New Musical Territory
April 2011 - 2011 started with finalizing all the music and choreography for "Get Up Your Irish", an original play for young actors featuring traditional Irish music and dance co-created by Natalie O'Shea and myself.
I chose, arranged and directed the music and Natalie wrote and directed the play itself. We worked together closely over the course of 16 months as Natalie wove a narrative in and out of musical material to tell the story of a young boy's journey of immigration from Ireland to Saint Paul. Ultimately, it is not only an emotional story about cultural stereotypes that have been forced onto Irish immigrants to North America but also the reconcilliatory powers of music and dance.
Natalie O'Shea unveiled her gift and skill as a director and playwright and the play our beloved creation ended up being a bigger success than either of us could have imagined! Thanks to Steppingstone Theatre for providing the opportunity for our students and for producing the play.
Right before we went into production in early March, The Outside Track embarked on its first tour of the Upper Midwest after showcasing at the International Folk Alliance Conference in Memphis. We played in Cuyahoga, Milwaukee, Saint Paul, Fairfield, and Illinois and had an amazing time. No snow storms! More links, live interviews and footage of the tour can be found on The Outside Track's Facebook page. Join the e-mail list on our website, or become our Facebook friend.
This week, I am working on some tunes and songs collected in Canada in preparation to do a few concerts with Pierre Schryer, a well-known fiddle player from the Ottawa Valley. We are playing at Hibbing Community College's Global Focus Conference and then down in Twin Cities at the Celtic Junction. It's a good excuse for me to work on the body of songs I have been singing that were collected in Canada (many of them originally from Ireland or the British Isles). I am also learning some lovely tunes from Quebec.
If all of these music projects weren't enough, read on! In November, I was asked to be the Executive Director of an amazing non-profit community school in Saint Paul called the Center for Irish Music. I am deeply passionate about Irish traditional music and education and I couldn't have hoped for a better opportunity and setting to combine the two in my work. It is an honour to be working with the 18 local instructors and volunteer board and staff, all of whom are dedicated to teaching Irish traditional music and creating a community around it. Every day, I am in disbelief at the willingness of people to lend their time and skills to the school, and in the unquenchable appetite for real traditional Irish music that exists in the Twin Cities. I've never seen anything like it in my life. It makes every moment of effort as Executive Director worth it.
This new chapter in my life has already presented challenges as artist and educator (other than making me very busy) and no doubt I will be writing more about this in the future. What does it mean to teach Irish music in an institutional setting? How can we provide experiences for our students that teaches them the cultural aspects of the music - the ever elusive "craic"?
My first trip to Cape Breton
October 2010 - After The Outside Track's amazing first official tour of the US and Cape Breton, I've decided that if things don't work out in Saint Paul... (unlikely, I love it here!), I'd be happy to move to either Cape Breton or Boston.
Boston's classy urban hustle & bustle reminded me of Montreal. Jam-packed with creative folk and traditional musicians from all over the world, beautiful libraries, cafes and shopping, I can't imagine a nicer old American city to live in (other than Saint Paul!). Cape Breton has incredible traditional musicians around every bend, weekly ceilidhs, the Highlands National Park for hiking, the best oat cakes in the world (sorry Scotland) and the annual Celtic Colours International Festival and my good friend and band-mate, Mairi Rankin (sometimes, pictured above in front of the sign for her home town).
It was truly an honour to be invited to play at Celtic Colours with The Outside Track and I very much hope we are invited to go there again in the future. If you love Irish, Scottish, Cape Breton music, whale watching, spectacular scenery, lobster, good company (and if you don't mind driving a little), you should book your flights to Cape Breton for Celtic Colours 2011. You won't be disappointed.
Tourist talk aside, we had a wonderful time in Cape Breton. The Outside Track was well-received; check out one live review here that describes us as "an amazing new powerhouse group...The Outside Track has the makings of a new supergroup".
The Outside Track played in St. Peters, Inverness, Richmond and Port Morien playing alongside some of the best musicians in the Celtic music scene these days such as T with the Maggies, Beólach, Brendan Power & Tim Edey, and Doug MacPhee & Carl MacKenzie. When we weren't playing concerts, we were at the festival club, sleeping or eating.
For those of you who haven't been there, the routine at Celtic Colours is; wake when you have to, eat & get dressed (in that order) drive to concert, sound check, concert, drive home, straight to festival club until 4am, session until 6-8am, full breakfast, back to sleep, and all over again the next day...Exhausting, but very very fun.
