Sunday, September 14, 2014

Whew! What a weekend!

We started our weekend early with a wonderful house concert Thursday evening. The Alt, one of the bands created during a late night at Swannanoa a couple years ago (the other is The Teetotallers), consists of Nuala Kennedy, John Doyle, and Eamon O'Leary. John and Eamon are the two guitarists Dylan always chooses to learn from at Swannanoa. Add to them Nuala with her sweet voice and lovely flute and whistle playing and wow!  Tight vocal harmonies and lively tunes. Amazing!

I think I've said before how much we like the intimate "private" experience a house concert provides and this one was no exception. We could have listened all night and we kind of did. After the concert we popped in our newly recorded and purchased CD and listened all the way home…and it was our listening choice while riding all over the place all weekend.

We had a late night but we were all up early Friday morning. Dylan went off to school then Haley and I headed to the northern part of the state so she could work in a recording studio to lay down a few tracks with Mike for Andy's new Irish clarinet CD. It was a long but fun day!

Working out variations.
They finished up a Donegal reel set then played around with a slow air playing melody and harmony then playing cannon-style. It was pretty cool to listen to Haley play the third "round" of the cannon on her first try especially considering she learned the air very recently and Andy had only decided that morning to try it so she hadn't had a chance to practice.

Laying down tracks.
After the day of recording, Haley and I headed south to Philly. We grabbed a quick dinner then headed to the Irish Center for the Philadelphia Ceili Group's Annual Festival (40th!!!). Friday night is always a ceili in the ballroom and a "Rambling House" concert in the fireplace room. For the Rambling House session there is a host musician, Gabriel, who invites musicians, both local and visiting, on stage to play a few sets with him. Haley enjoyed hanging out with her friends, Alex and Keegan, while they listened to the music and took their turns on stage.


Haley especially enjoyed playing a couple tunes with two musicians from Beoga, Niamh Dunne and Seán Óg Graham and Niamh's father. We saw Beoga in concert one year at the Fleadh in Cavan and they are one of Haley's favorite bands. Niamh has a beautiful voice and is a lovely fiddle player and Sean is great on both accordion and guitar.

Gotta love the microphone eye patch.
Late night number two.

Saturday Haley, Dylan, and I headed back to the Irish Center for another full day of festival. The kids took some workshops on their respective instruments then rehearsed, and hung out with their friends, Alex and Keegan, before their "set" at the festival. The Converse Trio (Haley, Keegan, and Alex) accompanied by Dylan played a lively set in the afternoon. They sounded great!




They also joined Next Generation for their set then ate dinner before a wonderful concert by Fullset…a group of young, dynamic musicians. Their music was great and they put on a very entertaining show.

Late night number three.

I had to drag Haley out before the after-concert session because we had another early morning on Sunday for a fiddle lesson in New York. We carpooled with Livia and Amy so the trip was pleasant and fun, the lesson productive, and Haley, exhausted from her busy weekend fell fast asleep on the ride home then went to bed for short nap before dinner.

Back to school tomorrow.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Let the Fun Begin…or the Storm?

Summer was a whirlwind!

 It was fun, amazing, and over way too soon! I knew it would be that way. sigh.

The last two weeks allowed us to get back into a rhythm with school, catch up on make-up sessions for work, and take a breath before the fall festival season. Today was the start. Haley, Dylan, and I headed to Ship Bottom, NJ today for their annual Irish Festival. This would be the 3rd year the kids played here but last year, as we were getting ready to leave, Haley had a little run in with a toothpick that left her spending the day in an ER and the evening in surgery. (See this post for details.) This morning, however, we made it into the car toothpick-free.

The kids played a nice set right after Mass. They included a couple tunes they've composed together. (Their composition "sessions" go something like this…Dylan fools around with a guitar chord sequence. He finds something he likes and plays it over and over then Haley decides she'll add some fiddle on top of it…and poof! They have a new tune.)

