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!

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Concert at the Royal Albert Hall? Make it so!

It’s good to have role models in life. People who have achieved something that you admire, and maybe aspire to yourself. To look at how they did what they did, and maybe use that as a model. One of my role models is the folk band Show of Hands. They are a folk duo made up of Steve Knightley (the main song writer) and Phil Beer (the instrumental genius who takes Steve’s songs to an altogether higher level). They have, from the beginning, remained independent of any major label, they set up their own tours, they are in control of their music and life direction. All wonderful inspiring things. Then one year they decided that if all of their fans came along, they could fill the Royal Albert Hall. It was a huge risk for an independent folk band, but they went for it, and it worked. they had the support of their fans to do something outstanding. It had to be the Royal Albert Hall too. It’s a venue full of tradition and beauty with great acoustics.

So when I saw this it must have laid an idea in my head. When my Facebook page reached 5000 likes I jokingly said, “If you all came along we could fill the Royal Albert Hall,” and a lot of people said they’d come along. I’m now at just over 7000 likes on the page and I thought it was about time to get the ball rolling!

So at this early stage I’ve set up a Facebook page for the concert. In the first day it got 615 likes, but I’d like to keep the momentum going, hence this blog post. If you would come along just ‘like’ the page, and over time we might reach that magic 5000 likes and we can make it a reality.

So what about some detail?

I see this happening in the next 2 years.

At the moment the lineup for the evening is myself and possibly two or three other acts. I really don’t know how long you get the venue for. Who these other performers will be is still a way off any announcement yet.

My concert will not be a regular Damh the Bard concert. For just this gig I will form a band to play with me, there will be guests, lots of surprises, it will be a magical, one off, night, and it will be recorded for a live album. Maybe a live DVD also – well you’d have to wouldn’t you!

It’s going to cost a lot of money to put this event on, and there is quite a lot of financial risk, to say the least. But it would be my aim to keep the concert as affordable as possible, taking the venue and costs into consideration.

This is all a way off yet, but imagine, a Pagan music event at the Royal Albert Hall. Around 5000 people gathered to sing, chant, meet up, and celebrate where we have come from, and how far we have come. It would really be something. So click the link below, and like the page. Let’s ‘Make it so!”

Pagan Music Concert at the Royal Albert Hall

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!!

Tales from the Road – He was searching for the Grail. I told him we’d already got one.

A very short flight took us from Prague to Frankfurt airport where we were met by Petra and then taken to a lovely German coffee house in her home village. A quiet night in led to us travelling the next day to the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids German Mabon camp.

The venue was beautiful. A YMCA centre with lovely chalets surrounding a gorgeous green where we would hold our rituals and workshops. The weather was still uncharacteristically warm for October so a great weekend was in store.

As dusk fell on that first night we walked into the woods, set our circle, and prepared for some Ovate initiations. The Moon shone through the treetops, owls called somewhere in the forest, we were blessed by a cloudless, star-filled sky. One of those skies that remind you just how small you really are. The initiations were magical. We walked back to go to sleep to awake at 6am, just before sunrise, for the Bardic initiations.

I have trouble getting up in the morning. I admit it. I have real trouble getting moving at 6am. But once dressed in my robe I opened the door and was caressed by the most delicious air that just filled me up and drove away any tiredness that was still hanging around.

We walked to the same location as before. Just over a stream, and into the woodland. We set the circle and the initiations began. What I haven’t told you is that we were sharing the site with a group of Live Action Role Players (LARPers). They were all in the next field. As the Sun rose bathing us in the most glorious early morning light, and the Bards saw the first dawn on their new Journeys, we were about halfway through one of the initiations when we heard a metallic stomping sound. I’d never heard this sound before, and it got closer and closer. We all stopped, there was a silence and stillness in the circle as the sound got louder, and we waited in anticipation, all wondering what would appear. We turned to see a knight in full plate-mail walking up the forest path towards us. Now I’ve seen some weird stuff in my time as a Druid, but this was about the most surreal.

Our gatekeeper walked over to him, obviously asked him to avoid the circle, and he dropped his shoulders in a rather dejected manner, turned, and stomped away with that same crashing sound. It was like a knight searching for the Grail, coming upon a group of Druids in the forest who told him ‘He Shall Not Pass This Way’ or like Monty Python, “well old chap, we’ve already got one.” It probably fitted his role-playing perfectly. The initiations were beautiful, and what a memory for that initiate to hold!

After we then found ourselves with some free time. Me and Cerri added our wishes to the ribbons, pictured below.

On Saturday night I played my concert. People gathered in the concert hall and I just couldn’t wait to get playing. This was my second concert in Germany and I could tell from talking to people at the camp that they were all up for a great evening. There was no need for translation here, people just understood the words of my songs and just joined in with me. By the end people were up and singing at the tops of their voices with a good number dancing in the isles. Apparently this is quite unusual for a German audience. It was s great night.

