Irish Music

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You may have come across some of Galway independent Irish-language school Coláiste Lurgan’s previous videos on YouTube, but their latest, an Irish-language cover of Lorde’s hit “Royals” (Ríoga), is becoming a bit of an internet sensation.

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Yesterday, U2 unexpectedly dropped a new album, Songs of Innocence, on the world, and released it for free to anyone with an iTunes account.  But, is it any good?

U2's surprise album, Songs of Innocence. Free on iTunes until mid-October!

U2’s surprise album, Songs of Innocence. Free on iTunes until mid-October!

I say they released the album unexpectedly because although there has been chatter about a new album for years, we’ve grown accustomed to U2 taking a long time in the studio. They certainly don’t need the money, so they go to great lengths to get the songs right before releasing anything.  At the same time, there’s been a general sense over the last couple of albums of a band growing middle-aged and questioning whether they still have what it takes to create new music. Everyone changes, but U2 have clearly been asking themselves “Why are we doing this? Do we what to keep making music?” At a time when younger bands are coining it in on the nostalgia circuit and making no attempt to record new material, surely the temptation must be to take the easier road of touring a greatest hits show and reveling in past glory?

Songs of Innocence shows that any thoughts the band might have been entertaining about taking that road have been banished unceremoniously! Read the rest of this entry »

Musician Danny Ellis’s memoir of growing up in Ireland’s notorious Artane Industrial School, The Boy at the Gate, is a triumph of forgiveness over bitterness.

boy at the gate

The Boy at the Gate by Danny Ellis (US cover, Arcade)

Growing up in Ireland, I was very aware of the The Artane Boys Band. It was famous throughout the country, called upon to play at every important occasion: St. Patrick’s Day parades, state occasions and football finals. But the school that formed the band — the Artane Industrial School, an infamous orphanage run by the Christian Brothers — had been closed since 1969, its history largely forgotten. The band endured after the school was shut down. In his book, The Boy at the Gate, local author Danny Ellis refers to the Artane Boys Band as “a diamond forged in the fires of hardship and misfortune,” an example of how music helps people through troubled times. Read the rest of this entry »

If you haven’t seen it, Once is a brilliant film about a guy and a girl who have been disappointed in love and are at a kind of lay-by on the road of life. It was shot on the streets of Dublin on a micro budget, and was a huge worldwide hit, winning stars Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova the  Best Song Academy Award for “Falling Slowly.”

For me, the film is a vivid reminder of my life at one point, as most of the shooting locations were part of my daily life when I lived in Dublin. I wasn’t a musician, but a young writer, so busking to make ends meet wasn’t an option for me. But, I had many musician friends who did, so I knew that scene well. Watching Once for the first time brought me right back to my early years after college, and the bustle of Dublin in the movie is the next-best thing to being there.

vacation in Dublin, Ireland

Grafton Street

 

Nearly all the locations in the movie are easy to visit, so it’s surprising that nobody is offering a “Once Walking Tour” of Dublin yet. In lieu of giving you my own personal tour, here’s a virtual walking tour and map I put together. Read the rest of this entry »