Friday, 22 April 2016

Cumann na mBan - The River Drivers

It's almost a year ago that I got the opportunity to meet and greet with a new Irish/American trad band. Based in Bristol Borough, PA, USA, they had travelled to Ardara in Donegal for the Cup of Tae Festival 2015. I was doing a feature on the said band for Irish Music Magazine and travelled to meet the folks on the day of their arrival to Donegal. Marian from the band hails from Ardara, so it was lovely meeting them on 'home turf'. 

The River Drivers are a band with roots that run deep in a number of musical genres. Anchored by Kevin McCloskey (vocals, guitar, mandolin, banjo, bass) and Mindy Murray (vocals, guitar, banjo), Marian Moran (tin whistle, low whistle, concertina, bodhrán) and Megan Ratini (fiddle, Irish flute, tin whistle). The River Drivers have cultivated a passion-infused style drawing from Celtic, Americana and Mountain influences.

  The River Drivers describe themselves as 'Four friends, more than half a dozen instruments, and good craic'. When I met them last year they had just released their first album, aptly titled 'The River Drivers'. An amazing compilation of songs and tunes.
Just this past week they released a new single commemorating the women of 1916 (Cumann na mBan). Based and playing in the US it is just delightful to see such a release and to know that such bands are thinking about, and remembering our very important centenary.

The River Drivers have released this single “Cumann na mBan” to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising, and the Irish women who clasped hands across class boundaries to help lead the fight for an Irish Nation. They were activists, nationalists, feminists and socialists whose ultimate sacrifices were, for far too long, overshadowed by their male comrades in arms.

This new single from the band uses such lyrics as, "Irish women we need you", "It will take more than fighting", "A free nation was their duty" and so much more. The constant refrain of "Cumann na mBan" has a haunting effect throughout the track. It echoes Yeats' refrain "All's changed, changed utterly: A terrible beauty is born."

Cumann na mBan can be downloaded at Cash Music. Have a listen and enjoy this wonderful compositon celebrating the women of 1916 (Cumann na mBan).

Cup of Tae Festival 2016 takes place this year, 2016 from Friday 29th April to Monday 2nd May 2016. 

Here's hoping these folk return to Irish shores and showcase their music very soon.


Wednesday, 20 April 2016

McHugh & Talbot Celebrate the music of Rodgers and Hart

McHugh & Talbot
Celebrate the music
Rodgers and Hart
The Playhouse Theatre, Artillery Street, Derry
City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival 2016 
Thursday 28 April at 8pm. Tickets £5
Songstresses Ursula McHugh (Derry) and Joan Talbot (Dublin) share the Derry stage for the first time ever, accompained by some of Ireland's finest musicians: Musical Director Deirdre Doherty on piano; Peter Doherty on Double Bass and Mark Bradley on Trumpet.
Thursday 28th April at 8pm in the Playhouse Theatre Derry, McHugh and Talbot will celebrate and share the exquisite music of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart through melody, narration and style as part of the City of Derry and Big Band Festival.
Andrea Campbell, City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival Organiser said: "This promises to be a fantastic gig and a great start to the festival. Be enraptured by the rhythm and reminiscence with a selection of some of the most marvellous melodies and love songs of all time inspired by the prolific team of Rodgers and Hart from a highly talented ensemble of singers and musicians."
Musical Director, Deirdre Doherty, added: "The show's musical blend gives a contemporary twist to the classics, a delight to those who have heard the songs before and for those hearing them for the first time. We are delighted to launch this special performance at the Festival this year and to have Joan Talbot, Peter Doherty and Mark Bradley join Ursula & Co on stage.
Ursula & Co (Ursula McHugh and Deirdre Doherty) have become a very popular jazz ensemble at the heart of the vibrant music scene throughout the North West of Ireland – featuring at past City of Derry Jazz & Big Band Festivals, the Limavady Jazz & Blues Festival and regulars at the Encore Supper Club, Browns in Town, Legenderry Warehouse Café and Bishop’s Gate Hotel, Derry, as well as various Club Cabaret Theatre Shows at the Playhouse Theatre and the Beech Hill Country House Hotel.

Joan Talbot, from Dublin, has been performing as a solo artist and with many jazz ensembles for the last four decades from Cork to Chicago, Galway to Dunfanaghy, Dublin to Derry, and  more recently with The Gerry Bradley Quartet (since 2012). She has been a regular on the Derry Jazz scene for the last 14 years and has performed alongside such greats as Gay McIntyre, Esmond Selwyn and the late Christy Dooley.