This year, I was lucky to have my two favorite travellers visiting Cape Breton - my Mom and step-Dad, Bob. Together we explored the Cape's cliffs, waterfalls and restaurants judging oat-cakes and turkey dinners as the days went by. (Celtic Colours is always scheduled over Canadian Thanksgiving). We enjoyed a lovely community dinner in Whycocomagh, fresh lobster in Inigonish, chocolate-covered tea cakes near the Gaelic College, and lovely french toast at the Telegraph House in Baddeck. We drove along the Cabot trail one day and took a walk out to Middle-Head where we spotted a pod of whales!
It was so lovely, I could go on writing for ages. Quite simply the best trip/tour I've been on this year. - Norah
Curious Things Given Wings from The Outside Track
"...simply a consummate blend of skill, talent, flair and intensity."
Januray 2010 - The Outside Track, Norah's multi-national folk band has just released an amazing new album on Lorimer Records and it's available for purchase on itunes and cdbaby!
"'Blend' is a much over-employed word used to describe music - often used to describe disparate elements brought together - just. Then occasionally you find a combination of artists, styles, temperaments and music that fit the word perfectly.
That is what you find on 'Curious Things Given Wings', the new album from The Outside Track - simply a consummate blend of skill, talent, flair and intensity." - taken from an album review from Folkwords ...read the rest of the review here...
Click here to listen to and buy 'Curious Things Given Wings' on cd baby, or review the album now
Brian and Norah Circle Around London with Duo
February 2010 - Norah and Brian are thrilled to be heading over the pond for their first ever tour in the UK with their duo project. The focus of this tour (other than meeting new friends and enjoying the British winter of course...) is to develop their intriguing and rare repertoire of songs originally from Ireland and the UK, and collected in North America in the late 19th and 20th centuries. Visit the gigs page for where to catch Norah and Brian between February 10-23. All shows are in the South-East part of England.
If you have friends in England, send them the link to the gigs page and tell them to go to one of the shows! Don't forget to ask them to introduce themselves to Norah & Brian.
To find more about Norah's musical and life partner guitarist, flute player and singer, Brian Miller and his fascination (some might call it obsession!) with lumberjack songs from the American Midwest, check out to his NEW website at www.afascinatinghobby.com
Last little thing - It's an exciting time right now at Two Tap Records (Norah & Brian's record label) ..keep checking back on this website to see when the long-awaited Two Tap Trio album will be ready...It's coming very soon!! For now, you'll have to settle by buying The Outside Track's amazing new album, Curious Things Given Wings available now at www.theoutsidetrack.com.
Outside Track album ready just in time for Caribbean Cruise
February 2010 - Norah has just returned from a jam-packed weekend of 6 gigs in 4 days releasing The Outside Track's new album "Curious Things Given Wings" at one of the biggest Celtic Festivals in the world, Glasgow's own Celtic Connections. The album showcases The Outside Track's new line-up of 2 Canadians from opposite sides of the coast; Norah from Vancouver and Mairi Rankin (Beolach) from Cape Breton adding to the two founding Scottish members, harpist Ailie Robertson and accordionist Fiona Black and Cillian Ó'Dálaigh of Limerick.
Keep an eye out for an article about The Outside Track in Irish Music Magazine's March issue. "Curious Things Given Wings" is available for purchase on The Outside Track's website. Keep visiting this site regularly for updates on Norah's tours with The Outside Track's.
For now, Norah & the Two Tap Trio are off to Fort Lauderdale on Saturday, Jan 23 for The Irish Festival Cruise where they will be entertaining Irish Music fans from around the United States as they sail lazily to destinations such as St. Maarten, Tortola, Nassau and San Juan! There might even still be room on the ship for you...
A New Outside Track Album on the Horizon
On November 3, Norah flies to Edinburgh to meet up with Ailie, Fiona, Cillian and Mairi of The Outside Track for a very exciting month of November! During their time together, the Track is packing in 12 gigs and a showcase at the AFO conference while recording a brand new album with producer, Mattie Foulds (Karine Polwart). Wish them luck and keep an eye out on the details of the official cd release at Celtic Connections in Glasgow on January 15.
Dates for the tour are up on this website, or go directly to The Outside Track's new snazzy website.
