Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Celtic Music: Altan and LiveIreland


My newest Squidoo lens is Celtic Music: Altan and it can be found here. I just published it, so changes may occur.

Altan is a great traditional Irish group that began in the 1980s with Belfast flute player Frankie Kennedy and Gweedore fiddler and singer Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh. I happened to attend a folk festival in Rockport, Maine in 1986, where the duo were performing. This was before they formed the group and the same year they released the album titled Altan. I got to see Altan perform live in Worcester, MA either in the late '80s or early '90s.

Check out the lens for much more information about the group, with links to all their albums, their website (which is very extensive), YouTube videos, and a link to a recording of their appearance on the RTE One program The Full Set in July 2007.

All Squidoo lens URLs start with "http://www.squidoo.com/". I chose "celticmusic-altan" as the second part so I can add other lenses about Celtic music using "celticmusic-" followed by an artist or group name if I decide to create other lenses along this line. If I do, it'll be mainly because I want to get the information out there, since so far the monetary returns from existing lenses has been extremely small. The way I built this lens, commissions for any CD or MP3 downloads from Amazon will be split 50/50 with Squidoo. As an Amazon associate, I could've built the page using links that would give me all of the commission, but given the small returns so far, I decided that's not worth the effort. I can always change things later.

There are plenty of artists and groups I could do lenses on, since it seems so far nobody else seems to have tackled the area. Squidoo is fond of saying you can create a lens on a subject in five minutes. You can, but it won't be very good. I put several hours into my lenses, usually over more than one day as I think about how I want things to appear. Other Celtic Music lenses may appear, but I don't think there's going to be a sudden explosion of them.


My interest in Celtic music was kicked up a notch or two a couple of months ago when I was using StumbleUpon one Wednesday afternoon and landed at the site of LiveIreland.com, an internet radio station in the Temple Bar section of Dublin. The station features traditional Irish music, which includes new music in traditional styles. The site features a webcam which shows the DJ in the studio when there is one. At the time I landed there, a very attractive redhaired lass was doing a show. I learned her name was Klara McDonnell. The site also features a chat room where people can communicate with the DJ and each other. There are a few people who show up regularly any time there's a DJ, and sometimes they can be found there even when the station is automated.

It turned out I was lucky to catch Klara doing a show as it was her last Wednesday appearance. She'd only done a few shows before I saw that one, but she's a singer/songwriter and part-time actress, and she's really gotten to like doing the show and interacting with the chat people. She's become a real favorite of the chat room people, myself included.

While LiveIreland broadcasts 24 hours a day, DJs are most likely to be seen in the studio on the webcam between 7 and 11 p.m. Dublin time, which is 8 hours ahead of Pacific time. DJs are volunteers, so they're not always there. So far, it seems Klara on Mondays (now from 8 to 10 Dublin time) and Noel on Thursdays from 7 to 9 Dublin time are the most likely to appear. Some of the DJs are university students, so there may be fewer live DJs during the summer months.

For a couple of Mondays during Klara's show, the station experimented with using Stickam for more interactive shows. People with webcams could add their faces and voices to chats on LiveIreland's Stickam page. Although I had a cam, I hadn't used it in years, but I was able to hook up a microphone and join without video that first time. I discovered the cam was too old to work properly and got a new cam for the next one of Klara's shows. After that, studio engineer Daithi realized the computer in the studio would need to be replaced, or a new one added, in order to keep Stickam from interfering with the quality of the broadcast. But they do want to do more shows on Stickam in the future, and I'll be ready, as long as I'm around during Klara's show.

LiveIreland also has a social networking site, My.LiveIreland.com, and I've set up a page there. It's still very much a work in progress. I'd like to add some of my photos there, and I'll be adding a comment about the Altan lens there as well. Currently there are 895 members of the site.

Meanwhile, I've been listening to LiveIreland quite a bit, and have discovered several new groups, such as the Anglo/Irish group Flook, and Afro Celt Sound System, that I really like. Irish pop singer Sinead O'Connor has put out a CD called Sean Nos Nua and I like what I've heard from it, and usually request songs on it. Sean nos is traditional Irish unaccompanied singing, and O'Connor has added some instrumentation, though not much, to her renditions of traditional songs. The Nua in the title means "new."

LI has a lot of music, but there are limitations on what they can play. EMI, which apparently controls rights to The Chieftains, does not allow their music to be played on LI, and there are probably other artists we can't hear either because of EMI. And even with groups and artists who can be played, it appears LI doesn't have everything by them. Older Altan tunes, for example, don't show up on LI's lists.

One thing's for certain, being a DJ seems to be a lot easier with the use of computers and MP3 recordings. When I did my shows on WICN from 1985 to 1991, almost everything was on LP, with CDs just starting to get used more often. Cueing up a tune on an LP and starting it so it came in at the right time was a bit of an art. With MP3s, it's a whole lot easier. No more running back and forth to the record library during a show, or pulling albums before the show and putting them back after, and hoping everyone put them all in the right places. Of course, I didn't have a webcam in the studio or a chat room to keep an eye on either.

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