I haven’t the time to write this
Photo taken at The Saint Asbury Park on Sunday March 11th 2018 (c) Kathleen Connally
I haven’t got the time to write this really. I’m rushing out to have breakfast with my friend Una Johnson, who is dropping off in New York for a few days on her way back to Ireland. It’s snowing like a whore outside. The weather-persons usually make such a big deal out of something small, but they did the opposite with this. The dog wouldn’t even walk in it, she kept trying to brush it off her face with a paw. I made sure she stayed out long enough to have a poo anyhow, God knows when we’ll be out there again today.
Una is coming from the South by South West Festival in Austin, she is one of its Euro rep’s for music. She used to live right next door to me here on First Avenue, literally my next- door neighbor. She was with Phelim O’Lunney then, he mixed the sound for The Major Thinkers (our Punk/new wave band) Una was a great help to me when I was organizing the Tour of Manhattan to go with my first solo album, sixteen dates in Manhattan within a month. This was 1986. Una and myself went all over Manhattan, up to its very tip and down below Houston, canvassing places that we liked the look of, almost never conventional venues. We even booked the New Amsterdam Brewery over on the West River. Philp Glass was there and that great filmmaker that he made the trilogy with, Godfrey Reggio. Standing up on that huge, tall counter with the massive beer vats at my back singing “How It Shone” was a great moment, thanks Una.
After that I toured America with the Smithereens one time, and Graham Parker on another-we had great shows at Toads Place in New Haven, and on April 8th I will play at Café Nine in New Haven, for the first time since then. Fred Parcells will be with me, as he was then. We’re getting in a car and driving all the way there, you better get in yours in you live nearby, twill be great. I am attaching a powerful photo by Kathleen Connally from our gig at The Saint in Asbury Park, trying to leave Manhattan!
And Next Wednesday March 28th we’ll be at the 11th Street Bar around the corner, that magnificent speakeasy back room with the piano. The last one was magic, they have been trying to get us back there since, this was the first and only chance. Twud be wise to book it now, we are keeping it down to 50 people. I love you more than my Dog hates the snow, and that’s a lot!
11th Street Bar between A and B Wed March 28th – 8pm tix at brownpapertickets.com
Café Nine, New Haven Sun April 8th Matinee, doors 3 pm. Tix at Café Nine
Joe’s Pub on April 28th!
Ireland in the summer.
Manhattan in the 80’s Pierce Turner blog
The front of my building.
Manhattan in the 80’s Pierce Turner © 2018
Philip buzzed me in. Buzzers were a luxury then. Some of us had them, but they seldom worked. Most of us kept our keys in a thick, knotted sock. Outsiders would shout up at the window, and we would pitch the sock down to them. Every day without fail, I heard the same voice shouting up “Yo Howie” outside the building next to me, he would shout it repeatedly in a thick booming New York accent. Eventually Howie would throw down the knotted sock. I didn’t know anyone in that building to speak to, but I knew some faces, and had supposed some of their stories. Twice, the building caught on fire and they had to call the fire brigade. On both occasions Howie had fallen asleep with a cigarette on the go. The second time the building had to be evacuated at two in the morning. I looked out my front window to see a woman being carried down the Fire Escape in her nightie. Down below on the street, the entire occupants of the building were looking up in anguish. I knew most of their faces, and took a guess at which one was Howie. The one with the frail skinny body that I had decided was an alcoholic, struggled on his gout ridden feet to angrily accost Howie, he swung a wild punch at his clueless nuisance of a neighbor. Someone held him back while he shouted angrily at the bed smoker in Italian. Eventually the fire was quelled, the army of fire engines went home, and we all went back to bed. The next day I heard it again “Yo Howie” And the knotted sock hit the ground.
Pierce Turner Parlour Performances in 2018
Greystones, The Hot Spot -Friday Feb 23rd at 8pm (last Irish date before returning to the States) This is a beautiful venue. Book here.
Asbury Park N.J. The Saint (the legendary) Sun, March 11th- Afternoon session 4.30 start. (with Fred Parcells) And Avon Faire
Manhattan-Paul Muldoon’s Picnic-@ The Irish Arts Centre-Mon March 12th – 8pm
Manhattan The beautiful A.I.H.S Building – March 15th at 7pm (3D tour at thins link) https://my.matterport.com/show/?m=es26Y1iT9VT
For tickets visit the website here
Manhattan –(the luxurious) Joe’s Pub, one of America’s top 5 venues-Sat April 28th-9.30 Show.
