Author: Pierce

1 Wedding 1 Cat and an Organ

PierceCamille

Camille and Pierce singing “More”

Mike’s cat sleeps in the back of his car, he parks it around the back of his house somewhere down around Rathangan in Co Wexford. He was having a cup of tea on our sofa when he relayed the story about his new car and the cat in his thick Manchester accent.

“I ope no-one is aleer-gik”

I looked at Clare for a minute and wondered about her allergies, they hadn’t been so noticeable of late, but of course we don’t have a cat in New York. However, we’ve been in Ireland for a couple of weeks now and our cat Albert (shared with a Wexford friend) doesn’t seem to be affecting her. So we all tittered in union, and brushed the question aside.

On Friday at one o’clock everyone congregated at our Davitt Road bungalow for the trip to Dublin and after we loaded the gear into the back of Mike’s car we all piled in. I bagged the front passenger seat hoping for a nap. Clare, Paula and Mick, slid into the back (where the cat sleeps) and off we went to Dublin for our show at the Dublin Unitarian. Late the night before, Josh Johnston the organist had slipped into his text a small bombshell, the church had accidently double-booked a wedding rehearsal at 6 p.m. during our planned soundcheck. This is typical of the stuff that happens when you are playing in churches. “Nightmare!” I replied, Josh wrote back that we would start at 4.30 and have plenty of time, and if needed we could resume after the rehearsal at 7.15.

“If everything goes swimmingly Josh, that won’t be a problem, but the doors open at 7.30, what if something goes wrong?” We hadn’t played together yet as a whole unit, I had rehearsed with Josh on organ and Garvan on bass at the church, and with Mick on guitar and Paula on vocals and percussion in Wexford, but we hadn’t played together as a unit yet, the soundcheck was going to be the only chance. I had this kind of thing before and knew how to pull it off, but a wedding rehearsal in the middle of it? Yikes!

We pulled up in front of the church at half three, unloaded and set up the equipment. The heat had been on since ten in the morning because during the rehearsal on the previous Tuesday we found that the cold front blowing down from the North had lowered the pitch of the organ by a ¼ tone. The organ tuner had advised us to put the heat on early with the hope that the organ would move up to the standard A440 pitch by gig time. It wasn’t exactly boiling in there at half three, but the edge had been taken off of it, and Josh excitedly greeted us on the church steps with the news that the organ was going upwards, only two cents below 440 now! By the time we began playing it was only one cent below. Of course we could always tune to the organ, but the bloody piano still stayed at 440, we had only one tune in which both of them played “Sorrow is a Solid Feeling” I had already begrudgingly restructured the set with its exclusion, just in case.

At around quarter to five we were ready to go, so we checked the organ once more, we tried playing “Sorrow” and it seemed alright to Garvan and me , Josh didn’t seem as happy, but I figured if it didn’t hurt Garv and me, it couldn’t be too bad. We began rehearsing and checking the sound at the same time. It was sounding good and we were just about to hit another song when I noticed a change in the atmosphere. A frumpy looking woman in her fifties with a forward keel, and a “here’s me head and me bum is coming” posture, swung her brown handbag like a weapon as she busied across the aisle. I suddenly became aware of her and was clocking her Michael Caine glasses and Clancy Brothers cardigan more than anything else, when a second dawning came upon me (Josh and the sound man Kevin – who lives and works in the Church – had gone into a state of reverence). Of course, this was Bridget the Pastor, and the four people behind her giggling, were the wedding party! Without much being said we all laid down our instruments in surrender and sheepishly crawled away to the basement cum dressing room.

At five to eight Josh went up to measure the organ again, it was a ½ cent short of the target. I put “Sorrow” back in the set. And we lighted the stage for a blinder.

On Sunday Clare woke up coughing a weird kind of dry cough, unlike the ones we both had when she had a chest cold the previous week.

“What’s wrong with you?”

She was wheezing, I found her inhaler.

“That’s odd, why are you wheezing now?”

“Mike’s cat!!” It dawned on me, he slept in the back of the car where Clare sat going up and down to Dublin, Mike leaves the car window open for him so that he can get in and out. Jays, we’ll have to give it a good hoovering before the long drive to Scotland.   Mike will be amused.

Now for the Wexford gig at the St Iberius next Saturday Dec 3rd where the 150 year old organ, with the sweetest sound, tends to hover around 5 cents sharp of the desired pitch, all 1350 pipes.

Synthesizers are for wimps, this is a real living thing. Love Pierce x

Christmas In Ireland

The Turners on Davitt Road with Santa

The Turners on Davitt Road with Santa

Christmas In Ireland

“What do you fancy for dinner?”

“I dunno”

I was hunched over the piano warming down my voice after rehearsing with Paula Cox and Mick Egan, a bit miserable I was; nursing the latter half of a stinking cold. Clare was half way out the door, and was fed up making decisions about food. And tired of looking at me slumped in the corner like a heap of misery.

“Well give me a clue, smoked Haddock?”

“Ugh, no thanks……….. Actually!…….” I lit “I think I fancy a stew”

“Well it’s all there, some of the filling from that Cottage Pie is still there in the pot, and there is a pound of minced Turkey in the fridge” Said she, relieved that I was contributing.

“Frozen?”

“No, it’s fresh”

“Oh ok then I will make a stew, with the Turkey, potatoes, parsnips, carrots, Pearl Barley, onion, stock and herbs ( I didn’t really say all of that) ”

So I made the stew, and we just ate it here by a blazing fire, on this freezing cold Wexford night in the year of our Lord two thousand and sixteen.

Last night my good friend the Wex Doc- David Curtis sorted me out with some penicillin, I begged him for help cos I was losing my mind. Every time I coughed my chest hurt, and then my mind hurt with worry about being able to sing properly on Monday night for the RTE Show Arena, on which they have asked me to sing two live songs. The pills are kicking in now thanks be to Jasus, and I’m on the mend.

