These are extraordinary times for anyone in the performing arts industry. For people who go out to work in public spaces to perform their craft for flesh and blood humans, living in a socially distanced world is a game changer. Artists are responding in different ways – some are jumping online to engage audiences that way – others are enjoying some down time to do things they don’t get time to do when they’re on the road. All agree though, that this is a bizarre and unsettling time and none of us know quite how to take the next step. The next few months will be uncharted territory, where most of our passports will be marked with ‘INDOORS’. This week we catch up with a few people in the industry to find out what they’re up to – and how they are getting by.
Like Father Like Daughter – an international meeting!
For Mullum-based Irish musician, Àine Tyrrell, the COVID-19 situation has been one of emotional turmoil; she was looking forward to what was to be the best year of her career – and she has elderly parents in Ireland, and in the US. Being away from family at a time like this is very hard, she says.
‘I am so far away from home and I feel so helpless to look after my family back at home. I can’t be there to shop for them, to check in on them, to look after anything they need. The dread and fear of something going wrong – and not being able to even fly home, as borders close, is very hard to come to terms with. Like all musicians, I have lost my entire income, but I am internet savvy and can work out other ways of surviving. My fear is for my dad, who is in his 70s. He is still an international touring musician but has also had to stop. He is not able to set up live-streams or secure any online income. I have run over 90 virtual concerts in the past two years, so I’ve been a bit ahead of the trend anyways. I decided to put what I have learned to good use and help my dad out by setting up a father-daughter concert between Ireland and Australia. We had some more touring planned for this summer in Ireland, which is on hold, but we won’t let that stop the music and connecting as well.’
Ireland’s legendary folk singer, Seán Tyrrell is in isolation on the West Coast of Ireland, in the Burren in County Clare, and his daughter Áine Tyrrell is on the opposite side of the world, on the East Coast of Australia, in isolation in the hinterland of Byron Shire. The father and daughter team have performed together many times over the past 20 years, with Áine guesting on some of Seán’s iconic albums, and touring in his band. Recently Seán has been seen guesting on Áine’s albums, and popping up on stage when they are in the same country. The pair have toured together around both Australia and Ireland, and were excited about plans for another tour together this summer, reunited in Ireland.
Due to the current situation, all of their touring is now on hold, but what is not on hold is their love of music and, thanks to the internet, the ability to connect live on-screen for both Seán and Áine – and they are inviting you into that live stream relationship.
Seán and Áine invite you into their sitting rooms (which is a tour bus for Áine) in a chance for you to hear them sing. Áine and Seán will also share some family stories with you. You can bet there will be some embarrassing little kid photos, funny tour memories, and some family musical tricks of the trade. You are welcome to leave any questions you have for the pair in the chat room prior to the show as well.
The Like Father Like Daughter live stream will take place on Saturday 4 April, at 9pm (that’s 11am in Ireland – and 6am in New York!). www.ainetyrrell.com
Quiet time for Lisa Hunt
The glorious Lisa Hunt is one of those performers who is always on stage somewhere around the globe. The soul singing diva is rarely at home, so right now she’s enjoying the enforced quiet time.
Lisa: ‘ One week of isolation down… amazing how much can be accomplished without having to travel to gigs or touch another human being. I’ve been unraveling all the booked shows… flights, cars, hotels. Rebooking future dates for the hopeful (I’m one). Watching artist friends live stream… John Cleary was particularly wonderful. Of course following virus news, in three times zones… and cooking like an Italian mama who has all the time in the world. A long dreamed of home renovation project is being accomplished. I’ve finally unpacked all my luggage and cleared laundry baskets. And today was the first day I found myself humming a tune naturally. I have a friend in New York affected, and she’s more cheerful than I, for sure… having been through ‘the worst cold ever’ and now she’s recovering. So its all f*cked, but not all f*cked. I’ve been trapped in a war with bombs bursting around me! So while this is surreal, it’s bearable, and apparently is partial payment on the price of being human. When I finish week two of isolation I may think of doing something musical online with the band – or just follow all the other entertainment that I rarely get to see!’
Got The Lockdown Blues? Stukulele To The Rescue!
