Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Round and Round

Oh my. Has it really been over two years since our last addition to this blog? I'll backdate one here. Let’s see… where have we been? …

Summer 2014 finished with another travel lag - Tania heading back to Seattle ahead of Mike. So while Mike finished off some of the construction projects on the Irish house, Tania squeezed in a solo performance at Tumbleweed Music Festival in Eastern Washington state, a Seattle showcase performance with Ken Waldman and friends, and a couple of sets at Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival on the Olympic Peninsula, west of Seattle.

Tania at Pt. Townsend Wooden Boat Festival 2014 - photo by Adrienne Robineau
Then Mike arrived and we were off to Vancouver Island in October. Mike recorded a second CD for our friends The Rabbleberries and we played concerts up and down the island as well as over on Mayne Island.

Mike and The Rabbleberries out celebrating the finished recording.
Back to Seattle with just enough time to rehearse and perform a series of Winter’s Return concerts with William Pint and Felicia Dale before heading off to Alaska for family time in Anchorage and Dutch Harbor (and the Anchorage Folk Festival) and then another trip to British Columbia in February/March: this time on Saturna, Mayne and Vancouver Islands.

Tania and Mom in Anchorage.

And that brought us right back to our return to Ireland in Spring 2015.
No wonder the years seem to be going by so quickly!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Sessions and Castles and Kittens, Oh My!

It's been a great Summer in Ireland - probably our busiest ever. After dashing off to the UK for six weeks (see previous post), we settled in for a summer of sessions and medieval music.

Sessions ran all through the summer, and weekends saw us travelling to play music in castles all over the country, from south (Ormonde Castle, Carrick-on-Suir) to north (Dunluce Castle, Bushmills), east (Narrow Water Castle, Newry) to west (Athenry Castle, Galway), and points in between (Fethard).

Traditional Irish sessions:
New Ross: Nan, on the flute, came from India to stay a couple of weeks - always a high point in our summer.

Ballywilliam: Yes, that's the same young piper, Eoin. Saw him a lot this summer; he's turning into a serious player!

We made up a variety of medieval ensembles for performances in castles all over Ireland.
Tania and Mike in Ormond Castle, Carrick-on-Suir
Sam Burke (Nuada) travels and performs with an even bigger collection of unusual musical instruments than we do,
Rehearsal time at our house.
so when we get together to practice for some summer gigs it's a real stringfest (plus a few whistles, reeds, and of course drums!)

Leading the procession around Fethard's medieval walls.

Tania went up to Northern Ireland for a couple of days to play with Sam and Ferris at:
Dunluce Castle, perched dramatically on the rocky North Antrim coast.

Narrow Water Castle has less impressive surroundings (a dual carriageway),
but unlike Dunluce it has a roof. And we had fun in the great hall.

Then it was back to Mike and Tania, the duo, as we finished our medieval "season" in Athenry Castle, Co Galway.
Mike, exploring the grounds.
Tania, setting up in the great hall.

At home in Inistioge, we took advantage of some barbecue weather, celebrated the christening of our neighbors' new baby, and got adopted by a pair of absolutely adorable barn cats.

Don at the grill

'Pearls' and 'Rocky'

Somehow, in between all that, Mike managed to get a lot of work done on the house. I'll try to get a new update to our house restoration blog soon, but here's one of the highlights - a working wood stove. That's in addition to the underfloor heating he installed last year, so now if we ever have time to stay put through the Winter, we'll be nice and cozy!

The summer's ending. Mike is staying a bit longer to finish up some of the good progress on the house, but Tania has said goodbye to friends, neighbors and kittens, and is saying hello to our Pacific Northwest friends as she travels solo in the coming weeks to two festivals and a performing arts showcase. See our calendar for details.

'Bye for now!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

UK 2014 - On the road again... Or, rather, 'Still on the Road'.

Our intention is always to share highlights of our travels as we go, but in reality we're generally too busy doing the traveling to write about it. So once again, this is more of a "looking back" post, but it's recent enough that we haven't had time to unpack yet from this trip!

