Now then, before I begin, I need to warn you that this latest blog contains a little bit of bad language. But only a bit.
What about this wreath? Created by Chrissy McElroy of Christine Louise Flowers, she not only is a wonderful accordionist but has launched her new craft (as in mastercraft, as they say in Ireland) floristry company. Not only do you get bespoke, elegant floristry of the highest order, but her tailor-made creations make your celebration (be it funeral, christening, wedding or significant birthday party etc) unique and unforgettable. This wreath was for an Irishman who loved Galway Gaffers (old boats) and although you can’t see it, she added sand and sea shells around the base of the wreath.
Based in Droitwich, her website is
I often play for weddings, wakes and funerals these days and enjoy it immensely; to celebrate people or their lives is a very honourable thing to do and I’m very interested in ideas for those events. My nephew, Adam and his lovely wife, Emma married 2 years ago now and the detail with which they put into that wedding was brilliant – and all on a small budget!
I’ll find out who the photographers were – they were fantastic at capturing this beautiful day.
Each table had a London underground train station title and as you’ll see by these pictures, it was a beautifully home-made event we’ll all remember with joy.
Above L-R is my sister-in-law, Penny Tweed, her (and my late brother Peter’s) daughters Hannah and Monique. Adam is their older brother.
The saga continues re my USA visa but is about to finish (do I hear sighs of relief . . . ?)
So . . . quite a bit of emailing between me, Chuck at Acadia, Frankie in Boston, senators, lovely Lorraine my agent and a few friends to keep everyone in the loop since I sent the last blog.
To cut a very long story short, (has it really only been 6 or 7 days?) I spoke to the nice lady at the US Consulate on Friday who persuaded me to wait before withdrawing my visa application until Monday morning (22nd June).
Just in case.
Also, my application was now at the top of the pile, marked as emergency.
Last Monday morning I called and she said, no, there was no change in the system and no visas could be processed.
There followed a kind of ah-well-we-tried-our-best conversation and I
thanked her for her help. She asked me to email the request to withdraw my application via email, which I did. She said I could collect the passport anytime and I replied that I would collect it this morning.
A flurry of emails followed so that Chuck could engage US accordionist Jimmy Keane to take my place to teach at Acadia Trad School next week; I could look at refunding Acadia the deposit they paid me last November. And I could look into using at least some of the lost flight expenses (which my partner and I have paid out to get to Boston before hiring a car to take us to Bar Harbor for Acadia) for a short holiday in Europe that involves no further costs (even the currency is the same as in Ireland – euros. Hooray).
So far, so good.
This morning I travelled from Dublin to Belfast (deja vu). I got a taxi to the consulate and the lovely security chap remembered me as the accordion teacher.
‘Stay right there,’ he said, ‘and enjoy the sunshine. You don’t need to come in as they will come down with your passport right away.’
Two minutes later, a lady handed me back my passport, saying,
‘There’s your passport and with the visa that came through this morning,’
! ! !
‘It’s too late,’ says I, ‘I spoke to your colleague yesterday morning who told me that the system still wasn’t working and we agreed that I should withdraw my application by email, which I did, cancel my flights and come here this morning and collect my passport,’
‘It’s OK,’ I continued, ‘I don’t wish to go, anyway, now. It’s all been too stressful by far and actually, the sun is shining, no one has died and I’m more than happy to stay at home in Roscommon. This whole situation must have been more than stressful for you too, eh? ‘
At which point, we both got a fit of the giggles at the ridiculous nature of the whole situation.
So, my sincere apologies, but I am not going to America this month nor next nor for a very long time to work.
Life is way too short.
I shall, however, be sending a few videos to Acadia (and uploading them on my website – I’ll keep you posted for the link) which Chuck has agreed to show to any interested students. They will be clips of what I would have taught and a few ideas to get you all thinking about music and why and how we play and perform it. There will also be some footage of me playing Irish music. I am not saying I am an expert but these videos will illustrate merely how I like to play it.
I must say, the passport visa looks very charming.
If you have ever experienced this type of utterly unreasonable behaviour over visas or the consulate customer service / unwillingness to help / compensate or admit responsibility, please let me know in a few paragraphs as I’m putting together a file. . . email me on
with ‘VISA NOT’ in the header.
Anyway, back to the Chillerton Scarecrow festival on the Isle of Wight (all photos by Tony O’Nions). I saw a large billboard on the way into Roscommon town a few days ago, advertising a Farming Summer School – how brilliant.
I’d like to go and learn about tractors and organic growing and concerts on allotments and greenhouses. I did a wonderful concert once with Sturla Eide the amazing fiddler from Norway in a huge greenhouse and everyone seated at linen-laid tables. It was fantastic.
Life is so strange. I am from the Midlands of England (I don’t count my first 3 years of my life in London. . .the following 16 were spent in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire or the English Midlands. Those years were of far greater importance in retrospect). How funny that I am now based in the Irish Midlands.