Stu Eadie and his partner, Miss Amber, head up the ukulele nights around the region. These two took no time at all to come up with a unique way to run Uke Nights online. In fact, Stu believes that ‘iso’ was designed for learning an instrument! ‘I can’t imagine a better time to learn how to play music’ says Stu,‘and the most efficient, space saving, and arguably the easiest way… is on the ukulele!’ Stukulele is onto his tenth year as a local ukulele instructor, and with Miss Amber, they have hosted Uke Night in Mullumbimby since 2011, as well as starting up a regular monthly Uke Night in Ballina last year. Stu was hoping to get to Lismore later this year, though plans are now on hold for a time. Do not fret… during lockdown, you can visit Stu whenever you like – online. Check out the schedule of group classes, private lessons, sing’n’strums, and the cherished Uke Nights over at www.ukemullum.com. Uke Night, on Thursday 9 April, will have special guests Kate Gittins and Rod Coe, separately, and 1.5 metres apart. And who knows? Maybe more special guests will make it. Mark the gig in your diary, dust off that uke you have lying around, get it tuned up, and join in!– go to ukemullum.com
How To Bring People Together To Sing When We’re Being Kept Apart…
‘When this is all over,’ choir conductor and singing teacher, Janet Swain said, ‘I am looking forward to putting on a great big concert of all the songs we are going to be learning over the next few months! I am looking forward to a new appreciation of crowds, and I will probably make people stand really close to each other to sing! I miss the bumping bodies and hugging – before, during or after singing. I look forward to a huge outpouring of creative work from artists and musicians all over the world. It will be a renaissance of creativity. I hope people miss it like mad, and seek it out when they are allowed to leave their homes!’
The change had an instant impact on Janet, who admits ‘at first I went crazy, seeking out ways to take everything online. I researched like mad. I set up a Facebook group called Viral Choirs, where I have been collecting and collating information from all over the world. I was freaking out a bit at first! I have worked really hard to build up my business, and it is a business that is very much about community, closeness, listening, being ‘in the moment’. To suddenly lose that was (and still is) a big shock to my system, because really, I teach singing for myself as much as for anyone else! Singing makes me feel better in myself, makes me feel more alive and vital – and connected. Losing that is hard for all of us. Leaves a big hole.’
So for Janet, re-inventing on the fly has been crucial. ‘I had a few ideas – like singing two metres apart on the beach. Finding a block of apartments and singing on balconies, like the Italians. Finding refrigerator cardboard boxes and putting singers inside… I, like every other singing teacher, have discovered Zoom; a platform that allows lots of people to be online face-to-face at the same time, and to communicate with each other. It’s designed for conference calls, where there is one person speaking at a time – and I suddenly realised that choirs and bands are the only groups that require everyone to make sound at the same time. Am I wrong about that? I can’t think of anything else – and nothing has been invented yet that deals with the time-lag in sound. We’ve discovered, if we sing really slowly, the sound kind of catches up, but it’s not great.
However, the great thing is that at least we get to be together in real time, sitting in our houses, and people get a chance to catch up with each other. Basically, I am just teaching a song, and everyone sings away merrily at home, for their families and animals. I feel strongly that these weekly sessions are as much about connecting as they are about singing.’
Janet won’t be seeking to run online choirs in the future. ‘I like being with people too much’ she says. ‘I like the feeling of being truly in the moment, responding to whatever is going on, then and there, and I also like getting up-close to people (I call it breaking through their auric field!) and really listening to them. The biggest buzz in singing is when you physically feel that sonic connection – when the frequencies in voices suddenly fit together – and that’s where the magic is. I kind of live for that, and I don’t think I’ll ever experience that online.’
To find out more about the choirs, and what Janet is doing, go to songdynastymusic.com
New Music from local artists …Home Is Where The Heart Is
Home Is Where The Heart Is is folk-country at its finest. From the classic opening telecaster riff, to the rich acoustic guitars and layered harmonies, the song reaches out to the hardworking men and dads out there, fighting the good fight. This is the second single from North Coast singer songwriter, Cheynne Murphy’s new album Headlights and Goodbyes.
‘I don’t want to sound like a hippy’ laughs Cheynne, ‘but some of the inspiration for this song is drawn from the men’s work I have been doing over the years. The demands of providing, and also being emotionally available, without necessarily having the guidance from generations gone by, has its challenges for the blokes. We can see that reflected in male suicide rates. Men are expected to be the strong and tough protectors, but really we are all just kids inside, trying to be courageous’ says Cheynne.
