2010 Celtica Tour

Map of west IrelandThe itinerary for next year’s Celtica Heart of Ireland Tour, The Best of the West is now up online and available for booking. I have never seen the bookings come in so quickly. There seems to be a pent up demand from those who were wary of going earlier this year because of economic uncertainties. We also have several repeat passengers, which is wonderful. The 2010 tour will ramble up the west coast from West Cork to Mayo taking in some fabulous places along the way including three islands, Garnish Island, The Great Blasket and Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands. We will also visit some of my favorite towns – Kenmare, Dingle, Doolin, Galway, Cong and Westport, among others. Some of my favorite hotels are also on this itinerary. Benner’s Hotel in Dingle is one of the places people never want to leave and Renvyle House in Connemara has an amazing chef and serves some the best food in Ireland. I can hardly wait. I’m ready to leave right now.

I’ve been back in the studio for the past few days, putting the finishing touches to the new Clancy Legacy CD. Hopefully, it will all be finished in the next month or so and ready for release before Christmas.

I have some interesting gigs coming up, starting this weekend with the Maritime Folk Festival in Portsmouth, NH. I want to thank Celtic Crossing in Portsmouth for their generous sponsorship that made my participation possible. I’m looking forward to checking out their store while I’m there.

In a few weeks I’ll be doing a concert on board the square-rigged ship Balclutha in Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco. I did this a few years ago and really enjoyed it so I’m looking forward to going back. It’s a great feeling to be singing sea songs on an actual ship.

On my way out, I’ll be stopping in Tucson, AZ to do a concert, kindly organized by Melissa and Chris Tatum. I have always loved Tucson and it’s been several years since I was last there so spending some time there will be an added bonus.
The weekend prior to that, I have a duo concert with Mick Moloney at the Blackstone River Theatre in Cumberland RI. The following day, I’ll be with Aoife Clancy at the Irish Heritage Festivalin Quincy, MA.

The first time I went to St. John’s, Newfoundland I was bewildered by the sense of familiarity that I felt. The people all looked like the people I had grown up with in Waterford and the accent was almost the same. It’s not surprising since it’s mostly people from Waterford, Wexford and Kilkenny who first settled the area. They first went out fishing for cod on the Grand Banks in the summers and gradually began to spend the winters there as well. St John’s got its name from the St John’s parish in Waterford city where I was baptized so I feel a real sense of connection there. It looks like I’ll be doing a few concerts in Newfoundland in November. I’ll have more on that in a week or two or you can just check my Concert Calendar, if you are in that area. That’s about it for now. I hope you all enjoy the lovely fall weather.

Never Learned to Dance Reissue

Never Learned to Dance CD coverThe re-issue of my Never Learned to Dance CD, with a new cover photo, is now available at the Celtica Music Shop. With the demise of Green Linnet records, this CD has been in Limbo for the past decade but now, I’m happy to say, it is back in circulation. It’s on sale for the month of April at a special price of only $15.00 including shipping and handling.

The cover photo is one I first saw, in 2007, at an exhibition of the photographs of my cousin Fionan O’Connell at the Harbor Gallery at U Mass Boston. The exhibition, called In the Heart of the Hibernian Metropolis, was a collection of photographs of contemporary Dublin. Some of you may have seen it in Boston or seen part of it last year at the Blackstone River Theatre in Cumberland RI. This September, it will be at the Hilliard Gallery in Kansas City, MO as part of the Kansas City Irish Fest. You can get a taste of it from the link above but you really need to see the larger sized photos to get the full impact. By the way, I’ll be performing at the festival too.

Celtica Music Shop also has the Absolutely Irish CD, which is the sound track from the television show of the same name. It features, Mick Moloney, Susan McKeown, John Doyle, Seamus Egan, Eileen Ivers, Karan Casey, Liz Carroll, Joanie Madden, Athena Tergis, Robbie O’Connell, Niall O’Leary, Darrah Carr, Jerry O’Sullivan, Billy McComiskey, Brendan Dolan, Rhys Jones, Tim Collins, Mac Benford, Mike Rafferty and Jo McNamara.