Doing these Church gigs is not easy, but they are worth it. I drive to Dublin for rehearsals with the Organist Josh Johnston, and Garvan Gallagher (the bassist) who drives down from Westmeath to meet us at the Dublin Unitarian in Stephens Green. And then I rehearse with Mick and Paula in Wexford. I go up and down like a whores drawers, and with the cold it’s been extra tough, under-singing all the while so as not to strain the voice. We also have a trombone player joining us, have yet to meet him. Each unit sounds great on its own though, and the magic is when they all come together.

It’s been a cupla two tree fy years since I’ve been in Ireland for Christmas. I’m beginning to feel it in my bones. There’ll be night in the day, and everywhere the fairly lights will wrestle with the winters way, and a pilot has dropped me, dropped me down from the Christmas clouds, December 22, 23, 24, I can hear the Angels sing.

I look forward to seeing you.

Love Pierce xxxx

The Pierce Turner Ensemble/Christmas in Ireland

Nov 21st at 7pm RTE Radio One Pierce will sing two live songs and talk about all kinds of things.

Dublin Unitarian Nov 25th tix at tickets.ie

London/Irish Film Festival Nov 27th The film “Emerald City” with an original score by Pierce Turner will close the festival, Pierce hopes to attend. Just google London/Irish film festival.

The Wexford St Iberius Dec 3rd tix at Wex art Centre

Cork City-Coughlans Dec 8th

Limerick 1 Pery Place Hotel Dec 12th

Glasgow Tron Theatre Jan 20 – 2017 The Celtic Connections Festival.

Encore at The Church Of Dudes Oct 21st

“It’s come to the end of the season; everyone’s brooding or teething”

This is a line from You Are Leaving, a so-far unheralded track from Love Can’t Always Be Articulate. It’s a favourite of mine: of course it may be favoured by others out there too, sometimes no one speaks out loud, sometimes a song can quietly hum beneath the surface and it’s preferred to keep it there (I had no idea that people liked Drumsna from Boy To Be With until I had several requests for the lyrics during the Pledge campaign). But the real litmus test for a song is when I have to sing it repeatedly. If the song has an Achilles heel, it soon buckles after a couple of renditions before an audience. I sang You Are Leaving with Zach Dean, the church organist at the Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran, and once again I found it moving as I sang it out over the empty church.  Zach added something new to it with his command of the organ, it was clear that he has a rock sensibility.

I have now sung these new songs in churches and clubs and even at the Irish Consulate in front of dignitaries, and there is no sign of fatigue. No sign of the world at large knowing about them either though. That’s just the way it is, they are yours and mine alone: can that be enough? Why the hell not! Van Gogh only had one fan, his brother Theo, but were those paintings diminished by the absence of notoriety? No! Of course if the world knew that he had cut off his ear, they would’ve been more interested while he was alive, “Clare, pass me the bread knife”

I do have one on him though, I can perform, and I love to sing to people, and the performances at these churches have been amazing to take part in, cool places, run by cool dudes. There are a bunch more special shows coming up too.

Starting October 21st at the Gustavus Adolphus Church where the album was recorded, this is an encore of the performance we had there earlier this year (some extra songs though) for the launch of Love Can’t Always Be Articulate – we raised $3000 for the repair of the stained glass window the last time, the window is now in place, we will help pay the enormous bill with this show also, and you will get to see how beautiful it is. The ensemble backing me up will be all these amazing people:

  • Fred Parcells on T-Bone and vocals,
  • Kath Green and Andriette Redmann on vocals, bass and percussion
  • John Rokosny on acoustic guitar
  • Mark Brotter on drums
  • Zach Dean – the house organist – on piano and pipe organ.

Tickets available now here – what more can you ask for? This involves a huge amount of rehearsal and organisation, please spread the word and let’s fill that incredible space – wine and food in the basement afterwards. Maybe you will sing this time?

Then to Ireland, the first 2 shows there will be private, and then on Nov 25th 2016 we – me and the Irish Ensemble – will encore at the lovely Dublin Unitarian Church in the heart of Stephen’s Green. Tickets available here. Then to my home town on Dec 3rd at the St Iberius Church on the Wexford Main St – where last time, the whole gang stood outside arm in arm and sang “Faith Of Our Fathers” incredibly touching for me.  People came from Cork, New York, Gortahork, Kerry, Mayo and Glenamaddy. I love singing in these churches.  Tickets for that show are available here. And if I can’t find a church, give me intimacy, nowhere is more so than Coughlans in Cork city, that will be on Thursday Dec 8th, tickets available here.

Dec 12th will be my return to Limerick through the back door so to speak, it’s an invitation only gig at a hotel called 1 Pery Square. For tickets you should contact Tom at tpprendergast@yahoo.com and say I sent you. There are a couple more private gigs and then in 2017 I will be in Glasgow for the first time in decades, why I haven’t been there is a mystery, it always went down a storm there. This is a big one though, and maybe the romance will re-ignite.  The exact date is not set, but it will be at the Tron Theatre as part of Celtic Connections Festival during the weekend of Jan 20th to 23rd – keep an eye out here.

I think that’s enough for now, as always I am in your hands, without you I am toast.
Love Pierce xxxxstained-glass-window

I’m on temperature control

City photo

I’m on Temperature Control

It’s Tuesday morning; late with the Monday morning milk, again!

Last night we went to a fancy pizza place with our friends Paul and Niamh who were visiting from Dublin.  I knew we were in trouble right away because the double doors were wide open at the entrance, I knew it meant that they were either avoiding the use of AC completely, or that they were trying to do both outside and inside at once, in an effort to attract customers.

It was absolutely boiling outside, with the humidity it musta been at least a 100 degrees, but they were pretending we were in Spain on the esplanade by the water, what a load of bollox, this is Manhattan, and this summer we are under siege by the biggest predatory sauna-like heat known to man outside of Calcutta. I couldn’t wait to get home to the air conditioner, in spite of the wonderful company. They did close the doors after Niamh innocently enquired, “Is the AC in the back?”