January is a useless month
January is a useless month, steeped in disease and misery. It’s a terrible month to start the year with. We should shift it and start with a different month. Maybe July? That’s a pretty good month to start the year with. Just imagine, you have a New Years Eve Party knowing that the next day, day one, will be the 1st of July! Hang up the Parka, put on the shorts and sandals and head down to the beach with an ice cream in hand.
I woke up the middle of last night wanting to pee, a normal enough event in recent years. I burst into the sitting room, where our toilet is. Wanting to turn the light on so that I wouldn’t walk into the clothes -horse standing somewhere before last nights fire. But I didn’t want to wake Albert, cos if I did, he would demand immediate attention. So I resisted the light, and semi-sleep walked in the dark past the couch where he slumbers, he jumped up immediately with a delighted yelp “Good morning” said he, “forget it Albert” said I. As usual, he scooted out to the Kitchen expecting to be fed. I scooted back to bed, before he could catch me, he has been known to give me a little bite at times like this, or to jump up and grab my leg, with soft claws. Sounds cute, but not when you are trying desperately to hang on to the sandman.
The bed had all the warmth still intact, the covers wrapped around me, filling every cavity, snuggling up to the nape of my back where sometimes a pocket of cold can vex. But sleep seemed unnecessary, I felt done! Shit I can’t get up this early, the day will be useless. I should point out that I was in the spare room, right next to the main bedroom (everything is right next to everything in this little house) I have had a malady of some sort, they say it’s the Australian Flu, whatever the hell it is, it makes me cough all night long. So I went to the spare room, so that I could have the pleasure of coughing the night away without the added guilt of keeping Clare awake.
I hear Clare sneaking around and talking to the Cat, who was still pretending it was breakfast time. But then, remembering that it was January, I thought, what if it’s deceptively dark?
I reached down for my I- pad to check the time – 9;05 AM !!! I look out the window, and a woman is flying past on the opposite side of the street, she is pushing a pram with all of its weather resistant gear in full use, the rain, trying to get in at the Baby, makes sure to compensate for any failure, by drowning her and the green clad postman heading into the garden behind her, his glasses saturated beyond redemption. This is the morning?
January!! It’s enough to make you believe in God.
One week to Jan 16th at the National Concert Hall, an elevation over the hump, Come for a huge hug.
Life on Mars, January 16th-Dublin
Before I start-something urgent needs to be brought to your attention if you are in Ireland-On January 16th I will be at the National Concert Hall (JFR Room) what else could have to do on a Tuesday night? I want to see all the sausages there, or what is the point? book here https://www.nch.ie/Online/seatSelect.asp
I walked into the spare bedroom and reached to turn on the light, but the light was already on. Strange discovery, but it happened before, recently enough. It’s not that I couldn’t see, I just wanted it to be brighter, even though I was only looking for a piece of cardboard to write a sign on.
We were having a New Years Eve Party, the musical theme was 1940’s. Having had several NYE parties in the past, I had no ambition to struggle through my music collection to find something fresh and contemporary, yet familiar, not too racy or noisy, that would suit a generational melting pot of all age groups and taste groups. The1940’s felt like a way to avoid all these issues, the music would be before everyone’s time, so therefore beyond debate. Yet, it was good fun, bopping along stuff – Glen Millar, Benny Goodman, and all that jazz.
As I was compiling the music, it began to feel a bit samey after a while. So I decided that it would be ok to stick in a bit of David Bowie, The rationale being that Bowie died in 2017, and that he was born in the 40’s. Just a couple of Bowie tracks “life On Mars” as a sing along “Let’s Dance” as dance along. But how many people know the words of “Life on Mars”? I don’t even know them myself. So I googled em and wrote the chorus out on a big yellow card board with a black sharpey. This part; Sailors fighting in the dance hall – Oh man, look at those cavemen go . I was a bit surprised, it turns out that I really didn’t know what the song was about myself.
New Years Eve. The kitchen table was pushed into the corner, the lighting all sexified, packed full of friends all swinging and swaying. When I produced that yellow sign everyone sang, even older people whom I’m sure had little or no knowledge of the song. What a great party, how was yours?
I won’t pull that sign out at the National Concert Hall on January 16th-but there will be other signage. By the time we get to the 16th – January will be trying enough, and God knows Tuesday will be as dull as …….Tuesday. Except for where we will be, beneath that beautiful Chandelier in the company of Tuesday giants.
