Wednesday, March 11, 2015

New CD!!!!

Haley and Dylan's CD is finished and uploaded to Diskfaktory for printing!!!

The last couple days have been pretty hectic…proofing the cover and the tune sets, lots of texts and emails to the various people involved, and lots of time on the internet. We are hoping to receive the freshly minted CDs in time for a St. Patrick's Day release but we are cutting it close!

I am so grateful to all the people in our lives who have made this CD possible. John Whelan for offering to produce and record. All his time and travel, his advice, and his patience in working with the kids (and me) was incredible. Brian Conway for being a great teacher and imparting his knowledge to Haley all these years, for his friendship and support, and for playing a set with Haley on the CD. Thomas Boyer for his expert mixing and mastering. Matt Ferrara ( for the beautiful photography, the wonderful graphic design of the CD artwork, and his patience with all our changes. Paul Keating for having a first listen and, as Haley says, his "way with words." John and Jackie Kelly for their help with picking photos and a title and my friend, Lynette, for her input and support when I needed it.

We are so lucky to have so many wonderful people in our lives!!

If you'd like to order a copy of "Heart on a String" just click this link to our website store page.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Pre-St.Patrick's Weekend...

Irish musicians refer to this month as "March Madness." Due to St. Patrick's Day, gigs take up many more weekends than any other month….December runs a close 2nd though. We started last week with some great (legendary) Irish musicians playing concerts close by and Saturday night another band was in town. Haley met Mairead from Altan a couple years ago at a festival in Dublin, OH while she was performing with The John Whelan Band. We saw her again this past summer while they were touring in NY and Mairead invited Haley onstage with them while we were at the Fleadh in Sligo Ireland in August.

Haley had been looking forward to Altan being in town for months. Mairead invited her to join them again which made it even more exciting for her. We arrived in Philly, parked the car, and walked out of the parking garage at the same time as the band was crossing the street to go to supper. Mairead invited us to join them and introduced us to her daughter, Nia, who is just a year younger than Haley.

After supper, we walked back over to the Annenberg and Mairead taught Haley a number of tunes, in 20 min, she would later play with them on stage. Once the tunes were learned, Haley and Nia shared a few tunes including a lovely jig Nia had written.

Haley and I went out into the audience to watch the first half of the show. Altan's new CD, Widening Gyre, is a mixture of Irish and Bluegrass music. They always put on a great show! We backstage during intermission and watched from there until close to the end when Haley went out to join them.

This photo was posted on Facebook by Doug Wallner.
What a fun night!!

Sunday morning we were up bright and early…especially early due to the time change and our late night the night before. Haley and Keegan played some Irish tunes for an Irish Mass at St. Malachy's Church in Philly.  (They made it onto the late night news on Sunday night...!/news/local/Parishioners-Raising-Money-to-Preserve-19th-Century-Church/295581561)

We all drove straight from church to their afternoon gig, the Down Jersey Celtic Celebration at Cumberland County College, for a sound check.

Haley, Keegan, and Dylan recently named their trio Méara Meara ( They have been rehearsing once a week before the Monday night session they all attend. They sounded awesome together!

Friday, March 06, 2015

Working Up to St. Patrick's Day...

The past couple weeks have been incredibly busy as my Irish musicians ramp up for St. Patrick's Day. Here's a few of the musical things they have been doing…

Every Monday, if the weather isn't too lousy, we head to Media, PA for an Irish music session at Sligo pub. Two weeks ago, they had some guests at the session…a few members of The Chieftains, Matt Molloy, Tim Edy, and Martin Murray stopped in for some tunes. It was a rousing night and eventually a large number of musicians…word got around.

The next night we went to The Chieftains' concert and Haley, Dylan, and Keegan joined them onstage for the finale.

The Chieftains finale.

Haley with Matt Molloy.

Tim and Dylan talk guitars while Keegan and Haley listen in.
On Friday night, Haley and I went to a concert in West Chester, PA given by Haley's teacher, Brian Conway, John Whelan, Brendan Dolan, and Mary Courtney. We originally planned for Haley to have a fiddle lesson prior to the concert but Friday rush hour traffic spoiled those plans. Brian had Haley join him and Brendan onstage for a set of strathspeys followed by The Mason's Apron then she stayed up for their concert finale.

On Sunday which was full of freezing rain and snow, Haley and Dylan with their Converse Crew counterparts played Irish music for the afternoon at Rockwood Museum in Wilmington, DE for the opening of their Irish castle exhibit. We took a tour of the museum and heard enough ghost stories for them to want to return for a night ghost tour at the museum some evening.

