3000 Days in Ireland

As of today I’ve been living in Ireland for 3,000 days.  That’s a little over 8 years.  And when you put it together with the 12 years I lived in Scotland, then I’ve been living outside of my home country of England for over 20 years.

In another few years, I’ll have been living outside of England for longer than I ever lived there.

And although England will always be my nation of birth, and my accent will always identify me as English, the length of time away has shifted my allegiances somewhat. For international sporting events, for example, I feel much more allegiance to the Irish team than I do for the English.

I guess England no longer feels like home to me.  Sure, it’s where I grew up, and it’s where I have family. But in my case, my feeling of connection to England has faded over time. And as such, I don’t really harbour any desire to return.

Creative Programming

logoI’ve just spent a goodly amount of time this evening scanning the Edinburgh Fringe website, in search of interesting performances to see when I visit at the end of the month.
My main focus was on classical and choral music performances, because that’s the kind of thing that I’m interested in. And despite the mainstream media’s best attempts to portray the Fringe as solely a comedy festival, there are lots of musical things happening as well – in addition to theatre, dance, children’s shows, and exhibitions – but the scheduling of the stuff in which I’m interested shows a staggering lack of creative thinking.
Check out the amateur choirs and orchestras doing proper classical music, and you’ll that almost without exception all their concerts are at 7.30pm on a Friday or Saturday night. And while that’s a sensible programming choice for a wet weekend in November, it’s a crazy choice for the Edinburgh Festival – because everyone has ended up scheduling their concerts at the same time – thus dividing their potential audience.
As for me, I’ve found three different concerts I’d quite like to see – but I won’t see any of them, because they’re all taking place on the same Saturday evening – and I already have tickets for something else that night in the International Festival.
One choir I used to belong to is still going strong in the Fringe, with two performances this year. And back when they started, their original plan was to schedule their first concert for 7.30pm on a Friday night of the middle weekend of the Fringe – until I stepped in and convinced them to go for a 10.00pm slot on a Tuesday. My thinking was that we wanted to avoid clashing with anything else. Indeed, the plan was to make our concert the musical equivalent of a nightcap – somewhere for weary concert-goers to stop in for an hour’s reflective wind-down, on their way home from something else. And you know what? It worked, and continues to work today. In 2006 we sold-out our 400-seat venue about half and hour before the concert. In 2007 we sold-out a couple of weeks ahead of the gig. And they’re still playing to capacity crowds today – thanks to a bit of creative programming.
It’s just a shame that more groups haven’t thought a bit more creatively about when they schedule their concerts.

EdFringe systems failure

It's red faces all round in the Edinburgh Fringe office, as their box office sales are still suspended.

They were due to begin selling tickets for this August's festival shows at 10.00am on Monday (9th June), but because of technical problems with their new box office software, tickets will not be available until next Monday (16th) at the very earliest.

Early reports from the start of the week stated that the software problems were only affecting online sales on the edfringe.com website. However, the continuing downtime has forced the Fringe Society to suspect all ticket sales (including those in person and on the phone) until the problems are resolved.


Inside the unassuming church of Old Saint Paul’s in the city centre of Edinburgh last night, the congregation gathered to hear the choir sing the service of Tenebrae for Maundy Thursday.

The service comprises psalms and readings sung to plainsong and faux-bourdon settings. This evocative rite with simple but dramatic ceremony helps to draw us into the darkness of the Passion. During the rite the lights are gradually extinguished until just one candle, representing Christ, remains shining in the darkness. This is a foretaste of the Resurrection; the light that banishes darkness.

When I was living in Edinburgh the Tenebrae service was always my favorite one of the year, and this is the first time in 12 years that I’ve missed it. The service is sung throughout (except for a small amount of spoken text at the end), and is performed from a booklet compiled for All Saints, Margaret Street in London (including the instruction to the choir to “exit to the south grill”).
One year I cut short a business meeting in Washington DC, to catch a flight home to Edinburgh to attend Tenebrae. And for me, it’s always been an important part of Holy Week; one that I miss very deeply now that I’m in Dublin.

James & Fiona

Last Friday, the 28th December, was the wedding of James Hutchinson and Fiona Robertson in Old Saint Paul’s church in Edinburgh.

I flew over from Dublin on the morning of the ceremony, and arrived at the church about half an hour before the service. Those of us that had been asked to sing during the register signing had been asked to gather early for a quick run through. There would be no choir as such for the service, but instead a select bunch of James’s musical friends present in the congregation who would come forward to perform a piece – in this case Parry I Was Glad. The full harmony of the hymn tunes was also printed in the service sheet, in case anyone wanted to sing harmony.

The service was very beautiful, and very well attended. The bride looked wonderful, and walked very gracefully over the heating grate in the centre isle – which is well known to be just the right size to ensnare unsuspecting wearers of stiletto heels.

After the service, the reception was held in the Merchants’ Hall on Hanover Street. Guests were served a vegetable broth for starters, and pork for the main course. The food was all delightful, but a surprise lay in store for us. It seems that neither the bride nor groom are particular fans of fruit cake and as such had, instead of a wedding cake, cheese – and lots of it. A veritable mountain of different cheeses, complete with oat cakes, and a goodly supply of port too.

I was in seventh heaven, of course, as I’m a huge cheese fan (and rather like my port too). And so I ended up spending rather too much time returning to the cheese table.

Luckily, however, those of us that had over-indulged were also given the opportunity to work off some of our gluttony when the ceilidh started. The band played well, even if we couldn’t hear a word the caller was saying. The PA system wasn’t terribly good, so half the time you just had to guess at what dance you were being called forward for.

The evening finished with the traditional rendition of Auld lang syne, and the departure of the bride and groom.

They are presently honeymooning in Marrakech.