This is what a great friend wrote to his friends, please pass it on to yours. I told my main muse Pierce Turner I would promote his gig in the NCH on 16/1/18 as a way to elevate spirits early in the week early in the new year. details at
Reach for the light and make it brighter in 2018
Happy New year.
I love you more than sage stuffing.
Back in Ireland
Got the fire going, the shed is falling down, but there was half a bag of coal in there, went out there in the dark last night with the flashlight, the moon was at a quarter and the sky was clear and northern, I picked the green sack up and poured the coal out of the cut off corner, even at half full, it’s heavy enough! My coal man is an ex priest, how the hell does a Priest get to be strong enough to throw these sacks around? When the bag is full, I have to take a deep breath and run at it- to lift it over the lip of my sheds door frame. He just throws it over his back effortlessly, and drops it gently by the back wall.
Now the fire is blazing, a rich red core with jagged amber flames curling up around the chimney path. My Sister Dolores was just here, as she warmed her arse by the fire she declared
“Oh that fire is gorgeous!”
Cork coming! Coughlans Dec 7th
Greenacres Wexford Dec 29th
The National Concert Hall Dublin, Jan 16th
England in between.
New york times
The National Concert Hall 2015- back to that beautiful chandelier room with the incredible Steinway Piano on January 16th, 2018-ideal Christmas present, to wipe away the January blues-for you’s. Tickets on sale now at the NCH.
It’s a crazy morning in New York, I can feel the vibes in the air already. Walking in to a restaurant, I changed my mind half way through the door, when I noticed that the tiny place was full. Pulling back from the door, I backed into a woman who was right on my heels “Oh sorry” said I, she threw me an impatient look and was about to say something, but withdrew after the first syllable, a vague sound-but not a vague suggestion, the message was clear she considered telling me off-so what would she say? “Why didn’t you put your brake lights on?” Or “ You are a stoopid human being?” Anything is possible in New York.
I have always said that being here, is like living with a large dysfunctional family. This woman acted like a Sister who is sick to death of her Brother, I mean what stranger would think of telling off another person for changing their mind to enter a restaurant?
Once when I was at a very boring Tom Stoppard Play on Broadway, having not eaten since breakfast I picked up at Kit Kat in the foyer to give me some sustenance, sugar in other words. Clare and I sat in our tiny seats made for tiny people eighty years ago, way, way up in the Gods. Squeezed between strangers on both sides, winter anoraks underneath us, handbags in between, scarves, gloves and hats filling every cavity. It was claustrophobic and vertaphobic, and it was hot! Really hot! The Play was on its way and it was pretentious and strained-my eyelids became heavy “ Oh God I can’t go asleep here” I know, find the Kit Kat! There are so many pockets in that blasted Canadian Winter coat, will have to do this like an FBI spy, slippery and slowly I felt my way down the rough weatherproof exterior of my coat, feeling around almost every pocket before I found the right one. I pull the paper wrapper off it very carefully, so far so good, I’m now down to the silver, it makes a soft crackle. This play is excruciatingly quiet, I break off a finger, and let it melt in my mouth without chewing. All was going well, I think it’s ok to go for another finger, a little less gingerly this time. They are in a boat now with an oil lamp, it’s beautiful looking, but what the fuck are they talking about? I reach for a third piece, thinking nobody cares what I do…… SMACK!! A woman sitting a couple of seats away from me slaps me on the hand with her glove, like lighting, without even looking. What?? I mean, is she my Mother? I tried to get her attention to express my astonishment, but she didn’t seem to even give it a second thought. See what I mean?
So back to the Restaurant, after leaving I went around the block to another place that I like, but there was a line outside the door. So I just walked back to the scene of the crime to see if things had changed, sure enough it had, there was plenty of room. So I sat down, read the paper and had some Italian coffee with a Caprese sandwich, delicious. As I finished my breakfast, I notice the woman across from me is nasty with the waiter. Pointing at her empty plate she snaps “ Just take it away!” dismissing him with the back of her hand. He brings her the check book and she starts foraging around in a small crumpled white envelope, she pulls up a five dollar bill and a few ones-with her coat off and seated I hadn’t recognized her-it was yer one who almost told me off for changing my mind at the door, while she was so close she could have run me down. The waiter brought back her check in the black plastic book. She opened and removed the three dollars and put them back in the envelope-picked up her Sunday Post-pushed it into her bag, and chinked a few quarters on the marble table top. Yikes.