The kids' CD is in post-production, mixing and mastering. John is sending us mixes to listen to each evening and we are in talks with Matt Ferrara, the graphic designer, to decide on cover choices, colors, etc.... They are hoping to have everything ready for a St. Patrick's Day release. It will be tight!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

More recording...

In the past couple weeks, Haley and I have learned a lot about music and recording.

We've researched the tunes she recorded to find out composers and dates composed. Haley has sent some emails to tune composers to find out how to go about licensing them for her CD if they have a copyright.

She has written her liner notes for her CD, taken them to her writing tutor for corrections, and written her final draft which I sent off to the graphic designer along with her tune list for the CD.

Today, Haley and Dylan did some different studio recording work.

Haley's writing tutor, Kathryn Ross, began her own publishing company this year. She wrote and published her first book called, Mother Chicken's Eggs, a Christian parable. Another homeschooler, Noah Berg illustrated the book and her illustrations are amazing! Miss Kathy and Haley have been working for the last few months on the audiobook version. Haley created the sound effects and music to go along with the book's text, using traditional tunes and original compositions.

Miss Kathy and Haley spent half of each Tuesday writing workshop creating together and practicing the audiobook. On Friday, they performed the book live for Miss Kathy's family visiting from New England. They will be performing the book live for area Christian schools and book openings/signings as well.

Today, Dylan, who has been studying sound engineering as part of his homeschooling curriculum, recorded and produced the audiobook for them. It took them the better part of six hours to complete three tracks for the audiobook; an introduction, the actual audiobook, and a resource guide for discussion after the story. The recording went well. Dylan still has to mix and compress the files before it is ready for release.

Here are some pictures…

Dylan putting his sound engineering skills to use!

Miss Kathy recording.

Haley enjoying the process.

Haley recording music for the track.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


Haley and Dylan have begun working on their first "real" CD!

The kids did some recording years ago…the first time when Haley was six. We met a man, Frank Gorgo, who had a local recording studio. He was impressed with the kids' musical abilities and offered to record them mostly to give them the experience of being in a studio and to teach them to arrange their music. They sold those CDs at gigs to raise money for Ireland trips.

This will be their first "real" CD project where their music will be professionally recorded, mixed, and mastered by a producer, John Whelan.

The following is a journal of their recording experiences...

Last year John suggested he'd like to record Haley but Haley (and I) thought it would be best to wait until she was big enough for a full size fiddle so she'd get the best sound she could.

So, we waited.

It took a number of months of shopping and trial of hundreds of fiddles but Haley found a fiddle she loves. We then discussed the possibility of recording with her fiddle teacher, Brian, who gave his blessing and began seriously discussing the project with John. John gave us an idea of costs and the work we'd need to do.

There is so much to do for a CD…other musicians to speak to about helping out, a couple people to request to write liner notes, recording sessions to plan, photographs to take and chose from, artwork to plan, a graphic designer to find, tunes to go through, sets to figure out and research, and a title to come up with.

One of our first projects was photography. Haley and I met Matt Ferrara through Studio2Stage and loved his work so I contacted him about photographing the kids' for their CD. When we traveled to Boston in November, we took a day and drove to Providence, RI. It was a freezing cold, windy day but we spent a few hours walking around Providence with Matt photographing the kids. We took over a local pub for an hour and the pub owner asked Matt to take some pictures of his recently remodeled pub as well. The photos Matt took were great! When he sent them a week later, the kids and I spent hours going through picking our favorites. We also sent them to our friends, the Kellys, for their input. (The funny thing is we all had the same photos as our favorites.) We spent some time playing with different combinations of photos for the CD cover and researched templates and prices for finished and printed CDs.

There are so many tunes Haley loves to play so narrowing down her choices to an hour's worth of tune sets took time. Haley and I went through her lists of tunes and she wrote down all those she might want to record. She spent hours figuring out which ones would fit together in sets she liked. In the meantime, she learned more tunes at lessons and added a few of those to her list as well. Eventually she had a list of fifteen sets to work with. She and Dylan began practicing nearly every day together working out the accompaniment and Haley's variations. She and I researched the tunes on the internet as best we could to come up with their proper names and composers so we'd know which were traditional and which were more modern and not public domain.

November 21, 2014- The kids' first recording session did not go exactly as planned. On our way home from Boston in November we spent the weekend in Milford, CT at John's studio. On Friday night the kids and John discussed some of their plans for the next day, we ate dinner, set up a few of the files on the computer,  and they all played some tunes together. Saturday morning we arrived early. Originally they attempted to record at the same time playing together but with Haley and Dylan in different rooms. There was some bleed through with the mics picking up the other instrument and timing was difficult so John decided to record Haley first then record Dylan's accompaniment with Haley's track. Then the technical difficulties began…computer issues, click track difficulties, etc… They worked for hours and hours. They finished recording two tracks but it was late when they worked on the second track so it was not their best work.