Not the best picture but with the bright sunlight behind them it was difficult.
There was a really cool little spot near the stage tent with music notes as part of the bricks. Dylan is a bit camera shy but Haley jumped right on it.


From Ship Bottom, we headed back across the state to Philly. We met Haley's friends and fellow Converse Trio band members, Alex and Keegan, at St. Declan's Well for the weekly Irish music session. The kids love when they get to play with Kevin and Fintan! Dylan jumped in at the end to rehearse with the others for their next stop…a promo appearance for next week's festival, the Philadelphia Ceili Group's 40th Anniversary Irish Festival, on the radio station WXPN with Gene Shay.


We walked the block to the station from St. Declan's. The full moon, clouds, and city skyline all lit up were really pretty…the pictures just didn't do it justice but here's one try.




The station was much bigger than any of the others we have been to. The others were tiny little places with one or two (if they have a couple stations in one tiny building) rooms they broadcast from. This station is in the basement at World Live Cafe and there are a number of broadcasting rooms including a very large room where the kids played. The walls have really cool art all over them and in the main station area, the walls are covered by the signatures of famous people who have been to the studio.





It took some time for them to set up the big studio room with mics. The kids rehearsed and joked around then once everything was set up, they were on air.


Sitting in the studio, we were a little confused as to when they were actually broadcasting but people listening at home said they sounded great.




We left right after they finished to get the kids home to bed. School in the morning! Looking forward to a great festival and a lot more fun next weekend!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Calm...

Our summer was busy….lots of travel, camps, friends, visits, and music. Due to all the travel, I worked long hours every day I was not traveling and unpacked/re-packed when home. Right before we left for Ireland, I had one full day at home…my first since the middle of June.

The past three days, however, we spent all our time at home. I cleaned, organized, weeded in the garden, went school shopping for Dylan, prepared for Haley's upcoming school year, and yesterday we jumped back into school. Haley and I started a new exercise program (while we were gone, Dylan found a great weight machine for really cheap). She spent a lot of time practicing by herself and with her brother for their many upcoming gigs and had a Skype fiddle lesson with Brian to get the "new year" going. (Today she has a special violin lesson with her teacher's daughter.) The weather was perfect so we opened the windows and enjoyed the "almost" fall weather.

Fall has always been my favorite time of year! This year is a little different for us and we are getting used to the changes.

Newt went off to college while we were in Ireland. He was working, going to wrestling practice, and hanging out with friends a lot before he went. Things are quiet without him here and I miss him but at the same time I am excited for him in this new chapter of his life. Either Ritch or I talk or text him every day. He sounds like he is having a good time, working hard at his classes, and happy to be there. Can't wait to visit him!


Dylan started working this summer. He wanted a job at the local grocery store so he filled out a resume then called and called the manager until he was hired. He went to Swannanoa with us and took his first solo flight to Florida to spend a week with a friend but otherwise has been working all summer. He starts 11th grade in a week and will have his driver's license in two months.

I post Haley's "proposed" school program each year so here it goes…

Math
Haley began Geometry in February and will continue. Not quite sure whether she will do Algebra 2 after or Counting and Probability. I'll figure that out when we get there.

Language Arts
Windows to the World
One Year Adventure Novel
Lightning Literature 8 (I have this so figured we might as well use it.)


Languages
Almost finished First Form Latin then will begin Second Form Latin.
Rosetta Stone French along with French in Action (learner.org)
Maybe a little Sign Language??

History
Haley asked to do American History this year. I have a middle school level syllabus to go with History of US (Joy Hakim) that includes ideas for research reports and projects. Also, Thinking Through the Past by John Hollitz and a large number of supplemental readings/projects (I have an entire bin of books on different periods of American History). The problem with having so many books is we've never made it past the Civil War due to many bunny trails. I hope to keep it a bit more concise this year and get through the whole series.

