Hello, Happy Autumn
I hope you are all having a lovely summer.
I’m delighted to have a few gigs coming up over the next couple of weeks in Scotland.
THE FAMOUS SPIEGELTENT – EDINBURGH FRINGE FESTIVAL:
I am returning to The Edinburgh Fringe festival for two Step Into My Parlour shows in The Famous Spiegeltent, St. Andrew’s Square.
Sunday 14th August at 19.45 + Saturday 20th August at 12.20.
Tickets available here http://michelleburkemusic.com/gigs.php
FRINGE BY THE SEA – NORTH BERWICK
The Parlour is going to the sea-side. We will be performing Step Into My Parlour in Palais Des Glaces Speigeltent in North Berwick on Sunday 14th August at 1pm.
Tickets available here www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2564986”:http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2564986
THE PORTRAIT GALLERY – EDINBURGH FRINGE FESTIVAL:
Anybody got a good Knock Knock joke?
We have been invited to perform at The Portrait Gallery – Comedy event on the 12th August.
This is a showcase of acts from the festival and performing on the night is Shazia Mirza, Mitch Benn, Fern Brady and the compere for the evening is James Nokise. Don’t worry we will be playing music!!
Tickets available here http://www.outstandingtickets.com/whats-on/178/comedy_at_the_portrait_gallery-
EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL BOOK FESTIVAL:
I will be heading over to the Edinburgh International Book Festival on 17th August with James Ross to sing at Alexander McCall Smith’s event in Baillie Gifford Main Theatre.
We are bringing the Parlour home in October! More info soon.
6th October: Campbell’s Tavern – Headford, Galway
7th October: Ballynoe Village Hall – East Cork
8th October: The Palace Theatre – Fermoy, Co.Cork
9th October: The Seamus Ennis Centre – Naul, Dublin
I’ve been working on some lovely projects recently. Myself and James Ross are musical directors of a project called_ All Hands in The Beacon Arts Centre_ in Greenock. Check out this gorgeous venue if you can.
In March we loaded up the sherry glasses and went to India. One of the shows we performed opened the META (Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards)in New Delhi. Many thanks to Teamworks Arts and Creative Scotland for making this happen.
This June we were commissioned by_ The Festival and Kings Theatre, Edinburgh_ to do a three week tour of Step Into My Parlour for their dementia friendly programme. This has been a highlight for me. We met some of the nicest people on this project and The Festival Theatre are doing fantastic work for people living with dementia.
Have a lovely weekend,
Take care, Michelle x
We are just home from a whirlwind week in New Delhi with Step Into My Parlour. Many thanks to all that made the tour possible. Special thanks to Creative Scotland for their support and my partners in crime Anna Massie and James Ross! One of the shows we performed opened the 11th edition Meta (Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards) in the Taj Mahal Hotel. We were delighted to get a write up in The Hindu newspaper.
Michelle Burke’s “Step into my Parlour” stirs the memories we all grew up with
The songs are Irish, popular melodies from a different country and a different time. Their context is unfamiliar, and the performance they are part of, “Step into my Parlour”, has crossed a continent to come to India. So what makes this show such a suitable opener to an Indian theatre awards festival?
Irish singer Michelle Burke’s “Step into my Parlour” carries threads which transcend geographical contexts and boundaries; threads that pull on the idea of storytelling, theatre, history, nostalgia and the good old love for a sing-along. Each of these is a familiar trope across India. Languages and stories change, but the thrill of sitting around listening to old tales from a time gone remains. We hear grandmothers tell us about simpler worlds, rifle through old yellowed photos and discover odds and ends which have, through a king of magic that only passing years bring, been transformed into little treasure troves. The history that was born in parlours and kitchens and neighbourhoods is kept alive by the songs and stories it created and passed on, so that even little nuggets that would have been lost otherwise find a new place in new memories.
‘Step into my Parlour’ raised the curtain on the 11th edition META (Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards) and immediately reeled in its audience, reminding them of this aspect of theatre — the power it has over time and memories. Everything about it seemed cosy, and the impression Burke brings to the stage is that of a warm, cheery little room, full of music and stories and nostalgia. It’s interesting, how the idea that transformed into this play was born in a setting that sounds as cosy as the show itself. A little more than three years ago in Ireland, Burke and her artist sister Laura were having a chat over tea and biscuits and cakes. Laura had recently moved into their grandparent’s house, and the sisters had discovered their great-grandmother’s old scrapbook, full of cut-outs from newspapers.