I leave for Ireland soon, might be good timing. I love you more than Mozzarella.
Dec 7th Coughlans Cork
Dec 29th Greenacres Wexford
January 16th The National Concert Hall (JFR)
These last two would make great Christmas presents don’t ye tink?
Pass the hat….NOT-back in New York
The first time that I came across a venue that didn’t pay its artists, was Sine over on St Marks Place. Shane, the owner, was an expert at socializing, at spreading his charisma. I had enough of a following to demand payment for a gig. But Shane had been building a name by getting all kinds of famous people to play in Sine for fun. Sinead O’Connor was hanging out there, and Jeff Buckley had been a regular. Shane came to one of my shows and said that I would be welcome to play at Sine any time. I (like most people) can only play so often in one area, if I want to maintain my drawing power. So playing at Sine for nothing meant risking my income for that period. But I also was drawn towards it, like a Lemming to the cliff. So I did it, Shane said it was most that he had ever seen in the passed hat, I Think it was around $280 (for Fred Parcels and I)-he also said that it was the most beer he had ever sold, they had to keep going to the Bodega on the corner. I couldn’t even get Shane to pay for Fred’s taxi from four blocks away, he used an amplifier, Fred wheeled it over on a trolly. Afterwards I wondered why I did it. I knew that the spirit of it was wrong. For young artists who can’t find anywhere to cut there teeth, this kind of thing is important. But for anyone who has done all that, and established a hard earned following, it’s insane. The only one who really benefitted from this was Shane! from a business point of view he deserved it. But, he started something horrible, for musicians, as far as I can see. Now, everywhere you look in Manhattan, there are places presenting free music, being played by high quality, mature musicians.
In the 1970’s and 1980’s (pre Sine) Venues paid musicians to do that, it might not be a whole lot if you weren’t a draw, but $300 or so was the common fee. Now they pay you a compliment by allowing you to play. I have volunteered to do one of these new places recently, for the same reason that I did the insane Sine gig, some kind of peer pressure. They said yes, sure, and offered me a gig next March 2018 !! It’s not even impromptu. Needless to say, I ain’t doing it, get stuffed!
Please remember when you are in the audience at one of these places, that what goes in the hat, is all the musician gets. I have seen great artists blowing the audience away, and watched people either putting nothing in the hat, or just one dollar! We are supposed to leave 20% tips now for being waited on in a restaurant. If musicians play for 40 minutes at the minimum wage, you should be putting $8 in the hat.
Thanks to initiatives like Sine, exploiting musicians has become so normal, we don’t even know it is happening.
Poems Stories Songs And Yokes That Fitteth Not Any Description
This paper was presented by Dr Irene Lucchitti of the University of Wollongong at the 2017 conference of the International Association for the Study of Irish Literatures at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
- Ireland’s rich literary heritage and cultural reputation have long been enhanced by the work of musicians such as Pierce Turner. For many decades Turner has pursued a musical career, producing a number of critically acclaimed albums supported by a lengthy, story-filled correspondence with his audience. His work is musical, literary and performative and, in theme, performance and relationship with audience, shows clear links to the Irish oral tradition.
- Turner’s engagement with music dates from his childhood days when he sang in the church choir and played in the Confraternity Brass and Reed Band of his native Wexford. The sacred music he encountered in these formative years, including Gregorian chant, remains a potent influence, as does the music of 17th century blind harpist and composer, Turlough O’Carolan, and that of Seán Ó Ríada, whose mid- 20th century work contributed to the successful revival of Irish traditional music. His tastes broadened in his teenage years to include all kinds of contemporary music. He enjoyed the music of contemporary Irish bands Emmet Spiceland and Tir Na Nog, as well as the music of The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, The Byrds, The Lovin’ Spoonful and The Who, among others that he encountered while working in his mother’s record store. Later influences would include jazz and techno, classical music and choral harmony.
- Critics see him as a creator of music that is ‘complex and accessible’ and as a ‘consummate lyricist’. These skills coupled with his ability to tell a good story well have made him a writer’s writer – his literary fans include Val McDermid, Eoin Colfer, Billy Roche, Colum McCann, Joseph O’Connor, Kevin Barry and Liam Fay. Screen writer and film director, Jim Sheridan, credits him with awakening him from a creative ennui and stimulating a renewed interest in things Irish, leading to the creation of My Left Foot.
