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…

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


This week, Haley posted an interview she did for her blog, Tuneful Journeys. The subject of her interview was her brother, Dylan.

I am re-posting her interview here because I love it.

Interview by Haley Richardson as posted on Tuneful Journeys.

Tuneful Interviews: Dylan Richardson

Dog whisperer, avocado avoider, good-humored and intelligent--join me today for a quiz visit with my brother, Dylan Richardson, a multi-instrumentalist, musical accompanist, and tune composer. 
At seventeen years old, Dylan has been playing guitar for twelve years. He started with conventional guitar lessons from the age of six until he was thirteen years old. Besides summer camps and a few Skype lessons with Zac Leger (Irish music mentor), he has been largely self taught in Irish guitar accompaniment as well as banjo, bouzouki, and mandolin. He has won 1st place in the under 13 accompaniment competition at the Maryland State Fleadh, and in August of 2011 he qualified to compete in the All-Ireland Fleadh under 15 accompaniment competition. In addition to backing up melody players, he enjoys composing tunes for them. 
Credit: Matt Ferrara Photography
The main focus of this interview is Dylan's work accompanying melody instruments. In my opinion, Dylan is a fantastic accompaniment talent and my favorite guitarist with whom to perform. He is also the main accompanist on my soon to be released debut CD.

What's it like being an accompanist?

Nobody really recognizes you, unless they have a similar appreciation and knowledge of accompaniment. You don't want to be the center of attention at all. The accompanist mainly pulls the melody together by adding down beats and more complex rhythm.

What's the most important thing about being an accompanist?

To know when not to play and what not to play. Also, to know what not to add. Rhythm is a big part of being an accompanist. If you add too much it can crowd the melody, if you add too little, it doesn't quite enhance the melody and can change the listeners perception of the tune. It's a lot to think about at first, but once you get the feel for it, it becomes easier. Many accompanists only really want to hear themselves and what they are doing, they don't really take enhancing the tune into consideration.

What was your favorite gig to play and why?

A recent gig we played at The Burren was my favorite. We opened for Kevin Crawford and Cillian Vallely. It was a good atmosphere to play in. The crowd really appreciated traditional Irish music. The sound technician was phenomenal in capturing the true sound of each instrument. And the hospitality from The Burren was incredible in making us feel welcome during our first visit to Boston.

What inspired you to play the guitar?

I don't remember really. I think I just liked the way it sounded. 

 What other accompanists do you enjoy listening to?

John Doyle and Eamon O'Leary as solo or duo accompanists are two of my absolute favorite players because of their ability to work together with two completely different styles. I love the way they enhance each other's playing and accompany other musicians.

Who has most influenced your style of playing and why?

John Doyle because I have learned great tips from him such as, how to keep the tempo going, how to work with varying rhythmic patterns, and to work out nice accompanying variations whilst keeping an imitative rhythmic percussion.

How can you vary the rhythm?

Difference in downbeats, accents in the up strokes, triplets, quadruplets, and change in the overall picking pattern within the tune, are some of the variations I use.

Currently, Dylan and I keep a busy schedule of gigs, but his plans for the future include a possible career in sound engineering, growing as a professional guitar accompanist, and pursuing his love of photography. 

Friday, January 02, 2015

Rice Pudding

I am have been keeping a journal of sorts on a project Haley and Dylan are working on but will wait for the project's completion before posting it to my blog. In the meantime, here's one of Haley's favorite dessert recipes…Rice Pudding. The recipe comes from my Aunt Dale.


2 cups rice
2 cups sugar
1 gallon milk

Bring to boil then cook for 2.5 to 3 hours until thickened. Stir every 20 min or so.

Remove from heat then stir in 4 eggs (tempered with a little milk and beaten) and 2 Tbsp. vanilla.

Cool a bit then enjoy!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Leading Up to Christmas...

The week leading up to Christmas was fairly busy around here. Haley and I spent the weekend in New York City where Haley performed for two nights at Symphony Space for Mick Moloney's Irish Christmas: A Musical Solstice Celebration.

Mick puts together an All-Star cast every year not only Irish musicians but also a singer from the Philippines
and a jazz singer who sings songs from the 1920s and 30s. Haley appeared as a guest for the final four numbers (three on Friday night).

Both Friday and Saturday, we arrived at the theater at 4pm for sound check and rehearsals. This is one of Haley's favorite parts of performing with a group…sitting around figuring out what they are going to play. Friday included an hour of photos in preparation for next year's advertisements. (Haley is really excited to be part of next year's cast!)

The shows were wonderful! Saturday night, after the show, the cast went to a restaurant not far from the theater to eat and have a session until the wee hours of the morning in celebration of Billy's birthday.

