Stories, Research & Projects
Danny Kyle was a Scottish folk singer who campaigned for the revival of traditional Scottish music. He passed away in 1998 and there is now a stage dedicated to him at Celtic Connections. Celtic Connections is one of the biggest trad festivals in the world. The Danny Kyle Open Stage invites applications from emerging acts. Luckily, TRÚ was accepted to play a slot at the festival.
After our gig, we met a film-maker called Michael working as MANNA Visuals. He told us a story. He said a few years ago, he died. He went to two places. One place you'd want to go; the other, you'd never want to go there. He asked us if he could film a few us playing on the streets of Glasgow. So we met him the morning after and he came up with this beautifully shot video of "The County Down".
We had sailed over on the Stena Line and arrived to Glasgow by coach. The first thing we did was to make our way into the Royal Glasgow Concert Hall just in time for an interview on Celtic Music Radio. You can listen here from 53mins.
Then we headed downstairs to the Danny Kyle Open Stage for a soundcheck. Thanks to a few lads from Tyrone now living in Glasgow, we managed to muster up a guitar amp and a floor tom, to complete our bare ensemble. We don’t need much of a set-up anyway...
On our way back to the venue after a coffee in a local pub, Zach got a phonecall from the MC, Liz Clark:
“Where are yis?” in her thick Glaswegian accent.
“Two minutes away,” came the calm reply of a man who knows he still has plenty of time before we’re due to be onstage.
“Oh good,” says she, “cuz you’re on next!”
Right enough, when we walked into the hall, the stage was empty and we were up. A hasty costume change later (replacing the ferry t-shirt with a crumpled rucksack t-shirt), we were standing in front of a full house getting stuck into our first tune – Newry Boat Song.
After that, we played Dúlamán, an original called Cailín Bán, Ay Waukin O, and finished with The County Down by Tommy Sands. The audience was great and we got loads of feedback. You can hear our set at this link:
What a city. What a festival. Here’s hoping we’ll be back again soon!
When we returned, Tommy Sands told me that Danny Kyle visited County Down a few times. He came especially for the Fiddlers Green International Folk Festival in Rostrevor. Tommy mentioned that Danny Kyle’s ashes are scattered in the meadow of Kilbroney Park. Hard to believe, but that spot is particularly beautiful; the view out on Carlingford Lough, with the Mournes behind and the Fairy Glen at the foot of the meadow.
A peaceful place to rest.
In the final weekend of January, a team of producers and composers travelled from Tokyo to Dublin. It was a bitterly cold weekend and fierce winds whipped the Ringsend Road on Dublin’s southside. On Saturday morning, Windmill Lane Recording Studios heats up as the staff sets up equipment for a session on the top floor. The Japanese crew prepares to record the soundtrack of Nintendo’s Xenogears. One by one, singers from ANÚNA arrive.
ANÚNA performed in Tokyo in February 2017. It was a collaborative production between Noh theatre artists and ANÚNA’s musical director Michael McGlynn. Based on a W.B. Yeats play published in 1918 entitled “The Hawk’s Well”, the 2017 Tokyo production was a Japanese adaptation entitled Takahime (The Hawk Princess). Featuring twelve singers and three Noh instrumental players, the production’s soundtrack was created as an interactive composition by Michael McGlynn, using the individual voices of ANÚNA, traditional Noh percussionists, a Noh flautist, and a cast of Noh actors.
I was one of those twelve ANÚNA voices, and Takahime was the most amazing artistic experience of my life.
In the afterglow of this hugely successful show, we went into Sony Studios in Tokyo to record for Nintendo’s Xenoblade Chronicles 2. The game was released on the new Nintendo Switch device in November 2018 and the track on which my voice was featured – “Shadow of the Lowlands” – already has over 100,000 views.
Last weekend, ANÚNA went back into studio for more soundtrack work – this time for Xenogears 20th anniversary. It was a privilege to record again as a soloist on some Xenogears classics. ANÚNA will perform a series of Japanese concerts in April 2018 for Nintendo, and I cannot wait to sing with the orchestral arrangements.
The music of composer Yasunori Mitsuda is really beautiful, and Michael McGlynn’s ANÚNA is a unique instrument. It’s been a really great project for us and I look forward to seeing what develops along the path.
This year, I am returning to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Festival (NIHRF) with VOCALISM. In December 2015, we hosted an event showcasing the cultural diversity of Belfast in an attempt to appreciate the cultural identities at play in Northern Ireland.
In an event titled, "Songs of the People", traditional and folk songs of this island were performed alongside less traditional musical forms. These included hip-hop and rap delivered by an 18 year-old artist of Afro-Caribbean heritage. We also had a performance of Chinese opera and a fusion of Bangladeshi guitar, Indian table drumming and a Derry fiddler. Over the evening, Donegal sean nós singer Doimnic Mac Giolla Bhríde performed songs from his latest album Sona do Cheird.
On Friday 18 November, I sang at the launch of the 2016 NIHRF, which took place in Belfast's Black Box in the Cathedral Quarter. I talked about the "Songs of the People" workshop series and the showcase event that takes place on Human Rights Day - 10 December 2016. It is the final official event of the Festival, and should be a great way to close a week of human rights discussions.
Building on last year's "Songs of the People" theme, the workshop series will facilitate music-making in the community and will focus particularly on songwriting. The goal is to use music as a tool for self-expression and to actively engage and participate in cultural life. The law on 'cultural rights' specifically mentions engagement in cultural activities as important to democratic citizenship. Art and other cultural practices express so much about us and it is imperative that we appreciate it, facilitate it, and celebrate it together.
This year, the workshops are a collaboration between my own VOCALISM and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC). Zara Porter will represent the NIHRC as we travel to community organisations in Belfast on 4 December 2016. You can find out more on the NIHRF website by clicking here.