“Most of the cut-outs were from the Women’s World supplement in The Irish Times. We never met our great-grandmother, but looking at the clippings she had decided to cut out and save, we could get a glimpse into her personality. Some of them were really funny, and she must have had a strong sense of humour”, says Burke, remembering how she and her sister sifted through housekeeping tips (Newly-wed, the inside of the outer portion of your saucepan should always be washed well after use) and agony aunt columns (Wanda, yes, rounded figures are fashionable…), along with several recipes, sketches of ladies’ dresses, poems and lyrics of popular songs.
The discovery of this dusty scrapbook, forgotten for decades, spurred the idea of a parlour show. Together, the sisters decided to use the lyrics of the songs, the tiny tales the clippings told, and their own memories to create a kind of tribute to the past. “When it first started, it was just me singing the songs, accompanied by the piano”, says Burke. The songs, Burke adds, were the first to catch their attention. “These aren’t traditional Irish songs. They are songs that were immensely popular in the 30s, 40s and 50s. I guess they are traditional now in that way. Laura and I remembered singing them ourselves as we were growing up. They were familiar, nostalgic.” The numbers in the show include ‘My Boy Billy’, ‘Dublin Diner’, the tragic story of ‘Dan O’Hara’ and the Burke sisters’ grand aunt Peggy’s personal favourite, ‘Whooped and Died’. With each song, Burke has brought in new elements in terms of arrangements and instruments, adding a stamp of her own to these old time classics.
With each performance, the show evolved and grew, and in its current form, it uses the set that resembles a cosy little parlour. Burke intersperses the songs with a little anecdotes and stories about the song itself and its context, and adds little nuggets from her own family history. Around her, the clippings from the scrapbooks are hung from art installations designed and created by her sister, Laura. First staged in 2012 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the show has seen several performances. “We’ve had a lot of opportunities to take ‘Step into my Parlour’ to different festivals. We also performed at a Glasgow festival called Celtic Connections in 2015. That gave us opportunity to think bigger with the show”, says Burke, adding that it is important for the show to stay interactive.
After all, while the songs, and the arrangements, are both rehearsed and perfected, the rest of the show is pure improvisation. “We gauge the audience, and shape the show accordingly.” There is a lot of back and forth with the audience, as Burke asks them to help her knit, passes around little teacakes and glasses of sherry, and continues a charming banter through the performance. “Our routine differs depending on where we are performing. This kind of show works well both in a large theatre and a cosy parlour setting.” What really works is the way Burke involves the audience in the performance, so that there seems to be a direct connection between her and the listeners. “The mindset that I work with is that when I put up a show, people are coming to enjoy themselves; they are kind of coming into my space, my living room, and I want them to enjoy themselves, have a laugh. That’s what is really important.”
Hope you are having a lovely Summer.
There is a heatwave predicted in Scotland this week so I have my suntan lotion on standby!!
2015 has been a busy year so far and I have some lovely projects and gigs coming up over the next few months.
BELLADRUM FESTIVAL: I will be packing up the ‘Parlour’ for Belladrum festival on the 7th August. I have heard lovely things about this weekend in the Highlands and look forward to bringing the ‘Parlour’ to its first outdoor stage!!
EDINBURGH FRINGE FESTIVAL: I am delighted to be singing in a show called Silver Darlings at the Edinburgh Fringe festival this August. The show is a collaboration with writer Alexander McCall Smith and composer James Ross. They have created a song cycle about Scotland and the sea. There is a lovely line-up of musicians involved in this project alongside the mighty singers Kathleen MacInnes and James Graham.
The show will run for 3 nights in The Famous Spiegeltent on the 20/23/24 August at 7.30pm.
Here is a link for more information and tickets: http://www.madeinscotlandshowcase.com/shows/silver-darlings-alexander-mccall-smith-and-james-ross
INDIA: I am beyond excited to announce that we are bringing ‘Step Into My Parlour’ to India! This has been in the pipeline for a while. Thanks to the support of Creative Scotland. I will have more info about this very soon…
AUSTRIAN TOUR: I’m not sure how many shopping days there are to Christmas but I’m counting down to a 3 week tour of Austria in November/December.
I’m are delighted to be part of the 20th Guinness Irish Christmas Tour alongside two fantastic groups The Rambling Boys of Pleasure and the duo Tim Edey and Brendan Power.
