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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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!

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Let’s catch up on some things!

IMG_0288This year has been the Year of the Gig for me. Almost every weekend you’ll hear the sounds of Spirit of Albion, or Hills they are Hollow echoing through a field, woodland, hall or campsite. It really has been an incredibly exciting ride (and there are more to come too!), but I have been incredibly lazy when it comes to blogging my experiences onto The Bardic Blog.

I look at my fellow Bards like Kevan Manwarring with his Bard on a Bike blog, and the writer Kit Berry on Moongazy Girl, and they are always posting about their travels. I know what my problem has been… Twitter! You see, I’ve found myself ‘micro-blogging’ as the events happen, uploading photos and mini blogs actually from the event, so it feels like I’ve already written about it. But I now intend to fully address this and keep The Bardic Blog readers informed, up to date, and still keepIMG_0247 Twittering too!

I think the last concert I wrote about here was the OBOD Summer Gathering in June! Where have I been since then? I played a beautiful Handfasting evening, The Anderida Gorsedd conference in Sussex, Pagancon in Lancashire, Oakleaf camp in Yorkshire, the Artemis Gathering in Oxfordshire, and the Goddess Festival in Canterbury. It’s been an incredibly exciting time.

Since the release of The Cauldron Born things have really shifted up a gear, not just with the gigs, but with emails from people, Facebook fan pages and fanclubs, the DruidCast podcast continues to grow and now has around 10,000 monthly listeners worldwide. Every now and then I have to pinch myself to make sure this isn’t all just a dream. Then I realise it is a dream, my dream of a life of music, and it’s actually happening! And I am so grateful!! I’ve said this before but the major change I’ve noticed at concerts this year has been the audience’s singing. I always encourage an audience to join with me on the choruses of songs, but this year there have been times when I could have just stopped singing, and left the entire song to the audience; verse, bridge, chorus, the lot! Amazing!

In the next few months I’m heading off to play in Prague, Vienna, Scotland, Shropshire, Mercia and Australia, so I’ll be sure to write about what happens here on The Bardic Blog!

In the photos you can see the Hunter’s Moon Morris at the Anderida Gorsedd conference, and the stone circle at Oakleaf camp.

Until next time, peace, and blessed be xxx

Tales from the Road – Lightning, powercuts and encores

After being shown some of the wonderful sights in the city Cerri, Siggy and myself found ourselves under a glass shelter on Friday evening caught in the most violent thunderstorm I’ve ever seen. When we got home we heard that it knocked out the electrics in Vienna blacking out the transmission of the Turkey/Germany football game. It was awesome to be outside, the raw power of Nature constantly roaring overhead. Lightning and thunder nonstop.

The night of the concert arrived and Siggy took us to the venue. Cenario is a great little cabaret theatre, and the perfect location for an acoustic performance. When I saw inside I was so pleased, and couldn’t wait to see how many people arrived. We have a venue very similar in Brighton called the Komedia. I’ve seen Show of Hands play there and it has a great atmosphere. The seating is around tables, not the usual rows you find in most music halls. I was due to start playing at 7.45, and with about an hour to go people began to arrive, and by 7.45 when I took the stage the place had reached capacity, which really took me by surprise.

I’m used to having three instruments on stage with me. One guitar in regular tuning, a mandolin, and another guitar in DADGAD tuning. This means I don’t have to keep retuning the guitars. I’d only brought one guitar with me (my Taylor), so the two sets had been split into one set of regular tuned songs, and the second set of DADGAD tunes. I’d tried this once before and it hadn’t quite worked, but I have a lot more songs now, so I was more confident. I opened with Song of Awen, then went into Pipes of Pan and by the third song I could hear people singing along with me, and that set the scene for the rest of the evening.

I opened the second set with Hills they are Hollow, and ended it with the new live favourite, Wild Mountain Thyme – it’s a great song to sing, and everyone knows it. Two lovely encores followed – I’m sure I could have played all night! When I suggested a return concert next year the response was a very positive “Yes!” To be so far away from home, and find people who knew my songs was amazing. What a ride this is!

Tales from the Road – Tourguides, mistrels and the Black Plague

After safely landing thanks to the magical powers of Alan Hanson and Gary Lineker we were met by our friend Siggy. Siggy is the main reason I learned to play the harp. I remember being beside a campfire at an OBOD camp, stars twinkly and doing their thing, just chilling, when I heard a voice say, “Can I play my harp by your fire?” At that moment I fell in love with the instrument, and when Siggy said people could have a go at playing the harp the next day, well, I jumped at the chance!

It was 31 degrees in Vienna, so the only real choice was to head straight to a bar on the banks of the Danube for an ice-cold beer. On the way we passed a few massive video screens where the football was shown, and then we were sitting by the river, supping on some lovely Austrian llllllager.

The next day we went on a wonderful tour of the city led by Siggy, who not only is a fabulous musician, but is also a qualified Vienna tour guide! There were two highlights for me. The first was seeing the house where Strauss, Beethoven and, my personal favourite, Mozart, met together. The other was a wishing well in honour of an Austrian minstrel who used to play his music in a bar, but during one of the times of the plague nobody came to see him play, so he got completely drunk. The next morning as he lay in a stupor, he was collected with all of the other plague victims and thrown into a mass grave. Luckily (I guess!) he came around before the grave was filled in (can you imagine what that must have been like!) and he crawled out, and back to the city. Amazingly he never contracted the disease, and this gave the people of Vienna their hope back. If you look closely through the grate in the picture, you can just about see him looking up at you. I dropped him an offering asking for a blessing for my concert, and it landed straight in his bucket. What a lovely bloke 🙂

More tomorrow!

Tales from the Road – How to feel safer on a plane

Back from Austria after a fabulous time, both at the pub moot, and the concert on Saturday night – where to begin? At the beginning and end of course!

I’m not a great fan of flying. Well, it’s not the flying that’s the problem, it’s the potential plummeting that’s the issue for me. But on this past trip I found my secret safety blanket. It was the European Cup Semis and Final over the weekend in Vienna and as I was sitting on the plane ready to fly out I heard a familiar Scottish accent. I looked around and there was Alan Hanson sitting just behind me, and there a little further down the plane was Gary Lineker. Suddenly I knew that the flight would be completely safe. The plane could never crash with these two famous people on board! Could you imagine the tabloid news?!

As Cerri and I sat waiting for the plane to take off on the return flight there they were again. Alan and Gary, our Guardian Angels 🙂

More of my Vienna trip soon!