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I Play the Music

“If you sit down and listen
I’ll play you a song
But I’d probably play anyway
I play the music
I play the music”

These are the first few lines of the song, I Play the Music. I wrote the song with my good friend Mark Renburke when we were playing together in an Irish band called The Rising Pints. We were playing lots of gigs in crowded bars. Sometimes people listened closely – sometimes people didn’t seem to listen at all. But you know, we played the music, yes we played the music – that’s what we did. For some people in the pubs, we were the focal point of the evening. For others, we were just a background for the fun and talking. And that’s fine, too. Because the music doesn’t always have to be at the center. Sometimes, the music is just the background that makes the rest of our life so much richer.
This photo shows Mark and I playing together at my wedding in Canada about six years ago.

Although we never properly recorded the song I Played the Music together, we released several CDs together including Another Round and Charm, and we are currently talking about a new Rising Pints CD.
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In the musical, Jukebox Paradise, this song is played by two characters known as the buskers. The buskers sit on the seawall in Hilo, Hawaii and play the song while two young people talk nearby. It is a beautiful moment in the show. Again the music is the focal point for a moment, and then it provides a background for a lovely moment of courting. Along with Busker #1 (the lovely Sarah Mulvey), I appear in Jukebox Paradise as Busker #2, and as the song says, we play the music, we play the music.

     Jukebox Paradise, the musical

Jukebox Paradise features the music styles of the late 1950s and early 1960s – think of the sounds of Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry and you’ll understand that this is not complicated music. It’s simple old-time rock and roll played by great musicians, and it sounds great. These musicians didn’t have the amazing technology of today’s studios and live stages. They just went out there and played great music live, night after night. If you asked Buddy Holly or Chuck Berry what they did, they would probably answer, “I play the music, yeah, I play the music.”
Both in the 1960s and today, the music industry generally presents us with much more constructed music and bands. For example, the popular Japanese group, AKB 48, aren’t really of the same breed as Buddy and Chuck. Without any disrespect to the young ladies in the group, they probably haven’t been selected solely on their musical talents. Buddy Holly was pretty darned good on a stage or in a yard playing guitar and singing guitar without the benefit of costumes, lights, makeup and pitch correction. He played the music.

Jackson Browne has a great song, Just a Little Bit Longer, in which he describes the end of a gig and the roadies are packing up all the gear. He pays tribute to the roadies in a beautiful description, thanking them for putting away the folding chairs and getting the trusses up the ramps. He calls the roadies  “the champs”, and then he sings:

“But when that last guitar’s been packed away,
You know that I still want to play
Just make sure you’ve got it all set to go
Before you come for my piano”

Because Jackson Browne plays the music, yes he plays the music. You can strip away everything else and that’s what he does – he plays the music, and he sure does it well. If you don’t know his music, get listening as soon as you finish reading this post (and buy your tickets)!
The wonderful songwriter, David Gates, expresses the same feeling in the song, Guitar Man.

“Then the lights begin to flicker
And the sound is getting dim
The voice begins to falter
And the crowds are getting thin
But he never seems to notice
He’s just got to find
Another place to play”

The Guitar Man keeps searching for another place to play. Of course he does. He plays the music. Yes, he plays the music.

