Update on the Royal Albert Hall concert

A couple of months ago I set up a Facebook page for a concert at the Royal Albert Hall. The idea came as I looked at the 7500+ likes on the my music page and thought I wonder if we could do this? So I created the Facebook page asking people to like the page if they would come along. The page got over 800 likes on the first couple of days, then levelled out as I updated it less and it now stands at just over 1000 likes. Which is a good start, but we still need more if the idea is to become a reality.

Obviously the first thing that happened, and I’m not at all surprised it did, is that I was inundated with offers from musicians to play at the gig. There were a few other enquiries that came up so I thought I’d better address some of them in this post so we know we are on the same page.

The main thing to bear in mind is that we would only have the hall for the evening. It wouldn’t be an all day festival. Just to have the hall for 3 hours of music between 8pm and 11pm is going to cost around £28-30,000. Doors would open at 7.15 with access to seats at 7.30. The concert would begin at 8pm. So realistically there is time for one, at the most two, performers on top of my own concert for you all. Right now I have been speaking with Spiral Dance from Australia in the hope that they will be one of the bands performing on the night, but this is obviously in the very early stages. As for myself, I’ll be putting together a full band for this one-off concert with some very special guest musicians along the way. Whatever happens it’s going to be a great evening of music.

So the next stage is to begin to raise the finances for the concert as the Royal Albert Hall requires all of the money in advance for people hiring it for the first time. Here’s the plan…

I would like for the Facebook page to get to at least 1500 likes before Samhain this year. The Albert Hall holds 3929 people, so if each of those 1500 likes brings one guest we are close to a sell out. If we reach 1500 likes on the page I’ll then take that as a good omen and open a Kickstarter fund raiser page. Kickstarter is a safe and secure online service that allows people to raise money for artistic projects. I will set the target figure to £28,000 and ask each of you who want to be at the event to donate a minimum of £30. That £30 donation will buy you your ticket, but at the time of donation you won’t know the date of the event as I won’t be able to book the hall before we raise the money. Kickstarter only charge the donation if the project reaches its target by the deadline. If we don’t reach the target by the deadline no one will be charged and the project just doesn’t happen. If, however, we reach the target, or go beyond it, on the deadline date the donations are taken, we get the finances, and can write the Albert Hall a cheque and book the date for the concert. So the success of this event lies with the community. If we want this to happen, it will. I’d love the concert to happen next year. So if the Kickstarter fundraiser page goes live this Samhain, and we set the deadline for, maybe, Imbolc 2013, we can then look at the second half of the year for the concert itself.

How exciting would that be!! Imagine the Royal Albert Hall heaving with your friends and people you’ve yet to meet, all gathering to celebrate together and be entertained. Even if I wasn’t playing I’d want to be there. To have come from the early 90’s newspaper slandering to a concert at the Royal Albert Hall would really show just how much our community has grown. So I ask you to tell your friends, talk about this at your moots, in your magazines, on your Facebook groups, in your podcasts. Share the Facebook page and let us see if together we can do this.

Obviously none of this is written in stone and things can change, but If you’ve any questions. Do ask them!

Advertisements

Antlered Crown and Standing Stone

Writing and recording an album is quite some undertaking. Each of my albums have taken on their own personality as each note has been played and recorded. During Herne’s Apprentice I was excited and nervous to see how my music would be received by people. Hills they are Hollow was probably the most gentle ride of all, as I’d found my feet and was thoroughly enjoying finding my way around the recording studio. The difficult third album was not so difficult in the end and, on the whole, Spirit of Albion flowed beautifully.

It was my fourth album The Cauldron Born that gave me my biggest challenge. Songs were coming that were deeply personal (Imramma – A Soul Quest), some political (Only Human), some written with an aim of putting the record straight (Green and Grey), whilst others told of a deep inner need to reconnect to the natural world (Land, Sky and Sea). The Cauldron Born lived up to its title as it felt like it was torn from my very soul, as I looked back into the depths of the Cauldron, and saw my own reflection.

I think it might have been this experience that led me to change direction with my next studio album by recording an album of classic traditional folk songs in Tales from the Crow Man. Some people ask why I did that, and the truth is that I really felt the need to give something back. I’d recorded a few folk songs on my previous albums (such as Raggel Taggle Gypsies and John Barleycorn), and each time I played these songs I became aware of a huge pyramid of ancestors stretching back behind me made up of all of the people who had sung these songs over the centuries. Nobody knows who wrote them, and that to me is part of the magic, but they are still being sung. These old folk songs tell of our human experience, and a folk song has to do that otherwise people will stop singing it, and it’ll disappear. So I chose the songs that had moved me the most over the years and went back into the studio.