- His album ‘3 Minute World’ was voted one of the top 100 Irish albums of all time in nationwide polls and his song ‘Wicklow Hills’ as one of the top 25 Irish songs. His music has featured in several films and television shows and he has written scores for several movies, most recently ‘Emerald City’. He has been the recipient of many awards, including Hot Press Awards as Maverick of the Year and as Irish Solo Performer of the Year. The Irish Times described him as one of the most important artists of the last several decades. Career highlights include his performance of his “Yogi with a Broken Heart” on stage with avant-garde American composer, Philip Glass, at Carnegie Hall in 2010 and the Wexford celebration of the Mass he composed for Ireland’s The Gathering of 2013.
- In addition to his music, he has also created a literary artefact that takes the form of a lengthy correspondence with his audience, his ‘Pierce’s Newsletters’ and his current blog, ‘Monday Morning Milk’. Although both sets of writing were produced episodically over many years, and although they function in part to publicise upcoming events, their subject matter, as well as the cohesion and balance one finds in them, endows them with a significant degree of artistic integrity. They contain material that is sometimes autobiographical, sometimes philosophical, often funny and occasionally sad. Whatever their subject, the pieces are always entertaining and written with great competence and style.
- The two bodies of writing are held together by a variety of literary devices including a narrative structure that see-saws back and forth between Wexford and Manhattan, offering autobiographical tales and observations of life and culture in both places. Occasionally, for the sake of added colour and amusement, he might enhance a tale with a textual rendition of the distinct accents of each place.
- A recurring cast of characters, including Turner’s wife, Clare, his parents, Jem and Mollie, even their cats, adds another layer of cohesion to the texts. Elton John is mentioned now and then, usually in regard to questions about the impact of fame on artistic independence. Philip Glass appears several times, as an artistic authority and as a touchstone of innovative creativity. David Bowie also makes several appearances in the text – as an elusive and unseen guest at some of Turner’s gigs and, after Bowie’s death, as a prompt to reflection on the question of mortality that colours Turner’s texts, lyrics and music.
- His preoccupation with this theme often takes the form of urging his reader to slow down, to live deliberately, to stop racing headlong towards his tombstone. His related concern with the transitory nature of life, of relationship and of community, also leaves its mark. As a Wexford man living in Manhattan, and as a philosopher, he also, naturally, concerns himself with the fluid nature of identity, be it Irish, American, or simply human. Ruminations on his craft also run through his texts: his ‘1,000%’ commitment to it, his ambition, his lack of ambition, his periods of creative indolence, the corrosive effects of fame, the measure of success, the contest between artistic ambition and financial reward, and the joys and perils of the performing life.
- As he explores his themes and the various lives he lives – his Irish life, his American life, his creative life, his performing life, his busy life, his lazy life – we see that they are all lived in relationship and dialogue with his readers. As the letters proceed, he addresses them, his ‘sausages’, ‘his sausage pudding pies’, in ever funnier, ever more extravagant terms of endearment, sometimes apologising for not writing, sometimes reproaching them for not writing back, and often expressing his love and need of them. ‘I hope you are out there, you never write any more, you must be so busy, and here I am loving you more than sushi!’ he writes, and later, more earnestly perhaps, ’Without you, I am toast.’
- His audience is relatively small but highly valued. It is, he says, the kind of audience that musicians crave. He sees his career as ‘a collaborative effort’ between himself and the audience, and believes that it is the receptivity of his audience that endows his music with whatever beauty it might have. His relationship with his audience is personal and often expressed humorously – ‘please come to the gig, I need your company,’ he writes on one occasion; ‘please say something, squawk or squeal, inspire me, humour me,’ he writes on another. But it is also heartfelt: the illness and death of a member of his audience, moves him very personally. He acknowledges her suffering and death in his newsletter, and responds to it artistically by composing a piece of music in her honour.