This morning came as usual, and the sun was there again, shining bright and appearing innocent enough beyond the protective doubled glass out on First Avenue. Rumour had it that it wasn’t as bad today as yesterday, so I put on the TV to see what the temperature was out there, It said 78 f,

“That’s not bad” said I to Clare.

“What’s the humidity?”

“Fuck knows!”

I leaned down to peer under the blinds at people walking along the pavement on the far side of the street in the shade of the sun-scorched School. How were they walking? Were they struggling along or breezing it?

A young woman wearing khaki calve length trousers seemed to be moving effortlessly enough, but she was young! I’m wondering can we open the windows and let some fresh air in, save some electricity as well. Our last bill was hefty enough, that AC eats electricity.

I know; I’ll open the tiny bathroom window as a tester and see what the air is like? It’s almost good, I can feel something resembling a breeze, and it doesn’t feel like a hairdryer is aimed at me. I decide to take a chance and open up the whole house.  It’s a big decision, a risky one. Clare says that it’s my job to control the temperatures; I’m on temperature control winter and summer.  We have a railroad apartment so it’s important to get the cross breeze. I open the sitting room windows and run to the kitchen so as not to lose a second on this gamble. I’m like a Sailor trying to balance a ship, the AC will be off and we will need air moving in here fast if it’s going to work at all, if I fail and let the big sauna into the house without a rewarding cross breeze, I will have failed, humidity is a bugger to remove. It tends to sit down everywhere and doesn’t like to shift its fat arse back out again. It will cling to the carpet and the sheets, tonight when I’m sleeping it will fill the hollow in my back and surround my neck with a Collar of sweat. The decision is made now and I’m going to the Coney Island for a swim.

Hope to Jaysus I made the right decision.

I’m the captain of the temperature control, tonight as the city screeches past us sleeping sailors, we will feel the heft of my measurement.

P.S We have added the Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow to the next Irish visit-Jan 20-23

The Mender

Love Can't Always Be Articulate

This story The Mender  is intended for my book whenever it comes to be.  I posted it on Facebook once and found out that a lot of my friends were equipment menders themselves. I had ended with some kind of negative comment about the character in the shop.  Many people stood up for him, and said that they had done it themselves and it was a thankless task.  So I took that out, having thought through the menders mind with a kinder view.

I really like this story and wanted to follow Bernard with something he might think worth reading.

Thanks so much for the incredible response to I’m Gonna Miss Bernard.  When the subject is inspiring and the circumstances are fatal, it’s easy to write an Opera.

The Dublin Unitarian Fri Nov 25th at 8pm tix;          tickets.ie

Wexford St Iberius  Sat Dec 3rd at 8pm tix at the Wexford Art Centre

Cork  – Coughlans (intimate solo) +353 21 496 1751 for tix

Limerick City (special event  by invitation only) Dec 12 – 8pm Write to me if you want tickets.

There are two private Parlour Gigs also.

The Mender
I went to get a piece of equipment fixed today, I had a feeling that it was a minor complaint, but try as I may, I couldn’t get the offending box to work. Having just travelled across the Atlantic, it seemed plausible that it may have been damaged going through the traumatic baggage slinging that ensues between departure and arrival, even if it was wrapped in two T shirts and stuffed between the jackets and trousers. I have a gig next week- with rehearsals in between – this is a crucial piece of equipment, I have to resort to a repair shop, presto.

So I googled Roland Repair in Manhattan and called to check for office hours, it was 9.50 A.M and someone answered, (good sign) I explained my predicament, met with the usual repair shop nonchalance.

“Bring it on in” he yawned, but not before 10 A.M.

We are open from 10 to 6 “

“Oh you’re an ambitious man, in there already” I said in the begging tone of a groveling charmer. He seemed puzzled by what I was trying to say,

Typical repair nerd, I thought to myself and assured him that I was over thirty blocks away, no danger of walking in on him before he finished his bagel.

This place was on 31st bet 5th and 6th a pretty new white building with a fancy silver intercom arrogantly peering down from its shoulder level pulpit. I approached it with aggression, realizing that I needed to manhandle it immediately, or it might get the better of me.

“Have a nice day and welcome to the building” flashed across its small blue screen.

“To reach the business that you require look up the directory bet A and Z….”

This place was called Audio Hospital and it was on the 5th floor, I tried everything but could not open this bloody door. I figured it was room #5 and assuming that this was the required digit. I pressed it, and got myself a second page which seemed to indicate that by pressing the green call button, I would alert someone to my presence. But all it did was send me back to the first page.

“Welcome to the building”……..

As I stood there on my toes, It was getting the better of me. Then I saw a young woman through the Glass door coming from the elevator, after she exited I stopped the door with my foot- having no intention of being sheepish about breaching security- she had the demeanor of New York boredom and emitted a sense of disrespect for whatever it was she was paid to do in that building. I knew she was stepping outside for a smoke,

“Just for curiosity, how does that buzzer work?” waving it away with her cigarette she dismissed…

“Fuck knows!”

I got out of the miniature elevator on the 5TH floor, it turned out to be a small building with ambitious presentation, obviously the work of a slick real estate firm intending to charge exorbitant rent for cramped renovated rooms in central Manhattan. Stepping out into the hallway I expected to walk for a while, around a couple of bends, checking door numbers until I got to #5- the usual rigmarole – but this building was like a person seated with a big torso and very short legs, you have an image of them that is confounded the minute they rise to shake your hand. The moment I stepped out of the elevator I was there! To my left with the door held open by a keyboard there was a darkened brown room crammed with all kinds of clutter- at least that’s what it seemed like at first- but upon scrutiny it became clear that the clutter comprised of all kinds of keyboards. They were everywhere, small analogue oddities, huge analogue dinosaurs, slick modern hi tech synths, lying on the ground, leaning against the wall, upside down, standing on their side, some of them worth a fortune. I squeezed into the dimly lit, claustrophobic, slightly sweaty hallway of the room.