I quickly realised that I didn’t just want to re-record covers of these songs, I wanted to really get to know them, explore them, feel them, then make my own mark on them, and that’s what I did, and that’s why Tales from the Crow Man was the hardest album of all. There was a pressure and a responsibility there that I wouldn’t deny. So it took a while, and it also took Cerri coming up with the concept of the Crow Man, this mysterious figure in the field outside the village that had seen the events of all of these songs happen. So he told his tales, and in the end I was really pleased with the result.

Last year I released my first live album As Nature Intended, and it is really lovely to have that available for those who simply cannot get to one my shows, and for those that can, but want to relive the experience.

So where next?

I am now halfway through recording my latest album, and it has already taken on a life of its own. It has taken this amount of time to tell me its name – as I’ve recorded the songs I’ve realised that it is a return to my roots. I am writing and singing about our myths, the land, and the Greenwood again, and it feels wonderful. This return to my roots led me to think about what it is that keeps drawing me to these subjects, and it is the mysticism, the spiritual connection to the beliefs and ways of our ancestors. And when I look into the mists of the green I always find the Lord of the Wildwood staring straight back at me.

So this album will be called Antlered Crown and Standing Stone. I said I was aiming at a March release but as usual I’ve been a little optimistic… So I will keep writing, and recording, and when it’s ready, it will be born.

New Song – Brighid – Live from Witchfest International 2011

I’m so glad some of this concert was caught on video! It was really an amazing night. So here is a song dedicated to Brighid from the album I’m currently recording.

Blessings of the Goddess to you.

 

Tales from the Road – Here be GATORS!

It probably seems like a crazy idea to go to Florida for a long weekend, but that is what we did. Hopping on a plane at 9.30 on Wednesday morning we flew to Chicago, then on to Orlando where we were met by the lovely Ashley, one of the crew for the Samhain Florida Pagan Gathering. We arrived at the campsite in the dark, but I couldn’t help but notice the ‘Beware of the Bears’ sign as we drove in. We were shown our cabin which we were sharing with the author M R Sellars and his lovely wife, took some dinner, then headed straight to bed as the jet lag just caught up with us.

When we got up the next morning (after waking up at around 5am wondering where I was, remembering, then going back to sleep – something that’s happened quite a bit this year) we opened the door to the cabin and took in the sight that greeted us. The venue was beside a big lake, and on this morning it was so still as to be mirror-like in its splendour.

After breakfast we took a walk around the site, and down to the lakeside where we saw the Warning Alligators sign – not a sign I’ve ever seen at our UK Pagan festivals! We spent Thursday meeting up with new friends and old, and chilled under the Florida sunshine.

Friday was different. A chill wind had blown in and the lake was no longer its mirrored self. We held a poetry workshop by the windblown lakeshore, and then in the afternoon I led an Ogam workshop, also somewhat colder, but both a delight to lead. Then I began to prepare for my evening’s concert. The venue was perfect, and Paul, the sound engineer was a delight to work with. In no time I had the sound I liked.

Now, I have to say that I don’t like waiting to play. Once I’m ready I just cannot wait to get on with it. But before long people arrived and I was ready to start. I took the stage, and, said “Hello!”….. and every light in the entire venue went out. I was in pitch darkness. I thought it was part of the show, and other lights would come on, but they didn’t. So there was nothng else to do but to play a bit with the situation. I got really close to the mic and in a deep voice that boomed out of the darkness I said. “Welcome to the Underworld, did you think it would look different?” Some giggles from the audience in the blackness, then a few turned on torches to light me up. I could see a few people rushing around at the back of the venue, and thought I’d better start – I could just see with the audiences’ torchlight. So I opened with Song of Awen, and during the song the lights came back on, and the show continued. What had happened was a lady with a mobility scooter had plugged her vehicle in outside the venue, couldn’t see a charging light, so flicked the switch above the plug, and in doing so she turned off all of the lights in the venue. She was so apologetic afterwards, but it really wasn’t a problem – things like that often give me the opportunity to play the fool a bit more, and certainly keep me on my toes. We all had a wonderful evening together, as did those who came along for the encore concert on Saturday lunchtime.

There were times when I was sitting with friends, and I felt the Sun on my skin, so I just soaked it up. I knew that it would be the last time I felt that warmth until maybe April of May 2012, and those of you who know me will know I am a true Sun worshipper, and miss the light and heat deeply. Sharing the campsite with beautiful red-cap cranes was quite an experience, and I marvelled at the aerial acrobatics of the black wing and turkey vultures, but I almost cried when the bald eagle flew overhead.

But soon it was Sunday, and so early in the morning we left with our friends and headed to a Cracker Barrell before being dropped back at the airport.

