Joy of playing
Man in the Moon Records, 2017
Composer of the album is a rock violin legend, one of the best Irish violinists and an extraordinary musical individuality.
We had an opportunity to admire him for his masterly violin skills in 2016 in Warsaw, during two concerts of The Waterboys. One of them took place on the radio Trojka and the other one, in Progresja Club. They came to Poland in 2016. We waited for them for 30 years. Their concerts were an explosion of excellent music! There was a huge energy connecting the audience and the band.
Before I introduce this new album, I would like to talk more about the creator himself, who is maybe too little known in Poland.
Steve comes from Dublin but he has lived in the West of Ireland for many years. The place of his heart desire is Sligo, which is definitely an artists’ colony.
He began playing the violin at the age of three but later school discipline was not a pleasure for him. True passion was born when he had realized that playing can bring the musical liberation. From that time, everything has truly begun.
He received classical music education at the Royal College of Music in Dublin.
The seventies of last century were the era of the rock and roll. Not only London, but also Dublin was the melting pot where great rock bands emerged. Thin Lizzy, The Pogues, Horslips, U2. Violin in a rock band? Why not! Initially, Steve was inspired by the violinist Charles O'Connor from Horslips. Steve began experimenting with the electric violin.
His first recordings can be found on U2’s memorable album entitled “War”. Steve recorded poignant sounds of violin on Sunday Bloody Sunday and Drowning Man.
As a great instrumentalist, Steve took part in many recordings, leaving a unique and unforgettable spirit in them. It is really worth mentioning that Steve performed also with Bob Dylan in 1984 at Slane Castle. They played together 'Leopard-skin pill-box hat'.
In the early 1980s, he joined In Tua Nua. Later, thanks to Sinead O'Connor, he met Mike Scott of The Waterboys and that was a very moment when their life journeys have combined and something completely new and fresh in music was born. Scott founded the band in 1983. He moved to Dublin in 1986 at Steve’s suggestion.
|Steve Wickham - Warsaw 2016, fot. M. Socha|
In 2011, they released a sensational "An Appointment with Mr Yeats" - a rock-poetical album dedicated to the Irish Nobel Laureate.
A lot of excellent musicians collaborated with the band over the years, like: Anthony Thistlethwaite, Sharon Shannon, Roddy Lorrimer, Karl Wallinger, Colin Blakey, Thomas Mac Eoin, Trevor Hutchinson and Richard Naiff.
Despite a few years of Steve’s absence from the band, they have been back together again since 2000. Moreover, they've been doing great recordings and playing fantastic concerts around the world. Mike Scott calls Steve the best rock violinist in the world.
Steve has collaborated with the most famous musicians, among others: Elvis Costello, Sinead O'Connor, World Party, Declan O'Rourke and his French friend Bruno Caliciuri – Cali.
Steve is an enthusiast of Early music and a member of Sligo Baroque Orchestra, which was founded in Sligo in 1990 as Sligo Early Music Ensemble.
As an experimental multi-instrumentalist, Steve also plays mandolin, tin whistle, concertina, guitar and many other instruments.
He sings with a unique warm tone in his voice. One of his passions is writing music for theatrical plays.
In 2004, he released his first solo album, entitled: "Geronimo". On the CD, we can find such a great gems as: One of These Days, Fado, Lament for Pearl, Midnight Boy.
It is also noteworthy that he founded No Crows band with his musical friends. No Crows successfully performed in Ireland and Europe playing a miscellaneous mix of fascinating music from all over the world. The musicians of the band come from a different cultural backgrounds and they are extremely open to experiment with music. No Crows has already recorded four great albums, full of brilliant music from traditional and classical to jazz moods.
There is no Irishman who would not be inspired with traditional music. At the end of 2016, Steve made a program presenting history and legacy of violin music.
He searched for distinctive and specific violin playing style, characteristic for Sligo musicians. His research has resulted in important meetings with the great violinists whose families saved the legacies of three Masters: Coleman, Killoran and Morrison.