- Most of all, the letters and blogs are held together by a highly idiosyncratic narrative voice. Often funny, self-deprecatory, casual and intimate, and often couched as letters from an old friend, they offer a portrait of Turner, his life, his people and his art that is built up layer by layer. There are numerous highly crafted pieces among them, some of which would not be out of place in an anthology of short stories. Several of his New York stories come to mind. First is a cunning piece announcing an upcoming gig at Joe’s Pub dressed up as a story about the little apple blossom tree that stands outside his apartment in Manhattan. Something of a coquette, her beauty matches that of Hopper’s ‘Lady in a Summer Dress’. She mesmerises, she soothes, she coos in his ear, allowing him to work, all the while eliciting the details of the gig. Another New York story, ‘Henry and Delores’, meditates on the mysteries of friendship, the pleasure in its arrival and the lingering mystery and sadness of its going.
- Wexford stories of note include ‘My Father Was a Fireman’ which offers poignant reminiscences of childhood, of his parents, and of performing with the Brass and Reed Band. He remembers the Band’s involvement in all the religious celebrations of the year, their procession through the town and their audience, his first audience, made up of neighbours standing in their doorways, holding candles in the dusk, waiting for the Band to pass by. In another story, ‘Leaving on a Jet-Plane’, the title of which intimates something of the musical life he is seeking, he shares his own experience of emigration. A personal story and a familiar ‘Irish’ story at one and the same time, his story of the train trip from Fishguard is reminiscent of Muiris O Suilleabhain’s account of his departure from the Blaskets and from Dingle. But this story, this version of the Irish story of leaving, is filled with sounds – the percussive rhythm of the train on the tracks, the absence of female voices, the low murmuring of male voices, their sotto voce long confessional conjuring the requiem he will write one day. It is an account of emigration that could only have been written by a musician.
- Interesting and significant though this writing is, Turner is best known for his music. His musical composition reflects the depth and breadth of his diverse musical experience and taste. He possesses a strong and beautiful voice that ‘drips emotion’, a voice that makes him sound, according to Joseph O’Connor, ‘like a choirboy on acid’. While his voice is the perfect vehicle for the expression of the sacred and the sublime, somehow it is also the perfect medium for the expression of the romantic, the forlorn, the silly and even for the carping venality of small town gossip.
- His innovative approach to his craft is not confined to the elements of composition, but extends also to his creative use of performance space. He has performed in spaces both intimate and grand, in cathedrals, pubs and concert halls, in the parlours of private homes, in his own home on occasion, and in concerts delivered live online. Whatever his venue, whatever his medium, he creates an environment that is interactive and dialogic.
- Although his music is instantly recognisable, there is no such thing as a typical Turner song, as a brief sample will illustrate. Wicklow Hills is an exuberant, energetic escape song. Life in a Day offers a gentle meditation on the little joys and moments of life in his town, his thoughtful meanderings turning him into a little Wexford Bloom. Musha God Help Her shows the downside of small town life, perfectly ventriloquising the small town gossip, its growing raucousness reflecting the gleeful crescendo of a scandal spreading. All Messed Up gives voice to the powerful emotional dislocation that follows the end of love. Equally at home covering St Thomas Aquinas’ Tantum Ergo and Nirvana’s Lithium, he is perhaps uniquely equipped to compose a song that seamlessly integrates elements of Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side with a rousing rendition of the old hymn, Faith of Our Fathers.
- He confides that he loves music and he loves entertaining people. His art is always dialogic. He is always aware of the other that he is addressing. He also loves language and uses it playfully, expressing his delight in word-craft with the mantra – why use two words when ten will do? These three aspects of his craft combine to create something unique. In combination, they reflect Turner’s identity as a latter-day shanachie, a modern-day story-teller, an heir to the Irish oral tradition.
- Recognising this himself, he explains his place in the tradition in Colin Murnane’s film ‘the Song for the Year’. He points out that his parlour gigs, which seem so innovative today, are a very old idea. ‘Travelling musicians did it in the 17th and 18th centuries, and perhaps even earlier, he says. ‘[…] songs and stories were all they had. People would get up and sing a song in a room full of people who would appreciate it’. This, put simply, is what Turner continues to do today.
- Lawrence Mackin, reviewer from The Irish Times, also implies a place in the tradition for Turner in his review of a gig he had attended, writing that ‘the set was exciting stuff with plenty of humour and skill and a real traditional feel, in that the audience wasn’t so much listening to a series of songs as being told a long story, with all the different elements interlinking along the way through song, spoken word and even the few odd shapes that Turner was throwing on stage’.