Norah brings the foreigners home... The Scots and Irish come to Beautiful BC
July 2009 - After tours in the UK, Ireland, Germany and France Norah is finally bringing her multi-national 5-piece band, The Outside Track to tour Beautiful British Columbia this July for concerts at the Mission Folk Music Festival, the Rogue Folk Club, Kamloops' Music in the Park and Bowen Island before traveling to Ontario for the Mill Race Festival of Traditional Music and Goderich Celtic Roots Festival.
The Outside Track boasts an award-winning line-up of Ailie Robertson on clarsach (BBC Radio Scotland Young Trad finalist 2007), Norah Rendell on vocals and flute (Canadian Trad Singer of the Year nominee 2008), Fiona Black on accordion (FAME academy bursary recipient 2007), Cillian O'Dalaigh (Ireland) on guitar and Mairi Rankin, of Beolach on fiddle.
All members of The Outside Track are instrumentalists, arrangers and composers in their own right. Since meeting in Limerick in 2005, their sound has developed into a unique sonic fusion of harp, guitar and accordion bass accompaniment coupled with intricate interplay between fiddle, flute and harmony vocals. These “inspired arrangements” draw on diverse material from classic ballads, new songs, self-penned originals and traditional instrumentals from their native countries.
Sign up for The Outside Track's email list and check out their tunes on their website that Norah designed herself.
Wait There Pretty One on the Charts!
Wait There Pretty One is ranked #1 by CBC's Galaxie Plus Celtic music DJ, Mary-Jane Lamond. Did you know you can listen to the latest releases from leading musicians from Canada, Ireland, and the UK from the comfort of your own computer? Follow this link to listen
Manitoba DJ, Lyle Skinner ranked Wait There Pretty One #2 on his top 10 albums for 2008, second only to Irish supergroup Lunasa! Lyle has been a massive support to Norah's music since way back in the Cleia days when he span "This Side of Main" many times.
Speaking of Cleia, if you've never heard them, check out the sample tracks on the albums page. It was a great band featuring Norah, Karla Mundy and Keona Mundy (Hammond) of the No Shit Shirleys, Andy Hillhouse of Mad Pudding and The McDades and Manchester guitarist/songwriter Neil Hammond.
CBC Podcast Available for Download
CBC liked the recording of Norah and Brian's live concert on Saltspring that they made it into a podcast. The podcast can be downloaded on itunes (search Canada Live podcast for Tuesday October 21) or on CBC's website by following this link. If you do not have a personal mp3 player, the concert can be listened to right off your computer online by following this link.
Nominated for Best Traditional Singer of the Year
Norah has been nominated for Traditional Singer of the Year award for the Canadian Folk Music Awards alongside these fantastic singers:
Enoch Kent from Toronto
Mary Beth Carty from Quebec
Allison Lupton from Ontario
Daniel Payne from Newfoundland
The fourth annual Canadian Folk Music awards gala will take place on Sunday, November 23, 2008 at the Arts & Cultural Centre in St. John’s, Newfoundland. The awards ceremony and live music (by select nominated artists) will be followed by a reception.
Click here to see the full list of nominees for the Canadian Folk Music Awards
go to Norah's myspace page to send your best wishes and listen to some songs..
Oh la la La Rochelle.....
Every year, a medieval town on the west coast of France hosts one of the largest boat shows in the world called Le Grand Pavois. The show features one country every year and 2008, Ireland was the lucky nation of choice. The Outside Track was asked to come along to liven up the festivities along with a Sligo quintet of all-star musicians including Junior Davey, P.J. Hernon and Michael Hurley, Ceoltori Coleman and Cork-based dance troupe, Dancing Thru the Ages. All three bands had a blast with Pierre-Phillipe and Nicolas and all at General Humbert's, where they played each night to a crowd of delegates from Cork city and La Rochelle locals. Here's a photo of an impromptu session on the boat from the old city to the Grand Pavois festival site.
From left to right is Cillian O'Dalaig (guitar), Lauren MacColl (fiddle), Vincent, Norah (whistle), P.J. Hernon(box), Junior Davey (bodhran), Joe (fiddle), and Fiona Black in the foreground on accordion.
