What came first- the chickens or the blog?

Sleeping through the Performance

To say I’m devastated would be an understatement.  Last night, while I lay sleeping, the light show of the decade took place in the heavens above our own little coop. And I slept though it.

Those of you who follow my blog will know of my long standing desire to see the aurora borealis, or Northern Lights. I even blogged about it in my post “Northern Lights” several years ago. They don’t often appear in their glory above our damp little island, but last night they put on the show of a lifetime.  Greens, purples, Reds, light columns, the full works. The first thing I knew about it was when I looked at everyone else’s Facebook posts and photos this morning. 

I’m so disappointed. But enjoying all the stunning photos nevertheless.  I feel like I didn’t get an invitation to a party that I wasn’t even aware was happening in my own home. Gutted.

In other news however Mr G and I got up close with a true star last week when the wonderful Adele started her 104 date world tour here in our city! We stood with all the young folks right at the very front and were rewarded with being so very close and witnessing her superb voice and wonderful soulful songs in person. 

So instead of the Northern Lights tonight ladies and gentlemen I give you my photos of Adele…. 


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Songs about a bird, a wall and a cross

Write about the three most important songs in your life — what do they mean to you?
Today, try free writing. To begin, empty your mind onto the page. Don’t censor yourself; don’t think. Just let go. Let the emotions or memories connected to your three songs carry you.
Today’s twist: You’ll commit to a writing practice. The frequency and the amount of time you choose to spend today — and moving forward — are up to you, but we recommend a minimum of fifteen uninterrupted minutes per day.

My whole life is full of music. Our house is bursting with musical instruments of all shapes and sizes,melodies, rhythms, singing, scales. I have to check trouser pockets for stray plectrums before doing the laundry. When I go walking or running my steps are to the beat of personalised playlists on my Spotify account. My diary revolves around music lessons for both myself and my boys. A real treat is to a live concert whether classical or contemporary musicians. My children laugh at me because I frequently burst into song and they equally are astounded by my recollection of song lyrics from days of yore when Madonna ruled the charts and Sony Walkmans were The Thing. There are many childhood memories of musical shows my father sang in and countless repetitions of “a dog called Bingo” and “London’s burning” on the 114 mile car journey to visit granny. And on granny’s stereogram – Mantovani, or James Last LPs.
It’s hard to pick just three songs. But I am constantly reminding my family of the three pieces of music I would like to be played at my funeral service. Allow me to be open and honest with all of you out there in blog land, these are my choices, this is my life, my life choices, my faith, and someday my own funeral I am writing about here.
the Lark Ascending by Vaugh Williams
This is the most exquisite piece of music. Lyrical, melancholy, uplifting, soaring like the bird it was written about. When this comes on the radio I have to stay listening to the very last note, despite it being nearly 15 minutes long. I have never heard this played live however this may be a good thing as I would probably be a sobbing wreck by the end. You may not be aware that Vaughan Williams was inspired to write this music by a poem by George Meredith. How fabulous that a piece of writing led to the creation of such wonderful music. Choose your words carefully my fellow bloggers, you never know what you in turn may inspire.
Wonderwall by Oasis
I was too busy having babies to get into the whole Britpop 90’s thing but I loooove this song. I probably prefer the Ryan Adams cover of this song. I can’t really explain what the appeal is. I certainly am no fan of Oasis, and the lyrics are the usual tale of a guy appealing to his love, reminding her that he loves her more than anyone else ever could, that he is as much there for her as she is for him even when life’s journey is full of twists and turns. It has to be the guitar chords, an acoustic sound full of suspended and unresolved mostly minor chords.
in Christ Alone by Keith Getty and Stuart Townsend
This is the most fantastic modern Christian hymn which takes the singer through the entire foundation of their faith in God. I particularly love the version where the words are echoed by the drama of the music, quietness describing Jesus in the tomb then quite literally bursting with sound at the resurrection.

In the final verse acknowledges that Christ has been with us from the start of our lives to the very end, through the journey of our days, through life’s twists and turns, ups and downs.
My soul like a lark ascending. God with me to the very end of my life, my Wonderwall.



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Kissing You, a song that makes me cry

I don’t consider myself to be an easy person to cry. But certain situations can render me an emotional wreck in a matter of seconds.

At airports when families, lovers, friends are reunited. That intensity of joy. I may not know these people, or their stories, but my eyes fill in response to their meeting.
Watching One Born Every Minute on TV. Every birth. Every single baby born. I’m crying like the proverbial baby.
An early scene in the “a time Traveller’s Wife”- a favourite novel by Audrey Niffeneger when Claire meets Henry for the first time. The poignancy of their encounter touched me deeply.
What is it at these times that causes a lachrymal response? Why do I have to reach for the tissues as a wave of something very intense hits me where it really hurts?
Do I cry at airports because I remember all the sad partings and happy reunions in my own life?
Do I wail when babies are born recalling the births of my own children?
Does the first meeting of Claire and Henry remind me of seeing my husband for the very first time, looking at him and thinking what a very special person he was, only a few seconds into our meeting?
Who knows.