Here is link to the tour dates: http://michelleburkemusic.com/gigs.php
STEP INTO MY PARLOUR ALBUM RELEASE: My new album Step Into My Parlour was officially released on 27th April. Thanks to everyone who has supported my music and bought an album. If you would a like a little listen to the record or fancy purchasing a copy you can follow this link. https://michelleburke.bandcamp.com/album/step-into-my-parlour
I am delighted with the response for the album.
Irish Times – Siobhan Long **** ‘revelatory collection’ ‘delicious’
R2 – **** ‘Exuberant and elegant’
The Scotsman – Jim Gilchrist **** ‘beguiling’
Fatea – ‘Truly delightful’
Back in January we had our biggest Step into My Parlour show to date at Celtic Connections Festival in The Old Fruitmarket in Glasgow. Laura created new installations for the event. We loaded up the pram with Housekeeping Tips, sherry, some knitted Carrots and all sorts. A fantastic line-up of musicians and singers popped in for a party piece including Heidi Talbot, Kathleen MccInnes, Cathal McConnell and Duke Special.
I have put some photos of the night up on the media page of the website.
Enjoy the sunny weather.
Take care, Michelle x
THE IRISH TIMES ****
Now here’s a revelatory collection.
Michelle Burke takes leave of her role as lead singer with Cherish The Ladies and makes her considerable mark on a delicious selection of parlour songs, each one delivered with a curatorial ear for detail that reveals more with each return visit.
At first, it’s as though she’s channelling Blossom Dearie, but Burke takes each song by the scruff of the neck and makes it her very own.
There’s a warmth at the core of this collection that begs for translation to her live performance, which by all accounts is a mix of songs, sherry and a row or two of knitting.
Cathal McConnell’s accompaniment on Dan O’Hara elevates this time-worn tale from maudlin sentimentality to gossamer romance. Guests include Rhiannon Giddens, Heidi Talbot and Maura O’Connell.
THE SCOTSMAN ****
This album emerged from the Scottish-based Irish singer’s surreally homely Step Into My Parlour Fringe show, in which audience members are as likely to end up knitting or sipping sherry as singing along. Accordingly, this album could be sheer kitsch, but the beguiling quality of Burke’s singing and the idiosyncratic yet spot-on accompanying core band (including pianist James Ross, guitarist Anna Massie, trombonist John Kenny and Brendan Power on harmonica) make this a delight to listen to. Guests include Cathal McConnell, Maura O’Connell, Heidi Talbot and the Carolina Chocolate Drops’ Rhiannon Giddens. Inspired by the family knees-ups of her East Cork childhood, there are affectionately rendered versions of the jaunting car romance of Eileen O’Grady and the trombone-slide drolleries of Whooped and Died. “Folksier” repertoire is delivered with great clarity, including A Kiss in the Morning Early, a beautiful version of The Gypsies, delicately spun out over Ross’s piano, and the warm-hearted glass-raiser So Here’s to You.
Folk Radio UK
Michelle Burke – Step Into My Parlour
by MIKE DAVIES on 1 MAY, 2015
Formerly lead singer with Cherish The Ladies, Michelle Burke’s sophomore album, six years on from her solo debut, started life as a show by herself and longtime musical partner James Ross during the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe, a performance inspired by the characters, music and family gatherings of her childhood in East Cork. The show gradually expanded, returning to the Fringe in 2014 and, this year, as part of Celtic Connections. So, it only seemed sensible to put it down on disc.
Here, in full brogue, she and Ross are joined by a core band of Anna Massie on guitar, mandolin and banjo, trombonist John Kenny, Brendan Power on harmonica, accordionist Kathleen Boyle and bodhran player Martin O’Neill alongside guest appearances by mentor Cathal McConnell on flute and vocals and Maura O’Connell, Heidi Talbot and Rhiannon Giddens, from the Carolina Chocolate Drops, on backing vocals and harmonies.
As you might assume, the songs are pretty much – though not exclusively – the sort of traditional numbers that would have formed part of the family’s parlour repertoire, kicking off with Eileen O’Grady, a jaunty singalong courting song by Will. E. Cormack popularised by Josef Locke. Another vintage number, Dan O’Hara, by traditional Irish singer Delia Murphy, recounts the true story of the titular gent and his wife and seven kids who, when the landlord increased the rent after Dan increased the size of the windows in his cottage in Connemara (giving birth to the phrase ‘daylight robbery’), upped sticks for America, his wife and three children dying en route and Dan ending up selling matches on the New York streets.