So . . .what are we planning in the Irish Midlands exactly?
There may be weekends all about accordions, fiddles and harps. . .others about flutes, singing and how to back folk or trad music. . .weekends about storytelling and how to start, or calling at ceilis or teaching music in your local area. . .guest speakers from Ireland and beyond about chocolate making, poetry writing, knitting, video editing, writing film music, vintage tractors, floristry, how to organise concerts, ceilis and small festivals, how to recognise trees by their bark or leaves or silhouettes at night, cartooning, reflexology, scarecrows, set dancing, sean nos dancing, clog dancing, tango, foxtrot and contra dancing, puppet making, weaving, spinning, architecture, the use of biography writing for trauma therapy, glass making, ceramics, pop up books, soul typing, touch typing, engineering, astro physics, pure maths, historical walks, old gaffer boats, sand sculpture, listening to tree sap rising, master chef tactics for everyday cooking, how to start a brand new career after the age of 45 and organic allotments.
There’s going to be composers’ retreats and symposiums, teachers and tutors’ expertise sharing weekends, improvisation weekends for the absolutely-bloody-petrifieds, classical, jazz and trad musically-minded-expertise-sharing weekends in quiet pockets of Ireland with a cap on numbers.
We’re talking about having a REED festival. . . which could include. . . .
and. . .
That is for starters. If you’re reading this, you’re on the mailing list about all that.
A few years ago, my dear chum, Roger Mead told me about the importance of the
‘Piss Poor Planning Promotes Piss Poor Performance, Karen,’ he said.
He is so right and so musical (I do love those 3 over 4 rhythms Ian Carr got me addicted to).
We (the Longford Collection Committee – working title) have already had 2 meetings.
Swift, no nonsense and all brilliant local musicians, we agreed that we needed to keep the 3Ps uppermost in our minds. That and having fun.
So you can understand why I won’t be venturing too far away for the next twenty years.
The next committee meeting was at the Tallyho pub in Longford last Tuesday night over a few tunes.
And last night, Donegal’s finest – Brid Harper (fiddle) and Dermot Byrne (button accordion) played at Strokestown House, Strokestown, County Roscommon.
Strokestown House is well worth a visit anyway and also has lovely gardens, forest walks and an amazing Famine Museum (my, that really brought the potato famine story home to me), a delicious café and the concert series sites the ‘acts’ in the kitchen of the house, a truly fantastic acoustic space.
There aren’t words to describe last night’s concert. I have adored Brid Harper’s playing since I first heard her (in a session with Dermot in Miltown in 1987) and Dermot makes me start giggling, he’s so good!!!! Together, it’s as if they share the same breath. Subtle dynamite.
The audience consisted mostly of brilliant local musicians from far and wide.
Brid and Dermot’s dry fun humour was razor-sharp and delighted us all. A last minute call from the audience for Dermot to play ‘Tico Tico’ resulted in the most incredible (and musical) version of this number I have ever been lucky enough to hear. Crikey!
Afterwards, a pile of us went playing tunes in Carthy’s Pub in Roscommon (every Thursday a lovely session is there from 10pm run by John Wynne – super flute player, Patsy Hanly (ditto) and Frank Kelly. . who is now my favourite piano accordion player of trad Irish music.
We were joined by (amongst others) John Carlos (another wonderful flute player) and his son and mighty fiddler, Dylan. We all needed to revisit what we’d just heard in the concert (luckily Dermot and Brid had to go home straight after the concert) – The Tailor’s Twist and Dunphy’s Hornpipes.
Brid has a solo CD coming out shortly and here’s what Dermot’s up to :
Right! I’m off to ‘Ambience’ beauty salon in Tarmonbarry in a bit to see another lovely Lorraine about my eyelashes. It’s only taken me 52 years to get better at being a girl (Lorraine has her work cut out here. . .)
I had better get my skates on or as Mary Poppins would say,
‘Spit Spot!’ .
Apart from my Droitwich teaching once a month and skype lessons . . .see www.learning accordion.com and www.karentweed.com websites respectively plus this link http://www.karentweed.com/product/skype-lesson-5for4-1-hour/
. . .there is too much to organise. . .and there are too many girls’ nights’ in to be had. . . too many fantastic regular local sessions to frequent. . .too much beautiful birdsong to hear in my back garden and too many gorgeous skies to watch.
What a great complaint to have.
I agree with Edith Sitwell. My favourite things are music and silence.
I shall miss meeting those lovely students at Acadia but most of all I shall miss chewing the cud with Liz Carroll, Matt Heaton and Bruce Molsky. Wonderful, inspiring musicians for whom I have the greatest respect. Liz once drove miles to simply meet me and fiddler John Dipper near Chicago airport, treat us to a pizza, play one tune with me (John was too starstruck) and drive miles back home. As I walked her back to her car in the car park, she ran and opened up her car and thrust her latest favourite cd into my hand. It was Regina Spektor.