“Hello?”

“Yes, can I help you”?

“Hello! Where are you?”

“In here”

I looked down the dark brown hallway, to my right there might have been a counter, I wasn’t sure, whatever it was, was piled up to the ceiling with equipment, mini-disc players-dat machines-synth modules-just piles of yokes.

“In here! You have to sit on the stool to see me”

There was a high stool behind me, I sat down, and there through the letterbox of skewered space between all the yokes, was a balding old man of about seventy five with long grey scraggly hair wearing a shabby old blue shirt and black tie. His wire rimmed glasses had been oft repaired by selotape, and his trousers were held up tight by a worn out and tattered old brown leather belt. He was folded in half by years of being alone with all this mending; his shoulders almost touched his knees. He was well spoken though, and he managed to gain my respect, in spite of my initial hesitance.

Illuminated by a small sharp, white, reading light. He tapped my name and address into his computer.

He wanted 75 dollars to just look at it, and said if I was in a hurry I should have the rush job for $125.

“No, I’ll just have the normal job thanks”

“Well, when do you need it?”

I wanted it yesterday, but decided to realistically see things his way.

“Next week?”

“Well, if it’s not a rush job, I can’t have it until January!”

This was mid November.

“What! Listen, I’m a working musician trying to survive in a dying industry, I can’t afford this, and I believe it’s a minor problem”

“I understand” he yawned

“But all this equipment belongs to working musicians, and they are all in a hurry, I have to pay the rent”

I knew that he had me now, of course the rent would be huge, but if he would only look at this for five minutes, I felt that he could see an obvious failing.

“Well I wouldn’t have come here if you had told me that over the phone, can I have it back please”

He passed the module back, through the narrow space, with a shaky hand. He seemed to look at me with some curiosity. But I knew there was no use in pleading. He was well versed at forcefully sending out the New York mental vibe of “It’s not my problem, Sir” The City and the Bank were on the Landlord’s back, the landlord was on the mender’s back and now he was backed into a hole in the wall surrounded by equipment, with an Irish man huffed by the callousness of it all. No ones problem but mine.

I went home and with nowhere else to turn other than buying something new, I re-approached my search for the manual. Rewording the search name I came across a download of the manual for my beloved old Synth module, A book I would’ve had, if I lived in one place like a normal person. There was one tiny switch at the back on “Comp” instead of “Midi” (thought I had tried it already) I flipped it and lo and behold; it worked! I talked out loud for a long time.

“Thank you God, thank you, I could have paid $125 for him to do that in 3 seconds”

I’m gonna miss Bernard

Bernard possessed an encyclopedic knowledge of Opera

The first time I became aware of Bernard was at the Wexford Railway station one early January when I was seeing a New York friend off, heading to America via London.  It was a hectic scene, with lots of bags, heavy overcoats, babies crying and sad goodbye-ing. My head was spinning around trying to take it all in, when my attention got drawn towards Bernard. Throwing his case on the overhead while making jovial quips in the smoke filled nervous air, he was filled with so much life and enthusiasm I had to study him. He had a little goatee beard and James Joyce glasses; his head swiveled with enthusiasm towards the other brave faces that were trying to lighten the atmosphere. He had a loud voice, and a sort of ancient Wexford accent, mingled with English intonation. It was goodwill Bernard, charming charismatic Bernard, and I wanted to know who the hell he was right away, I was pleasantly surprised to find that he was my friend Jimmy’s older Brother, they didn’t look like brothers at all. Soon afterwards I went back to New York and didn’t see him again for a long time after that, but he had made an impression on me.

That all changed later when I got signed to an English label, and began spending a lot of time in the U.K. Bernard began appearing at my gigs, where once again he was buoyed by the surrounding atmosphere, particularly the attractive females. Even though he was almost exclusively an Opera fan, he was very capable of giving me a constructive revue of my music. Of course he never used contemporary music parallels, he would point out the Sibelius parts of my songs and the Puccini influences, stuff like that. He suggested that I read James Joyce’s The Dubliners; it was the first of many times that he would gently point me towards constructive influences. Of course, I was delighted with myself being taken so seriously, it didn’t matter that I thought he was being dramatic; I appreciated his effort to acclimate with alien music and a younger crowd. When Bernard wanted to give you a compliment it was a big one, he didn’t talk in small town terms, he talked in terms of history, it didn’t matter what your achievements were. You were as important as anyone; you didn’t have to be recognized by anyone else.

Bernard was opinionated, he had strong thoughts about almost everything, he hated boxing, said it was brutal and cannibalistic, the Williams Sisters ruined tennis, because they just hammered the ball. Forever against the grain, he preferred doubles! ……Pavarotti’s voice was too thin on the top, and he wanted to kill Andrea Bocelli. Bach was just a mathematician, and modern classical music was destroying Lyric FM and BBC 3. The weather was almost never suitable for him, and he hated green food, couldn’t eat dairy because it upset his sinuses and all healthy food upset his guts, even a slice of lemon in his Vodka was classified as fruit, and not admissible. He blew his nose regularly with a loud hoot. He called Verdi “Papa” because he loved him so much, and when the Swedish Tenor Jesse Bjorling sang he gave a running commentary about every minute nuance of his voice, his breathing technique, his fluency and effortless leg-Atttto, all musical terms were pronounced with a strong Italian accent of course. He was appalled when I told him that I preferred French to Italian, said he was very disappointed with me.

Unlike me, Bernard was very good at building and fixing things, Clare would always keep a snag list for his next visit. He always carried a plastic shopping bag folded into a small square, and a plaster, for emergencies, a habit he picked up from his parental responsibilities.

Almost every day he would pull out the vinyl set of an opera, and sit there listening to the entire thing from beginning to end, like the way most people would watch a movie. There were different versions with different conductors, and he would point out the difference, he liked one because it was slower, and disliked another because it was too slow. When he had a few glasses of wine in him, he passionately conducted with such vigor, that he often caught the side of his glasses, sending them half way across the room. He described music like it was food or wine, on many occasions I had to come to his house and hear the piece of music he was talking about because it sounded so delicious, I usually preferred his description to the actual, I often wished that I could just compose what he talked.