Home Is Where The Heart Is features a songwriting collaboration with Mark Heazlett who, as Cheynne says, ‘is one of the region’s finest musicians, and put the cream on top of this song’. Ex-bandmate, Carl Hemmings, also features on the songwriting credits of this production, and top local producer, Paul Pilsneniks, directed the process. Mat Akehurst, and Maurice Cernegoi added drums and bass respectively to what ended up as a soulful swinging folk-rock ballad – exploring the idea about connection to home, and letting the heart guide decisions, and not the mind. Ironically, in a time of chaos now, with the whole coronavirus pandemic, we are being forced to stay home. Says Cheynne ‘This could be an opportunity for us to build connection and get closer, but for some I guess it will highlight differences, and make us look at our stuff’.
This is the follow up single to Breathing Again, off the new album Headlights and Goodbyes, coming out at the end of the year – which also features collaborations with our adopted Canadian, now Byron Shire resident, Jeff Martin, the lead singer of rock band The Tea Party. ‘I am excited to share these songs, and feel blessed to have collaborated with Jeff on some of the tracks. I consider him one of the best rock guitarists in the world, and on this album he added some spicy parts, adding depth of flavour to the mix’.
This new release showcases an evolution in maturity for Cheynne, as a songwriter, who had his origins in Sydney bands in the early noughties, a Bluesfest appearance on his arrival to the north coast, and in recent years a nomination as songwriter of the year in the North Coast Entertainment Industry Associations’ (NCEIA) awards. Go to www.cheynnemurphy.com for a sneak preview of the new singles.
Juggling Home Life with Joel
For Joel Salom, international man of mystery, globe trotting juggler and father of two… the no live gigs mandate has him at home with his kids homeschooling.
In fact, Joel says that ‘Hanging at home and being as socially distanced as possible is enjoyable. I am actually loving it. As a freelance artist – whether you are as a musician or performer, you develop a muscle that copes with not having any work. For me, if I don’t have work, I have a combination of the no work and a sense of guilt, that I should be contacting people – doing something to generate work! But there is no option for me now. I can actually relax into a state of no work.’
Joel’s girlfriend is in Melbourne – so they hang out at night on FaceTime – watching TV together.
Joel admits he has also been using the downtime to practise! So god knows what he’ll come out of lockdown with! ‘I have been doing a lot of instagramming – which is getting a nice response. It’s percussion juggling tutorials – it’s free.
Go to @chukachuks if you want to join in!’
The Mother of Reinvention: meet Dandyman
Daniel Oldaker, aka Dandyman, is a regular performer, and visitor, to our region. Performing many times a year at the Brunswick Picture House, and the Byron Theatre, Daniel is a versatile physical performer who thrives on the ability to adapt to his circumstance. Circus performers have been doing that forever! So last Saturday, Daniel pulled together his friends from around the country for a live Zoom variety show.
‘It was so fun’ says Daniel, ‘I feel like a whole new world has opened up. It was just a week into lockdown, after being at the Adelaide Fringe festival, feeling that that was our last bit of work. In a few days I brewed the idea of having other friends in a variety show and to throw to them in different parts of Australia, in different parts of the world.’
Pulling together a spectacular cast wasn’t the problem; he had Damian Callahan, The Pitts, Foxy Moron, and Frank Woodley, to name a few. Navigating the technology was what proved a little tricky! ‘Two hours before the show I found out I only was allowed one hundred participants – I am hosting the show and navigating the website – then waiting for emails to send out codes. It all hit the fan. But it did end up working. So suddenly I am the busiest I have been!’
Of course it wasn’t without the element of chaos. Zoom is a conferencing platform that allows participants to ‘unmute’ themselves! Not something you want to have happen when you’re performing. As soon as an audience member ‘unmuted’ they’d come up on the screen. ‘My partner was running the zoom conference, so she was trying to find who had unmuted! It was wild.’
Dandyman, aka Daniel Older, will be running these shows every Saturday night at 8pm.
Tix are just $5. These are adult shows . He is planning a family variety show on Sundays at 1pm. All tickets and info at www.varietyville.net