And the 3rd time I met Bruce (for more than 5 minutes outside a concert of his), we were in a London pub. He went to the bar and, walking back with the drinks, he placed them on the table in front of me and said, ‘So, Karen, do you also find it hard being a meglomaniac? ‘
The last blog I shared a photo of me and Nick Wiseman Ellis playing tunes in my back garden. Here’s the video link to see and hear the music. He is one of the best composers in Europe today. . . perhaps in the world.
And for those of you who are interested, Swedish ferries are running a promotion – see :
Swedish ferries / IKEA makeover prize
And finally, Sminky Shorts. . . I was interviewed for a pHd thesis at Limerick University recently (ooh, get me) which is about stage fright and my thoughts on performance nerves. I probably talked for 3 hours (imagine your surprise!).
This Sminky Shorts video is much better. . . oh that Cork accent!
Not sure if I told you I’m doing a lot of illustration work these days – this is a CD cover I did for Kevin Madden (fiddler from Manchester).
More images to come or just have a peek at my website
Have a sunfilled week. . .and I didn’t even get to tell you about the Paddy Fields art and the barrel jellyfishes off the southern English coast!
Or the brilliant session we had at the Camlin Bar in Clondra, County Longford last night. . . The fun never stops around here. . . ha ha.
Agency : Lorraine Carpenter at Different Strings Agency
Tel : +44 (0)117 904 1870 / (mobile:) +44 (0) 7929 135744
KT dates :
Wed 15th July : KT teaching in Droitwich.
Thurs 16th July : KT teaching in Droitwich.
see www.learningaccordion.com for details
Fri 17th July – Sun 19th July : KT at Paddy and Anne Molloy weekend, playing with The Headers (Sat evening) Birmingham and teaching.
0121 772 7780
Thurs 23rd July : CRUTHU LONGFORD (Arts Fest), Ireland until Sun 26th July. KT playing, talking and exhibiting!
Sun 9th August : Karen Tweed & Thomas McElvogue playing as part of Moya Brennan and Tim Jarvis’ Family Band evening at Leo’s Tavern, Donegal.
Tues 11th August : Mark Hickman & Karen Tweed : ‘Reels, Airs and Songs from the Heart’
Pier Street Playhouse 8.30pm – 10.30pm
Tickets : http://ventnorexchange.co.uk/vfringe
A gentle trip looking out towards the musical horizons inspired by a life around Priory Bay, Isle of Wight. . . in the words and music of Mark Hickman (songsmith, musician, composer & luthier from St Helens, IOW) and Karen
Tweed (accordionist and composer now based in Roscommon, Ireland).
‘So rarely do we meet living composers writing about the life they are living. These are not just brilliant musicians, re-telling beautiful stories, music is who they are,’ Shirley MacNamara
Wed 12th August : Karen Tweed & The Dustbin Corner Ceilidh Band : Sailors and Shipwrecks Fancy Dress Ceilidh
Pier Street Playhouse 3.30pm – 5pm
Tickets : under 6 years : £3; over 16s : £5; family ticket (2 adults and 2 under 16s – none of whom need be related) : £10
A gentle (no experience necessary) barn dance – fancy dress optional (prizes for under 8 years, under 16 years and over 16s). Music by Karen Tweed (accordion), Mark Hickman (guitar and voice), Lorna Brownswood (flute) and caller Ian Watterson. Fancy dress optional on the theme of Shipwrecks and Sailors. . . you can come as the Mary Rose, a crab or a lobster pot or pirate, for example. . .
‘This band is a barrel of fun and frolics – get to see them or even better, book ’em!’
Fri 14th August – Sun 16th August : KT solo concert at Gandara Festival, Portugal. (Sat eve Dad drives to Lorraine’s; stays there and leaves his car while in Ireland). £700 plus exps.
Sun 16th August – Mon 17th August : KT/Thomas / Dad at the Fleadh, Sligo.
KT flies in from Portugal; dad flies in to Dublin from Bristol.
(Sunday Afternoon) : Bunch of Keys Book Launch.
And around and about. . . .
1. From: Becky Haydock <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: 23 June 2015 17:29
Subject: BluesFest at Porchfield Village Hall – this Saturday 27th June, 7.30pm
Don’t miss out on a great night of blues on Saturday at Porchfield Village Hall, featuring The MoonShiners, Nick Cane, Red Sqwrl and Out of Hand. Tickets are only £5 and there will be a bar and food on sale.
Email me or text/ring on 07969 735728 to reserve your tickets.
Agency : Lorraine Carpenter at Different Strings Agency
Tel : +44 (0)117 904 1870 / (mobile:) +44 (0) 7929 135744