When I was in Wexford, I often went to Bernard’s house in the late afternoon for a cup of tea and a biscuit, he made a perfect cup of tea, and delighted in passing me the black plastic Jack Daniels ice bucket, filled with a Biscuit variety; all the ones that I denied myself at home: Kimberly, ginger nuts, custard creams, bourbons and fig rolls. In the half light of the evening we would sit there and talk, he avoided bulb light until the last minute, he would quote his Brother Jimmy, of whom he was very proud “Jimmy would kill you for putting the light on during the day” Seeing Bernard at this time was always a great respite from life’s pressure. His world seemed to portray an older time, it was like visiting a parent or grandparent even, he had that kind of generosity. God knows he wasn’t rich, but he was never broke either, he seemed to be above it and required little luxury beyond his Hi Fi and 52″ TV.

There is no question that Bernard liked a moan on his down days, but he never minded me telling him to give it a rest, at those times he would transfer from a caring older sibling to childlike, he could be very self – critical at these times, and he seldom, if ever, said bad things behind other peoples backs. He usually would say it to their face if he had something to say, and most likely it was for the other persons good….Except for politicians of course! It’s probably just as well that he never met Maggie Thatcher.

Over all there was only one Bernard Lacey, and there will never be another, we have lost a great character and a massive presence, a tremendous intellect and fountain of musical knowledge. I have lost a great friend, Wexford has not been the same since he left Johns Street last year and returned to England to be with his Children and Grand Children at the end of his life. That house still has his heart beating behind the lace curtains, I imagine him sitting there in his pilots armchair, multiple TV controllers on the right arm, hi fidelity stereo within reach of the left, cup of tea on the table and ironed hankie on his knee. He has left us too quietly it seems, but all requiems end with Libere Me, the calm at the end of a storm. Bernard was a storm of energy and huge presence. He gave more than he took, except for now, he has taken himself. Clare and I have dreaded this day, we knew it was coming, if there is a heaven, they better be ready for a good argument.

Bernard Lacey died on Aug 11th 2016.
Bernard photo

My Father was a Fire Man

 

wexford-fire-brigade-photo--e1469518022688-680x522

(Please let me know that you are out there, make a short comment, it can get lonely otherwise. And thanks for an amazing gig at Joe’s Pub).

My oldest sister Delores gave me this photo of the Wexford Fire Brigade for my birthday, it’s an unusual one that I had never seen before, my father Jem is the last one front right. He later became the Captain, and so we had the phone (incoming calls only).

My first legitimate musical experience was at the age of nine when I joined a brass and reed band in my hometown of Wexford in the southeast of Ireland.

We had just moved down from a fireman’s bungalow at the top of the hill to a three-storey house on the quay with a shop underneath it. My father had been a part-time fireman, while the other part of his time was spent working in Pierce’s Foundry as a turner, those names are coincidental incidentally. The bungalows up on Davitt Road came with the Fire Brigade. Ten semi-detached houses in a row all connected by a loud alarm bell to the Captain – Mr Crosby’s – house, he had the Fire Brigade’s telephone to the outside world. If someone wanted to raise the alarm, they would call him and he would press a button that would ring through all the houses. He would also turn on the siren in the fire station which would travel through the entire town and beyond. If anyone was at work it was understood that they had dispensation to leave. My father would hop on his heavy black bike with the iron spring saddle and make his way up the many hills on the way to the fire station.

My mother was an ambitious woman and she wanted to move up in the world, so we came down the hill. When we got down there she was a bit nervous about me and my brother Paddy hanging around with a rougher crowd down around the main street, so she got us off the street by having us join an all male Catholic brass and reed band called The Holy Family Confraternity Brass and Reed Band. Father Bernie was the main benefactor for The Holy Family Confraternity Brass and Reed Band and he was a very nice man, but he had an unfortunate style of sermonizing, instead of going up he went down, and instead of going down he went up. It made for an unfortunate effect upon the entire congregation bringing us to within a heartbeat of slumber.

 Father Bernie got us involved in all the main religious occasions of the year, the biggest one being the Mary Queen of May march when we marched out to a grotto on the outskirts of town where there is a statue of the Blessed Virgin. I always thought that we were marching out there because she had appeared there but it turned out we were marching out there to try and get her to appear there. When we got out there, Father Bernie said mass in his usual sing songy kind of voice, and it was then for the first time in my life I came to an understanding of how horses fall asleep standing up.

After he had said mass we would turn around and start shuffling back into town. We sang hymns as we went along the way. We had a female choir and a male choir, the female choir were all dressed as the Blessed Virgin herself and the male choir were not. We sang hymns like Oh sacrament most holy, Oh Sacrament divine, all praise, and all thanks giving be every moment thine. Now it was turning into dusk and we lit candles as we came up the hill into the outskirts of town where people stood in a state of reverence at their doorways, and down to the folly where we dispersed, some people went for a cuppa tea and some went for a pint, but we all felt vindicated, we had done something for an hour and a half with absolutely no material rewards, and now we were floating on the security of tradition and the infinity of a silent conscience.

As much as my father liked being a fireman and the few extra bob that came with it, he soon packed up the house and followed us down the hill. On the evenings during the interim when he was obligated to stay there overnight, my mother would send one of us there to have his tea ready for him when he came home from work. I remember running down the hill in the dark having sliced the brown bread and cheese and laid it out on the small wooden table with a fresh pot of rich amber tea.

“Oh be the holy mack” he would say with discomfort, I knew what he wasn’t saying, he didn’t need to articulate his affection.

