Now then, how are you all faring!

Well, this week I’ve been in Surrey, Hampshire, Longford, Roscommon and Sligo, (having made a flying visit to the beloved Isle of Wight. . . with my Dad. I had had fleeting thoughts about, getting my stuff out from under the feet of Footsie Steve but he was nowhere to be seen and anyway that has to be done in stages, given the number of people I like to catch up with, share 2 cups of tea with (one each) and possibly a stroll on the beach or have a tune with); my recent de-cluttering skills would make Patsy Poozie smile broadly (she’s the Queen of decluttering and taught me well. . .) while my newly organised office has reached heights whereby I even remember where I’ve put things!!!(or perhaps that’s the ginko tea?).

(fleadh photo : Donna McCann)
So I left those thoughts right where they are (moving stuff). They can be revisited in September.

It is quite amazing what one can pack into 2 days. The lifestyle of touring musicians and society these days seem to demand it; since moving west and slowing down, I now realise I can’t do it anymore and it was sooooooooooooooooooo nice yesterday, to sit, for 5 hours, with some of my very favourite musicians (Tom McElvogue, Noel Sweeney, Mairtin O Muiri, Donna McCann, Niall Keegan, Orla McAuliffe) and some fantastic musicians including Ciara (fiddle), Oisin (button box – aged 12!!!) and Limerick Joe (flute) and just play our hearts out.

We were in the Riverside Hotel’s reception area and boy, that music just takes away every worry, fear and disappointment that life can throw at you.

We were wonderfully surprised to be joined by Cathal McConnell (a national treasure on the flute, singing and his great stories) for an hour. That’s how I remember the fleadhs; anybody and everybody, irrespective of fame or fortune just sat anywhere and played and played.

I do have to say, that sadly, the rest of the fleadh has grown to outlandish proportions and while this is probably fantastic for the economy, it does little for me. . . but you have to be positive. I have a slight problem walking long distances at the moment and parking is a massive problem. . . but then when 400,000 people descend on a town, what can you expect? The good thing was, that in trying to get a space in 4 different car parks (and seeing car park rage at first hand. . .) we managed to hear all of Brid Harper’s first and brand new solo CD all the way through.

It’s simply stunning and many of us have patiently waited years for this.


Buy it, listen to it or steal it!

Or Dean Warner’s solo (piano accordion) cd or Seamus Fay’s Lilting CD. They are all fighting for the top of my charts and instantly make you glad to be alive.

Ok – mini rant : what’s the story with kids lining the fleadh streets playing their tin whistles, busking for money? It makes me SO cross. This is a fleadh, a celebration of music and why are we teaching our kids that the only reason to learn to play is to make money? The first reason has to be for the love or else it will all become music for money. . .and we have all seen where that takes us.

I miss the sneaky tunes on the street corners.

While it’s good, in some ways, to have the big (and I mean BIG) Gigrig (Martin Donohue, for example did a great spot there showcasing some fabulous young people yesterday – especially their singing!), the amplification is SO loud, that while it rings out all over the town, it prohibits anyone wanting to play a tune out on the street (apart from the buskers who aren’t actually playing for music’s sake anyhow).

OMG. . .Brid Harper is now on the stereo as I write. . . .the intonation, the fluidity, the phrasing, the elegance and the beauty within Brid’s playing is second to none.

She is what every musician (irrespective of what they play) needs to aspire to. I have, since hearing her in the early 1980s.

She is also a great teacher and composer – I can’t rave about her enough. She is the opposite of celebrity and a joy to be around. Go on, see her website :
You’ll be happy for the rest of the year!

And lastly, about the Fleadh – it is a great institution, where everyone meets and plays and it is fantastic thing; competitions encourage young people to meet, share and raise their standards.

