Monday, September 28, 2009

WATERVILLE: New event celebrates drumming

WATERVILLE -- As the world's oldest instruments, drums have served to gather and connect people through storytelling, healing and celebration. That's the motivation behind Drums Along the Kennebec, a festival new to Waterville this year, said Faye Nicholson, director of Revitalize the Energy in ME, the nonprofit organizing the event.

Located at Head Of Falls from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, the festival will feature drumming performances, workshops, an art installation and food.

"Everybody has rhythm," said Jordan Benissan, who will showcase drumming rhythms from West Africa. "It's alive in some people. In other people it needs to be awakened."

At 10 a.m., an American Indian elder and others will open the festival by performing a water ceremony to bless the Kennebec River. Benissan and American Indian drummer Ellie Symonevich will provide music specially composed for the dedication.

There will be a community drum circle at 2 p.m. Festival organizers will invite all performers and the public to use drums of any kind, such as trash cans, oatmeal boxes, shakers or clapping hands.

Festival organizers are also inviting attendees to bring organic or biodegradable objects from home or garden to weave into a six-foot dream catcher. Objects could include shells, feathers, straw, stones, wood, leaves or flowers, said Waterville artist Shirleyanne Leaman, who is constructing the dream catcher.

"Everyone should bring a dream," she said.

Drummers and drumming groups, from various backgrounds, will perform throughout the day. Performers include:

* Red Hawk Medicine Drum, an all women American Indian drum group from Waterville, will perform in order to "honor those who came before us and those here today who live, work and visit along the Kennebec," said the group's drum keeper Ellie Symonevich.

* The Different Drummers Drum Circle, a freestyle drum group led by Rick Cormier of Yarmouth, will deliver improvised and emotive rhythms.

* Master Drummer Jordan Benissan, originally of Togo, and his students will demonstrate West African percussion.

* Ferg N'Sons, a trio from Unity, led by Kathy Van Deventer, will play traditional Scottish music on pipe band side drums, rope tension drums and a Celtic bodhran drum.

* Local artists Phil Whitehawk, Connie Bellet, Big Bear and others will present the Native American teaching drum.

* "Experience the Gong," a workshop and performance by Todd Glacy of Saco will introduce the history of gongs and demonstrate "the truly awesome sonic properties they possess," he said.

* Acoustic drum player Mark Merrill of Waterville will perform and give lessons on the snare, tom-toms and bass.

People will have the opportunity to make their own drums, learn the history behind the various types of drumming and watch a "drum-walk" across the Two Cent Bridge. Muffins and coffee will be for sale for breakfast, with chili and cornbread for lunch.

The event is organized by REM, a nonprofit that supports a network of volunteers in Central Maine.

"REM is all about building community, so this is an attempt to show the diversity of our heritage through the drumming," Nicholson said. "Eventually we hope to make this a yearly thing and an international one."

"I think it's a wonderful opportunity for musicians and the community to convene downtown, and with any luck the businesses will benefit as well," said Kimberly Lindlof, president of the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce.

"It sounds like an event that will draw people not just from Waterville and local colleges but from other communities," said Shannon Haines, executive director of Waterville Main Street.

Benissan commented, "You can use the different rhythms you hear from around the world to integrate a community."

He described drumming as something both functional and sacred. It is functional as a tool to preserve history, tell stories and communicate across long distances.

Drumming is sacred when it is used for healing. "This music is designed to reactivate the physical being of a human being during illness, to wake up," Benissan said.

Admission is free, but donations will be accepted to support the festival and a fund to one day build an amphitheater on the riverfront.

Nicholson advised festival-goers to bring a chair, a natural item to add to the dream catcher and a drum or materials to make a drum. The festival's rain date is Sunday.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Bodhran Solo) Michelle Stewart Live At The Gaelic College
Hello, my name is Michelle Stewart and I am the founder and creator of BodhranExpert, a site dedicated to learning the bodhran. The website is coming soon, but here are some bodhran tips. Please feel free to subscribe to my channel and rate this video. Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Rhythms Of Ireland To Tour New Zealand

Following the highly-successful and critically acclaimed sell-out Australian tour in March 2008, Ireland's most celebrated and elite company of dancers and musicians, THE RHYTHMS OF IRELAND, has returned very successfully by popular demand with their awe-inspiring and innovative new production to Australian audiences from April until October 2009. THE RHYTHMS OF IRELAND are the sound and spirit of the Emerald Isle.