- We also find many echoes or shadows of the old tradition in his writing – a philosophical response to weather perhaps, or a scene from nature motivating a reminiscence, a story about the old days and ways that imply comparison with life today, or autobiographical snippets interwoven through his performance – all customary elements of the oral traditions through which Ireland expressed herself for hundreds of years. Similarly, in his music, we hear echoes from down the ages – plainchant, sacred music, modern popular music, jazz, sometimes even in the same song.
- It is however his relationship with his audience that is perhaps the surest marker of his place in the tradition. His dialogic performance in congenial, hospitable settings reflects the customary practices of the oral tradition. Acutely aware of the audience’s important role in his musical composition and performance, Turner nurtures a symbiotic relationship with his audience, and does so to great effect. Liam Fay once remarked that Turner’s grip on his audience is so tight he leaves fingerprints.
- The endlessness of tradition and Turner’s place within it is fully declared in ‘The Song for the Year’, a song narrated by a bird who must each year create a unique song with which to woo a partner. The bird is a lover, a poet, a musician. He composes and performs with his very specific audience in mind. Only his audience can give it meaning.
- Both timeless and ephemeral, the song is linked to tradition in purpose, word and melody. The song the bird is calling out is ‘an ancient song’; it is a gift to him ‘from memory’, from time immemorial. It is mystical – he opens his mouth ‘and a song comes out’. It comes from him and from beyond him. Its reach fills the earth. Although it is the urge to renew that drives the bird’s composition and performance, the elements of plainchant link it to the past and to tradition, while the sounds of the organ overlay it with a quasi-religious, philosophical layer. Behind the vocals, behind the main melody, we hear the sounds of a bird filled forest canopy. The song ends with plainchant intonation of the mantra to ‘sing your song’.
- An expression of tradition incarnate, this is a mystical song that reflects the cycle of life. It is a hauntingly beautiful song. Its lovely harmonies and shifts between minor and major keys signal the bird’s shifts in emotions and offer a musical rendition of the tension between enacting tradition and achieving renewal, between the self that is called upon each spring to create a new song and the self that, in so doing, conforms to the age-old practices of its species. The bird’s forest home becomes a cathedral of the bush, a place where age-old customs are endlessly repeated and refreshed in performance, where the newest song is old and the oldest song is new.
- But this is also a mystical song about the life of an artist, compelled always to create something new yet touched always by what has gone before. Like the bird, Turner calls out his unique songs, ancient and modern, his gift from memory, to woo his audience. In obedience to his own mantra, to ‘sing [your] song’, he opens his mouth and his dreams come out. His art, gifted to him by those who went before, is a gift to those who hear him and to those who will follow.
The Little Greek Basil Plant-Pierce Turner- Monday Morning Milk blog
The Little Greek Basil Plant.
Clare takes the Greek Basil plant out of the car and apologizes to it, it’s been scrunched in the back seat behind me from Brighton to Pembroke Bay. She waters it and baby talks the plant in its pot.
“I. ….sorry baby”
“I want to go to bed early!”
We awakened this morning at 5 am – didn’t want to drive all that way and be late for the ferry like twice before. The last time it sat there on the other side of the gate just looking at us, like all stuff that we are punished for missing, it seemed to wag a self -righteous finger at us, sitting there, after a white knuckle ride, we had literally missed the boat. No, this time we would get there ahead of time, us and the Greek Basil plant. We would tare down the M4 and get there well before the check in time of 2;45 only stopping once for a coffee and cardboard sandwich to go.
The Ferry between Wales and Ireland has been a mainstay travel connection throughout my life, the Rosslare Port, twelve miles from Wexford Town, is our Airport in the South East. Waterford, forty mikes away has had an on-off romance with the metal birds, I did use it once to fly to Luton just north of London, but upon return from there the Pilot announced some dissatisfaction with the weather conditions, and threatened to land in Cork, nearly a hundred miles further away from our destination. This was with a clear summers day! Never bothered with Waterford Airport again.
At two o’clock the boarding began, they appear to have a haphazard system at Irish Ferries, the men and women who work there act like it’s not their normal job. I never feel sure that they are addressing me, and they use sign language a lot, a cupped hand with bending beckoning fingers, obviously means “come towards me” but when the face above it is deadpan and is looking absent mindedly to the left, you find yourself looking around to make sure that it’s not another car they are addressing. The women tend to work at the early stages, like checking your ticket, or beckoning you towards the check-in kiosk. We were there early, and chose to stand on the wrong line by proxy, with no signs or instructions of any kind, I wondered out loud about the dividing white lines with up side down faded numbers at their head in the distance.
