Inspirations and Aspirations

June 17, 2011

Being a Scouse Catholic I have to assume that, somewhere in the dim and distant past, there’s a bit of Irish in me. One of my sisters is the ‘family researcher’ and I’m sure she mentioned it somewhere along the line.

I’d be happy with some roots to the Emerald Isle (as much as I’d be happy with a link to Scotland and Wales) because I love the music that comes from there so much.

There’s one particular musician whose music moves me. Considered by many to be Ireland’s national composer, Turlough O’Carolan was a blind (aren’t many of the best musicians blind? There’s hope for me yet!) harpist who lived from 1670 – 1738. Well, according to Wikipedia he did!

His melodies are sublime, his harmonies hit heights and move souls … he was not bad at what he did! And he had a few things in common with me:

1. He was short sighted (well, actually he was blind but let’s not quibble)

2. He wasn’t much to look at (if the contemporary pictures are to believed) 

3. He wasn’t much of a singer (based on the fact that he mostly wrote tunes, rather than songs)

Trouble is, a harp has many more strings than a guitar so, surely, the music won’t transpose.  Well, fortunately, good music is good music and, whilst it doesn’t transfer directly from harp to guitar, there are people who are able to interpret an O’Carolan tune well enough to keep respectful to the original whilst altering it to suit their own instrument and style.

One such person is Keith Chesterton. I’ve never met Keith – though I know a bit about him… he;’s a retired dentist, he plays guitar in his church worship group, he is generous with his time and money, and he is a great guitar player. His arrangement of the O’Carolan tune “Eleanor Plunkett” is both an inspiration to me to sit down and do some serious work in practicing, and an aspiration – to be able to play with such soul!

So, this weekend I’m at the URC Learning and Resource Centre in the Lake District for a course. I’m taking my guitar and, in the quiet moments (and there must be some!) I’m going to try and work this out.

Wish me luck!


The Milk Of Human Kindness..

June 8, 2011

I lurk in/frequent an acoustic musician forum  for folk that play or enjoy or build (and sometimes all three!) acoustic instruments like guitars, mandolins, Bozoukis and the like (even the occasional banjo – but mostly it’s musical instruments 😉 ). It is my first port of call for advice on matters musical and, I hope, I contribute to the forum as well as just receiving advice and information from it. Every now and again we have a ‘forum project’. This can be anything from a songwriting session, to a get-together or, more likely, a project that invites us to do our own interpretation of a song or a musician and pst so that others can hear and learn. They’re tremendous fun – we;’ve ‘done’ the Eagles, Beatles, Christmas.. loads of stuff. It’s a great place to virtually hang around with some nice friendly people.

I have learned, at some cost, that unless you have a really good case then guitars and airlines don’t mix. I am extremely wary about taking my ‘good’ guitars on planes – well, I just don’t do it any more!

S0 I was faced with something of a quandary with regards to this summer’s Kids and Youth camps in Israel/Palestine. Music can be an important part of these camps, singing songs and hymns – learning them as well as teaching them – music provides a bond and a focus. It can calm down and it can energise and excite and I really wanted to take a guitar with me this year.

But what would be best? A travel guitar can sometimes fit in the overhead locker which means it can be taken as hand luggage on some airlines which would mean I could look after it, or maybe I should get a cheap guitar with a good flight case?

Naturally I turned to the Forum for advice and started a new thread explaining my quandary.

As expected, I received lots of useful advice and tips and then one member, out of the blue, suggested a new type of forum project – a “let’s pledge money so that Leo can get a guitar which he can leave over in Jerusalem with Jerusalem Arc for future camps and leaders to make use of” project.

I was really touched. I thought I might get enough to get a cheapo guitar and a good case, or maybe buy one over there (which would mean I could get a better guitar as it wouldn’t need a flight case.)

You need to know that most of these people have never met me. I know some of them through passing on the Traveller or Taran guitars on their roadtrips and, of course Dave White is building me my 50th birthday present guitar but most don’t know me from Adam. And have no links with religion, church or faith – but do have a belief that music can help kids and young people express themselves, and a strong desire to share their love of music.

So, 24 hours after the ‘project’ was suggested, I have pledges totalling more than £450! A bit of research into guitar shops in Israel suggest that, far from leaving Jerusalem Arc with one guitar – I’ll be able to leave them with at least 2 (and strings, capos, straps …)

What do these folk want in return? Nothing, absolutely nothing. “A few pictures would be nice – maybe a recording”


The milk of human kindness does not run dry. Occasionally, in places where you don’t really expect it to, it overflows.

Many, many thanks, folks. you’ve asked to remain anonymous, but you know who you are.


UPDATE: I have now got a total of £600, plus some strings and a humidifier 🙂

A High Priority?

June 4, 2011

Most churches, when I visit, tell me that youth and children’s work is extremely important, and they would like nothing more than to have loads more children and young people in the church on Sundays and during the week. Youth and Children’s Work is a top priority.

Many Junior Church staff tell me that, having worked voluntarily for many years, they’re ready to take a break but, if they do, the Junior Church will close because there’s no-one to take over from them. And it’s not just Junioor Church staff, it’s Pilots Officers, Uniformed Organisation leaders and voluntary youth leaders, too.

Surely, if work with children and young people is such a high priority, volunteers would be forthcoming to fill the roles vacated by the good and faithful servants as they take a rest? And, if those volunteers are not forthcoming, then maybe the church should re-assess what its priorities really are …

Can we work out where a church’s priorities lie in purely monetary terms?

I received an advert yesterday for a church in Geneva which has 2 posts currently being advertised:

1.  A Youth Minister – 25hours per week, payment CHF 20,000 per annum

2.  A Director of Music -20 hours per week, payment CHF 34,000 per annum

I wonder where THEIR priorities lie?