I’m heading off to Ireland soon for the WGBH Irish Sojourn and for the Celtica Heart of Ireland tour but I will be back for my favorite festival on the second weekend of June. Aoife and Donal Clancy and I will be appearing at the Mystic Sea Music Festival. The recreation of the nineteenth century whaling village is the perfect setting for listening to sea songs. It’s a wonderful place to visit at any time but you haven’t lived until you’ve heard 400 people belting out sea shanties together. It will make the hair stand your head.

Next Sunday, Aoife and I are doing a benefit concert for the Free Library in Wareham MA. I hope to see you there. Enjoy the spring!

All the best,


Do Look Back

Bob Dylan Don't Look BackLast week I watched Don’t Look Back, a documentary of Bob Dylan’s 1965 English tour. I had been aware of the film for years but had never managed to see it. A day later, I happened upon a PBS special of Murray Lerner’s wonderful footage of Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival in 1963, 1964 and in 1965 when he famously angered many in the crowd by having an electric back up band.

Also last week, David McDonough very kindly gave me a present of the recently released double CD of The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem In Person at Carnegie Hall- The Complete 1963 Concert. It was an interesting convergence of events for me, and a very enjoyable one, to experience these two classic acts at the top of their game before all their imitators jumped on the bandwagon and tarnished the brilliance of the originals.

As a kid, I never particularly liked Bob Dylan even though I loved many of his songs. Possibly, I was just a bit too young to get the Dylan bug when he first arrived on the scene and the cultural divide between Ireland and the USA was also an obstacle. However, looking back now I see that it was the press coverage of him that turned me off. They made him out to be a self proclaimed Messiah and a spokesman for his generation. I did not realize what a distortion that was and I saw him as a something of a charlatan. I was stunned a few years ago when I read his autobiography, Chronicles: Volume One and discovered that he was constantly battling the image the press created of him. The movies I recently watched reconfirmed that discovery and I found myself seeing him without bias and finally appreciating the talent and freshness that caused all the hype in the first place.

Listening to the CD of the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem at Carnegie Hall in 1963 was also an eye opener. It is a powerful performance recorded with just two omnidirectional microphones. The sound is stunningly good and full considering that the only instruments were a nylon stringed guitar, a five string banjo and an occasional tin whistle. However, it is the singing, the performance, the poetry, the banter and the unbridled enthusiasm of the St. Patrick’s day audience that make it so special. That was something that could not be counterfeited by the imitators.

I had simply forgotten how good they were then. As an eleven year old in 1962, I had attended their first Irish concert at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin so I should have remembered. I can still feel the thrill and the excitement of that magic night. Looking back now, I realize that concert probably changed the course of my life.

Fifteen years later, I joined a new iteration of the Clancy Brothers with Paddy, Tom and Bobby and later, after Tom’s death, with Liam. I was part of the group for nineteen years but we never achieved the kind of magic you can hear on that Carnegie Hall CD. We had many great nights, and some not so great, but the chemistry of the original group could not be duplicated. I think Tommy and Liam found some of that chemistry as Makem and Clancy but even the reunion of the original group in 1984 failed to capture it all.

It’s no different with Bob Dylan. There are still flashes of it in his shows but without the backdrop of the early 60’s and the vigor of youth, it’s simply not the same thing. One of the great things about living in this media age is that we have the benefit of time travel. That is really what it is to watch or listen to these classic recordings of a bygone era. So I say, do look back. Look back and enjoy the magic as it is captured in the convergence of time and place. It will never happen again.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I hope you all have a great one.

The Clancy Legacy lives on

The Clancy LegacyI have just added a bunch of new shows to the Concert Calendar. Most of them are Clancy Legacy concerts as Aoife, Donal and I are trying to do as many shows as we can together. We are in the process of recording a new CD and you can listen to a few of the rough mixes at The Clancy Legacy on My Space.

It should be a great session this Sunday afternoon at the Oakhurst mansion in Whitinsville, MA. We are expecting some great singers like Dan & Bonnie Milner, Bridget Fitzgerald, Michael O’Leary and many others. I’ll kick things off with a short concert and then it morphs into an open session where everyone can sing. See the Concert Calendar for more info.