“Which should we take, I wonder?”
“I would go over there behind that red SUV”
And so with absolutely no solid reasoning, I drove up behind the SUV with the silver spare tyre holder attached to its rear door, and the bicycles on the roof. It was somewhere in the middle, I would guess out of ten parking lanes, we might’ve been on lane five. So even if we chose wrongly, we should have been in the middle. I think Clare’s logic was based on the fact that we were right in front of the check in kiosk. Anyway, when the woman arrived in her peak cap, sharply pressed dark blue uniform and aluminous yellow waist coat, she casually beckoned the last row to our left, barely bending an index finger on her right arm which was hanging down by her side, where it would be resting if she was doing nothing at all. Off they went, the people who had arrived long after the Greek Basil plant and ourselves, and then the next line, and the next, until finally she arrived at the red SUV. All in all it would be about fifteen to twenty minutes before she go to us, still barely moving, but conceding a side ward step, and a glance in our direction. After we identified ourselves to the mature woman with a wry smile in the Kiosk.
“What’s your last name?”
We both laughed as she stooped to see Clare in the passenger seat.
“You’re in here, we’ve got your information all prepared, off you go”
She handed me a boarding card and we drove through a roofed inspection area, this was the customs and excise area, a plump fifty year old man in a peak cap and the same aluminous vest, leaned down and smiled.
“Where are you from?”
And into the belly of the great beast we drove.
Here all the commands were imparted by men. A sturdy fella with a grey five O’clock shadow, seemed to be directing us towards him with a reluctant cupped fist. He looked like he was there by accident, like he happened to be in the pub having a pint between shifts in the Engine room, and someone said;
“You better go up above Tommy and tell them cars where to park when they board”
I looked at him and gestured
He gave a careless nod, and I followed my common sense to a lane, driving in a state of total ambiguity, thinking “If I am doing the right thing, it’s nothing short of a miracle”
An announcement came over the PA.
“Please turn off all the engines before going to the upper decks”
Noting that we were on Blue Deck 5 we stepped into an elevator with a merry red haired man and his female friend, he started talking to us in German.
“Ele-vaw-torr, das iss de elle-vaw –torr, no? tee hee”
I expected that he would break into fluent English soon, as most Germans in Ireland usually do, but no, he got more into his native tongue, and looked at us with the open faced assumption that we understood. Now the short heavy- set woman who accompanied him was joining in with the same joviality. I know a few words in German, but by Jasus, I wasn’t going to encourage them, they seemed to already assume we were German. We were starting to feel over whelmed when the lift halted at God knows what floor, we ran for it and left them giggling on their merry climb.
Up above, Clare laid down with her head on my back pack and fell asleep while I read the New York Times on my I Pad. Eventually I found a corner to lie down and fall asleep myself. It was a bit startling to see myself in the mirrored ceiling, I was a bit red from the heat wave we had experienced in England. When I awakened there was an elderly woman seated and facing me, she was blocking the only way out of my corner, I felt boxed in. She looked like like a friendly old Irish lady, she was smiling in a giving fashion. Wiping the sleep from my eyes I offered some confused pleasantry.
“Das iss shlavvin und %*#..??”
What! She’s German too? And she’s talking away to me like I am German. I just didn’t know what to say and tried to offer up a silent pleasantness as I squeezed out between her and the corner table. It was hard to even explain to Clare, who was annoyed that I woke her up.
Getting off the ship was the same as getting on, we were inexplicably last, the man beckoning us was equally ambivalent, his fat hand equally covert.
When we got out of the car up here on Davitt Road North, the Greek Basil Plant had it’s face scrunched up against my back seat where I had pushed it back to its furthest point, befitting my legs. I shushed the little plant up a bit and put it on the Kitchen table where Clare discovered it. I suppose the Ferry will be on its way back to Wales by now, I can still smell it’s taste of oil and salt water.
The next gig will be in New York, right now it’s October 14th at the Beal Bocht in Riverdale, and there will be a Staten Island gig (a first) don’t know the date yet, something in Manhattan of course also, Boston? Will be back in Ireland for Christmas. Coughlans of Cork on December 7th….Wexford Arts Centre Dec 23rd?
Who knows what else.
Send your love out like the seeds for a rose garden, the world needs those, to fight the pleather of weeds threatening to strangle our wisdom.
Love will protect us all, my lovely sausages. Pierce xxx