Sound check at Symphony Space
Monday was a Christmas version of the Sligo session so there were many Christmas carols interspersed between Irish tunes.

Tuesday we were invited to a party at our friends' Marion and Gabe's home. It was a varied crowd and the music was amazing. Everything from Broadway show tunes sung by Ciaran Sheehan (a former Phantom of the Opera), Led Zeppelin, a little jazz, and Irish tunes and songs. It was a lot of fun!!

Haley faking her way through a song for Ciaran..
The Irish music contingent…
A great picture of Haley by Denise Foley of Irish Philadelphia.

Monday, December 08, 2014

A Night with Kevin….

It has been a couple years since we have seen fiddler Kevin Burke but on Friday night we went to see him play a house concert at the home of a lady we know from the Philadelphia sessions.

There are moments in our lives when decisions are made that set us on a different path. Meeting Kevin Burke for the first time was one of those moments. It was almost eight years ago when I saw a poster in our local library for an Irish fiddler's concert and took my then four year old Suzuki violinist to hear a "different style of violin music."

I knew nothing about Irish music or Celtic music other than Celtic Woman, Riverdance, or a song we liked on a World music CD we owned. Haley was tiny so we sat in the front. She was enthralled and sat forward listening to the entire concert. The woman sitting next to us asked her up to dance a couple times in the side aisle which she loved. At the intermission they were selling CDs and DVDs. Haley begged me to buy Kevin's "How to Play Celtic Fiddle" DVD. I had already picked her up a CD and was wondering how much money I wanted to spend then the woman, who had been sitting next to us, said to Haley something along the lines of those DVDs being for adults or older people so I picked it up and bought it.

We listened to the CD all the way home and the next morning I put the DVD in the player and left Haley with her fiddle while I went to check email. A short while later I hear Haley's playing along with the first tune. The next day I did the same and put it on the second tune. We continued that way through the whole DVD. Then Haley started playing along with the CD in the car on rides to violin lessons.

Around that time we went to a Suzuki Institute in Washington DC and one morning Haley and I were early to group class and no one was in the room so she started fiddling a tune. The first little girl to walk in the room said she knew the tune and they started playing together. The little girl's mother said their Suzuki teacher teaches a tune a month during group classes at home. It got me to thinking about looking for a fiddle teacher for Haley. She didn't have Suzuki lessons that summer while her Suzuki teacher was away and wanted "new notes" to learn.

I posted a message to the Irish Philadelphia website asking if they knew of an Irish fiddle teacher in the area and was eventually led to Kathy DeAngelo, who also happened to be that woman sitting next to us  and who sold the items at the Kevin Burke concert. She was initially a little unsure about teaching a child who just turned five but once she heard the tunes Haley had learned from the DVD, she was more than happy to give it a try.

So, Friday we went to hear Kevin play and after the concert there was a session. There were a lot of musicians! Toward the end of the session Kevin asked Haley to play Paris Nights (a tune written by Cal Scott) with him. She had played it with him back when she was eight years old during a class at Swannanoa. It was neat the hear the difference now that she is older and on a full size fiddle. (I will post a video later.)

The rest of our weekend was filled with a Trio rehearsal with Patrick to begin work on their new tunes. They move up an age group to under 18 because the boys are older so they need three tunes this year. After the rehearsal we went to the session at Fergies.  Then last night we saw Lunasa in concert. Haley and I were very happy when they played our favorite set for an encore! A fun Irish weekend!!!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Mysterious Ways??

For the past couple years, we have gone to North Carolina to spend Thanksgiving. We love seeing and spending time with all our family. It is a three day long celebration! Last Thanksgiving was a bit sad. We had a memorial service for Ritch's Dad. This year we planned to drive down as well. Until two weeks ago, we were all set to go then things came up and we decided we needed to spend the weekend at home to recharge. It was going to be difficult to get Newt back to college, the drive home on Sunday is always horrible, and I was beat from all the travel with Haley and Dylan the past couple weeks. The next few weeks are filled and I really needed to get the house back together, decorate for Christmas, and catch up here.

After we decided not to go to North Carolina, Ritch suggested we have so much and are able eat turkey any time we want, so why not help feed people less fortunate than ourselves. He brought up the idea one day while I was at work so I set him to work finding us someplace to help. Ritch made a number of phone calls and was sent from person to person until he was finally found out about a church in the neighboring city. He and Haley went there last week, talked to the pastor, and signed us all up to help on Thanksgiving.

