back to the blogosphere….

Ok ok….so it’s probably been about a year since my last blog post…so sue me. Sometimes life gets in the way of writing.  So let’s catch up….or try to.

Two weeks ago I started a new job as Registrar at The National Graduate School of QualityManagement. Different from anything I’ve ever done in the past, but so far I love it. The people are great and the work is interesting. Beats being unemployed.

I’m still making music whenever and wherever I can. Last Friday night I performed in a show with six other female singer songwriters on the Cape. It was the Cape Songbirds show, to raise money for local women’s charities, and it was a huge success. I had a blast, and I got to play at the Cultural Center of Cape Cod–a new venue for me. What a fun night.

I’ve been writing and playing whenever I can. My songwriting has improved, thanks to other songwriters around me who have been generous with their advice. I still get really frustrated at times, because I feel like I should be playing out more, and doing more collaborating, but it just doesn’t seem to be in the cards.  So I do what I can. What else can I do?

On the personal/family front, my first born son was recently accepted to his first choice college…he starts in August, the same week he turns 18…yikes. How can I have a son that old?? I’m proud of him, to say the least. He’s a great kid who happens to share my sarcastic sense of humor and quick wit. I think he’ll do just fine in college.

This week, I was supposed to be in Newfoundland on my mini tour…but here I am still on Cape Cod. Not my ideal situation, but sometimes life throws you curve balls. I keep thinking about my family up there, wishing I was up there for St. Patrick’s Day, missing them. Maybe next year. Maybe things will be different next year, in more ways than one.

As I can tell from past years’ posts…a lot can change in a year. Here’s hoping.

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what a difference a year makes

What a difference a year makes! Well, not quite a year, but almost.  On April 6, 2011 (right before my 44th birthday) I played at an open mic night at Tommy Doyle’s in Hyannis.  It was my first public performance in over twenty years and I was terrified but excited at the same time.  It didn’t take long for that old feeling of exhilaration to return, and I haven’t stopped writing and singing and playing since.

Much has happened in the last year–more, in fact, than I would have anticipated. Everything seemed to snowball once I started making music again, and I’ve been living in a constant state of overwhelmed gratitude ever since.  I’ve been playing open mics several times a month, getting booked for “real” gigs, and I’ve even been invited to participate in a women’s music festival.  Slowly but surely my name is getting out there and so far I guess people like what they hear. I’ve also begun working on my first album.  At this point, however, I’m not sure about the album, or when I’ll actually get to it.  Part of me would rather skip it and just keep writing and performing for the sheer joy it brings me,    while another part knows it’s a necessary part of presenting my music to the public.  It’s just a major hassle given my lack of time and money…and time. Did I mention I have no time? It’s hard to believe I even have enough material for an album, but I do…in the past year I’ve written approximately 16 songs. Those are the ones that didn’t end up in the trash.  Some are better than others, but they’re all very personal and have a special place in my heart.

I made another trip to Newfoundland and met several musicians there who are now friends. I connected with even more family members and fell even more in love with the place, if that’s possible. I found inspiration there, and a strong connection.

I’ve been happier during this past year than I have been in decades. I rediscovered a large part of what was missing in my life, and it feels great to have it back.  I’ve made some wonderful friends in the local music community, and I’m starting to feel like I belong.  Life is hard, and having something that makes me this happy makes all the difference in the world.

I’m curious about what the next year will bring.

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This morning you were silent
Your thoughts kept just for you
I watched you from a distance
The safest point of view
You didn’t give a smile
Gave no acknowledgement at all
I wondered what was going on
Behind that well-built wall.
You’re a mystery to me
Like my attraction to the sea
my longing for the water
And my desire to be free
You are my silent muse
I don’t know what I am to you
A lover or a daughter
A mistress or a fool.
Why do I keep trying
After months of failed attempts
To pull you in closer
To know your true intent.
I tell myself its over
Its time to let you go
And just as I pull anchor
You let your feelings show.
You’re a mystery to me
Like my attraction to the sea
my longing for the water
And my desire to be free
You are my silent muse
I don’t know what I am to you
A lover or a daughter
A mistress or a fool.
At times you share your thoughts
Little pieces of your soul
It leaves me wanting more
Of the parts you never show.
I try to swim in deeper
To see what’s in your heart
But you leave me standing on the shore
You have right from the start.
I need you like a river needs the rain
I want you more than words could ever say
Please just open up and let me in
I may never be this brave again.
You’re a mystery to me
Like my attraction to the sea
And my longing for the water
And my desire to be free
You are my silent muse
I don’t know what I am to you
A lover or a daughter
A mistress or a fool.
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The Best Concert Ever