Science
We are going to continue with Biology…there are so many topics to cover. Last year we spent a lot of time doing things on a "micro" level studying cells and chemistry of life (cellular respiration, etc…), and studying genetics and evolution theories. This year we will hit different topics.

Music
She will continue studying music theory and taking lessons.

Art
Leaving this subject to Daddy since he's the artist in the family.

I think that should get us going for the year. I am trying to use less "teacher intensive" material with her so she can be more independent especially when she is home with her daddy on the days I work and provide her with the many projects she likes to do.

Looking forward to a fun fall!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Sligo Fleadh 2014

Wow! What a week we had in Sligo, Ireland for the Fleadh Cheoil (All Ireland festival/competitions).

This year Haley and I traveled with some very special friends of ours, John and Jackie Kelly. We had originally planned to go to Ireland as a family then learned Newt would need to be moved into his dorm and begin college on the first day of competitions. John and Jackie had already booked in the same B&B (Atlantic Haven B&B) and during a conversation where Jackie was fretting about having to drive in Ireland because John's age prevented him from being able to rent a car, I had a brainstorm and asked if they'd like me to drive and they could accompany us (and be our bodyguards).

My spur of the moment plan worked out perfectly. Haley and I had company and John and Jackie were able to enjoy their trip to Ireland without worrying about transportation.

After a wonderful flight, we arrived in Dublin at 5am (Irish time). We picked up our car and headed across the country to Sligo. We arrived at our B&B around 9am and our wonderful host, Thomas, fed us weary travelers a full Irish breakfast and gave us our rooms. I took a nap while Haley took a shower. After I woke and showered we headed into Sligo city on our own to meet Haley's fiddle teacher, Brian, so Haley could practice. Following the practice, we walked around town and figured out where everything was then drove back to our B&B to pick John and Jackie up for dinner. We had to drive in another direction to meet the Illinois kids for ceili band and grupai practice after dinner. It was late and we were beat by the end of rehearsal so went home and to bed.


Thursday morning, we woke to another great breakfast. We decided to take a short drive about 5 min. north to the beautiful town of Mullaghmore…one of the most beautiful places in Ireland!

Haley with John and Jackie in Mullaghmore.

The beautiful cliffs on the sea drive near Mullaghmore.
From Mullaghmore we drove into Sligo city. John and Jackie went to check out the shops in town while Haley and I met Brian and she practiced for 90 minutes. After her practice we grabbed some soup for lunch and sat to eat on a little stone wall. We ran into a number of friends while sitting. I love that part of the Fleadh…seeing all the people we only see once or twice a year. Haley decided to find the Illinois kids to busk for a little while then we drove with them back to their residence for rehearsal.

Busking in Sligo.

After rehearsal we saw a full double rainbow out over the water and took the moment to catch a picture with Haley's friends, Livia and Emily.


We headed back into town after rehearsal where we met up with the music director from Studio2Stage. Anthony had saved Haley a seat at an awesome session. She played for a couple hours and did not want to leave.


I got an emergency call from home around 11pm because there was a problem with Newt's classes at college and I couldn't hear over the phone with all the noise in the pub so I had to pull Haley out of the session and take the call outside…though there was fiddler who stopped her on her way to me and had her play a couple Sean Maguire tunes with her on the way out. After the phone call, Haley's buddy Alex had arrived so we went with them to a very large "kids" session at a hotel. Alex and Keegan plus some kids from Boston and Haley's friend, Benedict, from Scotland (who we've met through this competition a few years ago) were there. The kids played together until I dragged Haley out after 1am.


This year competitions began on Friday and lasted three days rather than the normal two days. The ceili band and grupai ceoil competitions were on Friday. So all day was spent warming up, waiting to compete, and competing. Between the competitions, I took Haley into town to do a sound check for a concert she was invited to perform in with the legendary Irish groups, Altan and Dervish. We had seen Mairead from Altan in New York while we were at Studio2Stage and she asked if Haley would come up on stage with them for a FleadhLive performance on Irish TV and webcast. The sound check took awhile due to the number of musicians going up on stage. We had to rush a bit to make it back for the grupai competition but we made it with time to spare. The kids did a great job playing together even though they had only had a few rehearsals together. The group was small but mighty. Right after the competition we packed up Haley's fiddle and headed back into town for the concert.