We still have space available on this year’s Celtica Heart of Ireland Tour. Aer Lingus just announced a sale on flights to Ireland so, between that and the stronger dollar, this is a great time to join me on our Northern Sights Tour. You can call 1-800-299-CELT (2358) for more info or if you have any questions.

I heard from Brian O’Donovan, host of WGBH’s Celtic Sojourn radio show that they are archiving their “live” Boston Sessions and the first one is now available. I was delighted to be part of it, along with a bunch of wonderful musicians like Hanneke Cassell, Flynn Cohen, Emerald Rae and many more.

Coming on to Christmas

Amid all the doom and gloom in the air in recent months, I took great joy in witnessing the historic election of Barack Obama. and in seeing him introduce his cabinet on TV today. As someone who had chosen American citizenship, rather than being born into it, I had many misgivings about that decision during the past eight years. Now those doubts are put to rest.

I do not expect him to perform miracles but, at the very least, intelligence and dignity have been restored to the office and the man knows how to pronounce “nuclear.” I decided to make a list of the top ten qualities that I admire in Obama. That’s when the trouble started. I accidentally hit the return key after the fourth line and I almost died of shock. Here’s what I saw:



You may think this is a coincidence but I am convinced that Cheney is ensconced in his evil lair with some dastardly machine that he uses to manipulate Obama’s mind. I was already suspicious when I heard that he had kept the Republican, Robert Gates, on as Secretary of Defense but this is the last straw. Does anybody know what time the next bus leaves for Canada?

However, I have some good news too. The new Green Fields of America CD is now available at Celtica Music Shop.

Compass Records will not officially release it until February but you can get an advance copy now and give it to yourself or someone else as a Christmas present. I recently did an interview with Brian O’Donovan for his Celtic Sojourn radio show on WGBH. We talked about the Green Fields group and played some tracks from the new CD. You can listen to some of that interview here. It’s a fairly large file so it may take a few moments to download.

Thanks to all of you that have emailed me to say how much you have enjoyed reading “Clean Cabbage in the Bucket.” I just got in a new supply for Celtica Music Shop. It makes a perfect present for any Irish music aficionado who would enjoy a behind the scenes look at the life of the traveling Irish musician or as we are known in scientific circles, Homo Hibernicus Musicus. I think I may have been watching too much PBS recently.

Speaking of PBS, you can see A Christmas Celtic Sojourn on TV in the Greater Boston area on Wednesday, Dec. 3, 7:30pm on WGBH 2, Sunday, Nov. 30, 4:30pm and Friday, Dec. 5, 3:30pm on WGBH 44. It may be on other PBS stations as well so keep an eye out for it.

It is a recording of the show at the Cutler Majestic Theatre that I was part of in 2006 with, our congenial host, the aforementioned Brian O’Donovan. The huge cast consisted of Karan Casey, The Mulcahy Family, George Keith, Shannon Heaton, Navan, Tony McManus, Billy Novick, Kieran Jordan and many more. The Boston Globe called it, ” A musically resplendent stroll through Celtic Midwinter.” There is also a CD and a DVD of the show available from Celtica Music Shop.

Of course the best present of all, for yourself or someone you love, would be a Celtica Tours trip to Ireland, with me, next May. This time we are exploring the Northern Sights of Ireland. I shied away from touring in this area for many years because of the “troubles.” However, the peace process has really worked and it is now possible to safely visit so many of Northern Ireland’s magnificent places like The Glens of Antrim, The Giant’s Causeway and the Grianan of Aileach. It’s the best of all possible worlds, wandering around scenic rural Ireland in the beautiful month of May and listening to great Irish music every night. Please call me at 800-299-CELT if you have any questions.

“Yes, I’m the Great Procrastinator, Woe Oh, Woe Oh….”

Sometimes, procrastination pays off. This time last year, I put some free MP3 downloads of Christmas songs on my website and, you guessed it, they are still there for the taking. I almost did the same with the Christmas lights but I finally got them down in July, which was early for me. And what good did that do me? Now I have to put them all back up again. Why can’t everyday be Christmas? It would make life so much easier.

I hope you all enjoy the upcoming holidays and New Year. My New Year’s resolution is to write my blog more often but don’t hold your breath.