Two nights ago I attended the best concert I’ve ever seen/heard in my entire life. I’m not exaggerating one bit. It was a 7 hour drive from Cape Cod to Montreal-a long and tiring ride. It was 5pm by the time I reached the hotel, and the show was scheduled to begin at 7:30pm. I only had time to get settled in my room and change my clothes. After a quick cab ride to Places des Arts, there was still a little time to kill, so we went to Baton Rouge for a drink.
I was fortunate enough to have a 2nd row seat for this show, and I’m so grateful for that fact. I had a perfect view of the man I’d traveled so far to see. The theater is beautiful–a great venue for this show. Promptly at 7:30pm, the lights dimmed and Doug Paisley came out on stage with his guitar. I noticed that behind him, on bass, was Basil Donovan. Basil plays bass for Blue Rodeo and the Jim Cuddy Band. I, of course, will always remember him sitting in front of me on my flight from Halifax to Toronto last summer. Doug played a great set, and I really enjoyed listening to him. I’m usually pretty impatient when it comes to opening acts, and seriously, how often are the openers actually that good? This time, he really was that good.

Mr. Cuddy at work

Finally the time came for the main show…the man I’d been waiting to see and hear. The man I never thought I’d get to see play live in concert. I felt my breath catch in my throat as I watched him just quietly walk out onto the stage with his band. The lights came up, and the audience went crazy. He smiled that big smile of his and waved and said hello to all of us, and went straight to work. I still can’t believe how good he sounded. Every note, every word was perfection. I watched him play his guitar, watching his fingers form the chords, trying to learn the chords to some of his new songs. I watched his face, as he smiled at various people in the front row, and at other members of his band. He was truly enjoying himself. He showed no signs of nervousness, no hesitation, no weariness. Between songs, Jim joked with the audience, or gave some background of the song he was about to play. He is quite charming and down to earth, which only made the concert more enjoyable.

jammin away

Jim jammin' onstage

I was happy to be able to hear my favorite songs performed live, right in front of me–Ready to Fall was heart wrenching, Five Days in May was just amazing, thanks to Ann’s fiddle solo. One of the best parts of the show was when the rest of the band left the stage, and Jim sat at the piano alone to do “Pull Me Through”. That is an emotionally charged song written for his Uncle after losing his wife and constant companion of 60-something years. You could have heard a pin drop.

The band returned to the stage for the encore. The very last song of the night was an incredible, totally unplugged version of Wash Me Down, performed while standing at the very edge of the stage-up close and personal.  Jim’s voice sounded beautiful-it’s even better without a microphone. He just sang out, his voice washing over us all. He would hit certain notes and I’d feel a shiver go up my spine. I just wanted him to keep singing like that…just keep singing…
But it was over much too quickly. I could have listened to him for easily another hour or two. I never get tired of that voice, or of those songs. But the show was over, and it was time to go. For me, however, the night was about to get even better.


Hanging out with Jim backstage after the show.

I think I’ll leave this post as a mini concert review. The show was wonderful, easily the best concert I’ve ever been to. It turned out to be a night I will never, ever forget. The rest of the night will remain unwritten, because as they say…what happens in Montreal stays in Montreal. What? They don’t say that? Well…I’m saying it.

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My flight with Blue Rodeo (or Newfoundland 2011 part 3)

I’ve posted about my trip to Newfoundland, and my musical experiences while there.  One more thing happened to me during that trip that I will write about here.  It may not be exciting to anyone else but me, but those of you who know me well will understand why it was so significant.  Things like this just never happen to me. Ever.