Elsewhere, trad. arr. credits include the folksy guitar strummed A Kiss In The Morning, an Irish street ballad about the romance between a cobbler and his sweetheart, and her father’s anger at such an impecunious union, a burping trombone, accordion and banjo rendition of My Boy Billy (a variant of which was collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams as Billy Boy) featuring Talbot, a piano accompanied arrangement of The Gypsies and, joined by Burke’s parents, sister, cousins and friends with Ross on saloon piano and Kenny on trombone, Whooped and Died, a wheezingly jaunty music hall tune about dying from pneumonia that used to be her Aunt Peggy’s party piece.
Two numbers celebrate particular Irish joys; duetting with Giddens, Dear Old Donegal was written by Stephen Graham and popularised by Bing Crosby while Dublin Diner, despite sounding like an old music hall waltz, was in fact penned by contemporary Edinburgh songwriter Sandy Wright. Another Scottish contribution comes from veteran folkie Alan Bell in the form of the poignant So Here’s to You, a song previously covered by Niahm Parsons and Mary Black, Burke here joined by Maura O’Connell and Cathal McConnell.
The remaining tune actually comes from a different tradition, but the arrangement by Burke and James Ross makes The Platters classic, Twilight Time, feel perfectly at home among the soda bread, Guinness and whiskey that would have been the staple of any self-respecting and sentimental parlour gathering. It’ll all mean a lot more if you have Irish roots and a vein of nostalgia, but even if not it’s still rather lovely listening.
Review by: Mike Davies
THE LIVING TRADITION
MICHELLE BURKE – Step Into My Parlour
Kilcronat Records KLC002CD
Although hailing originally from rural east Cork, Michelle subsequently spent only two hectic years (2008-2010) in the role of lead singer with long-established American-Irish outfit Cherish The Ladies. And that profile’s been a hard one to shift, even though she’s been based in Scotland for well over a decade and regularly surrounds herself with creative musicians from the thriving Scottish scene, many of whom had contributed to the success of her 2010 solo album Pulling Threads.
Michelle’s never lost sight of her musical roots though, and in 2012, in tandem with her long-term musical partner, pianist James Ross, she staged a quirky little programme at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe that, with its apposite mix of traditional and music-hall songs, brought back the aura of the family gatherings with which she grew up. Indeed, the idea for the show had been triggered by the discovery of her great-grandmother’s dusty old scrapbook. Enticingly named Step Into My Parlour, the show has since been staged several times, most recently at this year’s Celtic Connections festival. Here, then, is what amounts to an audio equivalent – but it’s much more than that, for Michelle has managed to persuade a stunning array of guest singers and musicians to participate in the recording, including her mentor Cathal McConnell and Carolina Chocolate Drops’ Rhiannon Giddens (who join their voices with Michelle on two tracks apiece), Maura O’Connell and Heidi Talbot. Keenly idiomatic instrumental support comes courtesy of James Ross, Anna Massie, Brendan Power, Martin O’Neill, John Kenny, Kathleen Boyle and Euan Burton.
But it’s Michelle’s own intensely seductive voice, with its natural, proudly genuine Irish accent, that remains the star of the show – as well it should be. She enters into the spirit of these songs readily, almost as a reincarnated soul, yet tempered with all the affection of deep hindsight. The mix of material generously reflects that which might have been performed at the family singsongs: the delightful traditional ditty A Kiss In The Morning Early, the coquettish opener Eileen O’Grady, the sad tale of Dan O’Hara (from the singing of Delia Murphy), the old Platters’ doowop standard Twilight Time and My Boy Billy (learnt from Jimmy Crowley, and here done as a family-get-together piece). Two recently-composed songs are also included: Alan Bell’s poignant anthem So Here’s To You and Sandy Wright’s Dublin Diner. Michelle’s pared-down (mainly voice and piano) account of The Gypsies is a standout amongst the altogether lighter fare of the majority of the menu, while at the other extreme an intentional highlight of the disc comes with great-aunt Peggy’s famous, silly party piece Whooped And Died, where Michelle enthusiastically gives her all, riotously supported by a host of cousins and family friends.
Altogether, Step Into My Parlour is a gently heartwarming record, which makes a virtue of sentiment rather than a vice of sentimentality, for one of its key qualities is its puckish vivacity, which serves to keep any potential mawkishness at bay. Inevitably, there will be some listeners who will consider much of the material, and to some extent its presentation, mildly “staged” and thus will remain impervious to Michelle’s charms, but for me the appeal of her vocal personality easily overrides any reservations on that count.