Chuck Berry
Chuck Berry

I do various things in my life. I’m a teacher and a researcher and a writer and an NLP trainer and a hypnotherapist and various other things. I enjoy doing all of these things and get a lot out of all of them. However, it’s when I play the music that I usually feel most myself – it’s one of the times in my life when I feel like I’m really in the right place at that moment. I’m no Chuck Berry or Buddy Holly, but it makes me feel right. It’s nice to have an audience sometimes. It’s nice to play alone sometimes. As the song says, if you sit down and listen, I’ll play you a song, but I’d probably play anyway.
I believe that everyone probably has things like this – things that makes us feel right, as if we are actually really alive. For you, it’s probably not playing music – it might be cooking, or it might be running, or it might be teaching, or gardening or talking to your friends. And of course, it doesn’t have to be one single thing – it might be lots of different things that make you feel alive, and that’s great. In the concept of the Hero’s Journey, Joseph Campbell calls it “finding your bliss”. I reckon that we probably all have lots of ways to find that bliss, that feeling of being alive, but some of them are probably more powerful than others for you. Every time I play the music, I feel a little of that, probably not as much as Buddy Holly, but you know, we all do what we can. And probably doing more of those things that make us feel alive is a good thing, so it is worthwhile trying to figure out what they are.
When I wrote I Play the Music with Mark, there was a bizarre moment in which the exact same words came out of both of our mouths at exactly the same moment. We were so in sync at that moment that we had somehow both produced the same lines that eventually became the final verse:

“Now nothing but smoke
And silence remain
Of all that’s been said and been sung
Where I played the music
I play the music”

Because in the end, of course, the show finishes and the audience goes home, and we are left with just ourselves and whatever it is that we do. As for me, I think I’ll go home and play the music!
I look forward to seeing you all at Jukebox Paradise. Tickets are selling out quickly.

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Come Home Again

jukeboxparadiseflierIn the show, Jukebox Paradise, Deloris Keller sings the song Come Home Again. In the story, this song was a big hit during World War II and far away in the thick of the action, a wounded soldier named Fred is listening to the radio and the sound of her voice. It is this song, coming from so far away, that gives Fred the will to survive and to eventually come back home and build a new life.

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Coindrop62 at Aichi Vision 2016

Aichi Vision is a great music and arts festival which is held in Tsurumai Park each year just at the end of summer. Tsurumai Park is probably best known at the moment as a scared place for pokemon and hundreds of zombie-like people can be still seen wandering around at 2am looking for pokemon. I believe that it has something to do with the shape of the central fountain as seen from above, but others more familiar with the world of pokemon may correct me at their leisure. I downloaded the app and caught a pokemon before deleting it (the app, not the captured pokemon). Then in Dublin, a friend persuaded me to re-download it and catch a Dublin pokemon. I can confirm that Dublin pokemon were equally uninteresting to me as Nagoya pokemon. I may be missing a vital poke-gene.

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"Today is the First Day" from Jukebox Paradise

Today is the First DayThis year, one of my big areas of focus is our rock and roll musical, Jukebox Paradise, produced by KPB Theatre. This is a musical theatre production that has been in my head since 1989 and it is finally coming to the stage at the end of November 2016 in Nagoya. Please contact me to get your tickets. The script was written by Gary Beaubouef and it is directed by Steve Pottinger. Here’s a quick description that Sarah and I wrote up for the program:

Jukebox Paradise – What you’ll see and hear on the stage in front of you today is really a culmination of so many ingredients, and among them you’ll discover 17 songs, 25 years’ worth of musical reflections and enhancements, 1 superb script, 1 dedicated production team, 33  hardworking actors and dancers from 12 countries, 5 talented musicians, blended together over the course of 12 months of rehearsals.
The end result is a sweet and nostalgic musical whose roots were planted many years ago in a young man’s imagination. It started in 1989 when I was 20 years old and totally inspired by Grease. After being on stage for that production, I came up with the concept of the Jukebox world and shortly after, the very first song came to life in words and music.
This dream took a long time to come to life, but the end result is most definitely worth the wait. We are certain that you will agree, too. Thank you to all involved, both on stage and behind the scenes, and an especially big thank you to you, the audience, for coming to share in this dream of a Jukebox world.
So sit back, set aside the fast pace of the 21st century, and join us for a trip back in time to the sights and sounds of Hawaii, 1962. Or, in other words… Paradise. Mahalo!