I left Bay Bulls at 5am to get to St. John’s for a 7am flight out.  As I mentioned in Part 1, I was sad to be leaving.  I had said my goodbyes the night before, and left my cousin’s house quietly so I wouldn’t wake anyone at such an ungodly hour.  As I came over a hill toward the St. John’s International Airport, I saw the city all lit up and it brought tears to my eyes. I wasn’t ready to leave. I wanted to stay, for another week, another day, however long I could get away with. But I had to go and I knew the journey home would be a long and tiring one. I had to fly from St. John’s to Halifax, to Toronto, then to Boston. 

I boarded my flight at St. John’s and we took off on time at 7am. I was in the very front row of the plane.  The woman who checked me in at the counter earlier had told me that when we arrived in Halifax, I could remain on the plane but I would have to change my seat to 9B,  the middle seat. She said she was sorry but that’s all that was available. No problem, I’m flexible. I don’t care where I’m sitting as long as it’s inside the plane.  When we arrived at Halifax, I took my carry-on bag and moved to the 9th row, the middle seat.  Eventually a gentleman came down the aisle and informed me that he had the window seat. He looked oddly familiar to me, though I couldn’t place his face at that early hour. I was too tired and sad to care, frankly. He looked tired and disheveled, and I moved to let him into the window seat, where he promptly fell asleep.  A minute later I looked up to see another man coming down the aisle toward me. This time I recognized him immediately as the drummer from my favorite band, Blue Rodeo!  It was the very handsome Glenn Milchem and he sat down right next to me in the aisle seat. I was stunned, because it suddenly dawned on me that the man sitting in the window seat was Bob Egan, the keyboardist. That was why he looked so familiar to me!  I was sitting between two members of Blue Rodeo. My heart began to pound and I looked up just as Bazil Donovan, the guitarist, sat down in the seat in front of Glenn.  Then I realized-the entire band must be on this flight.  I watched the aisle, waiting to see if Jim Cuddy would, miracle of miracles, come walking down the aisle and sit in front of me, or across the aisle.  Suddenly I saw him. Yes, it was him, entering the plane, coming toward us, then stopping and putting a bag in the overhead compartment-several rows up, right near where I had been sitting on the previous flight.  My heart sank as he took his seat without even glancing down to where I was sitting with the rest of his band.  Why was he not sitting with the rest of us, I wondered? So not fair!  I looked around and realized that the whole band and some of their crew were all sitting around me, all but Jim Cuddy, the one who really mattered most (to me anyway).  As we got ready to take off, I sat and pondered what to do.  I knew I had to say something to Glenn. How could I pass up a chance to speak to the members of Blue Rodeo when they were right there next to and in front of me?  Glenn took a book out of his bag and opened it. I had to move quickly–I didn’t want to interrupt him once he started reading, after all that would be plain rude.  I turned to him and said “It just occurred to me who you guys are.  Can I be a total dork and ask you for your autograph?”  He laughed. I laughed. My face was on fire, burning red.  As he signed a page in my little pink notebook that I keep in my bag for songwriting ideas, I mentioned that I sometimes include Blue Rodeo songs in my sets when I need to fill in with some cover tunes, to which he said “that’s very cool, which songs?”.   I told him, and he just smiled.  He passed my notebook over to Bazil and told him to sign it as well.  He turned to me and said “Bob will sign it too, just ask him”.  I informed him that Bob was already asleep, and I didn’t want to disturb him. He said “He’ll wake up eventually–get him to sign it then”, and smiled.   I really wanted to ask him to go have Jim sign it too, but I couldn’t find the nerve.  I just thanked him and we chatted for a little while. He told me they had just played a gig in Sydney, NS. It had been a very late night and they were all exhausted.  I told him I was on my way back to Boston from Newfoundland.  He asked what I was doing in Newfoundland, so I told him about my family there, the George St. Festival and the Folk Festival.    The plane took off, and we stopped chatting. He opened his book, which I took as my cue to leave him alone, so I put my ear buds in and listened to my mp3 player. Bob continued to sleep. 