December 26, 2014-  For the second recording session, John came to our house the weekend after Christmas. John arrived around 11am and he and Dylan unloaded equipment and got everything set up in our basement. They worked Friday afternoon until time to eat and change for the Wren Party Friday night. They began again on Saturday morning at 9:30am and worked all day and most of the night Saturday. Dylan added accompaniment to the track Haley recorded Friday afternoon and added guitar and bouzouki then he went to work in the afternoon while Haley recorded four more tracks. When Dylan got home from work, he recorded accompaniment most of the night. They finished six tracks including re-recording the one they had done late at night the first session.

January 3, 2014-  Trying to fit in another recording session during a very busy month, we drove up to Connecticut in the fog, rain, then traffic and snow after a day of Trio and Sligo Six rehearsals to arrive at the studio at 6:30pm. The kids and John set up and got to work while I walked next door for pizza so they could have supper then set about on the internet finding a hotel for the night since the weather was too bad to drive back and forth to White Plains. Haley's fiddle teacher, Brian Conway, arrived around 7:30pm and together, she and Brian laid down the tracks for their hornpipe duet for the CD. Haley picked a couple tricky hornpipes to play with Brian but they only took five full takes before they were satisfied. We got some photos then Brian left at 10pm. Haley re-recorded a track John wasn't satisfied with from their last session and Dylan tracked his guitar over both those sets.

The roads were a bit slick so we spent the night in a hotel in Milford rather than drive to White Plains for the night. We had a couple extra hours of sleep and the kids and John were back to work by 9:30am. They worked all day until 3:15pm when John had to leave to get to a session at The Playwright in New Haven. Haley and Dylan decided they wanted to join him at the session before we drove the three hours home because more than five hours of constant playing of Irish music was not enough for them. A couple hours later we were headed home in nasty weather but no traffic.

In between recording sessions, Haley and Dylan rehearsed daily, Haley changed her mind on one set a couple times eventually deciding to record one more slow air after a gig the night before the recording when she was asked to play her All Ireland winning air and afterward a large number of people suggested she record it, and she and I researched tune names and composers. Our photographer, Matt Ferrara agreed to do the artwork for the CD cover which took a huge load off my mind. He and I sent a few emails back and forth with ideas and he began working on the cover. Haley and I also secured someone to write liner notes for her.

February 9, 2015- John drove down to us late last night so he would be ready to record all day. He and Haley got up early and I cooked some breakfast while Haley practiced her classical music then they went down into the basement to set up the equipment and start recording around 9:30am. Haley had three sets left to record for the CD: a set of hornpipes, a set of reels, and an air. She worked about an hour on each and by 12:30pm, she had all her tracks laid. Haley and I made some lunch and then I took her to her violin lesson while Dylan and John headed back into the basement. Dylan worked the rest of the afternoon and late into the night laying down tracks for six sets to finish up their part of the recording.

Now all Haley and Dylan's recording is completed. They asked John to lay down some accordion on one set and another guitarist will back Haley's slow air. Then all that is left is mixing, mastering, and completion of the package artwork. Hopefully the CD will be ready for release in March!

Friday, February 06, 2015

Weekend Ramblings Far from Home….

 Our weekend began early…really early in the morning on Thursday with a 6:30am arrival at Philadelphia airport for our 8am flight to Laredo. A couple planes, with a lay-over in Dallas, later and we landed in the tiny little airport in Laredo, TX. Palm trees, cactus, and tumbleweeds lined the road as our hostess, Toni, drove us to the hotel to drop off our bags. We met the dancers brought in from Austin to dance with Haley and Dylan. Toni took us all to an amazing Native American shop full of great souvenirs, she encouraged everyone to chose something they'd like to take home "as long as it fit in our suitcases."

From the shop, we headed to the Texas A&M campus where Haley and Dylan had time and room to rehearse with their adorable dancers, Sara and Joclyn, with their teachers helping.

I love how Irish music and dance brings people together. From the moment we met the girls, their teachers, and parents, it felt like we'd known them forever. Most of us went to dinner at a wonderful, delicious Mexican restaurant. Yummy!

We went back to the hotel room after. Haley insisted on practicing her classical music before we turned in for the night.

