North West Ireland's Premier Wedding Quartet - Sligo, Donegal, Leitrim and beyond

Pachelbel's Canon

Pachelbel’s Canon remains a firm favourite for the bridal entrance. Other popular entrance pieces include the Princess Theme from Braveheart and Wagner’s Wedding March, but the Canon’s timeless and classic appeal is hard to beat.

iPhone 5 is on the way

Tuesday saw the first official acknowledgement from Apple that the iPhone 5 is on the way. Although we’ve known for about 10 days that October 4, 2011 would be the day for Tim Cook to make his debut as the main announcer at an Apple event, as expected Apple didn’t confirm this until a week in advance.


So what can we expect from the new device? Certainly the A5 SoC (system-on-a-chip) that features in the iPad 2, with its dual core processor, and likely 1GB of RAM (double the iPhone 4’s memory), both of which will make the iPhone 5 an incredibly snappy device. An 8-megapixel camera is also expected with full 1080p video recording (iPhone 4 has a 5-megapixel sensor and is limited to 720p for video capture). It is also possible that NFC (Near-Field Communications) will appear in the iPhone 5, the technology that allows for contactless micro-payments (think of London”s Oyster Card for example), although this is less of a certainty especially given the slow take-up on NFC readers by retailers generally.

As ever with Apple iPhone updates, many of the new features will appear in the new software (iOS 5) and can be accessed by iPhone 4 users by hooking up to iTunes. Some will be limited to iPhone 5 due to hardware resources, such as the rumoured voice-control features, but even on iPhone 4 you will be able to use the new iCloud features, including wireless back-up and OTA (over-the-air) updates, the incredibly promising iMessage service which could reduce your texting bill to zero, and much more besides. I’m sure the iPhone 4 will remain an incredible device with iOS 5, and it’s quite possible that iPhone 5 will have an extremely similar chassis and look.

Apple’s Let’s Talk iPhone event will take place at 10am PST (6pm Irish time) on Tuesday, October 4, 2011 on Apple’s campus in Cupertino, California. Closer to the time I’ll post links to several live blogs with commentary direct and live from the event.

[via Daring Fireball and The Loop]

4-in-a-row for Glencar/Manor

Glencar/Manor completed a historic 4-in-a-row yesterday by defeating St. Mary’s, Carrick by 0-10 to 0-6 in the Leitrim Senior Football Final. The town is in jovial mood and there is already talk of the drive for five!


Well done lads!

Wedding Music

Pachelbel’s Canon is probably the most requested music we play at weddings as a string quartet. It is almost always played for the entrance of the bride, signalling the start of the wedding ceremony. As a piece of music it is very clever as well as beautiful and inspiring, using several special techniques which add to its mysterious appeal.

As well as being a canon, the entire piece is laid out over what is known as a ground bass, that is to say a repeating pattern in the cello part. The cello simply repeats an eight-note figure in even crotchets, which gives the music its hypnotic character. Then the canon begins. A canon is a tune which is devised in such a way that it can be played by two people, but with one starting a few moments after the other, and fit in with itself so that the result is harmonious. Pachelbel not only has two players in this canon, but three! All three players have the exact same music, but play two bars after each other. The result of this three-player canon over a ground bass is a beautiful, mysterious piece in which the melodic lines weave into one another so effortlessly that the music seems almost magical.

Here is an excellent version of Pachelbel’s Canon played by Budapest Strings:

This music is ideal for the bride’s entrance, but can be used elsewhere in a wedding ceremony if you have another music choice for that part of the service. Keep an eye out for more blog entries in the church music section as we focus on different parts of the wedding music repertoire.

Glencar/Manor play for 4-in-a-row

Tomorrow is a big day for the town of Manorhamilton as the Senior Football team prepare for the Leitrim County Final in Páirc Seán Mac Diarmada in Carrick. Should Glencar/Manorhamilton win it will be a historic fourth victory in a row for the side. The opposition is very strong in St. Mary’s, Carrick so it should make for a great game of football.


Throw-in is at 3:30pm on Sunday 25th September 2011. Good luck lads!

String Quartet

Obviously a wedding quartet has four players, but what are the four instruments in a string quartet? Most people would know there are violins and cellos involved, but many especially in Ireland would not know about or realise the role of the viola in a quartet.

