In mid May I was catching up with Les (Arad Studios), and I mentioned to him that I was traveling to Canada with the Irish Youth Chamber Choir for a gig on Bloomsday. I told him I’d been toying with the idea of making it an extended visit and checking in with various friends and family I have scattered across Canada and the US. Money worries were holding me back, I was thinking of looking into a credit card, but maybe not, then thinking of calling the Credit Union to top up my EP loan, blah blah blah etc.; Les listened to me whinge and verbally pace for a few minutes before gently suggesting that I should just go for it. The worse the Credit Union could say was no, and that if the trip was a combination of music making and hanging out with people I like, it was going to be worth it. He was right (He’s usually right).
First stop: Toronto
I flew out with the IYCC (dir. Greg Beardsell) to Toronto for a special celebration of Bloomsday with the Toronto Children’s Chorus (dir.Elise Bradley) and the Toronto Youth Choir (dir. Matthew Otto). We performed in the gorgeous Trinity St. Paul’s Church on Bloor street west. The concert was fab and we were all made to feel incredibly welcome by everyone there. Special shout out the Children’s chorus, who genuinely intimidated us with their brilliance.
Obligatory pre-concert selfie - and check out the Irish/Canadian flag badge that the Children’s Chorus gave to us! They are the best of people.
After the concert, we went out to celebrate with some members of the Toronto Youth Choir. We took over some live music that was going on in a nearby club by singing “The Fields of Athenry” and Amhrán na bhFiann, each at least five times, gathering all the other Irish people in the venue to us, taking over the piano, getting physically dragged away from the piano, befriending the security staff but still eventually getting kicked out (it was closing time, in fairness). I had an exchange with the piano player that went something like this:
Sean: (hands over his face, looking out between his eyes) What…What is going on? What are they singing?“
Me: Oh, we’re a choir. That’s the Irish National Anthem.
Sean: So wait, are they singing IN GAELIC?!
Sean: Can you get them to do it again?
Me: Yeah sure. HEY LADS! SIIIIIINNE FIANNA FÁIL!!!!
Choir (and assorted Irish): ATÁÁÁÁÁ FÉ GHEALL AG EIREANN!!!
#Squadgoals. <3 <3 <3. You just can’t beat the Irish abroad.
(BTW: Sean is a great musician and you should check out his band East of Avenue here.)
Of course we did a ton of sightseeing in the short time we were there - we went to the Island, to the CN Tower, wandered around Kensington market and Chinatown, took streetcars, ate gelato, took selfies, and in general had a blast. Pro tip: If you’re a choral singer and you’re the right age, you need to do the Irish Youth Choir course. If not for the amazing musical experiences you’ll have, then for the amazing friends you’ll make. My trip meant I missed it this year and I was sad to see the choir go home.
I stayed with an old friend of mine (the fab Sharon Courtney) after the choir headed home, and we had a blast catching up, crashing house parties, talking about boys, feminism, writing, creativity and making some music.
- Rehearsing in Toronto while the street festival outside rages on outside
Many thanks to the gracious hosts, to Sharon and all the lovely people I met that evening ( Katherine katey Morley, Alissa Vox Raw, Brendan Albert (who did a few tunes that evening too!, Bluebelle (Gorgeous voices!), and Swan U (excellent French rap) . There was also a really lovely songwriter from down under who I took a video of, but now cannot find online. Identify yourself if you end up reading this!
Second Stop: Vancouver
There are mountains everywhere, there’s a faint smell of the sea and the weather changes every few minutes. It’s often overcast and it’s full of creative people and cool things to see. So really like Galway then. A Galway with skyscrapers and churches with pride flags inside.
In my search for some musical activities I stumbled across a great night in Corduroy in Kitsilano. Apart from doing incredible wings there, they have a fun night of music there every week on Tuesday. The week I was there is was being run by Chris Sol, and it was awesome. Very special thanks to brilliant songwriter Steve Buzinski, who donated a song out of his set to me so I could play another one!
- "Who wants another serving of chicken wings?” “MEEEEEEE”
I stayed with my friends Rachel and Tom (Tom’s Ukulele pictured above), who were packing up to move out of their place head on a cycle through South American to raise money for Oxfam Canada. If you’re so inclined, (get inclined!) donate here, follow their adventure here!
