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Creating the Christmas Musicians' Hour

Happy New Year to you all! I hope you've had a wonderful Christmas and that you're enjoying the holiday.

It's been quite a while since my last post. That's because I've been very busy, not least with the recording, writing, production, and editing processes connected with the Christmas episode of my radio show 'The Musicians' Hour with Jo Bell' on Community Radio Youghal.

The idea to put together a Christmas episode occurred to me some time in the summer. We had been producing some wonderful programmes for 'The Musician's Hour', showcasing the exceptional musical talent in County Cork and County Waterford, and I suddenly thought: why not have the same musicians back to sing Christmas songs? I was delighted when most of the musicians kindly agreed to come back to perform for the show.

In total, 13 musicians contributed to the show: Cork singer songwriter Luna Olivia Avery, West Waterford rock band The Boofs, East Cork singer songwriter Chris Tattan, Dungarvan singer songwriter Richie Power, Dungarvan musician Kay Wolfe, Dungarvan session MC Joe Power, Cork singer songwriter Sarah Hickey, Lismore poet songwriter Alan Murphy, Dungarvan poet songwriter David Ryan, Youghal singer songwriter and sound engineer on The Musicians' Hour Stephen O'Leary, Musicians and owners of music pub The Marine Bar in Dungarvan Eoghan and Christy O'Neill, plus a song from me. It was wonderful to see them again, and the music and spoken word they performed for us in the studio was just brilliant.

Luna opened the show brilliantly with her uniquely brilliant interpretation of a 1940s classic Christmas song: 'The Christmas Waltz', which channelled the golden era of Christmas music.

Caleb Campion and Sean Lennox of 'The Boofs' came in and sang their original Christmas song 'A Tale of Casualties' - a harsh but catchy song which reflected a realistic take on festivities. I feel like this one could be a Christmas classic of the future!

Chris Tattan took us forwards to the end of the festivities with his lovely take on the ambivalence some of us show towards New Year's resolutions and celebrations, through his original song 'New Year's Eve'.

Richie Power brought us a beautiful cover of Gordon Lightfoot's 'Song For A Winter's Night', with fiddle from Kay Wolf, while Kay, accompanied by myself and Richie on the guitar, performed a new take on Bing Crosby's 'White Christmas', which featured wonderful concertina solos by Kay herself.

Joe Power brought a powerful and beautiful spoken word performance, sharing Patrick Kavanagh's poem 'A Christmas Childhood'. It really gave you the feeling of being tucked up by the fireplace on Christmas Day, being told a comforting story.

Sarah Hickey took on Joni Mitchell's classic Christmas song 'River', giving an absolutely stunning performance, which really showcased her beautiful voice.

Alan Murphy took us on a journey to the part of the world most associated with Christmas with his original, clever, and very funny song 'Scandinavia'. Next, David Ryan sang a really lovely original song based on the themes in David Essex's 'A Winter's Tale'. His emotional tale of heartbreak at Christmas is called 'All I Want This Year' and then I brought along another original heartbreak song: 'When The Knockmealdowns Fall', which tells the story of someone longing to be with the person they love, but the timing is off.

We were treated to a rare performance from Stephen O'Leary - sound engineer, co-producer and co-editor on 'The Musicians' Hour', who sang a festive take on his song 'The Bowsie', which was given a sprinkle of Christmas magic through backing vocals provided by Alan Murphy and David Ryan.

The show was brought to a fantastic close by the men behind the brilliant Marine Bar in Pulla, Dungarvan: Christy and Eoghan O'Neill, who came in to sing some classic tracks. Christy gave a wonderful rendition of Kevin Evans' beautiful song: 'Christ The King Is Born' and Eoghan took on the mightiest of all the Christmas songs: 'Fairytale of New York' and really did it justice.

I have to say, I am delighted with how the show turned out and I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all the musicians who have contributed to the show during 2023, Stephen O'Leary for his hard work on the sound engineering, editing, and production of the show, and also to Yvonne Smith - Station Manager at CRY104fm, who has given us the resources and support to make the show possible. We're looking forward to bringing you the music of more Cork and Waterford musicians in 2024.

If you'd like to listen to this diverse and interesting show for yourself, the great news is that it's available now on the CRY104fm podcast. Just click here to download it.

The next edition of the show to air will be the delayed Episode 10 of The Musicians' Hour, which will feature Christy and Eoghan O'Neill. It'll be out on Monday 29th January.

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