It all started with a portrait
In 2012, Nick Miller an outstanding contemporary painter, invited Steve to his studio in Sligo. The painting of the portrait lasted one week. During that time, both artists worked together, playing and painting. Time spent together brought about new musical improvisations.
The artist made a time lapse video which presents fragments of Steve’s music and the process of painting.
The significant part is that the idea of Steve’s new musical album was born thanks to this Nick Miller’s project. Nick Miller received the prestigious Hennesy Portrait Prize for his portrait series project from National Gallery of Ireland. Steve's improvised tunes that took place during sessions were later included into the concept of “Beekeeper”.
The title of Steve’s second solo album Beekeeper is no coincidence. Steve really has his own apiary. In one of interviews he recalled that he had received a hive from a friend, priest from Killkenny - the land of orchards and bees. And that’s how the violinist became a beekeeper! He said that this occupation taught him patience and peace, because bees do not like anxiety.
The idea of the album is also an inspirational metaphor picturing Steve as a beekeeper, the composer that can be proud of his hardworking 'swarm' of musical friends, because each of them has an interesting personality and contribute something special to the project.
Accurately selected guests sang their friend’s compositions.
Excellent musical company created diverse and colorful collection of music. Undoubtedly, this is the greatest asset of this record.
The kaleidoscope of musical arrangements and engaging interpretations leave long lasting impression on the listener.
Twelve tracks were recorded in various studios. It has also enriched the collection of songs.
Let me invite you on a music journey… Let’s listen to the first side of vinyl – it’s exactly the same like it used to be! We are very careful during changing sides of the LP and watch out for a needle. A special ritual that was always the same. Now the postman brought me the vinyl, I didn’t have to wait in a queue to buy one, but the emotions are the same.
1. The Band Played On
The opening song where Steve is a mood master, has a romantic melody and enigmatic lyrics. Memories and dreams join together in the story. With a gentle, hoarse voice, we know from Geronimo album, musician confesses:
I am an amateur bee keeper,
I keep only one Bee ...
I keep only one Bee ...
I'm not in a hurry, haste cuts like a knife.
the shadows lengthen
but my song means life…
the shadows lengthen
but my song means life…
And the band played on…
Nostalgic chorus, beautifully sang by Katie Kim, stays in the memory for a long time. Captivating and illusive melodic background creates unforgettable mood.
Katie Kim is an extraordinary singer. He composes and sings, released three albums and five singles. She mostly sings alternative folk-rock. I am grateful for her excellent performance in Appointment with Mr. Yeats by The Waterboys. Her unique voice distinguishes her from the other singing ladies. She had an opportunity to collaborate with the best musicians (The Waterboys, David Kitt, Halves).
2. Two Thousand Years
On the album, there are several short instrumentals. The first one is exceptional composition performed in Middle East mood. The piece is presented with a great subtlety. Steve has already proved on Fado, from Geronimo album, his fiddle mastery in recreating the eastern moods. This is musical lyrical novel that one would like to listen on and on.
3. The Song of Lost Things
All Steve's songs perfectly match the voices, characters and musical skills of the singers, as if they were written specifically for them. Nonetheless, Steve said that some of the songs had waited long time to be released. It seems that no one else could interpret this song so accurately as Ger Wolfe from Cork. The song is composed with precision and sang with Ger’s rare voice. Deceptively joyful melody reminds us that many things we lose in life...
Is it enough to just remember that?
Ger Wolfe released seven albums in twenty years of his musical journey. He is a poet and a composer, a recognized guitarist and troubadour. His reflexive lyrics have a personal look and simplicity.
4. The Hare
Bravura performance presenting Irish melodies with guitar accompaniment of Brian McDonagh, Steve’s neighbor from Sligo. The song generates incredible energy.
Intense sound, requiring enormous technical proficiency from the artists. A real gem!
Brian Mc Donagh is also a recognized painter. He creates lyrical and symbolic images in an individual, easily recognizable style. The Dubliner who moved to the West of Ireland 30 years ago. Being a remarkable musician he founded the famous Dervish band.
