Bill Whelan
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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

On to Limerick (up Munster!)

It is barely a week since we left Bermuda, and the intervening period seems crammed with all kinds of activities - professional and social.

As a postscript to my Bermudian short adventure, I must say that despite the impression that the island is overwhelmingly dedicated to golfing and sporting pursuits, I was still left with a desire to return and discover more about the place. I do admit to some considerable antipathy towards the clubbishness of golfers, but I have no objection to locations dedicated to sport. However, one would like to experience some other activities when visiting new countries, and to learn something of the culture of a place. Sadly, it seems that Bermuda offers scant pickings here, and one is hard pressed to find a lively indigenous music or performance scene. I found that many Bermudians I met are quite up front about this. They bemoan the lack of activities for local people, and seem ready to get on a plane to the US or elsewhere at the smallest prompting – for short breaks, shopping or in the case of one taxi driver we met, for music.

We had one superb day in the company of Terry Mahoney of Dreamcatcher Boats ( who skippered us around the islands in one of his craft, and showed us parts of Bermuda that we would have missed had it not been for him. The day was glorious – the sea showing off with all that turquoise aquamarine display it puts on in those parts – and we flitted in and out among the islands, seeing some extraordinary homes, visiting shipwrecks sites with hulls and bows peeking out of the ocean, and wondering at the teeming marine life that pulses around these shores. I had forgotten that the Beatles shot part of “Help” in Bermuda – Leo McKern doing his “Kaili” rituals in the warm sea – and that John Lennon had spent a lot of time working on the “Double Fantasy” album there. We drifted past the house where he stayed after he had sailed there in his 65-foot yacht. It seems hard to imagine that it is 28 years since he fell on 72nd Street in New York. Hard to Imagine.

We returned to Ireland and I went straight into Windmill Lane to work on some tracks – more about these in a later blog. I also attended a superb Bobby McFerrin concert at the National Concert Hall, where he performed a wonderful set of improvisations, vocal gymnastics, choral direction, conversation, dance accompaniment and other delights. His guests were Liam O’Maonlai, whose new album, “Rian” is just released and is a great milestone in his musical journey; also Robbie Harris, who was such a sensitive presence on bodhrán with McFerrin, and who incidentally has just become a proud father (Congratulations to Breda and himself). I have been to two of Bobby’s concerts in recent weeks – the previous time with Chick Corea in Carnegie Hall, and the music just pours out of him. He has an untrammeled connection to the well of his inner music, and it can be breathtaking to experience it when it flows out.

I then headed to Limerick to attend the Testimonial Dinner for Anthony Foley who was retiring from his wonderful career as a player of rugby for Ireland and for Munster. His was the kind of mettle that powered Munster rugby and brought it to the condition it is in today. Peter Clohessy, Mick Galwey, Keith Wood, Shaun Payne and Frankie Sheahan were among the players who joined in saluting this human repository of power and commitment. Declan Kidney sat with Axel’s father and mother and Tony O’Reilly (“Sir Anthony” if you work for the Independent) gave the keynote speech. Anthony’s old colleagues from Munster (who were en route to New Zealand and couldn’t be there) all recorded a sometimes hilarious and affectionate tribute to their pal and occasional captain. Some of the guys seemed to be still a bit effervescent after the Munster victory over Toulouse, but that all added to the champagne feel of the evening which took place in the Hilton Hotel in Limerick, with the Heineken cup proudly plonked in the middle of the room. A great night.

I came on home to Connemara afterwards and have been spending the holiday weekend doing the kind of things that one does in this part of the world when the sun shines. Out on the ocean every day, we spent a heavenly Sunday on Inishlacken. There was hardly anyone on the island for much of the day, and the oystercatchers busied themselves on the silver beach while the terns wheeled overhead with their sharp cries and jerking flight. I’m back into the studio this morning, but just dashing off this quick note to keep up to date.