“You better go back home now, your Mammy will be waitin for ye”

New York New York sizzzzle

N Y Skyline

Thursday morning 11:07 it’s 85 degrees and 90% humidity, not sure if we should open the windows or keep them closed.  We’ve had the AC on all night in the back of the house where the bedroom is, and it’s nice and cool, but we don’t want to live in AC all day with the windows closed, Clare says its like living in a cave, and I agree.  She is heading out for a breakfast meeting and I need to work on the set for my gig at Joes Pub next Thursday, she suggests that I should go to the Italian cafe on the corner of 10th to get out of here.  As I’m heading out the door I am confronted with a dilemma; should I open the windows or keep them closed? For someone living in Ireland this is a no-brainer, but this is New York, in the centre of Manhattan.  When I came here first I remember being astonished when someone told me that they aimed their fan outwards in order to exhale the humidity, as opposed to blowing the air in. Humidity is the real problem here, not so much the heat, obviously you would only do this if you have no AC. The next best cure was to keep the windows closed, try and keep the humidity out, just grin an bear the dryer heat, that seemed nuts to me. Truth is if you don’t have an air conditioner you’re fucked no matter what you do, and I didn’t even have a bloody $26 fan at that time. Anyway I never bought into it, kept the windows wide open, and nothing moved except the mosquitos, not an ounce of air or wind. I just walked around in my underpants with the sweat dripping down my chest, hadn’t acquired shorts yet, went against the Irish grain, I found them a little embarrassing, or uncool, not David Bowie enough.

However now I’m a grown man, and I have AC! (and shorts) but I don’t want to have it on all day. So should I leave the windows closed as I’m going out, or close them? I decide to leave them closed and keep whatever cool air that is there within. I’ll re-appraise the situation when I’m out there; decide what I should do upon my return to the cave.

I push the tired old metal street door open – top-half cracked glass, covered from head to toe in graffiti – and there it is the force of damp heat bearing down on the half naked sweaty citizens hauling their tired arses along the pavement.  A tall unshaven man in a sweaty undershirt thuds his beaten body towards me, soggy denim shorts, off white socks and shapeless dirty sneakers, he has a long tired face, long hair in a ragged pony tail, ear buds attached to his phone and an old cloth bag twisted around his hand. He is an ugly unhappy looking bugger, almost dangerous, but probably not, he only has half of my attention until he makes an ugly leeching sound “chu-wawwwww” and casts his tired head downwards at two passing women passing him by.  Now with their back to him and me are two young women in their early twenties, I can’t see their faces, but can tell from their skin that they are young and that the one he is panting at, is black.  The two women completely ignore him, obviously used to this shit.  I am always astonished at this, I see this all the time in New York, big ugly looking assholes oogling women to their faces, what do they think; that they have a chance? That the women like this?  I try to imagine what it is like to be the woman, it seems like they are used to it as part of the daily routine in this city, I can’t imagine adding this to my life as part of the difficulty commuting in this overcrowded city.

Only once did I come close to this experience, it comes back to me now as I try to get inside the thoughts of these women.  Back in the eighties my friend Larry Kirwan and a guy called Jacque from Lyon used to bounce around New York bars looking for fun.  When our usual haunts were dull and too familiar, Jacque would exclaim “Gypse!!” imminently we would hop in to a yellow cab and head towards 49th and First Avenue where there was a cabaret club owned by a transvestite performer called Gypse, of course it was predominantly a gay hang-out, but that never even crossed our mind.  One Monday night with nothing going on anywhere, we swung into Gypse half stoned and up for the Craic.  Gypse was up on the stage, a tall skinny drag artist with a sharp tongue and wicked sense of humor.  We were glued to the stage laughing and yelping in support, when suddenly I noticed a table of men to my right, they were all staring at us, looking us up and down, one of them said ” alright…that’s more like it” I felt like a lump of meat, it made me withdraw and want to hide behind something, that is the nearest I ever came to what these women must feel like, and this guy was not being rude, he was doing what people do in singles bars, I can’t imagine experiencing that when I’m just popping out to get some milk.

To my surprise, the apartment was pretty cool when I returned, even without the air conditioner, keeping the windows closed had kept the humidity out, they were right all those years ago when I didn’t believe them.

Just rehearsed “Thunderstorm” with the full ensemble, including the original drum part with Mark Brotter, Andriette Redmann on Bass Synth, John Roksony on Guitar and Fred Parcells playing the original Trombone that he played on the album Now Is Heaven. Forget all the agony of the world, leave the heat on the street, and come to our love fest at Joe’s Pub in Manhattan on Thursday July 21 at 7pm.

Don’t worry, I know you’re busy, I’ll play for the Japanese tourists

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Joe’s Pub Thursday July 21st at 7pm The Pierce Turner Ensemble http://publictheater.org/Tickets/Calendar/PlayDetailsCollection/Joes-Pub/2016/P/Pierce-Turner-Ensemble/

It’s Monday July 4th, it hasn’t been an easy week up till now. The previous Sunday June 26th was a wondrous day at the Sheen Theatre on Bleeker Street in the Village. The author Joseph O’Connor had invited us to perform at the Angela’s Ashes 20th Anniversary Concert in this newly renovated hi tech auditorium, it was a bill filled with a mish mash of talented people, all strung together around one simple premise; respect for the deceased Frank McCourt and his hugely successful memoir. It was mostly an evening of spoken word, other than that; Jean Butler (of Riverdance fame) Danced, Larry Kirwan my old cohort from Wexford sang, and I sang with my NY Ensemble. All performers were asked to stay within a four-minute framework, and most of us did, so it was a quickly paced event that never allowed the usual absent-mided types to hog the limelight.