Yet the college where the competitions were held was silent; no sessions could play in case they disrupt anything and inside the competitions, there was more hoo har about health and safety (everyone had to have a seat or the competitions would close down). . .which makes me laugh after the fiasco I saw on Virgin Trains 2 weeks ago and the train carriageway isles full to the brim of standing passengers. . .and yes, I have written to most of the train companies about health and safety to be told that it is ‘impossible’ to monitor the number of passengers boarding trains.


It’s about money and the Fleadh is being sucked into the same religion. I heard from so many great musos this week asking if I could be bothered going to the Fleadh? I know what they mean. . .

You can’t stop something becoming popular; we all need to make a living, of course, but making something beautiful into a plastic rose is a weighty responsibility, that’s all I’m saying.

On Friday night last, we couldn’t be bothered to stay around in Sligo and instead, went back into the Longford Arms where we had the loveliest, quietest session with Jim McLoughlin, Sean and Seamus Thompson.

You get what I’m saying – I am trying to see the positive aspects. Maybe the fleadh does need to become Glastonbury which will leave a niche for a ‘bunch of tunes’ weekend somewhere else.

I know where I’ll be.

And lastly, competitions and graded exams. . . .

I know why they exist.

They don’t, however, have a single clue as to what music is about – expecting anyone, especially a child to go into a sterile room, sit while the judges scribble notes and they give them the nod to start is appalling. Confidence wrecking for most and some of the most nightmarish memories I have, still.

It’s as unnatural as fracking and the consequences will definitely be seen in our lifetime and be devastating.

We create the future, you know with our so-called rules and regulations that I can only see are based on giving certain factions power and money. And talking of fracking. . .


Anyhow – more on that later but back to the music industry. Everyone has to pay to play now; to enter competitions, graded exams, degree courses, to be a support act. . . to go and hear any competition is 10€ (for the day) at the fleadh, plus the brochure (yet highly subsidised by many adverts) is 8€!

The MU cites fees for session musicians and it seems to be that we are creating an elitist and wealth-driven music / arts society. I make my living (such as it is) from music but I only got into this because, at that time it was a cheap night out for the family (the local CCE session) and you could enter any fleadh for free. Not so now.

I know so many creatives who have little. Or nothing. And I mean nothing. But they have nowhere to go or play because of that nugget, ‘money’.

It sickens me to the core.

I know we need guidelines but whatever happened to our own gut feeling, instinct and sensitivity to fairness?

I do gigs for free and also for money – I decide what it is I’m doing and for whom. That’s it really. Is that rocket science? Isn’t it all about fairness?

And it’s why I do smaller gigs, ‘family’ tickets and play sessions for free and allow anyone to join me, not because I am high and mighty but because that’s how I became quite good at music – through others’ time, kindness and generosity. I also have no problem with others charging for their time and expertise – we all need to make a living. . . but it’s all gone a bit wonky somehow.

Can someone please tell me what is happening in our society? Was it Margaret Thatcher? Or is it in us all?

One day, music and creative composing (in all genres) will be a natural part of life again. Parents will be inventors instead of stressed out workers and tvs will be relics gathering dust because we’re all out there, building go-carts from pram wheels (like my Dad used to do with my brothers) and climbing trees, using the heads of those-with-flourescent-jackets-and-clip-boards as stepping stones to climb up and join the birds.

We won’t bury ourselves in earphones and headsets and we’ll listen to the birds calling and messages, nor walk into lamp posts, too busy writing texts (which I have done on several occasions!).

Once  upon a time, parents looked out for others’ kids, everyone shared the responsibility of safe socialising or walks to and from school. If you fell, you picked yourself up, brushed off your grazed knee and made a note to self, not to hurry so much in future.

People ‘did’ things rather than just sit comfortably being sofa-complainants.

And music was taught like this :

‘ALL the music teaching will be taught by ear, as that was the way Irish music was always taught and learned and it means you remember it too.
In some classes, tutors may also use ABC or notation but no notation will be given out before the end of classes.
You are welcome to bring recording equipment and your tutors will advise when to use these.
This method of teaching promotes the use and development of aural learning, which is where most ‘trained’ musicians say they fall down. It also promotes memory facility and has been proved to stave off dementia.’