Friday morning we had to be up and out early. The concert, The Rising Stars Concert sponsored by the Laredo Philharmonic Orchestra for the school children of Laredo, was to begin at 10am so we had to arrive early for a sound check and quick run-through on stage. They had given Haley the music to Hallelujah Chorus the night before and she, an amazing young classical violinist, Skye Park, and a wonderful young cellist, were to join the local middle school orchestra and high school chorus for this piece in a finale.

The school children began arriving around 9:30am and they were very excited when we passed them in the hall a couple times on our way to and from the rest room. There were over 900 students and teachers in attendance. The concert was amazing. All the "rising stars" performed wonderfully and the audience was very enthusiastic, attentive, and appreciative. They gave standing ovations after every piece!

Hallelujah Chorus finale
 The concert ran about 45 minutes late so some of the students had to get on buses back to school immediately but the ones who could stay were given a chance to meet the young musicians and dancers and get autographs. The performers felt like rock stars!

Meet and greet session.

The young performers with Toni.
After the concert we all went to a luncheon with Toni and her husband at La Posado hotel and restaurant. The food was amazing!

Back at the hotel, Haley went for a very cold swim in the heated pool (outside!). She practiced for a bit then the three of us took a walk to see another Native American store.

Toni picked us up the next morning to drive us the two hours to San Antonio. We hung out the next couple days seeing the sites like The Alamo, the Riverwalk, and Riverwalk Mall. We enjoyed a haunted house and a Guinness Book of World Records museum. We also went to the Buckhorn Museum and Texas Rangers Museum. We walked around in t-shirts or light jackets in February. It was wonderful!

Remember the Alamo!

The Riverwalk.
We flew home on Monday. Our flight was delayed an hour and the gate changed five times in Dallas which meant getting on the shuttle to go from gate to gate but we eventually made it home very late…though the landing, the plane went a little sideways as we touched down, was rough.

Our fun continued through last night…a number of months ago Haley was photographed by Robin Hiteshew in black and white for an exhibit he was putting together called The Faces of Irish Music. On Thursday night, the exhibit opened at the Irish Consulate in NYC. Haley and I were among the invitees. It was amazing seeing my twelve year old daughter's photograph among the 50 photos of icons of Irish music…Andy McGann, Martin Wynne, Brian Conway, Mick Moloney, Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh, Eileen Ivers, John Whelan, Liz Carroll, etc… What an honor!

Haley playing tunes below her portrait.
Haley played some tunes with the young musicians of the Pearl River Ceili Band and later in the evening with the other adult musicians.

Haley with the Pearl River Ceili Band.
The adult musician session.

The highlight of Haley's night though was meeting Pat McGann, the wife of one of Haley's favorite fiddle players, Andy McGann. He passed away before Haley was born but his CDs are some of Haley's favorites to listen to. She also met two grandchildren of Michael Coleman, another of her musical "heroes."

Monday, January 26, 2015

Weekend Ramblings...January 2015

This weekend started a little early.

On Friday, Haley and I drove to Cranford, NJ to meet with our friend, Mike, who was putting us up for the night because we had a concert together in Westville. After a quick stop at Carlos' Bakery for some treats, we met up with Andy at the church for rehearsal. They rehearsed all afternoon, adding in musicians as they arrived, then did a sound check and had some pizza before the concert.

Sound check...
The concert went really well. There was a variety of music…some O'Carolan played renaissance-style with harmonies on violin (Haley) and viola (Mike) to go along with Andy's whistle and they also played a slow air like a round similar to the way they recorded it on Andy's soon-to-be-released CD.

After the concert, we spent the night with Mike and Noreen. It snowed about five inches overnight which caused a rescheduling of Saturday night's concert to Sunday afternoon. We hung out at Mike and Noreen's until the roads were clear, around noon, then drove up to Brian's in White Plains. Haley spent the afternoon practicing violin then she had a lesson with Brian. We watched a movie before bed.

Sunday was a lazy day. Haley practiced for a couple hours and we hung out listening to lots of fiddle music (Brian was teaching all day).  We drove to CT for the concert. Pride of New York is one of our favorite ensembles. We love their music and interactions on stage. 

Pride of New York.
Haley joined Brian on stage for a little Sligo fiddle duet.

Haley and her teacher, Brian. Photo courtesy of Bernard Keilty.
As is usual after this concert, there was a bit of ceili dancing. Haley took Brian's seat to play for the dancers.

Ceili Band
She and I drove home very late at night because a blizzard was on the way. The snow started this morning around 8am. Maybe we'll be snowed in for a day or two before we head out for another long weekend of fun and Irish music. On the way home last night, Haley exclaimed, "Playing Irish music is the best thing I ever started doing!"

Here's a little video of Haley and Brian…