At the end of the evening Malachy McCourt and his youngest brother Alphie took to the stage in their own time, Malachy at eighty four pushing his grey walker, and Alphie at Seventy Six with his silver tie hanging out and swinging slowly from his forward leaning gait, a dry under-pronounced pleasantness etched into his milky pale Irish skin; skin that suggested his hair had been ginger before it turned grey. Malachy beamed from ear to ear with long grey hair that curled over his large white dinner jacket, it was easy to see in him the child that Frank described in the book as so charming and inquisitive with his little pearly white teeth. Before them Gabriel Byrne had been at the podium, he had just come from the Theatre where he had completed the final performance of the four-hour Eugene O’Neill play Long days journey into night. As had been the pattern throughout the evening his presence was natural and understated, he spoke in a soft deliberate Dublin accent and compared O’Neill’s play to Angela’s Ashes in the way that they both dug deep into the microcosm of one family, the hidden shame, pain and truth. He also talked about how Frank could be charming company one minute and then in the next decapitate you with a knife. It was easy to become totally immersed as he delivered his gentle thoughts on why this evening was important, and why he was there and why we were there, he hadn’t much to say he said, and because he wasn’t trying, he was all the more powerful.

The same applied to Alphie and Malachy, they had no intention of knocking us out. Malachy sat down on his Walker as Alphie underwhelmed with the might of a humble Guru, saddened by the fact that his Brother Michael had died six months previous, he motioned the shape of an arc with his hand and said, I’m sure he’s around here somewhere “Michael was always fighting with Frank, I remember coming out of some place one evening with drink taken, and Michael had been arguing with Frank for some time, Frank just brushed him off with clever reposts, finally Michael shouted, you’re nothing only a tortured version of James Joyce! of course all of us, including Frank, just fell around laughing” Alphie pulled out a hanky from his brown jacket and wiped his nose periodically, occasionally coughing with a dry throat, after a roll of droll humour, then he just quietly strolled off stage through the wing, malachy pulled the goose necked mike towards him and thought out loud He’s probably gone for a drink, OK, so I’ll just say a few words, as King Henry the Eighth said to his many wives, I won’t keep you long! Eventually Alphie returned, and they finished with a song, encouraging us all to sing along, and try we did, even though we didn’t have the foggiest what the words were, but the song was infectious.  The humility of these two unpretentious men reminded me that you don’t have to jump through hoops to touch an audience; you just have to be honest. It was a magical event, and all I can think is that Frank McCourt and his masterwork had hovered over the whole affair and turned the mish mash into a coherent homage.

That was Sunday. The next day, Monday, I was standing in my kitchen leaning against the countertop, still quietly pleased with the previous days happening, there before me seated by the door was Kevin the owner of an Irish Wheaton Terrier called Murphy, and talking to him with her back to me sat Clare, in between them sat upon the floor was Murphy. We had been minding Murphy for Kevin for several days, and I had walked him, fed him, patted him on the head, rubbed him under the chin, and only made him wear his muzzle while I was walking him, he had sat on the couch with me when I watching the European cup. It seemed cruel to make him wear the muzzle around the house, although he had to wear it because of some unclear personality trait. He is a medium size, very muscular dog that is excitable. I was waving my hands about, talking of who knows what, when Murphy with a viscous growl lunged at me and took a lump out of my index finger, I looked at Kevin with the fear of God in my eyes and the word HELP screaming in silence, pulling my hand away only suggested attack to the dog, now he went for my stomach tearing a hole in my shirt and puncturing the skin, his growl was as ferocious as his action, I felt completely helpless, if I moved, he would get worse, all I could do was let him attack it seemed. Kevin jumped up and shouted HEY!! Grabbing Murphy by the collar and pulling him back, a little too late for me.

 

“Are you alright?”

 

“Yeah, I don’t know what happened” I said, shaken, embarrassed and uncomfortable, for the dog and the owner, while my blood was spilling all over the kitchen tiles. Clare who was feeling all the same emotions as me about the dog and owner (Catholics) explained that I was probably bleeding that much because I take a baby aspirin every day. That split my emotions for a second, I was now feeling that some sympathy was in order, and that this was still real blood, so what if it was a little thinner! The dog and the worried owner left, my favourite shirt was ripped apart and we went to the emergency ward at Beth Israel where three hours later I got stitches in my finger.

That was Monday. Tuesday comes and it’s a hot one, Clare and I decide to go for a swim over at Asser Levy, an excellent Olympic size public pool over on 21st Street and First Avenue. I point out to Clare that my favourite American Camper sandals are starting to fall apart, the rubber souls are flapping in the front and in the back, it had been going on for a while, but now they were getting dangerous. She had ordered a new pair with Amazon but they hadn’t come yet. Clare suggested that I wear them over to the Pound Shop along the way, and that we would get a cheap pair for three dollars there that would get me to the pool and back. After going though a heap of very bright plastic sandals we finally settled on a black pair that were a bit on the big side. The pool has its rules though, you must have a lock for the locker, no magazines, no phones, and you must shower before going in the pool. So Clare goes to the women’s to change and I go upstairs to the Men’s locker room. Clare reminded me that you can get verruca’s in public showers, so I should wear my new plastic sandals to the shower, after all they are waterproof unlike my campers. I wet myself and my shoes, lock the locker and swing down the stairs, the wet stairs! BANG!! My feet went flying up in the air… the hard plastic shoes were now like boards in a water slide, I hit that hard stone stairs screaming involuntarily, beyond all Catholic restraint, my pain echoed up the stair well so loud that the two jaded janitors came and asked me was I alright, my feet had gone so far into the black shoes that they were stretched over my ankles now, I had landed on my left arse, and it was swollen so bad I barely recognized it, I was half of a hippie person, half big bum, my neck hurt, the ring on my finger had carved a purple bruise where it tried to travel towards my wrist, every muscle in my body ached, and people were looking at me. I was in agony, and I was embarrassed, AGAIN!

 

I hobbled out to swimming pool where Clare was frolicking around like a baby seal, I hobbled towards the ladder mouthing my agony towards her, finally, after boring a hole into the back of her head she glanced in my direction “ I have just had the worst fall of my life” I mouthed towards her. She had “what now?” on her lips as I descended into the cool soothing water. On the way home Clare insisted on bringing the shoes back to the Pound Shop, I stood outside while she argued with two Chinese teenage girls about how dangerous the shoes were. I think this was her way of showing she cared, so I let her, even though I thought it was unreasonable. She got the three bucks back, and I hobbled home in my flappy campers.