Talking of which, I need to get my skates on. There’s a BUNCH OF KEYS Tune Book 1 launch at the Belfry in Sligo today at 3pm. The book is available from the website


from the 1st September. The price is 20€ (sorry for the incorrect price previously advertised) and all profits go into bringing out Book 2 (November 2015) and Book 3 (early 2016).

Each book contains a large selection of the tunes played on CDs 1, 2 and 3.

I transcribed (with Niall Keegan and Kim Fleming’s help) the tunes, did the artwork and Tom McElvogue has done the layout.

Masterminded by Philip Clarke, it is, along with the CDs, a profile-raiser for the Piano Accordion and Irish Music played on it, worldwide.

Order your copies from my website and The Bunch of Keys website. Oh and special thanks go to Andrew Rothery for setting up the original BoK website! He also sorts my accordion lessons in Droitwich (see www.learningaccordion.com); without him. . . . thanks a million, always, Andrew.


– rehearsals starting next week for the Hannah James’ Show ‘Good Vibrations’ at Shrewsbury Festival. I’ll be working with Sandy Silva which promises to be such fun 🙂 She’s another amazing gal. Lord knows what the whole caboodle will come up with but see for yourselves – we’re performing on Monday 31st August at Shrewsbury Festival. Yee har.

– I’m off to Finland in early September for rehearsals with Timo Alakotila as May Monday is on the prowl again in November (in the UK and possibly Ireland). A new CD is being planned. . .

– 11-14th September is the Newry Fleadh – I’m playing there along with buddies from way back, Tom McElvogue, Marian McGauley, Eillen (nee Fitzpatrick) Opie and Annette Caulfield. . . the banjo player I used to compete with (as a duo) in those fleadhs of Listowel and Kilkenny, over 30 odd years ago. . . Crikey. It promises to be a smallish, intimate event and Newry is a marvellous place to come to. Along with Rostrevor and Belfast, the region makes my heart sing – what landscape and the locals have the best sense of humour. Of course, it’s Colum Sands country. Need I say more?

– 18th – 20th September is a LONGFORD COLLECTION WEEKEND  – in conjunction with the first of my Ireland-based KAREN TWEED’S GREAT ACCORDION DAYS.

Get this! :

Friday 18th September :
Grand concert with KT, The Longford Collection and a launch of Liam Kelly (flute) and Philip Duffy (fiddle)’s new CD.
Tickets : 7€ (advance) / 10€ on the door. 5€ under 16s and unwaged. Under 5s – free.
Available from :


and the Longford Tourist Office.

Saturday 19th September : WORKSHOPS and TALKS and MASTERCLASSES!!!
Venue : The Longford Arms Hotel and Spa, Longford Town, County Longford, Republic of Ireland.
(we tried to make the address as simple as possible to remember. . .)


Tel : +353 43 3346296

Music workshops from 10am – 4.30pm led by Karen Tweed (piano accordion) and Nick Wiseman Ellis (diatonic button accordion).
Karen will be concentrating on Irish traditional music techniques using repertoire from the Bunch Of Keys tune book 1.

Nick will be concentrating on Irish traditional music, French and Swedish music.

NO beginners but everyone else welcome.

There will be a ‘Listen and Share’ masterclass (which you can all come and listen to) with Tom McElvogue and Noel Sweeney (flutes); a talk or two on composing and arranging, plus some non-musical-but-very creative talks for those needing to get away from those darned accordions!

Plus there will be a beginners’ melodica workshop that I will give. I started on the melodica and they are great as they teach you keyboard skills and breathing; so you can then go onto woodwind, brass, accordions etc and aren’t a ton weight! Perfect for adults and younger people alike. . .

More details of events will come soon (the masterclasses and talks will be separate ticketed events and not covered by the day ticket, mainly for numbers so that we don’t oversubscribe!).
Tickets : 60€ for the workshop day.

