library, church, school etc. About 50 km

Blogcard From Wanaka, New Zealand (part one)

I knew Wanaka was going to be good, but not as wonderful and spectacular as it turned out to be. Arriving in Wanaka it was dark, no moon, though a half moon rose later, but very clear stars and constellations. I had driven the journey from Christchurch to Wanaka in a surprising 4.5 hours, expecting it to be 6. The first hour was was miles of straight road through flat farm country, just like in much of the USA, where you seen the mountains in the distance but never seem to get closer to them. At last the sat nav directed me to a country road turn off and I was getting a little hungry. It seems the road was not going to take me to civilisation, though. I did arrive in a quaint town called Geraldine where a country store was still open. They served superb seafood sandwiches, which I have since discovered was a rarity as New Zealanders are not generally seafood eaters but either lamb eaters or vegetarians. A lot of vegetarians in new Zealand, I have since discovered. Leaving Geraldine

Blogcard from Aukland, New Zealand

I’m sitting here at Aukland airport waiting for my connecting flight to Christchurch in the South Island. From there I will drive to Wanaka, hoping to arrive before midnight, though 1:00 am will be more like it. My daughter Ivy may well be finishing work then. I hope to catch up with her tonight, though. Weather is beautiful, sunny, comfortably warm, in Aukland. I was treated to a very clear landing and Aukland is a truly scenic town with surrounding green rolling hills landscapes, lakes, inlets and wild beaches around. Fascinating! It was hard leaving Australia this morning as the visit and tour treated us so well. Claire’s concert with the Tara choir at the Tara Ballroom in Brisbane was a stunning sort of finale with attendance of almost 500 people on a Sunday afternoon !!! Not quite a finale for Claire who has 3 shows at the St. Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney during the morning, lunch time and afternoon of Tuesday 21 st October. While I am here in Aukland Claire is driving to Sydn

Blogcard from Brisbane, Australia (part four)

Well this next Blogcard is written later than I thought. Thursday evening, October 16 th , Claire performed with the Tara Trio in a small performance theatre of a classical music radio station here in Brisbane. The station, 4MBS, is located in what seems like a regular but somewhat historical house in a residential neighbourhood. Quite quaint. Its theatre is functional and set up so that sets can be built over its large stage area but Claire’s hosts did not develop sets for the event, thinking turnout would be small. Their expectation was less than 20 people arriving, but I think it ended up being an audience of 47. The Tara Trio, three magnificent lady singers, sang traditional songs with classical arrangements yet into a style of their own. It was wonderful when they merges their voices with Claire singing and playing, but largely this was a show of two acts. Claire surprised me by singing an almost totally different set to the rest of the tour so far, especially singing several s

Blogcard from Brisbane, Australia (part three)

I have yet to speak about my impressions of Brisbane as a city. In some ways my impressions may well be unbalanced after only sharing one day in Sydney and no time in Melbourne, Perth, Darwin, Adelaide, Canberra and Cairns. Sydney did not impress me as much as I thought it would, but I do not think i gave it a chance. Entry into Brisbane is like any other modern city with its maze of entry and circling freeways, ramps, underpasses and overpasses in its fight to manage traffic flow along with modern initiatives of mass public transport such as many buses, light railway trams and frequent commuter trains. Management of people both in residence and in business is through a cluster of very high hi-rise buildings. Viewing both the traffic and people flow I must admit that as much as I generally do not like cities I think Brisbane administrators and planners have done a remarkable job. I love the bright happy sandstone blocks that have been used for the construction of most high buildings

Blogcard from Brisbane, Australia (part two)

Continuing here in the late morning of Thursday, October 16 th , Claire is away around Brisbane for radio, and maybe tv, broadcasts and interviews. I believe the local ABC station is one of them. This time the promotion is for the local Brisbane concerts tonight, Thursday, and Sunday afternoon where Claire performs with the Tara trio and Tara choir. It is a cloudy, cool, showery and fairly unpleasant day in Brisbane so that’s a wonderful excuse to stay in at the hotel and sort through the hours and hours of video footage from this tour. My laptop hard drive is full and I am not keen on the idea of buying an external hard drive to take on the load. I may try and buy one of the new high volume flash cards that now go up to and over 100 gig and beyond. They are lightweight. Amazing really to think how fast the development of micro storage has become. In my last blog I mentioned how wonderful our driving journey was between Springville, NSW, about 40 miles north of Maitland, and Brisbane

Blogcard from Brisbane, Australia (part one)