 

To this day I am covered in bruise patterns, a myriad of colours like an angry sky, deep purples, black and blue, with a translucent sulpher yellow, they are in the front of my leg, the back of my leg, my left arse, reaching up over the front of my stomach where they almost meet the ones on my right stomach with the puncture wounds left by Murphy. The ground they cover is so vast, it’s clear now that I had so many spots that were hurt, I had lost track of them, but the bruises are there like a map to show where they were.

 

That was Tuesday. A few days later I heard that Alphie went to bed for a sleep and never woke up. Another bruise, this one on the inside.

 

On Monday July 4th I sat by Clare’s cousin Amanda’s pool in Philadelphia, they had a party that was set to climax with a fire works display by the local Chamber of Commerce come nightfall. It was absolutely pouring rain, and we sat huddled under umbrella’s drinking beer and eating bread and cheese. A woman whom I knew, but wasn’t sure how, lamented that she hadn’t been to an Irish music festival in ages, she heard that the Milwaukie Irish beer festival was great as usual and when was I playing again?

 

“July 21st I’m at Joe’s Pub in Manhattan”

 

“Oh I can’t possibly go to something on July 31st, I have a School………etc”

 

“No it’s not on the 31st, it’s on July 21st

 

“Oh that’s even worse, I can’t possibly go to a gig on the 21st….etc”

 

I jumped in the pool and watched the fireworks over the high trees, above the occasional lighted windows of a passing train, in the rain.

Tears come easily at airports and conversation

A great number of people were turned away from Pierce Turner's performance with his string quartet at Puck Fair on March 25th the final night before the bar closed because of an expired lease. Turner ran through almost all of his best known songs, and the everyone sang their hearts out as he strolled across the counter knocking over glasses of beer as he

A great number of people were turned away from Pierce Turner’s performance with his string quartet at Puck Fair on March 25th the final night before the bar closed because of an expired lease. Turner ran through almost all of his best known songs, and the everyone sang their hearts out as he strolled across the counter knocking over glasses of beer as he

I am back in NYC getting ready for the Frank McCourt 20th Anniversary show this Sunday at the Sheen Centre in Manhattan (sold out) it’s a new Theatre on Bleeker Street.

 

Having just spent a lot of time waiting in airports, I found myself noticing the effect of it and wondering if there is a song there? It’s a kind of neutral ground, a place where all of our normal responsibilities go by the wayside; the bills piled upon each other in the hallway, the cost of an Airport sandwich, our guard towards strangers; it feels like everyone there is the same club! And tears come easily, for no particular reason. There is a sense of freedom; everything is put off until tomorrow, and no one can reasonably expect you to do a task regardless of the urgency. It’s like you are in outer space and can’t be reached until you land, you don’t have to watch what you eat or drink, and it doesn’t matter if it’s morning or night. Travelling can be hard, taking off the belt and the shoes, the in and out of the computer, explaining all the bloody wires that I have to carry with me, shoving it all down the line while holding on to my trousers, counting the gates for miles and miles, only to find an elevator that takes me to the next set of gates. But once you get there and put down the bags, there is a great moment of respite to relish as you people watch with a very expensive pint and sandwich in hand, knowing that you are such a cad at that moment, that you are not phased by doling out a small fortune.

 

Thanks everyone who came to the Irish gigs, they were really thrilling for me, singing in those acoustics with that organ coming from behind the audience while we came from the front, created something truly unique, so special that I am adamant about doing a bunch more the next time, and it seemed to bring people out of the woodworks, some old and some new. A gentleman called Donal from Waterford has found a beautiful Church there that we are working on, if you know of a good Church with a working Organ and the right vibe (not stiff or depressing) please get in touch, it doesn’t matter where, let’s look at it first before we decide. And I mean In the US or UK also.

But what about Manhattan? I am asked, that other show is sold out! No need to fret, we have a good one coming up at the glorious Joe’s Pub. We will have the full ensemble from the last NY Church gig; Andriette Redman on Bass and vocals plus Kath Green on vocals and percussion, John Rokosny guitar, Fred Parcells on the Bone and vocals, and Mark Brotter on Drums and percussion, me on the Grand Piano and guitar, we will do the new album and the old ones, tickets are on sale starting now. I hope to see all the familiar faces and those new ones that have been popping up with the gleeful surprise of virginity.

One gets the feeling that these are golden days judging by the reaction in Ireland in New York, please come and celebrate with a nice cool cocktail, bring your vibe and I’ll bring mine. BTW, I made it a Thursday to suit your summer weekends. Px

PIERCE TURNER ENSEMBLE

JOE’S PUB (PUBLIC THEATRE) THURSDAY JULY 21ST AT 7PM

http://www.publictheater.org/Tickets/Calendar/PlayDetailsCollection/Joes-Pub/2016/P/Pierce-Turner-Ensemble/

 

 

 

Irish Press for Love Can’t Always Be Articulate

 

The Irish Mail on Sunday June 12-2016

This album’s songs quiver in the natural acoustic’s of the Manhattan Lutheran Church where he recorded it… Tantum Ergo and Billy Sunday have a Churchy resonance. Not so, the rousing Sorrow is a solid feeling or the acoustic cover of T Rex’s Life’s a Gas. His devoted fans will be delighted. * * *

 

The Irish Times interview May 30 – 2016

“There is very little melody in the current pop idiom” The same cannot be said of the uncompromising Music of Wexford’s Pierce Turner, who wears his ecclesiastical influences proudly.

 

The Sunday Business Post Magazine June 12-2016

Turner’s vocals are laden with sentiment, with a fragility that is emotionally affecting, most powerfully on I Think It’s going to rain today, Adios Romeo, and warm swaying closer, the Paul Simon like Human Prayer. There’s even an enchanting version of Marc Bolan’s Life’s a Gas. LOVELY.