A string quartet almost always comprises two violins, a viola and a cello. Compared to the voices in a choir, the violins represent the Soprano and Alto voices, whilst the deeper-sounding viola provides the Tenor part and the cello covers the Bass. Indeed another name for the viola in the past was the Tenor Violin, and the strings of the viola match almost exactly the range of the standard Tenor voice.

You can see the four instruments of a quartet in this beautiful set made by the Bulgarian maker Petko Stoinov:


Although the Inishfree Quartet is very flexible in providing bespoke combinations of instruments for each occasion, we highly recommend the full quartet for the optimum results both in musical and presentational terms.

Donegal Fiddle Weekend

Every October there is an amazing fiddle festival in Glenties, Co. Donegal, based mainly in the Highlands Hotel in the town. This year it will run from Friday through Sunday 1st - 3rd October 2011. What makes the festival special is the emphasis on the fiddle and on the Donegal style, which is quite different and distinctive compared to the relatively homogenous styles and tune traditions of the rest of the country. Add to that the dedication of those who travel to the festival and the natural warmth and character of the local Donegal musicians, and you have a recipe for a weekend of great craic and tremendous music.

The Campbell family (Vincent, Jimmy and Peter) are from out the road, so you can be sure to see them playing there. Whenever I meet them or hear them play, it feels like there is some connection back in time to the olden days of dancing in the kitchen to a pair of fiddlers and drinking tea til the small wee hours, a world which has sadly disappeared. One fiddler who we won’t see there unfortunately is the great James Byrne of Meenacross, Glencolmcille, who passed away three years ago and is greatly missed. His style was typical of the region just south of Glenties, where the fiddle is played as people speak, a little slower but with great character. Here is James playing, appropriately for this blog, The Wedding Jig:

For more information about the Donegal Fiddle Weekend in Glenties, see the website of the organisers, Cairdeas na bhFidiléirí.

North Leitrim Glens Run Results

The North Leitrim Glens Run 2011 was a great success last Saturday, with hundreds of people running and walking the glens of Manorhamilton in aid of Cystic Fibrosis and Sligo Leitrim Mountain Rescue. Despite bad forecasts the weather turned out great for the run, with no rain, light breezes and plenty of sunny spells. Joe Duffy took time out from his busy schedule to launch the event and start the race.


The Half Marathon was won by Liam Feely in a time of 1:17:33 whilst the 10K run was won by Neil Faulkner in 00:36:19. Full results can be found at the excellent official website of the North Leitrim Glens Run.


It’s hard to believe that the Twin Towers fell ten years ago. To me it seems much more recent than that somehow. I remember that night so well - for most of us it was the daytime of course, but in the timezone I was in that day it was around 11pm at night that it all happened.

This fantastic picture of the 9/11 Memorial Site is very popular right now. It comes from @johndeguzman whose website you can find here.


I was very fond of the Twin Towers. I was up them three times, twice in 1996 and once in 1999. The view from the top was incredible, both day and night. Remarkably the only buildings anywhere near as tall were 40 blocks away in midtown - every other building downtown was totally dwarfed even though many were skyscrapers themselves.

The new memorial looks great, a fitting tribute to those who lost their lives that day.

Jawbone Jambox

The Jambox is a fairly new gadget from Bluetooth headset company Jawbone. I just got my hands on this one at the weekend in the Apple store in Belfast:


As you can see, it is a tidy piece of kit, about the size of a box of dominos or a big packet of butter, and in the black version there’s a strong hint of the mysterious monolith in the classic movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. As such it’s a perfect companion to the Apple iPhone. Even the packaging was stunning, with the Jambox itself magically suspended in a perspex box over a recyclable cardboard drawer in which a myriad of cables were lovingly slotted.

So what does this thing do, I hear you ask? It’s a Bluetooth speaker, a way of getting deeper and stronger sound from your mobile devices, such as phones, iPads and laptops. Pairing is very easy, and in addition to playing audio from music and video, you can answer a phone call on it without touching your phone, conference-call style. For such a small and light device, the sound quality is impressive. The technical specifications quote 85dB at 0.5m - to most people that doesn’t mean much; a layman might say it isn’t quite as loud as an iMac or a TV set, but a decent bit louder than an iPhone or iPad. What you might expect from a good radio of that size. As well as dB strength, the bass sounds well and the depth is pretty solid, no tinniness here. You do need to point the Jambox the right way though, and there will definitely be occasions where background noise would require you to use a larger amp.