On Tour in UK with The Outside Track 'til August 16
From the Outer Hebrides to the southern-most stretches of England, Norah is touring throughout the UK with The Outside Track. The Outside Track came together in 2005 in Limerick, Ireland and have toured extensively in the UK and Ireland including a mainstage support act for Altan at the Sidmouth Folk Festival in 2007. Members include harpist Ailie Robertson, BBC radio folk musician of the year, fiddler, Lauren MacColl, accordionist Fiona Black, and guitarist Alan Jordan.
West Coast Tour Smashing Success - Canada Live Broadcast
Norah and Brian returned to Minneapolis having sold more cds than they brought with them for the cd release tour throughout Beautiful British Columbia. The tour couldn't have been more successful with sold out shows on Bowen Island and Saltspring, feature articles in the Vancouver Courier, North Shore News, and The Richmond Review and CBC recording the Salt Spring show for broadcast on CBC Radio Two's "Canada Live". Click on links below to read some of the media coverage and check back to find out when the concert will be aired on CBC Radio Two.
Richmond Review - "Norah Rendell Gets to the Roots of Irish Music", Matthew Hoekstra asks Norah "Why Irish Music"?
North Shore News - "Ireland Put Into Context" Erin McPhee interviews Norah about new album, Wait There Pretty One.
Bowen Island Show Sold Out - off to the Gulf Islands
Norah, Brian Miller and Django Amerson played to a packed house at Cates Hill Chapel on Saturday May 17. Thanks to all you Bowen Islanders for coming out to the show. Special thanks to Barb Rendell, Caitlin Frost and Phoenix for helping to make the show a great success.
Check back in a few days for links to photos from the May 15 Rogue Folk Club show, articles about Norah in BC newspapers and a soundclip of Brian and Norah's interview with Sheryl McKay on CBC's North By Northwest.
Announcing: West Coast Canadian cd release tour in May
Brian and I will be island hopping to Victoria, on Bowen, Mayne, Saltspring, Galiano and Pender to officially release "Wait There Pretty One". Check out the gigs page to see the dates.
- Official Vancouver Release Concert presented by The Rogue Folk Club
- Thursday May 15, 8:00pm at St. James Community Hall
- Norah Rendell and Brian Miller with special guest fiddler Django Amerson
- more info and advance tix available at www.roguefolk.bc.ca or 604-736-3022
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Norah and Brian at Templebar Trad Fest
On January 23, Norah and Brian are travelling to Ireland with 5 Mile Chase fiddler, Django Amerson and Washington DC flute player, Brendan Bell to play the session trail at The Temple Bar Irish Traditional Music Festival in Dublin. Check out the concerts at the festival including Siobhan and Tommy Peoples, John Wynne and John MacEvoy, Gráda and Susan McKeown among others at www.templebartrad.com. They will also be joined by fiddler Lizzy Doe for the Festival Club session on Saturday night.
Norah, Brian and Django are heading to Cork city after the festival where Brian will be playing some shows with Roscommon box player, Tommie Cunniffe at the UCC tradfest.
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The Maenads launched their cd with a blast on December 17th!
This album was recorded in 2005 before Norah set off for Ireland and is finally available to all you Maenads fans! Check out the Albums page to hear some sample tracks and order a copy.
Vancouver-based celtic trio,
The Maenads blends the rich sounds of three unique musicians. The combination of Rebecca Blair's Celtic harp, Linda Bull's fiddle and Norah Rendell's voice, whistle and recorder produces a brilliant soulful sound unlike any other. With a repertoire that ranges from traditional Irish melodies to medieval dances to contemporary tunes, the Maenads take their audiences on a fascinating journey of story and song with their new CD.
The Maenads came into being back in 2001 when Norah and Rebecca met at an Irish session. They quickly discovered that they had a unique musical chemistry that became even more entrancing with Linda's arrival. Together the trio sparkled with creative energy and musical possibilities. The Maenads soon began performing at gigs throughout the Lower Mainland and the Gulf Islands.
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New Album with Brian Miller: Wait There Pretty One
Norah teams up with Minneapolis-based Irish guitar guru, Brian Miller (5 Mile Chase, Gaels, Doon Ceili Band) after a chance meeting in Cork city in 2005. Rendell’s rich and effortless singing on a hand picked collection of traditional songs is accompanied by Miller’s unmistakable dadgad guitar playing.
To hear some music and order a copy, go to the Albums page. More on Brian and Norah's duo project is at the Norah and Brian page.
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Check out Norah's UK/Irish-based band, The Outside Track