Well it’s almost Saint Patrick’s day once again. That time of the year when we start drinking green Irish beer, singing songs about leprechauns and unicorns and dancing to Jigs and reels.
I’ve always had a liking for Irish music. In many ways it’s not greatly removed from some of the Country and Bluegrass music I grew up listening too.
I am very pleased to announce, that I’ll be playing a pre-Saint Patrick’s day show on Sunday 14th March at the Lions Richlands footy club with none other than iconic fiddle player Pixie Jenkins.
Anyone involved with the country music scene will know the name Pixie Jenkins. He has worked as a backing musician with just about everyone in the industry at one time or another, most notably John Wiliamson and Bullamakanka. His style, along with a number of other significant fiddle players, assisted to shape the Australian Country music fiddle sound, as the genre grew through the 80s and 90s.
Pixie Jenkins is also an incredible entertainer, and a force to be reckoned with when putting on a show. If you ever get to see a Pixie Jenkins show, I can guarantee you will not be disappointed, and you won’t forget the experience.
I’ve also worked with Pixie a number of times over the years, and really enjoyed having him on board some of my studio projects for recordings I was making at Sparrow Sound Studio.
Pixie Jenkins also has a good background in Irish and Keltic music. When I called him a couple of weeks back about doing this show with me, I was delighted how keen he was to play some shamrock style irish music with me at Richlands. I’m really looking forward to working alongside one of the best entertainers and musicians in the business. There’ll be lots of Irish songs from the Pogues to Van Morison and Christy Moor, irish rovers and U2 to name a few. We’ll have Irish dance tunes from Pixie. I’ll mix the whole thing up with some other pub covers. wWe’ll also play some wailing blues and a smack of kick ass country. I’d love to see you at our show this Sunday night from 5:30 till 9:30 at the Lions Richlands 133 Pine Road, Richlands.
Many people have asked me how I got into playing Keltic music?
Well interestingly enough, it was really the start of my career as a soloist. I had worked as a duo with my sister in previous years, and we had been quite successful. We had a recording contract, and received lots of air play through country radio at the time. The duo finally disbanded, as we were both choosing different career paths. Working in different locations, it was difficult to get together to rehearse.
I decided to commence making my first Steve Sparrow album.
Mean time, I was looking for some local gigs not too far from home. I called up a local Irish pub in my area. He asked me to come down that morning with my guitar and audition for him. So I did. He wanted me to start that night, and added, “by the way, How many Irish songs did I know”. In the mid to late 90s, The Irish pub scene was a real happening thing. Irish music was everywhere, most likely due to the movie Lord of the dance starring Michael Flatly, and River dance.
Back to the story, I really only knew two Irish songs. “wild rover and one or two verses of the black velvet band.” Songs I’d heard in childhood. However I bullshitted my way through it, told him I new quite a few. I then went home that day and learned 6 Irish songs, and performed them that night. I actually don’t really understand how I crammed that much into my head in one day, as I have never learnt that many songs in such a short time since. The show went well and I became a resident entertainer at an Irish pub. Mostly solo, but sometimes working as an Irish duo and band. This then lead to a 3 year residency with Irish pub, Gilhoolies and other venues. Doing these shows meant I was able to learn many songs of a most interesting genre of music.
I’d often listened to Irish music as a child, as I was just around people who some times played Keltic records, along with all sorts of other music. So It was quite easy for me to sing and play these songs. It also suited my country / folky style.
I’m really looking forward to dusting off these songs for another year, and playing them again this Sunday night with my friend Pixie Jenkins.
No doubt we will have a blast, see you there, where again?
Lions Richlands 133 Pine Road, Richlands, 5:30pm to 9:30pm.
Well 2020 was an interesting year for myself at Sparrow Sound Studio.
Like so many professions, COVID quietened things right down for some months. Towards the latter half of last year, I worked on some very interesting projects. One of the most notable for me was the Braille project, working with totally blind School teacher Christine Kasey. As most of you know, I myself am totally blind and have worked in the audio industry for most of my working life. I am also a user of braille.
Opportunity for Growth ‘Knocked”
Christine Kasey, a specialist braille teacher with the Queensland State wide Vision Impairment Services branch of the Department of Education wanted to teach kids through music and song how to write their braille letters. She has composed a series of small jingle like songs for each letter of the alphabet, teaching kids to remember how to write each letter in braille.
She approached me about arranging, recording, producing and playing the 26 songs. This was a very interesting and enlightening thing for me to do, as I had never produced work for children before, but I do how ever have a lot of experience with jingle and advertising production. I have worked in the radio industry for many years as a producer of programs, and promotional material, and have done advertising work at Sparrow Sound Studio for various companies over the years, so I felt I was half the way there for undertaking this task. The rest I think, came down to having an interesting batch of material to work with.. It set my mind to thinking about how we could turn the memorable songs into something that could be used in the classroom.
Now for a quick braille lesson
The Braille code is based on a series of 6 dots, dot 1 through dot 6. Each brail character is made using combinations of these dots. End of lesson. Ha ha!!!
Christine composed these songs in such a way, so that the names of the dot numbers that makes up each letter, related to the note number when sung to a musical scale of notes. For example. The letter “E”is written with dots 1 and 5. So the song for letter “E” was based around note one and 5 of the D scale. Notes D and A.
A vast majority of blind kids have a good sense and appreciation for music. So for most blind children, this music connection with the braille dot numbers would make perfect sense. Many also have perfect pitch, and can really hear any note and just know what it is. Christine’s braille with music idea would certainly work for the mand help them to learn quickly. Even if kids are not musically inclined hopefully these things are hooky enough that they stick in people’s heads. Great concept Christine.
The songs were sung by myself and Christine Kasey. I played all guitars. My good mate and keyboardist extraordinaire Ricky Chaplin, played all the drums, bass, and other keyboard parts. Thanks Ricky my friend, for contributing your musicianship and some extra ideas to these songs. Your work helped to turn things into so much more of the sounds I could hear in my head.
This project was completed in January this year. I was really happy with the result. I feel the songs are very catchy. I’m very pleased to say that a number of people involved with using these jingles in the schools this year have heard the tracks, and find them catchy ear worms too. This is great.
I trust the blind children and teachers of 2021 enjoy using the tracks, and have as much fun with them as we had recording them.
Thanks to Christine Kasey, State wide Vision Impairment Services and the Education Department of Queensland for giving me such an interesting project to work on.