On the Sunday Cerri held her Awen workshop, and I did a talk on the Ogam, and a tree identification walk. More sunshine, more smiles. Then on Sunday morning at dawn we were once again up at 6am for a lovely naming ceremony. We had already packed our stuff as immediately after we were in the car, and on our way to Frankfurt airport to hop on a plane for the last leg of the tour. To Milan.

Tales from the Road – Damh karaoke in Prague

After the Austrian Broomstick Rally our next port of call was Prague in the Czech Republic. I remember a good number of years ago meeting Eurich and Jo whilst they were in the UK. They came to one of our open rituals at the Long Man of Wilmington and Eurich shook my hand enthusiastically saying “you’re Damh the Bard! Your music is HUGE in our country! We all sing them around our camp fires!” and I remember thinking, “But I’ve only sold one CD to the Czech republic…” and now I was on my way to play my third annual concert in Prague. Selling that first CD and having it passed around the Czech Pagan community led directly to these concerts. It’s a funny old way to make a living is music.

The Monday before the concert we met up with people at the Prague pub moot. The Czech people have a seemingly endless energy and zest for life and being around them this feeling is infectious. The beer flows, the folk songs are sung at the tops of their voices, they seem to have no fear of judgement or inhibition when it comes to singing, and dancing their traditional dances. It’s a delight to be around. And by the way, I have to say that Czech beer is some of the best I’ve ever tasted! Miraculously I awoke the next morning hangover free.

Before the concert we made a visit to the Mucha museum. Art Nouveau is one of Cerri’s favourite periods of art history. I must admit that I’ve never really understood the attraction. My favourite period of art is probably the pre-raphaelites but this gave me the opportunity to take a good look at it, and Mucha’s work. So what did I think? Well, I understand it a bit more. It doesn’t fill me up like it does Cerri, but at least I can appreciate it more, and a couple of the posters I found incredibly moving.

Later we made our way to the Mandragora Bar, the same venue I played last year, and I was so happy to meet friends there, old and new. Some of my concerts I know that people will remain seated and listen to the words and sing along. With the Czechs I know this is never going to happen. By halfway through the opening song of the first set I could hear them singing, and by halfway through the dance floor was full and the singing had moved up a number of notches in volume. By the end of the concert I was being beaten in volume, and for Lughnasadh I stopped singing altogether and just played along with them in a groovy Damh karaoke. As the organiser of the concerts said, the first concert was a one-off treat, the second was an encore, the third makes it an annual tradition. I do hope so, and look forward to playing again in Prague in 2012.

The next day I hadn’t managed to entirely avoid a hangover having indulged in some very fine wheat beer and mead after the concert, so after a little bit of a lay in we made our way to Prague’s finest monastery to visit it’s gallery and library. I love being at places of faith, and I really enjoyed the architecture, but by the end of the monasteries gallery I had really had enough of seeing paintings of Christ on the cross, and the torturous deaths of myrtyrs. I found myself wishing to see a painting of a positive point in Christ’s life, some point of celebration, but then the culmination of his life was his dying for the sins of the people, so I guess that’s why most of the images portray his death. It obviously works for many people as an image of faith, but it doesn’t for me. Each to their own. The library was fascinating though, and I would still recommend a visit to both.

So the next day, and after another wonderful trip to Prague, we found ourselves at Prague airport heading to Frankfurt for the OBOD Germany camp. But that, as they say, is another story for another blog…

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Tales from the Road – live video Prague 2011

Excerpts from last night’s concert in Prague. What a fantastic, enthusiastic audience!

Tales from the Road – Oh Vienna!

Vienna is one of my favourite cities. It seems to have such a relaxed atmosphere, and I adore its relationship with the Arts. I guess having such famous offspring helps, and it seems to value the Arts extremely highly, and I have never felt that being a musician is an undervalued profession here. This would be my fourth annual concert in the city, and my third visit to the Austrian Broomstick Rally.

We were collected from the airport by our dear friend Siggy, the person mainly responsible for my connection to the harp, and taken into Vienna to chill out for a few hours before going to the concert venue. I’d woken up at a Premier Inn at Heathrow at 4.30am so needed a power-nap before the gig that night. So rested we made our way into the city.

There was a buzz in the air that night. Everyone was in high spirits and the evening was opened by the Pagan Piper Project, a mass of singers and musicians who I had seen play a few songs at last years Broomstick. They were wonderful. Check them out atwww.paganpiper.com . The venue was full, with a few standing, and the atmosphere this year was fantastic. From the opening song we were all singing together and I don’t know if I was imagining this but it felt like there was some release of tension in the air – our lives do seem to be complicated right now with work, and the political climate – it just seemed like we were all thankful of the opportunity to just let go for a few hours.