Talk about amazing! The venue had a number of rooms, all full of people standing together in front of stages and the TV show went from room to room so no time was wasted with sound checks and set ups. When we arrived, Haley and I found a hamburger stand to eat then hung out in the backstage area with the other musicians. Haley enjoyed the make-up girl who "did" her hair and makeup for on camera. Altan performed two sets on their own then had Haley and the singer from Dervish, Cathy, on stage for The Sally Gardens. After the song, the rest of Dervish joined them on stage. They performed the Tarbolton Set together, letting Haley take a solo at the beginning of the 2nd tune! Click here for a little video of the performance. Goodness, did she have fun!! The crowd was loud, excited, and appreciative! We left right after the concert so I could get her to bed though we weren't back until almost 12:30am because we had to make our way back to our car and drive the 20 min back to the B&B.


Saturday started on the early side. Haley's solo fiddle competition was at 10am. She went very early in the competition (4th) and she played her tunes perfectly with her usual flare. Unfortunately the judges had other ideas on what they were looking for and she did not place…the risk one assumes in a subjective competition. Over the years, Haley and I have had many discussions concerning the fact that she can only control her performance, not the judging. She was momentarily disappointed/shocked but shrugged, said she was happy with how she played and wouldn't have played any differently, then minutes later was out eating lunch with Emily and Livia joking and laughing. I was so proud of her ability to deal with disappointment. Learning how to not win (graciously) is another benefit of competition.

Immediately after lunch she had to play 1st in the slow air competition. She was not excited to have to play for the same judges but she played her beautiful air like her usual amazing self and ended up with 2nd. After the competitions we ran around to see a couple other competitions and meet up with friends…I liked the newly composed tunes competition (all ages, all instruments, and new tunes…nearly all of which would be neat to hear again). The trio kids did a rehearsal together then we had supper with everyone from home. After supper, we found Haley's friend, David, who we'd met along with his brother, Daniel, at Swannanoa a couple years ago. They played some tunes together with a few other people before they had to move on and allow a concert to be set up in the area.

The Sligo Bound Six in Sligo!!

Haley and David at the Fleadh.
Sunday, Haley's only competition was the Trio Competition with her friends, Alex and Keegan…The Converse Trio. We went into town early so we could watch Alex and Keegan in the Duet competition then the kids warmed up together for the trio. They were awesome together. They smiled at each other and "grooved"…something their trio coach, Patrick, said they needed to do. (While they were in the trio competition, Patrick was busy winning the Over 18 Uillean Pipes Slow Air competition!!) We were  all extremely excited to hear the kids placed 3rd! We went and got their photo together (see the beginning of this post) then we took John and Jackie to dinner and back to our B&B because we wanted to head to Dublin early in the morning.

We woke up really early on Monday. We had a long drive to Dublin then a busy day planned. We drove back to Dublin airport, turned in the rental car, checked into the hotel to drop our bags, then headed into the city on the bus. We had a "reunion" with a few of the people Haley met through Studio2Stage, Michelle, Rachel, and Maurese, at Murphy's Ice Cream Shop. (One of our yearly traditions is ice cream at Murphy's…brown bread ice-cream…Yum!) Jackie and John left us on our own so they could experience Dublin their own way.


We had a really nice visit with the Studio2Stage friends then Maurese showed us how to get to an appointment I had scheduled for Haley to try a new fiddle made by Mick DeHoog. Mick was really nice and the fiddle was lovely….definitely on our list of "maybes"…but we have a bit more shopping to do before Haley makes a final decision. After spending about 90 minutes trying the fiddle, Haley and I did some shopping and went out to dinner at one of our favorite places, Elephant and Castle. We rode back to the hotel after dinner and relaxed before going to bed.

