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…

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.