|Lockdown Beach Patrol in Ballymacaw|
Is it really more than three months already since the sudden shutting down of life as we knew it back in March 12th? That Thursday was a busy day as I shuttled from teaching assignments in a rural primary school and after school commitments at WAMA in Waterford. I had been due to visit Paris at the weekend but the announcement on March 9th that theatre gatherings of more than 1000 were banned had rendered the purpose of the trip invalid and I was already resigned to a weekend at home and even if I am honest, relieved not to have to endure the tribulations of airports and planes. So with the normal routines suspended, I settled into a month of tackling long put off housekeeping tasks and watching an endless round of news briefings to keep up with the progress. Finally after 5 years in my current address, I had tidy hot press, a clean oven and had even managed to turn out a batch of scones. Now three months later that domestic goddess badge has tarnished and shock horror, all those jobs need doing again already and an unopened carton of buttermilk loiters forlornly in my fridge now well past its sell by date.
|Social Distance Recital with neighbours 2020|
It helped that in March and April, we enjoyed clement weather with balmy evenings, so I was in my garden when I heard an unfamiliar sound. What was it, I wondered when as the volume increased, It was birdsong. Quite a trill so to speak. Fortunate to live in a coastal town, the limitations of a 2km walk was no hardship and I walked down lanes and visited spots, I hadn't noticed before despite them being on my doorstep. Chance meetings with friends and acquaintances had a different unhurried pace. Nobody was too busy to stop and chat. In the conversations, a sense of guilt seemed common as voices were dropped to admit that they were enjoying lockdown, the slower pace, car free roads, birdsong all of it. With the house busy as adult children returned to the nest to work from home, escaping to the garden shed to read became an afternoon ritual for a while. . Three months on, the self imposed routines are sliding and I feel a sense of trepidation as we prepare for a return to some sort of normal routines although still sadly devoid of live music and theatre. I am sore hearted for all the management and artists who have put so much work into planning events and festivals all now for naught. Months and years of hard work with no reward and an uncertain future.
Here are some of my lockdown highlights.
|Elaine Power of East Pier with Nevin Maguire|
Food. First things first. After a month of home cooking, the longing for something I hadn't prepared myself was acute. While I could live quite happily without ever visiting a fine dining restaurant, I prefer not to even contemplate a life without a bag of chips doused in salt and vinegar, ideally eaten on the prom. There was great excitement in our house when the first of our local chippies opened their doors after more than a month. Best fish and chips so far came from, Elaine Power's East Pier van in Dunmore East. Excellent birthday treat food came from our local Indian restaurant Voujon in Tramore.
With shops closed and preferring to support my local bookshop than some international behemoth I was thrilled to receive a parcel of books from The Book Centre Waterford all wrapped up in their signature maroon paper. The books I have enjoyed reading so far are Gail Honeyman's debut novel Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Rose Tremain's Music and Silence, a languid yarn set in the 17th century Danish court and featuring an English lutenist as the main protagonist. Fran O Brien based in Tipperary sent me a couple of her books which she produces as fundraisers for the Laura Lynn Foundation. I enjoyed Ballystrand, a family saga of dark secrets and redemption. My favourite pandemic read was Max Jaffa's autobiography, A Life on the Fiddle, a fascinating memoir on the life of the celebrated English violinist who made a career in light music. I also loved the Ladybird Tales of Superheroes, six traditional stories from around the world with lovely illustrations.
My experiences with Zoom weren't good and I hesitated to embark on teaching on this or a similar platform. I did however set about making some video tutorials covering some easy Irish tunes
Lockdown Ukuleles: With the prospect of gatherings seeming a long way off and inspired by pop star Bressie I released my classroom set of ukuleles free to anyone willing in my area and posted some video tutorials on the Tramore Ukulele Group fb page. On Friday, I made a tentative return to group activity with a small gathering in my garden. Looking forward to getting together again and thinking about how best to facilitate the group in the weeks and months ahead. Check out the TRUGs activity here https://www.facebook.com/TramoreUkes/ It was a pleasure to talk to Damien Tiernan on his morning show on WLR about the initiative. Check out one of the videos here
Online Opera and Music.