Third Stop: Fernie
Fernie is in the middle of the Canadian rockies, where there is skiing in the winter, hiking in the summer, and bears all the time. My cousin David lives among the bears so I went to see him. Not much musical to report here, but I did end up having the surreal experience of watching Brexit unfold while celebrating Sweedish Midsommer. This involves dancing around a symbolic fallus with flowers in your hair.
- See, I wasn’t lying. Video evidence on my instagram.
Another highlight came from David’s S/o (also my host and newly made pal) Nicky while playing Quiplash (basically cards against humanity, but you decide what to fill the blanks in with).
Prompt: What’s the main advantage of living inside a volcano?
Nicky: You get to hold the precious.
Fourth Stop: Seattle
Initially I was including Seattle as a stop to meet up with a friend. It turned out he wasn’t going to be around but I decided to go anyway, and I’m so glad I did. Apart from a bit sightseeing in the city I headed to The Tuesday night Music Club in Columbia City Theatre. I cannot recommend it enough!
- The universe wants you to play a real piano.
The vibes at this night are amazing. It’s run by Michelle Searle (Zen goddess from The Blood Moon Orchestra) and everyone is so supportive, so engaged and really deeply into music. I’m so grateful for all the great acts I met that night and I hope to see them all again - Danny Denial, Adam (Señata Piñata), Chris and Mary of Released from Quiet, Brandon who played a song about him teaching young kids how to make up songs (someone link me a link to his stuff please), Chris and Karl with some hip-hop, St. John and the Revelations, Evan Captain, Mama D, Sasha Begley,Aaron and Jula from Lindstrom and the Limit, Bryce MacEvoy, Valerie Hummingbird, Cam Paign and the lovely Michelle (I will treasure the sharpie!). I hope to see some of them in Ireland soon. :D
Obviously, this was not enough music for one night. Evan, like any Jazz musician worth his salt recommended I stop into the Owl ‘N Thistle to hear some local Jazz musicians. Mama D gave me a lift to the venue and it was fantastic - THERE WAS A SCAT COMPETITION. A LIVE SCAT COMPETITION. If a city could do a mic drop…!
Last stop: Chicago
Chicago is such a great city, and I have a lot of family there so it was cool to go and catch up with them - some of whom I haven’t seen in 17 years! Also amazing to stay with my cousin Jim and his wife Monta, and see the musicality and creativity that they are encouraging in my younger second cousins. Yes, my family are amazing.
Of course, I needed some form of musical project while I was staying, so I gave my friend John Szymanski (The Whiskey Radio Hour, My My My) a shout and we decided we’d write something. We wrote and recorded a song called Before We Fade, and then after that, because we hadn’t done enough that day, and because Seattle had put ideas about Jazz into my head, we decided to have a go at a standard. But because it was 2am, setting up the camera correctly proved just a little too challenging.
- there may also be some footage of me trying to play an otomatone up on facebook…!
I will be posting the new song as soon as it’s ready. :D
And then Home.
But you know me, I’m not just going to come home and do nothing. Two main things you should know about:
As you’ve probably seen already, I designed and hand painted some new merch (well yes I spray painted it, okay, fine). I’m trying my best to resist wearing them around because I know that’s kinda vain but I really love them. The struggle! Have a look!
- New tote bags up on bandcamp - you can also get them in purple/blue, just purple, just blue, just pink or BLACK.
Sigh. I love making things. But I also love traveling. So I figured I should get out of Ireland for at least one more gig this summer, which leads me to my next point…
MUGSTOCK FESTIVAL IN SCOTLAND, THIS WEEKEND!
I will be playing at MUGSTOCK FESTIVAL in Glasgow, Scotland this weekend on Sunday 31st of July. It’s been numbered amongh the top 10 boutique festivals to head to in the UK by the Sunday Times. Come celebrate the end of the month with me in Charlie’s Theatre. There will be a baby grand piano :D
Even better, I can offer you a discount! Head to the site to get your tickets here and put in the code “REILLY”. There. Don’t say I don’t take care of ya.
I’m flying out tomorrow in fact, so I’d better get packing.
See you all in Scotland!