It is an exhilarating show of perfectly sounded traditional rhythms, song and dance that is the most exciting Irish dance and music production at this present time. This production has been seen by over two-million worldwide amassing an unsurpassed reputation for their "stunningly executed performances".

The incomparable quality and pure unadulterated spectacle of their work perfectly blends the ancient traditions of Irish dance and music with the innovative and flawlessly choreographed production values of contemporary Irish excellence.

Though the show THE RHYTHMS OF IRELAND was formed in 1998, the traditional singing, sean nos, dates back to as early as the 1600s. The term sean nos from the Irish/gaelic language, means 'in the old style'.

Along with traditional and authentic Irish dancing and singing, audiences will hear the bodhran being played. It holds pride of place as the principle percussion instrument of Irish traditional music and dates back to 3000BC.

Long before RIVERDANCE, there was Irish dance, music and song, often taking place spontaneously in kitchens, taverns and family gatherings. Across the small villages across Ireland , the percussion of the dance steps fuelled the exciting pulse of the music and its ancient compelling rhythms.

These traditional arts endure today in much the same way. Evoking a time and place steeped in legend, lore and enchantment, THE RHYTHMS OF IRELAND offers the most authentic Irish cultural experience of any production at this present time. It should be highlighted that THE RHYTHMS OF IRELAND, features the finest award-winning artists performing today.

Stars the calibre of DAVID MOORE, lead male dancer of RIVERDANCE; ANTHONY STREET, lead male dancer of LORD OF THE DANCE; SEAN KELLIHER, the winner of six Australian Championships and has toured with RIVERDANCE for the last seven years internationally, and DEIRDRA KIELY, the 23-year-old world champion from Waterford, Ireland, who was the female lead in RAGUS and has danced at the world-famous Milwaukee Irish Festival and with acclaimed traditional bands The Chieftains and Solas, plus a cast of 14 dancers with extensive experience with major Irish international productions thus ensuring a standard of excellence and quality in performance.

Director/Choreographer MICHAEL DONNELLAN-ENNIS needs no introduction. He is 4-times World Irish Dance Champion, the ex-lead male dancer of RIVERDANCE and LORD OF THE DANCE. He directed the acclaimed MAGIC OF THE DANCE.

Music direction will be by five-times all-Irish champion MARTIN O'CONNELL, considered to be one of Ireland's most dynamic young button accordian player from Brosna County, and THOMAS JOHNSTON, the Uilleann pipes and whistle player who comes from a strong piping tradition in County Monaghan - these two acclaimed talents will be accompanied by live musicians from Ireland, which includes all-Ireland singing champion LISA MURPHY from Belfast. Experience a spectacular evening of traditional Irish dance, music and song enhanced by stunning costumes, lighting and sound.

This is indeed, THE RHYTHMS OF IRELAND. "Legend, folklore and enchantment are interwoven in a voyage of discovery without falling into the trap of sentimentality.

That's not to deny that some passages make the hairs on the nape of the neck risethe troupe's adaptation echoes the past as the dancers seem to fly across the stage to the beat of the bodhron and the soaring notes of the fiddle.

Great music, dancing and singing by performers of zipping quality and enthusiasm make you want to clap in time. In fact, the haunting sound of the pipes, the energizing sound of the taps, the deep rhythms of the bodhrn and the shrill cry of the fiddle - the best of the Irish experience", notes Michael Donnellan, the Choreographer of THE RHYTHMS OF IRELAND.

THE RHYTHMS OF IRELAND are now firmly established as a must see attraction..This production encapsulates the new found confidence in Irish Culture, and keeps it real by bringing audiences dance and music that comes straight from the source.

THE RHYTHMS OF IRELAND has been critically-acclaimed by media Australia-wide is simply not to be missed.....The Real Culture - The Real Passion.

DIRECTOR AND CHOREOGRAPHER - MICHAEL DONNELLAN - BIOGRAPHY Michael Donnellan began Irish Dance at the age of 5. He soon became one of Ireland's greatest champion dancers, a title he holds to this day.

There are major competitions for champion dancers, Michael's success in these elite competitions put him a step above other champions. At the age of 12 he won the Munster, All Ireland, Great Britain and the British National Championships.

That same year he achieved the highest honor by winning the World Championships. At the age of 19 he became a professional dancer, taking a leading part in "Lord Of The Dance". Less than a year later he danced the leading part in "Riverdance".