I sifted through some of the myriad of options of cultural events available to watch online for an article in the Irish Examiner Check it out here Opera and Music Events to Enjoy Live at Home The volume and quality of what is available is amazing. Most recently, I tuned in to watch Handel's Rinaldo from Glyndebourne. I wasn't impressed by the mish mash of school blazers and knights in chain mail but the performers were fantastic and it is well worth a listen.
|Roberts 3 band radio Great value at €25 at Sound Store|
I have been disappointed with the selection of highlights on RTE's Playback recently, the presenters rarely seem to venture beyond the realm of talk radio heard 9 to 5 on the main station often returning for a second bite of a dull segment. Amongst the most banal clips are usually those from Ray Darcy's afternoon show which we are never spared it seems. I was amused at Ellen Cranitch promising 'no sourdough' in her trailer for Purple Vespertine I assume in response to the tedium of Darcy's coverage of the topic. I am rarely tempted to listen back to programmes. In contrast BBC radio tends to throw its net wider. This week's selection by Julie Hesmondhalgh had me delving into the schedule. It is good to hear regional accents on a country's major broadcast station. The programme opened with a clip of Mullingar lass and soprano extraordinaire Ailish Tynan from her Wigmore Hall lunchtime broadcast on BBC Radio3 https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000k94z.
Also heard on Radio 3 as well as available to watch online was a fabulous recital by 'two talented Michaels. Michael McHale and Michael Collins have played in Waterford. I loved their programme of 20th century French repertoire with a dazzling interlude by Carl Maria von Weber. I liked Georgia Mann's easy presenting style. Details here https://wigmore-hall.org.uk/whats-on/michael-collins-michael-mchale-202006181300
Some of my favourite clips on RTE radio have been heard on Countrywide presented by Damien O'Reilly. This week we heard the wonderful Seamus O Rourke's piece 'The Drawer' ahead of Father's Day Maithiú Séamus.https://www.rte.ie/radio/radioplayer/html5/#/radio1/21791676 I had to pinch myself on hearing aging Rolling Stone giving parenting tips on Newstalk with Pat Kenny on how to keep small small children entertained during lockdown. Rock and Roll just ain't what it used to be!
|Muinteoir Ray with Muinteoirí John and Cliodhna|
There was a time when there seemed to be a lot of educational stuff on telly. Insomniacs could brush up on assorted Open University programmes. I remember watching programmes about obscure hsitorical figures, poets and mathematicians late in the night. Draw with Don with Don Conroy was a staple of childrens' TV on RTE but that strand of educational programming disappeared to obscure realms of the internet. What a pity. . I was excited about RTE's in initiative to fill the void left by school closures with a daytime educational programme. It was remarkable how quickly Macalla Teoranta, a media production company manage to get their homeschool programme on air, a mere two weeks I think after the shutdown. I tuned in initially to gather some tips on good practice and quickly became hooked. Over 60 or so hour long programmes, the team delivered consistently good programmes covering a wide range of topics. I liked everything about it. I loved that was so many elments but the teachers relied less on high tech teaching resources and more on their excellent communication skills. Special guests added interest along the way but the core team were the stars. So many highlights but off then top of my head, these stick in my mind, astronomer Niamh producing her school science notebooks, M Ray's lesson on how to write a review (I could have done with that when I was starting my jounalistic activity), Muinteoir John's (Sharpson) singing In San Fhásach and M Cliodhna's lesson on silhouette animator, Lotte Reiniger Hearing an cheerful looking Ray Cuddihy spring onto the set with a cheerful greeting as gaeilge every morning was reassuring. Muinteoir John was occasionally joined by Dolores (his guitar) for some brilliant music lessons and Muintoeir Cliodhna closed out with some very messy art work that I was glad I wouldn't be required to reproduce. It was a pitch perfect production for the time in which it was broadcast and probably won't have a long shelf life which makes it all the more special . Comhgairdeachas! Maith sibh go léir to all involved It was fantastic I confess I wept on the last day, my tears wiped away by my grown up child who had taken a coffee break to watch with mother. Truly it is a strange time!
I had some lovely engagements during lockdown. I was chuffed to be invited by neighbours to play outside my gate. on a a couple of balmy Summer evening . (Image above)
It was an honour to be invited by St Joseph's Retirement Home in Ferrybank to be the first guest entertainer on their new home channel. I played in the studio set up in the hall and the performance was broadcast to all the residents rooms.
Thank you Tracy at Waterford Libraries for commissioning me to record some musical snippets around Tramore here is one of them. Four clips appeared on the Waterford Libraries facebook page as part of their Bealtaine initiative. The Japanese gardens looked stunning on the morning I visited