We have just arrived in Brisbane after a 10 hour drive from a remote place north of Maitland. The day was beautiful but as we arrived in Brisbane we were greeted with torrential rain and rampant thunder and lightning. We are in the Kookaburra folk club and the power has just gone out, but still some battery in the laptop here. A lot of people here. though, so the Blogcard after this should be very interesting. Back to where I was writing before, at Maitland Gaol, that turned out to be a stunning concert. Claire was joined by vocalist Bernadette Lannan and traditional Australian bush poet, Ron Brown. Bernadette is a stunning soprano vocalist, local to Newcastle, NSW, and in a band called Erin that regularly tours Australia and Europe. Ron is a very entertaining poet and very passionate in keeping the dying bush poet tradition alive. Claire’s contribution was more of her own original songs, including a couple on piano, because Bernadette provided a wonderful interpretation of Ireland

Blogcard from Maitland, NSW, Australia

The outdoor show at Miss Traill’s House, Bathurst was a dream! The evening weather was perfection, beautiful sunset and not too hot and nobody was pestered with flies or biting insects. Lovely cross section of ages and Claire made a lot of new friends after her performance. Miss Traill’s House is a preserved small town house with a beautiful garden that’s almost 200 years old, which is important heritage for Australia. Claire performed in the garden and the audience brought wine and picnics as the lawn layout was club style with round tables and chairs. Some who did not bring a picnic ordered Dominoes pizza delivery. After a wonderful night and our b&b cabin it was a surprise to awaken to heavy rain, but also a relief that this was not the weather f the evening before. The cooling of the rainy day turned out to be a blessing for the driving, though. We had a 5 hour drive to Maitland, much of it over the beautiful Blue Mountain roads we had travelled a couple of days earlier. Ev

Blogcard from Bathurst, NSW, Australia

On my Dubbo Blogcard I mentioned that we revelled in a “grazing plate” on arrival at our farmhouse guest house, which was really a beautiful independent apartment where the owners arrived, delivered food, and set the table for us. Five star service for just a remarkable few dollars. A grazing plate is an extended ploughman’s lunch. In addition to a range of hams, smoked fish, local cheeses and pickles there are olives, local fruits, home made breads, pates, salad greens and local wine. This should be a standard arrival welcome at all bed and breakfast guest houses, and this is certainly true in the USA but yet to be experienced by us in ireland and UK. Not only was the grazing plate a sensation but so was the following morning breakfast with fresh layed eggs and local fish, meat and produce again along with the home made pastries. We left Dubbo very relaxed and fulfilled but with a rush drive to Bathurst, a 3 to 4 hour drive to make it in time for a live radio performance at 1:00 pm

Blogcard from Dubbo, NSW, Australia

Here I am relaxing at a remote farmhouse about 12 miles from Dubbo, perhaps one of the last inland largish towns in New South Wales. My view is over lush rolling hills dotted with lone eucalyptus and other natives trees of Australia. It is very sunny and warm with about 2 hours of sunlight left. Birdlife is abundant with many species in many colours and sizes including the odd small parrot. Our home for the night is a beautiful apartment with exotic furnishings. On arrival the owner served us with a “grazing plate” of a selection of Aussie cheeses, meats, fish, fruits, salad items and home made chutneys and pickles. Enough here for a family picnic or more. We will also have breakfast served in the morning. Claire has returned back to Dubbo. I had left an important cable in the church, where Claire had performed this afternoon, so she returned to collect it and explore some sites of Dubbo along with purchasing a few essentials. The afternoon concert at Dubbo Holy Trinity Church was a

Blogcard from Leura, NSW, Australia

I am not quite sure where we are as Claire arranged this, but I am writing from a beautiful country house hotel in the northerly part of the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, Australia. Last night, Claire Roche performed for a wonderful audience, about 60 people, packed into a gallery of the Everglades Gardens in a beautiful garden suburb of a quaint small town called Leura. The concert was scheduled to be on the ornate stage of their outdoor theatre but thunderstorms and lashings of rain changed the plan. The gallery proved to be a terrific alternative. Guy, the curator, quickly set up a perfect mood lighting and the acoustics were superb. Best of all, so were the audience superb. They were with Claire from the start and she performed her best for them. The end was a very moving rapturous standing ovation. What delighted both of us was the folks asking for CDs of her work, not Irish songs. We were supposed to have performed our joint Veil Between Two Worlds show but the jet lag caug

Samhain Open Day at our Two Worlds Theatre

November 8 th (Saturday), 2008 Join us at Samhain At last, we launch our Two Worlds Theatre and Garden Labyrinth plus a tour of our restored traditional cottage, along with refreshments and merriment this coming Samhain, Saturday November 8 th . Singer harpist Claire Roche will entertain as well as some folk drama and stories from John of Celtic Ways . John will also provide guided journeys through our Garden Labyrinth. Do bring your favourite apple for this. Accommodation and transport can be arranged by request Be with us as sunrise where the sun, if it shines, will beam across the entrance of our labyrinth. Arrive and leave any time you feel it is right through you, throughout this day. Here’s a Google Maps link to help you find us.   View Larger Map I will be adding more information to this page over the next couple of weeks, but to make sure you receive more news please contact me and list your email address.