I could see the back of Jim’s head from where I was sitting. I stared at it, trying to mentally will him to get up and come back to where we were. It didn’t work.  I thought about going up to the front of the plane to use the restroom, and then saying hello on my way back, but I couldn’t muster up the courage.  I didn’t want to bother him if he was exhausted from the night before, and I was afraid that if he was that tired, he might be a bit cranky and wouldn’t be pleased if I bothered him. I didn’t want to be that person. So I sat in turmoil knowing that my songwriting idol was sitting just rows ahead of me on this two-hour flight and I was powerless to speak to him.  I wanted to cry, but instead I dozed and let all kinds of Jim Cuddy fantasies run through my head.  Glenn fell asleep too, and I noticed that his legs would occasionally jerk, as if he was dreaming he was playing his drum kit.  He kicked me a few times, and I just laughed to myself, wondering if all drummers were like that.

Eventually Bob did wake up, and before he got too engrossed in his magazine article, I asked him to sign my notebook. He said “oh sure” and signed it.  I had 3 out of 5 signatures from the band.  I don’t know why but it never occurred to me to even look for Greg Keelor to see if he was on that flight. If he was, he must have been up front with Jim.  I have no idea. 

The flight was over much too soon, and as we were leaving the plane, Glenn said “It was nice to meet you, I hope you have a good trip to Boston”.  I said “It was great meeting you too, good luck with whatever comes next for you”.   By this time Jim was long gone, sadly. I never did get to talk to him face to face.  I will always regret it.  As I walked up the gateway and headed toward customs, I saw Bob Egan in front of me. I said “Thanks Bob, have a great day”. He turned and smiled and said “You’re welcome”.

Blue Rodeo

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Newfoundland 2011- the music

Where to begin?  As I mentioned in Part 1 of my Newfoundland 2011 post, my musical experiences during that two weeks deserves a post all its own. It’s difficult to know how to write it all, though.  I guess I’ll try to go in some sort of chronological sequence…I’ll do my best to capture it all in words, although it won’t even come close to actually experiencing it yourself-which I highly recommend.

The night after I arrived in Newfoundland, my cousin Alan’s band Great Big Sea was to open the George Street Festival–six nights of concerts on George Street.  I’ve never seen anything like it-so many people, all ages, crammed together to hear Great Big Sea play at home.  It rained, but no one seemed to care, and nobody left.  It was a great show, not surprising, having seen GBS before. The vibe was a little different there, of course, being “home” for the b’ys.

Great Big Sea on George Street

Two nights later I would return to George Street, to see The Dropkick Murphys with my friend Larry Peyton, drummer for the band Streets of Hastings.  We had a great time, shared some pints and some laughs and enjoyed a great show.  Again, George Street was jam-packed with people of all types, having fun and dancing and drinking.   Quite an experience.

One of the great things about St. John’s is that on any given night you can go to one of the many pubs downtown and hear amazing local musicians.  There is no shortage of live music there, and music of an amazing caliber.  I saw Michael Hanrahan at Shamrock City as well as Celtic Connection and former GBS member Darrell Power, Allan Ricketts at Erin’s Pub,  just to name a few.

Michael Hanrahan

I could easily have gone to a pub every night of the week and seen/heard someone different and equally talented.  I just can’t experience that here at home, unfortunately.   What I really wanted, more than anything, was to actually perform at O’Reilly’s pub on George Street.  I knew they had Open Mic night on Tuesday night, and I had planned to play then–my cousins were even going to come support me.  It was not meant to be, sadly. The final night of the George Street Festival was that Tuesday night, so George Street was closed off and O’Reilly’s did not have Open Mic night…one more reason for me to return.

I mentioned in Part 1 that I ran into Andrew James O’Brien at Fred’s Records.  I’ve been enjoying his music for a while now, well before I made this return trip to Newfoundland.  It was a treat to get to talk to him before his performance at the Folk Festival, and then again after his set.  He is very talented and I think he’ll have a great career in music.  The Folk Festival was incredible. Two nights of music from some of my favorite performers all on the same stage. The Festival was supposed to be held outside, at Bannerman Park, but was brought indoors to Mile One Stadium due to the nasty weather conditions.  It made for a different experience, but I didn’t care–I was there for the music.