In 1997 he returned to competition winning the World Championships again! He retired from his competitive career as a 4 time Munster Champion, 2 time British National Champion, 6 time Great Britain Champion, 2 time All-Ireland Champion and 4 time World Champion. After many tours with "Lord Of The Dance" and "Riverdance" he looked for something else to challenge him.

In 1999 he developed "Magic Of The Dance" and in 2002 "The Rhythm Of Ireland" - Michael Donnellan choreographed both productions. He is currently the only male dancer to have performed lead roles in all three major Irish dancing shows.

He has completed over 150 performances with "Lord Of The Dance", over 1000 performances with "Riverdance" and 1500 with "Magic Of The Dance" where he toured 520 cities in 50 countries in 5 years.

His choreography is still performed world wide on a nightly basis. While juggling his career and tour schedule, Michael passed the exams necessary to become a certified Irish Dance Inbstructor (TCRG)!

He has taught dancers in Ireland, England, Germany, Canada and the United States.

Wednesday 14th October - Baycourt Theatre, Tauranga NZ (Bookings: Ticket Direct (07) 577 7188)

Thursday 15th and Friday 16th October - Bruce Mason Centre, Auckland NZ (Bookings: Ticketmaster (09) 970 9700)

Saturday 17th October - Founders Theatre, Hamilton NZ (Bookings: Ticket Direct (07) 838 1111)

Thursday 22nd October - Great Lakes Centre, Taupo NZ (Bookings: Ticketek (07) 377 1207)

Friday 23rd October - Municipal Theatre, Napier NZ (Bookings: Ticket Direct (06) 835 2702)

Saturday 24th October - Regent On Broadway, Palmerston North NZ (Bookings: Ticket Direct (06) 357 9740)

Tuesday 27th October - TSB Showplace, New Plymouth NZ (Bookings: Ticketek (06) 759 0021)

Wednesday 28th October - The Opera House, Wellington NZ (Bookings: Ticketek (04) 384 3840)

Thursday 29th October - Marlborough Civic Theatre, Blenheim NZ (Bookings: Ticket Direct (03) 520 8560)

Friday 30th October - Isaac Theatre Royal, Christchurch NZ (Bookings: Ticketek (03) 377 8899)

Saturday 31st October - Theatre Royal, Timaru NZ (Bookings: Ticketek (03) 688 4160)

Wednesday 4th November - Civic Theatre, Invercargill NZ (Bookings: Ticket Direct (03) 211 1692)

Thursday 5th November - Regent Theatre, Dunedin NZ (Bookings: Ticket Direct (03) 477 8597)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Tributes paid to top engineer and much-loved musician

AN engineer who was at the top of his field, and was well known in the local Irish music scene, has died after a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer.

Ivor Cunningham, who worked at Boscombe Down, died at home with his family at his bedside on August 19, aged 66.

He was born in Northern Ireland and moved to England at the age of 15 to become an apprentice electrical engineer at Plymouth Dockyards.

He moved his family to West Harnham in 1977 and started working for the Department of Environment at Wilton UKLF, Boscombe Down, Bulford, Larkhill and Tidworth military camps.

He was a highly respected engineer who designed the electrical layout and blueprints of the lighting runway systems at Boscombe Down and Port Stanley in the Falkland Isles. When attached to the Army/RAF he held the ranks of colonel and squadron leader respectively.

He officially retired in 1992 but worked as a consultant for Total Maintenance Services in Salisbury and volunteered for Age Concern as a handyman. Known as the ‘Sweetie Man’, he found great satisfaction in helping others.

He finally retired to El Mojon, Spain in 2004 and became known as ‘The Duty Engineer’, always on call and available to lend his expertise.

Mr Cunningham was well known on the Irish music circuit as a founder member of CBS – so named from the members’ surnames, Ivor Cunningham, Denis Barry and Finbar Sheehan – who organised Irish bands from Ireland to play in Salisbury.

He played the Bodhran drum and enjoyed taking part in a sessions with other musicians but was too modest to perform as part of a band.

His daughter Julia Burton said: “He became a mentor to many and a father figure to many, some for a season and some throughout his whole life. It’s hard to begin to imagine the gap in our lives he has left.”

A remembrance event will be held at the White Horse, Quidhampton, on Saturday September 19 at 8pm, and is open to all who knew him. Clive Cunningham, his youngest brother, will lead an Irish music tribute.