On the high seas

This year’s Irish Music Cruise was a great success. I really enjoyed playing with Aoife, George, Matt & Shannon. Since we were setting out from Los Angeles, Willie Quinn organized a great concert for us in Santa Barbara beforehand. We had a great time but were surprised to find the weather was cold and wet. It was weird to see snow on the mountains around Los Angeles and it didn’t really feel hot until we got to Acapulco. We spent a few days at sea but we had some great sessions on board the ship. Cabo San Lucas is a strange place. When you go ashore they greet you by putting an iguana on your head. Thanks to Hamish Burgess for the photo.

We had some great additions to the roster this year with Danny Doyle, Fiona Walsh and Ciaran Sheehan. Danny’s show about the 1916 Rebellion was brilliant. The only downside of the week, for me, was the Patriot’s loss in the Super Bowl. I still can’t believe they got out-coached and out-played but hats off to the Giants for playing so tough. They won it fair and square. The 2009 cruise will be in the Caribbean and we will get to visit a lot of Mayan ruins. I’m really looking forward to that. The information should be up soon at Irish Music Cruises .

I’ll be doing my first gig in Bristol, RI next Saturday at the Stone Church Coffeehouse.
The Clancy Legacy will be back at the Kinsale Inn
in Mattapoisett on Sunday March 2nd for an afternoon show at 4.00 PM. There are a bunch of other shows coming up in Michigan, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Massachusetts and West Virginia and you can find all the relevant on my Concert Calendar.

Keep an eye out for a Concert Film and Documentary, called Absolutely Irish, by award-winning filmmaker, Paul Wagner. The world premiere screening will take place on March 2 nd at the Irish Arts Center in New York. It is edited down from about 8 hours of performances we did last April and features an amazing cast: Mick Moloney, Susan McKeown, John Doyle, Seamus Egan, Eileen Ivers, Karen Casey, Liz Carroll, Joanie Madden, Athena Tergis, Niall O’Leary, Darrah Carr, Tim Collins, Jerry O’Sullivan, Mike Raferty, Billy McComiskey, Brendan Dolan, Rhys Jones, Mac Benford and Jo McNamara. And, oh yeah, I’m in there too. I haven’t seen the film yet but it was an incredible concert so I have high expectations. There’s a clip of the Fiddlers on You Tube. The full show should be on most PBS stations in the month of March. It will also available soon on CD and DVD.

The Blackstone River Theatre in Cumberland, RI is hosting a photographic exhibition, called In the Heart of the Hibernian Metropolis by Fionan O’Connell until March 20th. Fionan is my first cousin and an amazing photographer as well as one of my favorite people on the planet. You can read more about the exhibit and see some of his work at Fionan O’Connell.

I’m getting together this week with Aoife and Donal Clancy to work on material for a new CD. We hope to do some recording next month and get a Clancy Legacy CD out by the end of the year. With all our different schedules, it’s tricky finding times when we can get together but with a little luck we should be able to do it. By the way, we will be playing together at the Dublin Ohio Irish Festival this August.

I’m looking forward to the Irish tours this year. I’ve had enough of winter and I can’t wait to be in Ireland in May. The WGBH tour is sold out but we still have a few spaces available on the Celtica, Best of the West Tour May 19-28. Wandering around the west of Ireland in the month of May is hard to beat and you can join us if you wish by contacting Celtica Tours.

Christmas season 2007

Some of you may remember that this time last year I was one of the performers in the Christmas Celtic Sojourn at the Emerson Majestic Theatre in Boston. That concert is now out on DVD and CD. Either one of them would be a great present for any fan of Irish music.

Another great gift idea is the book I co-wrote with four other performers: “Clean Cabbage in the Bucket and Other Tales from the Irish Music Trenches.” It was published just a few moths ago and the response has been amazing. The first printing is almost sold out so don’t wait too long to get your copy. Here are a couple of early reviews:


“The book gives you an insider’s view, painted by these expert storytellers, of a musician’s life…. Just try reading one story and putting the book down. It is impossible. The great yarns come one after another, so plan on spending a large block of time with it once you crack it open.”
Mike Farragher: www.celticlounge.com

The book, DVD and CD are available at
Celtica Music Shop and will ship in time for Christmas if ordered before 18th December.