A very important song that is a warning for us against people who destroy nature. A warning against the destructive method of fracking which was planned to be implemented in Western Ireland.
Beside the composition, we can also watch a moving video, made by Ivano A. Antonazzo.
It is fascinating composition created in the unique Lost Brothers style. The song features spirit of American country music.
Its unique interpretation and phrasing reinforce lyrics of the song and a significant message. We learn that destruction and decaying threaten us all because so often money can turn good people bad.
Lost Brothers - Irish duo, Mark McCausland and Oisin Leech. They recorded four albums that were highly rated by critics. Barbara Orbison invited them to record a song for Roy Orbison's anniversary album. Their melodies and above all their interpretations are unique.
6. The Bohemian
The next instrumental track, ending the first side of the album, is a soft piano sound, with a beautiful violin solo. The song is finished in a twinkle of an eye. Maybe because it is supposed to be the moment that you long for..
7. Stopping by Woods
A memorable and moving musical vision of significant and ambiguous poem written by the prominent American poet. Robert Frost's poem inspired Steve to compose the song in the 90's.
He recalls that he found a poem at friends’ place in Mayo. He listened to its rhythm and then the image of Native American came to the artist. A vision of Native American who stopped on the edge of the forest or rather at the brink of his destiny.
Forest is a mystery, unknown, horror, anxiety. Mike Scott, vocalist and Steve’s friend from The Waterboys, conjured up a poignant interpretation of this poem.
Musical background builds a mysterious, ominous, increasing sound.
The rich sound of music completes the atmosphere of anxiety. Going into the forest means jumping into the unknown, losing yourself in it despite previous promises.
Sometimes maybe it is worth to cross this boundary of the unknown. Life would not move forward if not for this. It would only last in unchangeable, repetitive way.
Robert Jan Westdijk shot a moving video, with photographs of inhabitants of Old America that “look” at us carefully from the screen. Their dignity has survived, but contemporary world does not care about them. They sink into oblivion. Their eyes show sadness and resignation. They have already entered the mysterious forest.
Mike Scott – charismatic leader and founder of The Waterboys, renowned singer, excellent songwriter and composer. He released two solo albums. In 2012 he published a book - Adventures of a Waterboy – profound, honest and wonderfully crafted memoir describing his adventures with music and people. He always makes extraordinary music changing music genres. Steve calls him his soul brother.
Westdijk - Dutch filmmaker from Utrecht, awarded at festivals in the Netherlands and Turin, is the director of the film entitled The Waterboys (2016). The film pictures sentimental trip of father and son and meeting with the band.
8. Silence of a Sunday
Power of Silence of a Sunday lies in Camille O'Sullivan's passionate voice. Her imaginative interpretation of a song captivates with a sensational creation of a vamp, a femme fatale, who voluptuously attracts and, in the same time, cruelly repulses - I promised him heaven but I sent him to hell.
An acoustic guitar and a piano are accompanied by a whisper of the actresses. Loneliness brings grief over loss of the loved one. Brilliant, full of longing clarinet solo completes this great piece of music.
Camille O'Sullivan - Irish singer, actress and composer, an architect. She visits the most famous stages around the world with her performances. The artist awesomely narrates the stories and skillfully interprets songs of Jaques Brel, Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Kurt Weil, David Bowie, Radiohead.
Camille O'Sullivan received many theatre awards. Her expressive, often provocative performances as well as her enthralling voice fascinate her listeners and engage them into the story.
She's often mischievous and full of humour, gifted with incredible voice. Camille released two albums.
She visited Poland in 2009 and 2012. Her first performance in Wroclaw was a musical and theatrical journey in which Camille personated various characters. The elements of burlesque, cabaret and artist’s emotional energy left Polish audience under Camille’s spell.
She promised to return to Poland again. In 2012, the artist visited Lodz and took part in William Shakespeare’s play, 'Rape in Lucrezia', directed by Elizabeth Freestone. Her creation impressed the audience once again.