So on balance, the Jambox is a little expensive, but an extremely useful and very portable device with great design credentials. It fits in a jacket or trouser pocket, and with 10 hours+ of battery life you will never be stuck for good quality sound out and about.


Fracking is the topic everyone’s talking about here in the North West. There are plans by two companies to start drilling into the shale banks deep underground in the Lough Allen basin and beyond, which more or less means the whole of counties Sligo, Leitrim, Donegal, Fermanagh and more besides. Fracking is short for hydraulic fracturing, a process of fracturing the subterranean rock with a mixture of water and chemicals at high pressure so that shale gas is released and can be collected. The technology allows companies to not only drill vertically but also drill massive distances horizontally too.


Despite the likelihood that such drilling might bring some jobs and investment to the region, local opinion seems to be overwhelmingly against the prospect of fracking taking place. Dangers of the technology are shown in the documentary film Gaslands, which won many awards including an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Film. The Gaslands website has a very interesting animation which will give you a better idea of the principles involved, as well as an FAQ on what fracking is. You can also read more background in a BBC article on fracking and an Irish Times article on the situation in the North West entitled What’s your fracking problem?

Les Misérables in Sligo

Tonight is the opening night of Fun Company’s production of Les Misérables (School Edition) in the Hawkswell Theatre, Sligo. The entire cast and orchestra is made up of teenagers from the local schools, so there will be a ton of talent on display! To whet your appetite, here’s the trailer from the original West End production:

It runs Tuesday 6th September 2011 through Saturday 10th September 2011 at 8pm with an extra performance on Sunday 12th September 2011 at 6pm. Tickets are €18 or €15 for concessions and can be bought online from the Hawkswell Theatre Box Office.

Metropolitan Opera Player

Most people have heard of the New York Metropolitan Opera and their groundbreaking Live in HD series. This allows people the world over to watch opera live from Lincoln Center in their local cinemas or at home. But I didn’t realise they have a new service called Met Player, which is something like the BBC iPlayer or RTÉ Player but using the Met’s extensive back catalogue, much of which is in HD. It’s only $15 per month (about €10), and the first week is free.

I’m planning to have a good look at Wagner’s opera series The Ring over the next while, but if you want to look up opera music suitable for weddings, you could try Treulich geführt from Wagner’s opera Lohengrin (better known as Here Comes The Bride) or the Intermezzo from Mascagni’s short opera Cavalleria Rusticana.

North Leitrim Glens Run

This Saturday sees the second annual North Leitrim Glens Run in and around Manorhamilton. It’s for two great causes, Cystic Fibrosis and The Sligo Leitrim Mountain Rescue Team.


There is a 10km walk or run and a Half Marathon walk or run, and you can register online up until this Friday or in person on the day. For more information go to the North Leitrim Glens Run website.

Polish Weddings

A friend of mine got married in Poland recently, and I was surprised at the many differences between a wedding here in Ireland and one in Poland. At the start of the wedding ceremony, the bride and groom march up the aisle together, and generally on time! There is no candle ceremony, so of course no music at that point, and once the wedding vows are completed, there is no applause like we expect at home in Ireland. At the Sign of Peace hands aren’t shaken, rather respectful nods are exchanged. And as soon as the Marriage Register is signed, the bride and groom are marching out of the church in short order - at the most you could play one short piece of music, and the photographer has to take his main wedding photographs outside the church after the ceremony.


The reception was totally different too - rather than taking place in a hotel or restaurant, it was in a kind of state ballroom, like something you would see in The Sound of Music. There was no actual bar, instead there was a caterer and his team who would bring you anything you wanted. From the moment you walk in, there is food everywhere, and instead of just a main course and dessert you are served with about seven or eight dishes throughout the evening and into the night, finishing up with borscht beetroot soup in the wee small hours! Traditionally a Polish wedding goes on until 6am, and I was amazed to see that one band was booked to play right the way through it.


I had a fantastic time myself at the wedding, so if you ever happen to be invited to one in Poland yourself you are in for a treat!