Last Saturday, Aoife and Donal Clancy and I kicked off our Clancy Legacy Celtic Christmas tour with a sold out show at the wonderful Blackstone River Theatre in Cumberland, RI.
This weekend we will be in Germantown Maryland and the following weekend in Sewell, NJ, West Hartford, CT and Mattapoisett, MA. After that we will be in Dennis, MA and Milwaukee, WI. You can find all the details on my Concert Calendar

One of the great things about being a procrastinator is that sometimes it works in your favor. The guy who still hasn’t taken down his Christmas light from last year only has to plug them in again this year. In a similar fashion, the free MP3s of Christmas songs I put on my website this time last year are still there. How’s that for procrastination? Feel free to download them at you leisure. It is probably safe to assume that they will be there for a while.
Free MP3s

Several people have asked where they can find my song The Winning Side. It is on the Never Learned to Dance CD, which will be re-issued in the next few months. However, you can download a free MP3 from the Songbook section of my website.
The Winning Side

The Celtica Heart of Ireland Tour 2008, The Best of the West is now half full which is very good for this time of year. Once again we have several return passengers who can’t wait to get back to Ireland in May. With the US dollar so weak against the Euro at the moment, it is incredibly good value. You can check out the itinerary and all the details at Celtica Tours.
Celtica Tours

I would like to wish you all a Happy Holiday Season and a Wonderful New Year!

Fall Update

I finally got around to updating the concert calendar on my website. I feel a bit like the Energizer Bunny. I’ve been going non-stop all summer and I just got back from Ireland where I spent a great few weeks. One of the problems with being away so much is that you are constantly playing catch-up. But, at least, I now have the concert calendar up to date for a while. Robbie’s Concert Calendar

In addition to solo gigs, I’ll be doing shows with Aoife and Donal Clancy as The Clancy Legacy, including our Celtic Christmas Concert. Our first gig will be in Mattapoissett at the Kinsale Inn next week. Kinsale Inn

The Green Fields of America is going on the road again. The current line-up is Mick Moloney, John Doyle, Billy McComiskey, Athena Tergis, Jerry O’Sullivan and myself. We recently completed a new CD which will be out on the Compass label in February 2008. I have no idea what the title will be but I will post all the relevant info as soon as I have it.

I will also be doing some shows with George Keith and with Matt & Shannon Heaton including a Mexican Riviera Cruise in January. Irish Music Cruises

The new book, “Clean Cabbage in the Bucket and Other Tales from the Irish Music Trenches,” has finally been published and is available at Celtica Music Shop.
Dennis O’Rourke, Seamus Kennedy, Frank Emerson and Harry O’Donoghue and I got together and compiled a collection of our adventures on the Irish music scene over the past thirty years. We had great fun writing the stories and the reaction so far has been tremendous.

Earlier this year I produced a new CD of Marie Duprey called “Watch The Tide” which I think turned out great. Usually when you finish working on a new recording you don’t want to hear it again once it is finished. But I can’t stop listening to this album. It’s just a lovely collection of great melodic songs and Marie’s singing is excellent. It is now available at Celtica Music Shop

Celtica’s “Best of the West” Irish tour is now booking for May 2008. There’s nothing as beautiful the West of Ireland in the month of May and space is limited so please check out the itinerary before it’s too late. Celtica Tours
With the falling value of the dollar, this is an incredible deal so come with me and I promise you will have the time of your life.

I hope to see you all at some of the shows. Come backstage afterwards and say hello.

Summer Update

I hope you are all enjoying the start of summer. I just updated the concert calendar on my website with a bunch of new shows so I hope you will check it out. Robbie’s Concert Calendar

I will be teaching a class on Songs, Singing and Performance at both the New York Irish Arts Week and Irish Week at the Augusta Heritage Arts Workshop in Elkins, WV
Class Description

The Celtica Heart of Ireland Tour in May was a huge success and, as usual, we had a wonderful time. I’ll be joining Brian O’Donovan again in September on a WGBH learning Tour called an Irish Sojourn. This will be our 4th WGBH tour and it is almost sold out. So if you are interested in that, please don’t delay in contacting WGBH Learning Tours for more info.
Visit Ireland with WGBH learning Tours

