Over 20 years ago I was playing at a Celtic Music festival in Klamath Falls, Oregon. I was there with a fine fiddler named Deby Benton Grosjean. At the festival there was an Irish man, sitting on stage all alone, telling stories. His name was Tomáseen Foley. I loved hearing him tell stories about his life growing up in a very small parish in rural Ireland, a time and place very far away from my life in California. His storytelling was, and is still now, at the highest level of artistry.
A few weeks after we left the festival, Deby received a letter from Tomáseen saying that he had a dream about collaborating with her on an Irish Christmas show, and would she come to Ashland Oregon in December for a few performances. Deby said yes, but only if she could bring her guitarist, which fortunately for me, was me. Those few performances kicked off a now over 20 year run of Tomáseen Foley's A Celtic Christmas.
Many fine musicians, singers and dancers have been part of A Celtic Christmas for countless gigs across the US, and at this point, Tom and I are the only original members of the show. And yet I have never tired of the road with him, being on stage with him, his stories, and his deep friendship.
This “pandemic project” happened remotely in 2021. Tomáseen and I had been wanting to get to it for years so maybe it’s a silver lining to the lockdown. Such a joy to put this together with Tomáseen Foley and Brian Bigley and Eimear Arkins. Find more over at Tomáseen Foley’s website.
Of all the world’s shimmering love stories, few have the transcendent quality of the love between Irish poet/Nobel laureate W. B. Yeats, and the beautiful English aristocrat who was to become a militant Irish nationalist, suffragette, feminist and prisoner, Maud Gonne.
The first time he saw her he said she was “luminous as apple blossoms through which the light shines”. The poems he wrote to her and about her will stand as long as the English language stands.
With their latest album, Celtic Knots: An Irish Love Story, renowned native Irish writer and storyteller, Tomáseen Foley; traditional Irish musician, Brian Bigley, and Grammy Award-winning Celtic guitarist, William Coulter, like tapestry, they weave this radiant love story around the immortal poems of W.B. Yeats.