In this post, I’d like to talk a little about one of the songs in the show. Near the end of Act 2 in Jukebox Paradise, you will hear the song Today is the First DayToday is the First Day is a cute little song that I wrote on guitar in an open G tuning. It just seemed to fall out of the guitar and the air effortless as if it was already complete. It’s always nice when that happens. It has the feel of the old Beatles song, Blackbird, or reaching back much further, it echoes the harmonies and musical progressions of Bach’s Air on a G String. Nothing complicated – just a sweet little song.
The song was originally in Act 1. We cut the song from the show. It just wasn’t working.
The song was supposed to be a sweet duet that gently led into a really boisterous rock and roll scene with dancers and lots of actors involved.
But the song didn’t work. Not at all.
It sure is a sweet song, but theatre requires flow and dynamics and sometimes the right song is not the right song because it is not helping the flow of the show.
A musical is a balancing act of dialogue, singing, acting, music, dancing, story, costumes, props, and so much more. Everything has got to flow together and this song didn’t work.
So the song was cut along with a section of dialogue that was slowing things down. It was a difficult decision and it was also the right decision.
Yet the song, Today is the First Day, is now back in the show. It has returned to the show in a much more important position, right before the last scene. And it works. It works really well. Sometimes, what was the wrong song becomes the right song because it helps the flow of the show and reinforces the message of the story.
It is no longer a duet because it has developed much further. Now it is sung by most of the major characters – one line each – in a beautiful and moving rendition that shows how the characters have grown and come together during the story.
An old maxim that I like says, “There is no failure, only feedback.”
The song hadn’t failed – it had simply given us feedback about how to make the show better.
And that’s what the lyrics of Today is the First Day are about.
Imagine if we were to able to live our lives following that maxim – to try to believe that every ‘failure’ is actually feedback that can help us to learn something.
That is not always an easy to do , yet in every failed exam, in every heartbreak, and in every sickness, there is something to be learned. These are not all easy lessons and they are certainly not the kind of lesson that we may have wanted. Instead, they are the realities of life showing us that things are not always smooth and that we have to keep learning. Life can be really messy sometimes.
Relationships, jobs, health, finances, happiness – these are not linear progressions that keep improving over time. Life sends us some tough stuff and we all face difficulties at times.
When we face hardship, we begin to draw on strength and other resources that we didn’t know we had. Ironically, so often, it’s really only when we face a challenge that we keep learning and begin to get to know ourselves at a deeper level.
Each day and each failure is a little opportunity to get feedback that can help us to become more ourselves. In Today is the First Day, one of the main characters, Stevie sings:

“I go north when you go south
The choice is always mine
I will make this life my own
And I will make it fine. “

Stevie makes his choices and takes the responsibility of building his own life. He is willing to learn from any ‘failure’ that comes his way because it really is feedback.
There isn’t really much point in getting ‘success’ in everything if you don’t make your own choices. That success would belong to someone else, the one who made the choice for you. We are responsible for our own lives.
As Stevie sings in another song from Jukebox Paradise, Music My Friend

“Choices my friend, you have them
Choices my friend, be strong “

We always have choices. Sometimes it’s easier to let others make choices for us and to have someone else to blame when things don’t go perfectly. But this is our life and these are our choices.
Going back to the song, Today is the First Day, we hear the lines:

“When God made the world, He blessed us with free will
And I won’t trade that right for a dollar bill”

Every day is the first day of the rest of our life. What a cliché!
True. I think I first saw the phrase written on one of those little feel-good signs that your mother hangs in your kitchen.
And just because it is a cliché doesn’t negate the fact that it is true.
Every day, we have choices. We can choose to continue doing the things we have always done and getting the results we have always got. Or we can choose to make different choices in order to get the results that we really want in our life. When we decide to take responsibility for our choices, that is when we really can start to live and to learn.

“Because life is a pleasure
And a beautiful treasure
And whether we measure
By work or by leisure
Now’s the time to choose
Choose who I will be.
Today is the first day
Today is the first day
Today is the first day of the rest of my life.”