When they went on Wednesday night before to help set up for the meals, the pastor told them that a couple months ago, the man who normally plays music for the Thanksgiving dinner  informed them he couldn't attend this year. She and another woman were talking about who else they might be able to get. The pastor told the other woman said she remembered a tiny little girl who used to play fiddle at the local deli for open mic nights and said if she could have anyone it would be that little girl though she had no idea how to get in touch with her anyway.

The pastor told them when Haley and Ritch walked in last week to sign up, she recognized Haley as the little fiddler she remembered (from six years ago) and got chills….God had answered her prayers. Some might chalk it up to a huge coincidence but it seems to me too many things decisions had to be made a certain way and too much had to happen to put us in that church this Thanksgiving Day. The Lord works in mysterious ways!

We all went to the church early yesterday morning to help peel potatoes, set tables, and fill containers with food. There were so many different people helping out from all walks of life. Everyone was friendly and helping with a full heart. We worked all day and the time flew. Ritch and Newt lifted and carried things, peeled mounds of potatoes, and talked with the people coming in to eat. I helped set tables and dished out turkey most of the day. Haley played some fiddle during dinner and helped spoon mashed potatoes (her favorite). We talked to everyone and enjoyed seeing their smiles and giving them seconds or a container to take home.

We will have our Thanksgiving turkey today and count our blessings as we head into the Christmas season and new year.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Adventures in Boston

One of the coolest things about my children's involvement in Irish music is the amount of travel we get to experience!

I love to see and experience new things but I don't know that we would do so much of it were it not for my kids. If they were into something else like soccer we might see soccer fields all over the MidAtlantic region and with wrestling, we saw a lot of high school gyms. Through their Irish music gigs and travel for competitions we have seen so many new places and met so many wonderful people!

Last week our destination was Boston, MA. Many months ago, Brian O'Donovan from WGBH A Celtic Sojourn saw a video of Haley and Dylan performing on youtube and contacted me to see if they could come up and be a part of his Burren Backroom Series. Boston is a long way away for us and I couldn't really think of a time it would be convenient with a full summer schedule but it sounded like fun and I wanted to experience Boston so I agreed they'd do it sometime but didn't set a date.

In September we were beginning to violin shop. There are a lot of shops in Boston so I figured we'd combine a trip to shop for a new violin with a night at The Burren and Brian gave us a date. Haley found a fiddle she loved in the meantime but by then we were looking forward to going so decided to sightsee instead of shop.

Last Wednesday night Haley and Dylan opened the show for Kevin Crawford and Cillian Vallely, two musicians who fall into our favorite Irish musicians category! They were so excited! We arrived in Boston around 2:30pm, checked into our AirBNB rooms and headed over to The Burren around 4:30pm. The guys were doing their sound check first so the kids headed to the backstage room to unload their instruments then we went upstairs to listen.

Kevin, Cillian, and Patrick sound check.

Once they finished, Haley and Dylan did their sound check then we went into the dining area for some supper. The food at The Burren is amazing. The place looks like an old pub where you'd expect burgers, chips, and greasy appetizers but we had grilled salmon and a tuna steak salad with mango salsa. I do not usually like rare tuna but this was really good. Yummy!!!

After supper, we headed back downstairs where Haley and Dylan sat with Kevin, Cillian, and their guitarist Patrick to work out a set together for the end of the show.

When show time came Haley and Dylan played an amazing set. They performed four sets. Since the show was recorded for later broadcast on the radio, Brian asked Haley some questions after their first set then they performed the other three. The show was sold out and the crowd was awesome!

We went back in to listen to Kevin and Cillian. They do a great show and Kevin is so funny he could be a comedian! After their set, they called the kids up for their encore set together. It was a great night!

On Thursday, we went to see Plimoth Plantation and the Mayflower II. It was a crisp but beautiful day. There were a lot of school children on field trip at Plimoth but we saw everything we wanted to see then headed to the Mayflower which was not as crowded.

Plimoth Plantation

Mayflower II
We finished up our tours around noon then drove to Providence, RI for an appointment. The kids are beginning work on a little project…news about that in a future blog post (maybe in a few months). Haley loved Providence. I think she is a city girl at heart.

We drove back up to Boston and finished the evening with a few tunes at one of the local sessions. We didn't stay long. The kids were tired and we had a busy day planned for Friday.

Friday was our day to see the historic section of Boston. The day was very cold and windy. We parked near the Tea Party Museum but saw a busload of field trip kids heading that way so decided to take a walk first. We walked to see the Old State House and Fanueil Hall.

We went back to the Tea Party Museum. The tour there was very fun! We followed it up with some hot chocolate for the ride to our destination for the weekend. (I am stopping the blog post here because the rest of our weekend was spent working on their "secret for now" project.)