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 – 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!



Let’s catch up! More from Prague and Vienna

Almost a month since I posted on the blog! I’ve had my head deep in recording mode – recording the last few songs, laying down the partIMG_0463s from the guest musicians, then mixing, and mastering, the new CD. I’ll post separately about that another time, but first let’s catch up on what’s been happening in the life of Damh since last time.

We had an amazing time in Prague and Vienna. The day after the concert in Prague we were shown around the city by members of the PF International group. Prague is so beautiful – it’s almost sensory overload! Everywhere there are stunning buildings, then you turn a corner and there are even more! Their snacks are good too! I tried a rolled pastry thingy that was simply divine! We went to Prague castle, saw the astrological clock strike noon, saw where Mozart did his first performance of Don Giovani, and tasted the delights of Czech cuisine. But we only had one afternoon, and then it was farewell and off to Vienna!

IMG_0492I had played a concert in Vienna last year and had had such a great time. We’d made some good friends and I was looking forward to seeing them again, along with the lovely Siggy (who was responsible for me getting my first harp!). We were driven to Vienna which gave us more opportunity to see the surrounding countryside, and we arrived there about 10pm, going straight to Siggy’s where she had prepared some wonderful soup. Yum.

I have been to Vienna about 3 times now and I’m beginning to feel quite at home there. The concert was in a different venue – a great little place that not only hosts music, but also art exhibitions. I set up my stuff and tuned up as people arrived. The two men who run it had prepared some great food for people coming to the show too. Just like last year we had an amazing evening together, and the celebrations continued onwards into the morning.

My first Pagan camp was The Broomstick Rally which was held annually in Sussex and run by the then PF regional co-ordinators, Rob and Fran. ItIMG_0503 was a real party, part bikers’ rally, part Pagan spiritual camp, but one that never really took itself too seriously. There were games like Pentacle Rounders, Tree of Life hoopla, and the infamous Toss the Cross, plus a live band and fireside eisteddfod. One of the people who came to the Broomstick Rally then moved to Austria, and started one there too. So thus it was that many years later I found myself at The Broomstick Rally once more! The venue was an amazing Austrian Palace out in the country. The grounds were stunning, had their own little temple space, and surrounding woodland, and a wonderful covered fire pit circle. It was weird to be at a Pagan camp where I hadn’t been booked to play as a performer, but it was also lovely to just relax and be. Wherever Siggy goes you will find harpers and other musicians, and this was no exception. Plus the PFI people from the Czech Republic were there too, so it was great to see IMG_0507them again. We chilled, played music, read, listened to talks, did workshops, and then as night fell, got wild around the camp fire, and man do the Czechs and Austrians know how to party!!

What is great is that this now seems to be becoming an annual tradition, and we have already been invited back again next year. They are all such amazing people, I can’t wait!