We got back to Ireland in March. The weather wasn't too bad. The house wasn't too bad, either - only a bit of mold and a lot of musty towels, clothes and bedding. We had two weeks to get turned around and start the UK tour, and we spent most of that time scrubbing walls and running loads of laundry.

The one big disappointment was that after the very first shower on our return, the shower unit died. Blew a capacitor and seriously fried. Good thing we have a bathtub, too. As much as we like seeing our friends here, we didn't want to return to the days of showing up for visits with towels and shampoo.
So, leaving shower repairs for later but having taken care of the important stuff of airing and cleaning both house and caravan (because we'll have company starting to arrive very shortly after we get back here), we hit the road...
... and arrive in Liverpool.
Our first few shows were in the North of England, and we had one day early on when we decided to just be tourists for the day. This was after a show in Guisborough, so first off we walked up the street from our hotel for a look at the ruins of the old cathedral. This has to be the fourth or fifth time we've played in this town, and we never even knew this was here!
From there, the logical thing to do was head for the coast by the most scenic route we could find. Actually it looks a lot like our road in Ireland, except we can't see the ocean ahead of us when we're driving into the village.
We went the long way around, through Borrowby, to Staithes - a gorgeous little seaside town perched on the sides of a... is there an English term for fjord?
It was still early in the year, so the bright sun only warmed the place up a little bit
but that didn't make the beach any less popular.
Making our way farther north, we got to Northumberland. No work here, just a couple of days off between the shows in northern England and the ones in Scotland, and we wanted to spend them with our friend Liz.
And there happens to be this great little bakery in Allendale, which made a good excuse for a walk to pick up some savories for dinner.
Liz is a wonderful Appalachian dulcimer player. We went out for a session with her in a local pub just after we arrived, and spent the rest of our time there going around to visit (and play music with) all the old friends we bumped into there - Ian and Marilyn and Chris and Anne... and then we were out of time and on the road again.
Onward and Northward, here we are in Scotland. We arrived just in time for Easter with Steven and Elizabeth. And set out for another walk on another beautiful but chilly and windy beach.
Getting off the beach seemed like a good (warm) idea, but then, from the top of this hill, Steven pointed out North Berwick Law and suggested we go climb it...
Here's the marker at the top.
And here's the view at the top. There had been a whalebone arch erected here, and this is the modern, synthetic replacement.
I don't now how we got so lucky with the weather, but a few days later we were out sightseeing again (this time to Tantallon Castle, a semi-ruined mid-14th-century fortress). Look at that bright blue and green. In Scotland!
The rest of our time up in Scotland was a grand whirlwind of reunions with friends we hadn't seen in far too many years, interspersed with some really nice shows and amazing scenery, and then we were back in England. The bluebells hadn't been quite out yet in Scotland, but they were almost finished in Yorkshire.

In addition to the human friends we get to stay with, we also get plenty of feline and canine companionship along the way. Eska was the new puppy when we came to Birdsedge last year. She's still a puppy - a very BIG puppy.
Millie still thinks she's a puppy, too, but she has been around for awhile. She and her people, now in Manchester, used to live down the road from us here in Ireland. Fortunately Dave and Helen found a place right next to a very big park, so she still has open fields to run around.
The morning after our show in Louth, we went for a walk up the winding bell tower stairs to the steeple of the cathedral church. A good workout, and an even better view from the top.
And the prettiest bathroom window I've ever seen :)
Near the end of the trip we were back in Norwich, where this blog, and in fact our whole career and life together began. Norwich Folk Club meets in this lovely old Church Hall. And there's Bridget, coming out the door to greet us. 
Well, that was it. Round and round and up and down and back and forth, and the miles (and months) fly by. Now we're back in Ireland. Will post more soon. 'Bye for now.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Another Unalaska

We post a disproportionate number of entries from Unalaska/Dutch Harbor; it may look like we get here more often than we really do. It's such an interesting place, and one that so few get out to visit, that we like to share it.
Deep blue lake and grassy mountain
Most of our previous trips to the Aleutian Islands have been in snowy
weather, so we've been looking forward to this September trip.
airplane propeller above clouds
Coming in to King Salmon
for refueling.
windswept Mike in the sun
It's wet and windy now, but
our first few days were
warm and bright.
pink salmon, spawning and dying
Spawning time. Interesting wading across (no hiking boots meant
a barefoot crossing), looking for rocks to step on that didn't have
dead salmon snagged on them.

branch full of blueberries
Cousin Mary made sure we took advantage of the good weather while
it lasted by guiding us out to hill walks, sweeping vistas, and berries!
Mike and Mary picking berries

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A summer remembered

I have really fallen behind on my postings! We've been all over the place; I have to get the calendar out to remember where we've been.