For further information on the City of Derry Jazz Festival, please visit: or Twitter @derryjazzfest or contact the Festivals office at Derry City and Strabane District Council. Tel: 028 71253253

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

A Terrible Beauty: The Poetry of War and Revolution (Derry)

Local writers from the Derry area, known as The Literary Ladies, will host two evenings of Readings and Poetry to discuss the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme to mark 2016's major centenaries.

Freya McClements will present the first evening on Thursday 21st April, and accompanying her with readings will be Julieann Campbell, Felicity McCall and Lynne Edgar.
This event takes place at Derry Central Library on Thursday 21st April at 7pm.

This will in turn be followed by a workshop on the following Thursday evening, April 28th at 7pm, also at Derry Central Library. The workshop will also be inspired by the poetry of the Easter Rising and Battle of the Somme. This workshop will be led by Julieann Campbell and Lynne Edgar. 

For more details on the Literary Ladies, contact them at or via facebook


The Railway Children (musical) comes to Derry

This wonderful new musical adaptation by Stephen Kingsbury and Ben Sleep is coming to Derry and it's a show I'm certainly looking forward to seeing. One of my all time favourite childhood stories is about to unfold on the Derry stage. What's not to be excited about?
This new production captures all the excitement and emotion of Nesbit's subtle critique of the English class system and aims to bring the delights of this literary classic to yet another generation.

The show will run at Derry's Millennium Forum from Monday May 9th to Wednesday May 11th.
To book now and ensure you get to enjoy this special production click here: Millennium Forum.

The Railway Children tells the story of a family who move from London to 'The Three Chimneys', a house near the railway in Yorkshire, after their father, who works at the Foreign Office, is imprisioned after being falsely accused of spying. The children befriend an Old Gentleman who regularly takes the 9.15 train near their home: he is eventually able to help prove their father's innocence and the family are reunited. 

As well as being a lovely, family orientated story, we as adults and indeed our children can learn many valuable life lessons from this wonderful tale. We learn to be brave, never give up on what we know to be right, honesty is always the best policy and that frienship is one of the dearest attributes we can have in life. 

Don't miss this delighful show when it comes to Derry in May. You really won't be disappointed.

Friday, 8 April 2016

OASIS, by Eilís Barrett

OASIS is the thrilling coming of age adventure, set in a dystopian universe where personal freedom is almost non-existent and human values like friendship, love and creativity have all but been extinguished. It showcases teenage angst at its best. And yet it showcases real life adulthood at its best too.
In the near future, a virus will drive humankind to the brink of extinction, with the illness spreading faster than attempts to control it, and society collapsing, the last surviving city will become a beacon of hope from survivors.
Walled off from the outside world, this city is christened Oasis.
Governing on a promise to protect its citizens from infection at all costs, the government of Oasis begins to impose its vision of the perfect society: every aspect of life is controlled, and the city begins to take on a new, sinister shape.
Born into this world is Quincy Emerson, a resident of the Outer Sector Dorms, brutal housing institutions reserved for those judged at risk of infection. Beyond the walls of Oasis, however, something is stirring, and events are about to overtake Quincy. Her fate, it turns out, may not be written in her genes.
Eilís Barrett is just 16 years old and hails from Galway. There she shares a home with her mother, three brothers and her dog, Rosie. Eilís and her siblings are home-schooled by their mother, who is devoted to her children finding their passion in life. From a young age, Eilís had a lot of freedom regarding how she spent her time and was encouraged to do what she was good at.
With an insatiable imagination, Eilís watched countless nature documentaries, taught herself to play the piano and devised complicated imaginary games that could go on for weeks. But there was one place where she knew she truly belonged - between the pages of a book. And it wasn't long before her own stories made it onto paper too. Aged just 15, Eilís signed a two book deal with Gill Books. OASIS is inspired by all that comes with being a teenager. And yet there is so very much more in this novel. Barrett may be just 16 years old but she is clearly a very wise, intuitive young lady. Within the pages of OASIS, she has successfully delved deep into the reality of the country she lives in and the people who run it and live in it. OASIS may well be a fictional world but Barrett is allowing us to read and enjoy this amazing work of fiction and yet we can never really escape that all these happenings within and without the walls of OASIS are also happening in our very own world. Illness, cure, corruption, lies, friendship, love and so very much more are rife, not only in OASIS. We all have a wall confining elements of our life, and we all crave to climb over that wall and escape.
In OASIS Eilís Barrett has told the story of Quincy and her struggle to survive. I'm already awaiting the next instalment.
OASIS is published by Gill Books and available now in all good bookshops.