For those of you interested in the May 2008 Celtic Heart of Ireland Tour, we are still working on the itinerary but it should be on the website in the next few weeks. Celtica’s Heart of Ireland Tourl

Last year I joined the board of the Blackstone River Theatre in Cumberland, RI. Russell, Bob, Mary Lee and all the volunteers have have created an amazing venue for both performers and audience. I have been a great admirer of the wonderful work they did in restoring a beautiful building and the incredible line-up of acts they bring through there each year so I am delighted to now be part of it. This year, on July 21st, they are having a Celtic festival at Diamond Hill State Park in Cumberland, RI. I lived in Franklin, MA for many years and every time I drove by the park, I though it would be a great setting for a festival. Now it is about to happen so I am really looking forward to it. They are also in need of volunteers for both the festival and the theatre so if you are interested, please contact them.You can find out more at:
Blackstone River Theatre Festival

Over the years I have played with lots of different musicians and I always enjoyed it. It keeps the music fresh and gives a little edge to the performances. This summer will see a few new musical collaborations. I am looking forward to doing more shows with Aoife and Donal Clancy and George Keith as the Clancy Legacy as well as with James Hamilton, the flute player, who will be joining us for the first time in Webster, MA and in Butte, Montana. Sea songs have always been a special favorite of mine so I am thrilled to be doing a Sea Music Festival in Quebec with Dan Milner, one of my favorite singers.

For the past couple of years I have been working on a book of stories from the Irish music scene with four other singers, Dennis O’Rourke, Seamus Kennedy, Frank Emerson and Harry O’Donoghue. Dennis came up with the idea and edited the book which is a collection of stories and anecdotes about life on the road, the gigs, the characters and the craic. It is called, ” Clean Cabbage in the Bucket and Other Tales from the Irish Music Trenches” and it will be available in July. I will do a special emailing when I receive some copies and it will be available on the Celtica website and from Amazon.com. It was a lot of fun writing the stories and Dennis did a great job of pulling it all together. Having five different voices telling the stories gives it a broad range and an interesting variety of styles so I think it will be a great fun read.

It’s going to be a busy summer for me but I am looking forward to it and I hope to see you all at some of the shows.

St. Patrick’s Day Rant

I warned my readers in the beginning that this blog might contain occasional rants. So far I have kept the lid on but no longer. When I see our great rite of spring referred to as “St. Patty’s Day,” I am ready to blow a gasket. Where did this abomination come from?

St. Patrick’s Day is fine if a little formal. “St Paddy’s Day” is comfortable and unpretentious especially for those of us with a healthy skepticism of religious formality. But what kind of fiend coined “St. Patty’s Day?’ Every corpuscle of my Irish blood rebels against this Disneyized, Hallmarked, Fox-newsed abomination. Like the anemic spawn of a morning television show presenter and puerile sitcom star, this appellation has all the insincerity and triviality of a game show. I never once met a man called “Patty.” It might suit a hamburger or a peppermint but not the patron saint of Ireland even if he was a Roman Briton. This has to stop. Don’t let them get away with this.

I know that other problems like global warming and the war in Iraq and Nero in the White House may seem more pressing but 1600 hundred years of Irish history and culture are at stake here and deserve to be treated better than minced beef.

Okay, I think I’m all better now, at least until next March.

Luckily, Aoife, George and I got out to Chicago on Thursday night last to meet up with Matt & Shannon. If we had waited until Friday, we might very well have been stuck here in Providence with the snowstorm that disrupted flights for four days. We had lovely gigs Glen Ellyn, IL, Wausau, WI and Schaumburg, IL and great weather to go with them. Many of our friends on the east coast had to cancel gigs because of the weather so we felt very fortunate.

Isn’t it odd that in thirty years of traveling around the USA and Canada in the month of March, the only gigs ever cancelled due to bad weather were in Dallas, TX and Richmond, VA? We had some close calls in other places. I remember rushing off stage into a taxi on Prince Edward Island in a mad dash to the airport to get out before a blizzard hit and crunching through the snow on Third Avenue in New York when a taxi could not be found at any price. But overall the show went on regardless and people turned out no matter what the weather. I guess it’s all part of March madness and I don’t mean basketball. So here’s to Naomh Padraig and the rites of spring!