Tuesday morning saw us back at Dublin Airport ready to fly home. Livia and Emily were on the same flight so we had fun waiting. The flight was smooth and the ride home early enough to not hit traffic. Jackie and John were the perfect travel companions. All in all it was a great trip! It was wonderful to see and watch Haley have fun playing tunes with so many friends! She played her best in her competitions, had an awesome performance on Friday night, and came home with a couple medals! She is already planning for next year!




Monday, August 04, 2014

Studio2stage 2014

Have you ever seen your child in their element...where they are using the skills they've acquired, demonstrating skills you had no idea they had acquired, learning new skills and are utterly and completely happy doing the work necessary even if it is more than they've ever worked before?

The past ten days I've watched Haley working the hardest she's ever worked in her life while being the happiest I've ever seen her!

A number of months ago, Haley's fiddle teacher, Brian Conway, sent me a link to a website (www.studio2stage.ie) asking for young Irish dancers and musicians to audition for their camp with the goal of putting together a full scale Irish dance show in 9 days while teaching the young people about the different aspects of life as touring Irish performers with a dance show.

Brian was aware they were looking for ages 15 and up but suggested I send an email to see if they would make an exception for Haley. I sent the email and Jim Murrihy suggested she send in an audition and they would decide from there. I received an email a few weeks later saying Haley was the 1st musician selected but because of her age they would require her to stay off campus (something I had suggested when I originally emailed him). We were very lucky to have friends, Mike and Norine, who offered us a place to stay only a few minutes drive from the university.

About a month ago, we received a number of files via Dropbox with scores, music, arrangements, etc…of all the newly composed material Haley had to learn. Initially, I was a little worried it might be too much for her with all her other obligations at the time (classical repertoire/technique, Fleadh tunes, Irish lesson music, new and old music for the multiple gigs she had with various other musicians in that months' time, etc…). I learned about that time that Haley was the only "young" melody player accepted for the camp so was also worried she might be overwhelmed having to learn and rehearse all the music for the entire two hour show. They were originally looking for 20 musicians but ended up only choosing four then using the music director, Anthony, on piano and music assistant, Sully, on accordion.

She and I looked at all the music, printed out the scores, listened to the midi's then came up with a plan for her to learn a new tune every couple days while keeping those she had previously learned practiced. Once she had all the tunes down, she began practicing them with the arrangement midi's so she'd have them up to tempo and play them the correct number of repetitions plus know where her melody fit in with the background music. By the first day of camp, she had the music in her head and under her fingers.

(I am hoping Haley posts a blog on this experience because I did a lot of driving back and forth to drop her off and pick her up but did not spend much time at camp with her.)

On Saturday morning, we arrived at the college, got her registered, then took a tour. She met all the people in charge and the other musicians then I left her to rehearse for the rest of the day. When I went back to pick her up, she was so excited. She loved the music director and liked all the other musicians plus had met a number of the dancers. She enjoyed the rehearsals and the music director was thrilled with her hard work and talent.

The Studio2stage young musicians.
Sunday, I dropped her off early then picked her up around 5pm so we could go see Altan in a concert about an hour north in NY. We had a nice supper with Andy, Mike, and Cindy...with an absolutely fabulous dessert while we watched the concert. The concert was fabulous!



During the intermission Haley went up to talk to Mairead, the singer/fiddle player who we'd met a couple years ago in OH. I wasn't sure Mairead would remember her but she did and after the show, Mairead came out to ask Haley to play a couple tunes for the other band members. Haley had a blast fiddling for them (and whoever else came into the room) on Mairead's fiddle!