What I do know is that there are many pieces of music that move my soul, a real favourite is “Kissing You” by Des’ree. This slow ballad was written for Baz Luhrmann’s movie of the Shakespeare play Romeo and Juliet, starring a very young Leo Di Caprio and Claire Danes.
The song lilts through the ballroom scene where they first meet. You can actually see Des’ree herself singing the song in this scene at the home of the Capulets.
Des’ree has a very beautiful voice, her emotions seem very genuine. There is something very intimate and intense in her tone, in the way the music is scored with just piano and strings in a minor key.
Yet a quick perusal of the lyrics, written by the artist herself and Timothy Atack, are no Shakespeare!

Pride can stand
A thousand Trials
The strong will never fall
But watching stars without You
My soul cried
Heaving heart is full of pain
Oh, oh, the aching

‘Cos I’m kissing you, oh
I’m kissing you

Touch me deep
Pure and true
Gift to me forever

‘Cos I’m kissing you, oh
I’m kissing you

Yeah hey

Where are you now?
Where are you now?

‘Cos I’m kissing you
I’m kissing you, ohh

And yet, it gets me every time.
What wonderful power music has over us, to cause a physical and emotional reaction to a collection of sounds and silences!

Today’s post is prompted by The a Daily Post “Moved to Tears”


An Italian Musical Interlude

Just in case you want to know what our musical journey is all about, here is an article from our local paper with details –

Arlene Foster, Minister for Trade and Industry, bid the City of Belfast Youth Orchestra ‘arrivederci’ as the 80-strong ensemble embark on a four-concert tour of Italy.

The CBYO is the senior ensemble of the City of Belfast School of Music and will play concerts in Florence, Rome, Montecatini and Ravello. The Minister visited the orchestra at their final rehearsal in the BELB School of Music.

“The City of Belfast Youth Orchestra is a tribute to the young people themselves, their parents and their teachers because they are part of the effort to showcase Northern Ireland as a country of talented, bright and enthusiastic young people who view the arts as intrinsic to their sense of identity, as well as a skill which will help them in future careers,” said the Minister.

During the CBYO will play to some of the most powerful people in Europe including senior officials from the British and Irish Embassies to Italy and the Holy See. Orchestra leader Fergus McBride said he and his co-musicians were delighted to be seen to be as ambassadors for Northern Ireland.

“The arts play a fundamental role in the economic regeneration of Northern Ireland, and Belfast in particular has benefited from this,” said Mr McBride.

“Having a vibrant arts sector is a signal to investors and visitors that we are a sophisticated and lively society which enjoys life to the full. Our continued respect for the creative and expressive will undoubtedly bring increased success in business and industry, and of course, enhance our general health and well being.”

The CBYO embarks on biannual tours throughout the world. Recent tours have taken them to France, Spain and Slovenia and they have performed regularly at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

“We pride ourselves in presenting a very positive image of Northern Ireland. The CBYO has continually demonstrated in recent years that it can proudly own any world renowned concert platform through its highly-acclaimed performances,” said CBYO manager Robert Briscoe.


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Rock Chicks

Since we returned from our holiday the weather has been wonderful if you can strip down to a wee top and shorts (me) but not if you spend your day in fur or feathers (dogs and hens).
All sorts of cooling measures have been taken. Plenty of cool water to drink, providing shade with table cloths over the coop, and watermelon frozen in the freezer. The girls have been cooling themselves by digging holes and dustbathing.
Most energetic activities like dog walking and free ranging in the garden are done late in the evening. Last night we were still sitting out at 11pm enjoying the long twilight, long after the Gillybirds had hopped up into the coop to bed.
Today our neighbourhood is a-buzzing as 25,000 people are expected to attend Bruce Springsteen, the Boss, at a large open air concert just a stone’s throw from the coop. Already the noise from the sound checks is enough to put anyone off laying their eggs! From biggest Gillyboy’s bedroom you can see the stage itself provided you don’t mind getting a crick in your neck.
We are hoping to sit out in the garden, light a few candles, sip something chilled and be entertained by the Boss for free- all sound, no vision. It will probably ruffle a few feathers.

Dust bathing. The best way to cool off. If you have feathers and lack sweat glands.