Andrew James O'Brien

Matthew Byrne

Last October when I was in St. John’s I’d met Matthew and Allan Byrne at O’Reilly’s.  That night Allan was performing, filling in for Fergus O’Byrne, who I had wanted to see.  Again, I had been enjoying Matthew’s music well before I met him, and both of the Byrne brothers were extremely nice guys.  Upon returning home I emailed back and forth with Matthew as he generously helped me learn a song he had recorded on his CD.  I did learn it, and now I often perform Bonnie Light Horseman when I play at O’Shea’s.   This year, at the Folk Festival, it was Matthew who was performing, with the wonderful Dardanelles.  They were incredible and so was Matthew.  His voice is so pure, so moving, he doesn’t even need accompaniment.  His a capella performance was so stirring, you could have heard a pin drop when he sang.  I ran into brother Allan who was in the audience, and he remembered me. We had a quick chat, and it was nice to be able to say hello in person again.

Another performer I was excited to see at the Folk Festival was Catherine MacLellan.  I admire her work as a songwriter and I particularly like her guitar style.  I listen to her when I need inspiration.  She did a great set, joined by the Good Lovelies, who I had not previously heard. They were amazing.

The second night of the Folk Festival brought people like Paul Brady,  the legendary Ron Hynes, and finally, Fergus O’Byrne, who I had missed on my previous visit.  The Festival ended with a tribute to Fergus’  group, Ryan’s Fancy which had formed about 40 years ago.  All kinds of guest musicians were on hand for that, including Matthew, the guys from Shanneyganock, and even Bob Hallett from Great Big Sea.  What a way to end a show! And what a way to end my trip.  I’ll never forget that Folk Festival, but I hope to attend another one in the future.

I’m sure I’ve probably forgotten something or someone, in which case I can always edit this post…as far as my Blue Rodeo story…that will be Part 3.

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Newfoundland 2011 part 1

It’s been a while since I last posted, and quite a bit has happened in that time.  The summer of busking at the Hyannis waterfront was fun and a great experience. My 13 year old son, Chris, joined me for the last few Saturdays, which made it even more special for me. Nothing compares to doing a gig with your own child, especially when he’s as talented as Chris is. I was very proud to share the “stage” with him.

At the end of July I made my second trip to Newfoundland, this time alone.  I almost felt that I needed to make this trip alone, to find an even deeper connection to my roots there. Again, it felt like I was going home after being away for almost a year.  The weather wasn’t great, but I didn’t really care much. I wasn’t there for a tropical vacation, I was there to spend time with family and soak up the music and the scenery.  I did plenty of all of that, and honestly, I’ve never felt so happy and relaxed as I did there.  I stayed with my cousin Leslie Anne and her family in Bay Bulls where they were more than generous and let me stay  for almost two weeks.  By the time I left I’d become very attached to all of them, especially little Liam, and I miss them already.

I truly enjoy my Newfoundland family members, and I was lucky enough to meet a few more cousins that I’d not had the opportunity to meet last October.  They’re all so warm and welcoming, and really took care of me. I found that we all had things in common besides a family resemblance, which made the connections that much stronger.  It was wonderful to see my 93 year old great uncle again, and to see that he is doing well.  I always enjoy talking to him, because I learn something new about my family, specifically my Grandfather, every time.  I also visited the Petty Harbour Cemetery this time, which I didn’t see last October because it was raining.  I saw my great grandparents’ and my grandfather’s headstones, which was very moving for me.  I never thought I’d ever be standing at the grave sites of my great grandparents from Newfoundland, proof of my ties to that beautiful place. 

my Great Grandparents


My Grandfather

It felt surreal to be standing there. 

One of the many things that draws me back to Newfoundland, besides my wonderful family, is the music.  I’ll write a separate post about my musical experiences during my visit, because they deserve their own post.

On my second day visiting, my cousin took me on a drive down the southern shore to places like Witless Bay (my Grandfather’s place of residence before he passed away) Tors Cove, Brigus South and Ferryland. In Ferryland we stopped at an archeological dig, which was fascinating.  Along our drive, whenever I’d see a house for sale I’d wonder what it would be like to live there.

