Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Songs from the East Village

I'm deep in the throes of producing an album for my daughter's school. I don't make perfect cupcakes and you have to do something! So we started recording before the summer and now the December deadline is looming.

I have seen for myself that at school talent shows today, lip-synching to the latest hits is being confused with talent. So I started to think of ways in which kids could be the stars of an album from their school with songs that come from their own families. Now we have songs from Iraq, Nigeria, Mauritius, the United States, Spain and of course Ireland. Much of today was spent laying down basic tracks for the piece from India.

No school tomorrow so it'll be a day in the studio for some of the girls. Sunday will be for the students from Tibet, some of whom arrived directly from there to New York a few months ago and are now students at our school.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Long ago in Ireland, people believed that this time was the beginning of the New Year: entering into the dark days of winter. Day began when the sun went down. I've always been a night person and love that time of day when the darkness comes.

For the fourth successive year, as the sun went down on Halloween, my daughter and I went to our community garden to join in our annual ritual. We do a little bit of trick-or-treating, but the real highlight is when we are gathered around the fire with our neighbours and friends and marshmallows are toasted. Everyone brings some food to share, and some bring a song (or a few of them).

We brought Welsh cheese that we were given the previous night at a midtown gathering of Celtic musicians, singer and poets. There I sang A Bhean Úd Thíos, a song of a woman captured by the fairies. She is nursing a fairy child and trying through the lyrics to send a message to her husband, giving him instructions as to how he might save her. I finished up with the Scots Craobh nan Ubhal and A Mhisg a Chur an Nollaig Oirnn. After each had represented their nation in song or poem, the Bretons got some tunes going and most of the room took to the floor, joining hands or little fingers, in dances that brought me back to the Fest Noz of Brittany in the late 1980s. My daughter was thrilled, and it reminded me of nights as a child when we would be on holiday in Donegal, or later in the Connemara Gaeltacht, when I took part in céilís and carried away a priceless feeling in my heart.