9. Cells of the Heart which Nature Built for Joy
An instrumental, full of passion track, played by musical friends from NoCrows – Oleg Ponomarev and Steve. Classical and jazz music mixes here with gypsy melodies. The song features improvisation and expression. This is violin stunt and a fire duo!
Dueling violinists are always great pleasure to listen to. Their violin dialogues and perfect understanding builds up emotional temperature.
They both play so effortlessly! In some moments the melody becomes sentimental.
There is no greater satisfaction than listening to two excellent violinists.
According to the song’s title, while playing, artists find their way towards listeners’ souls and discover “joy cells” in our hearts.
Oleg Ponomarev - Steve's friend from NoCrows. He is violinist, bassist, pianist, guitarist, composer, arranger, producer, vocalist, teacher, cyclist and co-creator of "DOGGYBAG PRODUCTIONS". We can learn all this from the description on Oleg's website. He recorded over 30 albums with various artists. Oleg is a brilliant violinist, gifted with phenomenal skills and massive musical sensitivity.
He has two bands, Loyko and Koshka, which have brought him exceptional acclaim. Listeners love his bands for incredible music from all over the world. His music is known for exquisite bravura rich in gypsy, Romanian and Hungarian notes as well as jazz, rock and flamenco.
10. Les Sombres Soeurs de l'amour
Perfect French version of the song about three Dark Love’s Sisters - jealousy, anguish and rage. It has to be said that Cali is a mood master. His passionate voice evokes an optimistic climate, even though the song is rather a sad one.
All you need is love and shelter from the rain.
Bruno Caliciuri called Cali, Steve's French friend, well known singer and composer. He moves around different regions of rock, folk and jazz. Steve accompanied him in several concerts, violinist took part in recordings of Cali’s albums – Menteur (dramatic and hypnotic song Je te souhaite and mon pire ennemi), Vernet les bains and Les choses défendues, relesased in 2016. Cali’s unforgettable performances are full of passion and energy. He recorded seven albums.
11. Song of the River
An atmospheric love song with Joe Chester's calm interpretation. It’s a great time for reflection. Song of the river is like a song of life and love. In a song, time flows with the river and leaves us with memories and reverie.
Joe Chester is one of the most talented Irish composers and singers nominated for prestigious Choice Music Prize and Meteor Irish Music Awards. He is great guitarist and a recognized producer. He has a studio in Nice, he was also responsible for recording Steve's album.
It is a closing track which is instrumental. On vinyl, each side ends with a short violin rarity.
It is a vision of a dawn when the cock crows his wake-up call.
The end is at the same time a new beginning and a hope for a new day. May it fulfill the promise of good and joy in this troubled world…
Steve’s second solo album is a memorable reflection, an opportunity to look back.
It resembles a travel with friends in violinist's songs. As it was mentioned before, rich variety we experience on the album is its strongest asset. The record is a fantastic illustration of Steve’s musical talents.
Again, he proves to be a brilliant composer, with charismatic vocals and above all, a remarkable violinist, having his own extraordinary style.
It is well-thought-out album with a great vision, comprised of one composer and wisely selected guests. Steve Wickham delights us with the unique mix of vocals and instrumental music. Every element elegantly matches on the album, creating a multi-layered mosaic.
Songs from Beekeeper have charm that is impossible to resist for a sensitive listener.
The album cannot be labeled into one music category.
Compositions and lyrics – it truly is the first league!
Photos: Mariola Socha
2. Waterboys fiddler Steve Wickham reflects on an extraordinary career -
Colm O’Hare – Hot Press
3. The Model – interview
4. Steve Wickham is still getting a buzz from his music – Ed Power – Irish Examiner
5. More than one string to his bow – Lauren Murphy – The Times
6. Wondrous Wickham – Sinead Healy – The Sligo Champion
7. Steve Wickham: Sligo is 'a deep well of tunes' – Lara Byrne – The Sligo Champion
8. This much I know – Hilary Fennel – Irish Examiner
9. At Home with Steve Wickham – Colm O’Hare – Hot Press
10. Sligo Style with Steve Wickham
11. waterboys.co.nf – author - James Nolan