I went to Sunday mass at the Basillica in St. John’s.  Last October when I was there, my cousin Rose and her husband Bill  brought us there and gave us a tour of the inside. I loved the huge pipe organs and the beautiful stained glass windows.  It made an impression on me, and when Christmas rolled around, I wondered what midnight mass must be like there.  I decided then that the next time I was in St. John’s I would go to mass at the Basillica.  And that is exactly what I did.  Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m not big on going to church.  I was raised Catholic and pretty much forced to attend mass on Sundays, which made me rebel against it later in life.  I’m finding that as I get older, however, I’m drawn back to it, not necessarily for the doctrines of the Catholic faith, but for the beauty and peace that I find in certain churches. The actual structures themselves are interesting to me, and I am also drawn to tradition.  I actually enjoyed attending mass at the Basillica, because the building itself is so beautiful. 

St. John's Basillica

One of the things I really enjoyed during my stay was just wandering around downtown St. John’s on my own.  I would drive down Water Street, find a parking spot, and just leave the car and walk around the downtown area. I wandered around Gower Street, admiring the colorful rowhouses, taking photos randomly.

Gower Street

Gower Street rowhouses

I had lunch at the Duke, I visited O’Brien’s music shop on several occasions, to the point where they recognized me when I’d enter.  I also shopped at Fred’s Records and had a pleasant surprise.  I think it was my third day in Newfoundland and I went into Fred’s to poke around and pick up a couple of cds. To my surprise, when I went to the register to pay, who was working behind the counter–Andrew James O’Brien!  I couldn’t believe it.  I introduced myself, as he and I had exchanged a few emails over the past several months, and we had a nice chat. He’s a genuinely nice guy, and so talented.  I got to speak with him again at the Folk Festival after his fantastic set, while he signed a cd for my cousin. Such a nice guy.  I predict big things from him. 

On another day when I was off exploring on my own, I went to Petty Harbour, where my family is from.  I parked the car, got out, and just sat at the wharf.  I just wanted to “be there” and soak it all in.  It’s a peaceful place, for me anyway, and I could have sat there all day just looking at the water, the boats, and the hills.  On a different day I would meet up with my mom’s cousin who happens to be the Mayor of Petty Harbour, and get more of a guided tour of the area.  But on this particular solitary day, I just experienced the harbour on my own, quietly, and thought about what life must have been like there, and what it might have been like to grow up there.

A big event that took place during my stay was the Royal St. John’s Regatta, a rowing tournament at Lake Quidi Vidi.  It was cold, drizzly and foggy, as it was for most of my visit, but the regatta went on regardless.  Kiosks and tents lined the shores of the lake, with food vendors and games of chance.  It was fun to walk around and see so many local people out, showing their community spirit. 

I also got to go on a boat tour with my cousin Leslie-Anne and her three year old son, Liam.  That was a really fun experience, being out on a boat (one of my favorite things) and seeing humpback whales and puffins. It was cold but I didn’t care, I just love being out on a boat, and seeing wildlife I’d never seen before was amazing.

On one rainy day, I decided to just get in my rental car and drive. I drove to a place called Cupids, and Bay Roberts.  Each place I saw had a special beauty of its own, and I enjoyed just driving around and seeing the landscapes and seascapes of each place. 

I know I can’t mention every aspect of my visit in this blog post, or it would be volumes and no one would want to read it all.  Suffice to say, it was one of the best times of my life and one I’ll never forget.  As I drove from Bay Bulls to the St. John’s airport very early on the morning of my departure, I saw the lights of the city as I came over a hill. It brought tears to my eyes knowing that I had to leave and I wasn’t sure when I’d be back.   I love Newfoundland, and someday I will live there.  I don’t know when or how, but I know that it’s the place I am happiest and most at peace.

Of course some of the biggest parts of my visit were centered around music.  Those experiences — The George Street Festival, the nights at the pubs, the Folk Festival– deserve blog posts all their own.  It was only one part of my trip, but the music was huge.  Just as learning more about my family and strengthening that connection was important to me during this visit, so was the music and my internal, inexplicable connection to it.

PS- to make my trip home a little less painful, I got to share a two hour flight with all of Blue Rodeo-including Jim Cuddy. That story deserves a post all it’s own–coming soon.

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