I'll just backtrack to Ireland for now. "Summer" 2012 -

Mike flew to Ireland in March a couple of weeks earlier than Tania, who had one more solo concert to do and a recording session with William Pint and Felicia Dale. By the time Tania landed our first guests of the year, Jesse and Jesus, had already arrived the previous day. This was a serious climate change for them! From sunny Spain, they had flown north to frosty Ireland. We tried to keep warm by hiking all the way up to the top of Brandon Hill, but gale force winds nearly blew us off. The wind did blow down a tree, which we had to shift off the road to get back from our hike. At least we got a little bit of sunshine while they were here. That was a very scarce commodity this "summer"!

Mike got seriously stuck back into house restoration. The weather didn't cooperate for working outdoors, but as mentioned in the previous post, there was plenty to do in the bathroom. And it was great to see some real progress there.

Then it was our turn to go off visiting. We'd been trying for nearly a year to get a small Irish hurdy-gurdy players' gathering started... Turned out to be very small indeed, with just Mike, Tania, Ferris and Sam getting together again. This time, though, we were in Sam & Ferris' new house in Co Leitrim, with loads of space for playing, eating, sleeping, and messing around taking pictures and videos. (We have pictures of our 2011 meet-ups here.) We have so much fun at these sessions that we really want to share the experience with other gurdy and pipe players; hopefully we'll be able to widen the circle next year.

Our second visitor of the summer came over from Canada, breaking away from a Morris Dancing trip to England to spend a couple of days with us. I don't think the sun came out once, even briefly, while Karen was here, but we got her (and her flute) out to a couple of sessions, and a good time was had.

Mike was asked to be the soundman for a concert in the village hall over in Thomastown. It had been a while since the whole PA system got a workout, so to make sure everything was good to go, he first took over our kitchen (future living room) for a trial run. It was good timing, as well as fun, because we needed that PA for our concert in our own village hall the next weekend.

 In the week between the two village hall shows, we went to Galway to meet up with an old friend we'd not seen for too many years. Marc Gunn was leading an Irish tour for a group of his fans, and we met up with them for a few days. On our way there, we found ourselves driving through Moneygall, famed in story and song as the birthplace of Barack Obama's great-great-great grandfather. All done up for the American tourists, of course. As we stood, bemused, in front of the Obama Cafe, a helpful passerby offered to take our picture. How could we refuse?

Late June and early July, Tania and Mike parted company for six weeks. Renaissance festival season beckoned, and Tania was off across the ocean to roast in renfaire costumes in Eastern Washington heat while Mike stayed behind in the coldest, wettest Irish "summer" since records began. We avoided talking about the weather in our frequent phone calls.

No sooner did Tania get back to Ireland than it was time for what is becoming an eagerly anticipated annual tradition - Nan's visit from India. This was great, because we love to see her, we always play more music when she's around, and she brings out the best in the Irish weather! We had some great sessions in the two weeks Nan was here.

That change in the weather came none too soon. Shortly after Nan's departure, we had a day of outdoor music lined up with Sam and Ferris for Cashel's Medieval Walled Town Day. The ground may have been soggy from a "summer" (we got in the habit of referring to it in quotes) of rain, but at least the sky stayed dry for us all day.

Some of the folks we've met through the local sessions invited us to come for an afternoon boat trip on the Barrow. We set off from Tinnahinch, passed through several of the locks between there and St Mullins, and shared sunshine and music all the way.

Then there was a trip over to England and Scotland for gigs and visits with friends and family. If I can find any photos from that trip, I'll add to this. Since then, we've been all around Puget Sound, and back home to Alaska, and all up and down Vancouver Island...

We've just been traveling too much to find time to blog about it.