We had the most wonderful time at the Florida Pagan Gathering. The organisers, the other headliners, and the visitors were so lovely, and I just know it won’t be our last visit there. Thanks to everyone who made our trip, the workshops, and the concerts, so enjoyable. Oh, and thanks for all the mead too!!

The Heart of Samhain

I was asked very recently why Druids celebrate such a dark festival as Samhain. What is it about this shadowy and occult time, where the land is overrun with ghosts and ghouls, that makes us want to associate ourselves with it. I found it a really odd question, but I think it’s a topic that, unless you are involved with Paganism, can be confusing. To the mass populous Samhain is Hallowe’en. A time when children knock on the doors of strangers asking for sweets, when demons and ghosts run riot, where we carve pumpkins into scary Jack o’ Lanterns. So in a way it’s not surprising that some wonder why we would celebrate this as a spiritual festival. So I replied that it isn’t dark. That the darkness some people perceive comes from a fear and distance from death.

The feast of Samhain comes from a time when people didn’t have world trade. They couldn’t just pop to the supermarket to buy their food. They had to grow it all themselves. Samhain as Summer’s End marks the obvious slip into the darkness and cold of the Winter. There would be the slaughtering of cattle and salting of meat to preserve it, the bringing in of crops, and some would look at the older members of their community and wonder if these frail people would live to see another Spring. The Sun’s arc is in decline, bringing shorter and shorter days, and with these thoughts of darkness and death comes our memories of those that have past on before. The Otherworld lies close at this time of year, and sometimes it feels so close you can almost touch it. So, being so distant from those tribal peoples what relevance does Samhain have today?

Today most of us are so distant from even the idea of death that we find it dark and scary. Dead bodies are taken away, hidden from view, filled with chemicals, then put straight into a box, then into the ground or cremated. Death is such a part of life that this distance is, in my opinion, unhealthy. Many of us British people take that another stage further with the idea of having to keep our chin up, or that emotional-baggage inducing stiff upper lip. So many of us either will not allow ourselves to mourn, or are not allowed to by our peers. The act of crying is such an important part of letting go that in the end this pent up emotion has to come out in some way, and sometimes this is in illness or misplaced anger. So during our Samhain ritual we say that all the time the names of our loved ones are spoken into the air, they will know they haven’t been forgotten, and sometimes that very simple act of saying their name out loud, of bringing their faces into our memories, is enough to break that barrier of held grief, and allow people to begin to let go. A powerful and truly human thing.

A part of any spiritual path deals with what happens after we die. In the end none of us will truly know what will happen until we take that journey, but while we are here these spiritual teachings can bring us comfort and peace. As a Druid I believe in reincarnation. That when I die my spirit will travel to the Blessed Isles of the West, to rest, reflect on my life, and then to return to the Cauldron to be reborn again. I don’t know this, but I feel that it’s what will happen. I wonder if our journey after death reflects our beliefs in life. We shall all find out in the end, and maybe that is the real essence of Samhain that people find frightening and dark. That death is life’s one inevitable, and every day we are making our way on a journey towards that moment. Let’s spend the majority of our lives living, but once a year it’s good to ponder our mortality.

The Strength of our Roots help hold the Tree

I’ve heard it said that a tree doesn’t benefit from having its roots dug up, and this is true, but every now and again I feel the need to take stock and look back at what brought me to the Path in the beginning. To make sure that my roots are still secure, as sometimes they do need some kind of repair.

So yesterday I stopped looking forward, and placed my gaze firmly on the past, yet from this present moment. I got out my old Grove Books that I wrote during my studies with the Occult Church Society, and then the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids. I read what I’d written for the first time in probably 8 years.It was lovely to read my own words as I set out on this path, a time when I had no idea how my life would change. I hadn’t yet written one Pagan song, so all of it lay unknown, in the future.

One beautiful thing that came from this was a great sense of re-connection, of getting back to my own roots, and it was wonderful. During one of the rituals I wrote that I believed I had met Brighid who had told me that the “source of my poetry and song lay in my own Spirit”. When I asked what that meant She just kept on repeating the same words, over and over again. There were other beautiful messages about the future hidden within the text, and a couple of times I couldn’t help but have to dry away a few tears.

There is a lot of sense in working with the Power of Now, especially if we have a tendency to live in a perceived future when we believe all will be better. But every now and then, and particularly as Samhain approaches, I think it does me good to look back and acknowledge the ancestor of my life today. To water the roots that keep my feet on the Path, and to be able to then take a new step forward, held by my life’s experiences.

Spirit of Albion the Movie – First Trailer

Here’s the first little trailer for the forthcoming movie, enjoy!