Available from :


and the Longford Tourist Office.

In the evening, there will be a ‘Despicable Ceili’ (Round the House and Mind the Minion!!!) with prizes for the best dressed character from any of the DespicableMe Movies and certainly the best dancer (in the style of DespicableMe).

If you haven’t succombed, maybe it’s time you watched one of those fabulous movies. . . plus for the non-dancers, there will be informal music sessions around the town of lovely Longford (free admission).

Music will be by the Longford Collection and many of the dances will be called so no experience necessary!

Ceili, old time, sets and waltzes. Oh you HAVE to have waltzes (don’t tell my Dad though, he hates waltzes!!!)

Fancy Dress (optional) Ceili tickets : 5€ / ‘Family’ ticket (2 adults and 2 under 16s – none of whom need to be related) 10€

Available from :


and the Longford Tourist Office.

Sunday 20th September :
Music workshops from 10am – 3.30pm led by Karen Tweed (piano accordion) and Nick Wiseman Ellis (diatonic button accordion).

Karen and Nick will be creating a performance big band (ALL instruments – including woodwind and brass welcome) which will perform in a public concert that day at 5pm. A kind of ‘Crikey, let’s get a move on!’ pop up instrumental and vocal workshop.
No experience needed; no absolute beginners but bring your instruments and voices, a wee note pad and recorder if you have one. There will be notation for melodies and words for the songs but arrangements will be done by ear.

Tickets : 20€ for the workshop day or 50€ for a family ticket

Available from :


and the Longford Tourist Office.

A lively and fun popup big band created from today’s students and directed by Nick Wiseman Ellis and Karen Tweed.
Expect madness, beauty and fun in music, vocals and spoken word.

Tickets : 5€

Available from :


and the Longford Tourist Office.

So if you’d like to come for the whole weekend, book in with the Longford Arms Hotel and Spa – great rooms, lovely food and heaps of free parking. Bang in the centre of town too!


Tel : +353 43 3346296

Any questions?

Send them on a postcard to me. 🙂
I need to warn you that the accordion workshops are limited to 10 students (10 for me and 10 for Nick) so it may be worth booking sooner rather than later. If you are coming overseas and wish to borrow a box, email me at info@karentweed.com

OK – Sligo beckons. . .

Oops – nearly forgot!
I’m beginning to re-release old recordings of mine as downloadable cds, we’ve now got :

‘Shhh’ which was originally released in 1995 with Ian Carr (guitar)


‘Fyace’ which was originally released in 1997 with Ian Carr (guitar)


‘Half As Happy As We ‘ Two Duos Quartet originally released in 1999 with Ian Carr (guitar), Andy Cutting (diatonic button accordion) and Chris Wood (fiddle – he doesn’t play that anymore, sadly – and guitar and vocals)


‘One Roof Under’ which was originally released in 2002 with Andy Cutting (diatonic button accordion)


‘May Monday’ which was originally released in 2001 with Timo Alakotila (piano)


‘Midnight May Monday’ which was originally released in 2007 with Timo Alakotila (piano)


. . .and you know, you don’t have to buy any of it. The downloads are in response to many years of people emailing me asking for re-runs of these CDs. So they are now there, should you want them.
I’d actually be as happy if you got your instrument out and had a good play instead 🙂 or went and climbed a tree.

More soon, no doubt!

Have a smashing Sunday!



and also Tom McElvogue and Paddy Kerr’s beautiful CD, ‘THE LONG HARD ROAD’ as well as Johnny Coppin’s ‘BORDERLAND’ (the latter I guest on).

See http://www.karentweed.com/online-shop/


Projects include : May Monday / The Longford Collection / Essentially Invisible to the Eye
Agency :
Lorraine Carpenter at Different Strings Agency
Lorraine@differentstrings.co.uk+44 117 904 1870 / +44 7929 135744