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Upcoming Music Events

On Sunday, we have the next music rehearsal for the Jukebox Paradise musical. It is still about 5 months until showtime, and it is great to see people really getting into their roles both as actors and singers. This is going to be a great show.
Coindrop62_April24In other music news, the band for the Jukebox Paradise musical, Coindrop62, will be playing at Shooters in Fushimi this Sunday evening (April 24th) from 8pm. We will do some a bunch of fun rock and roll tunes. I am not playing any instrument for a change, so I can focus on my role as the singer for a change! Visit the Facebook event page.
On the following Saturday (April 30th), Sarah Mulvey and I will be joined by the formidable duo, Aya Kawakami and Takashi Terada, for a show at Coat of Arms in Marunochi. It’s going to be a great night. You can check out the details on the Facebook event page.
As some people have pointed out, I haven’t been playing much Irish music recently. I’ll get back to it (it is my roots after all!), so in the meantime check out one of the CDs from my old band, The Rising Pints.
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Starting 2016 with Music

Sarah and I did our first gig of 2016 last night at Coat of Arms. January is always a quiet month as people hunker down in their dens to avoid the cold weather, and of course to try to rescue their finances and health after Christmas and the new year celebrations! So, thanks to all the folks who came out last night and made it such a fun night for us.
We have been practicing some new songs and polishing up some old versions with more harmony and fun guitar stuff. For the last few years, I’ve been primarily using DADGAD as my guitar tuning. Recently, I’ve been experimenting a bit more with open G and other strange combinations. Great sound on my old trusty Lowden guitar.
We are playing tonight with the Tomo Shagger band at Shooters, Fushimi. Then next Friday, we are heading up to Tokyo to play at the opening of an art exhibition.
And on Sunday, rehearsals are going to finally begin for Jukebox Paradise. We have a marvellous cast assembled and it’s going to be great working with everyone to produce a wonderful musical in November.

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Music at JALT 2015

12274505_10153646297700631_907389530697514805_nSarah and I played at the Best of JALT event again this year. It was lovely to be back at the conference again and to see so many familiar faces. For those who don’t know, JALT stands for Japan Association for Language Teaching, and I have played music at various events there since about 1995. Wow, 20 years!

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Jukebox Paradise Auditions – Day 2

Wow, there is so much talent in Nagoya. We were expecting some people to be good in the auditions for Jukebox Paradise today, and they were indeed very good. What we hadn’t quite expected was for the amazing talent that has emerged. Great singing, great reading of monologues and scripts.
We have one more day of auditions next Sunday and we won’t decide the roles until everyone has auditioned. In the meantime, we are having a lot of fun thinking about possibilities before we have to make the difficult decisions of who is going to work best for each role and with the whole team to make the musical as great as possible.
What we are sure of is that it is shaping up to be a very international cast – lots of talented people from many countries.

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Billboard_Top_Rock'n'Roll_Hits_1962Remember 1962? Nope, I wasn’t born either, but it’s not too late to enjoy it.
The musical, Jukebox Paradise, is situated in Hawaii in 1962, and all the songs are written in the style of that era. So if you don’t remember all the hits of 1962, you can check out the list below. The information is from this super website.
Do you remember these songs: The Loco-Motion, The Twist, Duke of Earl, Twistin’ the Night Away, Can’t Help Falling in Love, Baby It’s You, Where Have All the Flowers Gone, If I Had a Hammer, Surfin’ Safari.
Wooooh, 1962 was quite a year!

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Auditions for Jukebox Paradise Musical

12063611_10153632284360539_895045246377698635_nTomorrow is an exciting day – the first day of auditions for Jukebox Paradise, a rock and roll musical that started out in my head more than 20 years ago. We are going to stage the show for the very first time in November 2016.
If you’d like to be part of a really fun show with great music, we’d love to see you at the auditions on November 8th, 15th, or 22nd. Please read the details below. And please share the information with anyone that you think might be interested.