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Ground Control to Colonel Chris

For as long as it has been in the sky, if it is a clear night, if the International Space Station is flying over our small damp corner of the world, we will get a phone call or text from my father, alerting us to the time, position in the sky and duration of its sighting. I love to watch it pass over head like a speeding bright pinprick of light and send good wishes to those living and working on it. The thought of being way up there so far from home, so isolated and confined in the vast silent darkness of space makes me shudder.
The ISS is the biggest object ever flown in space. It travels around the Earth at an average speed of 27,700 km/h, completing 16 orbits per day, 370 km above our heads.
Today it is in the news as the first Canadian to command it, Colonel Chris Hadfield from Ontario, will be returning to earth. He has been up there watching over us since 21st December 2012. Col. Chris has become a twitter sensation tweeting his photos of our blue planet, and we have been very excited that he has picked out our own wee city both by day and night.


How pretty it all looks from way up there! We live in such a small part of the world it is very special to see it from a new perspective. And amazing that there is so little cloud around!
Col. Chris on his time off has been making and recording music, and as he leaves he has recorded his own version of the David Bowie classic “A Space Oddity”. I would encourage you to watch it if you haven’t already. It is the first music ever recorded in space. Hadfield is aware he has many blind people “following” him and made an effort not just to record music but also other sounds on the ISS so they could share in his experience.

Commander Chris Sings
Col. Chris Hadfield sings
A man to look up to.


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Mrs Gillybirds toots her saxophone


Don’t say you weren’t invited!
If you are asking “whaaat?” Then follow the link below-
Steve Stockman’s Blog on the Gospel Message of Bruce Springsteen

I’m off to practice making sounds like only Clarence Clemons could…..


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The Seal Lullaby


Some of you know that we are a very musical family through all generations. Last weekend my father was singing in his male voice choir, the oldest member of which is a sprightly 92. Their guest choir sang a gorgeous tune which I had never heard before and since I have been playing it on repeat ever since I thought you might like to discover it for yourself. The Seal Lullaby is composed by one of my favourite modern composers, Eric Whitacre. With words from Rudyard Kipling. And it was almost never heard by the world. I will let him tell you the story in his own words –
The Seal Lullaby

In the spring of 2004 I was lucky enough to have my show Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings presented at the ASCAP Musical Theater Workshop. The workshop is the brainchild of legendary composer Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Godspelll), and his insights about the creative process were profoundly helpful. He became a great mentor and friend to the show and, I am honored to say, to me personally.
Soon after the workshop I received a call from a major film studio. Stephen had recommended me to them and they wanted to know if I might be interested in writing music for an animated feature. I was incredibly excited, said yes, and took the meeting.
The creative executives with whom I met explained that the studio heads had always wanted to make an epic adventure, a classic animated film based on Kipling’s The White Seal. I have always loved animation (the early Disney films; Looney Tunes; everything Pixar makes) and I couldn’t believe that I might get a chance to work in that grand tradition on such great material.
The White Seal is a beautiful story, classic Kipling, dark and rich and not at all condescending to kids. Best of all, Kipling begins his tale with the mother seal singing softly to her young pup. (The opening poem is called The Seal Lullaby).
I was struck so deeply by those first beautiful words, and a simple, sweet Disney-esque song just came gushing out of me. I wrote it down as quickly as I could, had my wife record it while I accompanies her at the piano, and then dropped it off at the film studio.
I didn’t hear anything from them for weeks and weeks, and I began to despair. Did they hate it? Was it too melodically complex? Did they even listen to it? Finally, I called them, begging to know the reason that they had rejected my tender little song. “Oh,” said the exec, “we decided to make Kung Fu Panda instead.”
So I didn’t do anything with it, just sang it to my baby son every night to get him to go to sleep. (Success rate: less than 50%.) And a few years later the Towne Singers graciously commissioned this arrangement of it. I’m grateful to them for giving it a new life. And I’m especially grateful to Stephen Schwartz, to whom the piece is dedicated. His friendship and invaluable tutelage has meant more to me than I could ever tell him.

The Seal Lullaby
Oh! Hush thee, my baby, the night is behind us,
And black are the waters that sparkled so green.
The moon, o’er the combers, looks downward to find us,
At rest in the hollows that rustle between.

Where billow meets billow, then soft be thy pillow,
Oh weary wee flipperling, curl at thy ease!
The storm shall not wake thee, nor shark overtake thee,
Asleep in the arms of the slow swinging seas!

Rudyard Kipling, 1865-1936

Eric Whitacre blog post
If you get a chance in the next couple of days please make yourself a cup of tea, track down this piece on ITunes or Spotify, find a quiet corner and just let the sound wash over you for a few minutes. You’ll be sleeping like a baby.

Tomorrow evening Gillyboy number 3 is singing, and rapping, and Mrs Gillybirds herself is making a rare public appearance on the alto sax at an event intriguingly entitled “The Gospel According to Bruce Springsteen”. We may not be in the same league as the gorgeous Eric, but we should keep everyone awake for an hour or so.

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