On Monday, the assistant music director/accordion player, Sully, was to arrive around 3pm so the band rehearsed all morning then I took Haley shopping to look for a second costume because those they had brought were too large for her. We did not have any luck. I took her back to the college in the late afternoon and the now complete band rehearsed until about 9pm. Tuesday was a little shorter day. I made a run toward home where I met Newt for a nice "mother/son lunch" and he brought me some of Haley's shoes and dresses then I stopped at a couple boutiques near home to get some dresses to try as costumes before going back to pick up Haley. The production staff was very excited because the musicians had all the music learned and ready to go. We went through costume possibilities for Haley, picked something, and she was interviewed for the studio2stage musicians' video blog.

Haley trying out a different instrument.
Band rehearsal

Wednesday was the first run-through of the entire show with musicians and dancers. From now on, the musicians would rehearse on their riser on the stage and the dancers would be moved from their rehearsal building onto the stage as well. It was a very long day. Haley was there for 12 hours with short breaks for lunch and supper. I only saw the very end of rehearsals when I went to pick her up but everyone was excited it went so well and they were a few days ahead of schedule. You can just see the top of Haley's head and her eyes in the group selfie they took afterward.

S2S group selfie!
Thursday morning, we arrived early so they could film the "studio" part of their project for Friday. Afterward, Haley went off to rehearsals. In the evening, they ran their first dress rehearsal. It was another long day but after all the rehearsing there was a Hawaiian Luau for everyone complete with food, costumes, and games. I picked Haley up really late, around 10:30pm. She was so excited about everything she'd done all day.
On Friday, the entire group went by train into NYC for a "Mission to Manhattan." I went along as a chaperone and was able to observe the performers interacting with each other. What a great group of young people! We rode the train into the city then walked to Bryant Park for the first part of the mission. They performed a number together, musicians and dancers in the park. Afterward the dancers were split into three different groups. One group, our group, went to Times Square to perform a number for the camera, another group went to Union Square, and the third group to Washington Park.

Haley and Sully playing for the dancers.
The Times Square crew.
Heading back to Kean University after the mission.
The groups all arrived back to the college at different times and our group was back first so they had some down time waiting for the others. After supper it was more rehearsal time until about 10pm.


Saturday was probably the longest day. Music rehearsals and dress rehearsals all day long with short breaks between. I went to get Haley at 10pm but we didn't get out of there until almost eleven. Everyone was very excited about the upcoming show the following day. Sunday I didn't see Haley all day. I dropped her off in the morning for rehearsals and the rest of her day was filled with hanging out with her new friends, getting made up and dressed, and heading over to the show. 

We arrived early for the show and thank goodness we did! It was packed in the lobby of the theater! They had video with each performer's face running over and over with music. The show was fabulous! I was amazed by what they were all able to accomplish in only nine days!  I had seen a few of the dances each night I went to pick up Haley but I was blown away...everyone in costume performing their best with showmanship and smiles all around! 

Haley was absolutely beautiful. She walked the stage making cute faces and bouncing/tapping to the music during her solo. It brought tears to my eyes…my baby out there "owning the stage." She fiddled for the majority of the show (with an occasional break during a song or part of a dance) and she didn't miss a beat, kept the melody going, when Sully had mic difficulties and had to step off stage for a short time. (The first three photos below were taken by Matt Ferrara Photography…awesome!)







Here are a few pics of Haley with her fellow staff members after the show. She was so excited with the performance but at the same time sad to leave her friends. There were "good-byes" and hugs all around, pictures taken, contact information exchanged, and check-out to do before we left. Haley stayed awake (on adrenaline, I think) talking and replaying her experiences to me the entire 2 hours home. I cannot even put into words how much fun she had…she never complained about having to play for so many hours each day or said she was tired. Every morning, she woke up full of energy and excited to have another day. I am so grateful to the staff for taking a chance on her and giving her this opportunity.

She now wants to be a performer in a show someday at least for a little while. She enjoyed the camaraderie and cooperation involved in putting together a show and seeing the results.







We are glad to be home…something we have not been much this month. Our next adventure begins in a little over a week when we head to Ireland. Haley is hoping to see a couple of her Irish friends, especially Sully, at the All Ireland in a couple weeks!