The next day we hopped onto a tiny train that took us into the Austrian mountains. As each mile passed we were taken deeper and deeper into the countryside, and what countryside! Eventually we arrived at the tiny village of Anneberg and picked up from the smallest station I’ve ever seen to be taken to the new location for this year’s Broomstick Rally. It was pretty dark by then so I couldn’t see what was surrounding us, but when I got up the next morning I found that we were surrounded by mountains, held in a kind of natural cauldron. Again I felt that the atmosphere of the Broomstick was filled with joy and that same feeling of letting go.

On Friday afternoon I helped Cerri as she took the participants through a two and a half hour workshop and ritual based on the Taliesin poem The Spoils of Annwn. Then in the evening there was the annual Broomstick Eisteddfod with music, storytelling, poetry, and dance. Yes, dance. Great Breton dancing to harp. Wonderful.

On Saturday morning Siggy guided us through a brilliant candle decorating workshop, and then later there was a fantastic Pagan Treasure Hunt, and the traditional game of Pentacle Rounders. As night fell we once more gathered around the fire for more music and story, under an amazing star-filled sky.

The Sussex Broomstick Rally was the first Pagan camp I ever attended, back in the early 90s. The Austrian Broomstick Rally was start by Karen, a woman with a vast amount of energy who attended one of those early camps and took the format to Austria when she later moved there. The Sussex Broomstick Rally hasn’t been held for a number of years but it is wonderful to go to another country and go to workshops of depth, and also take part in some of those crazy games I remember with such fondness.

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Tales from the Road – To Europe!

On Wednesday morning I’ll be travelling to Austria to play a concert on Wednesday evening in Vienna, then on Thursday I’m off to the Austrian ‘Broomstick Rally’ in the mountains for the weekend. Then on Sunday driving to Prague for a moot on Monday, and a concert on Tuesday. After that it’s to Frankfurt for the OBOD Germany camp for the next weekend including a public concert, then on the Monday off to Italy for a concert in Milan on the Tuesday.

So I’ll doubtlessly be blogging about our adventures, but if you are in or near any of those places check out my gig listing below for details, and come and say hello!

 

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Live at the OBOD Summer Gathering 2011

I just found this on YouTube. The complete concert filmed at the OBOD Summer Gathering from Glastonbury Town Hall. Guests on stage are Paul Newman, Kate and Corwen, and sadly you can’t see Keiron Sibley on the Djembe. We had one run through the set together before we played that night, so what you are seeing and hearing is pretty much a live jam. I remember Kate saying, “Imagine what we would sound like if we actually practiced!” So true.

Enjoy!

Tales from the Road: The English Ale

I’m writing this on the plane as we leave Adelaide and head towards Melbourne. I had planned to post a regular blog but things became really busy, really quickly!


The English Ale festival was amazing. We started early joining a few of the Morris sides at the local pub for some dances before people gathered at the Mylor Hall. The scene could have been from any English Morris festival. Sides dancing to accordion, fiddle, drum and flute; May pole dancing, cider, sunshine, laughter and singing. A wonderful day. And as dusk fell, so we gathered in the field opposite the venue beside three giants, as the ‘Obby ‘Osses chased and masks were placed. The sun set, and torches were lit for the procession to the Wicker Man. I was honoured to have been asked to lead the procession with Cerri, so with dancers flowing, and about 200


people behind, we slowly set off. Again, as I looked back and saw the torchlit procession it could have been from Lewes, Hastings, Padstow, yet here we were in Australia with some of the most passionate dancers I have ever met.

We arrived at the Wicker Man and formed a great circle. Then a horn was blown and I turned and declared peace in the east. I then walked sunwise (which in the southern hemisphere in anticlockwise) as peace wasdeclared in each direction (with fire in the north). The differences feel completely right


when here on this land. Drums started as a rope fire puppet began to dance around the circle, finally falling, and embracing the Wicker Man, setting him alight. An awesome sight that I’m sure we will being back with us to the UK!

More Morris followed, but I made my way back to the hall as the evening music was about to begin. The concert went really well with some amazing harmonies coming from the audience during The Wheel an Wild Mountain Thyme. I felt humbled to come half way around the world to find people who knew my songs.

It was an amazing day and it all felt really familiar, and the dancing a music was performed with a love and passion that showed a deep love and respect for English traditions. I was incredibly moved by what I saw, and all of the sides would have been at home at the Hastings Jack in the Green festival. I took some video clips during the day and dropped them into a little video that you can find here

I’d hoped to do regular blogs during my tour, but time and Internet connections have made that difficult, but I’ll keep trying!!