André Rieu and his ‘Strauss orchestra’ have me dancing around the room!

Our man Frank on the joy of an André Rieu-concert; More TV views; A local charity walk…and eyeing up Kerrygold butter again!

It’s Tuesday, January 3rd as I write, and even though it won’t have officially ended ‘till Little Christmas on Friday, January 6th, it feels as if the festive season is well and truly over. Even though I managed to get out for a few social outings, overall it was pretty quiet, and as a result I found myself watching quite a bit of television.

Now I have never made a secret of my love of country music, but now, purely by accident, I have found myself a new musical hero – the hugely popular Austrian composer, Johann Strauss. He lived from 1825 to 1899, and during his 74 years or so on the planet, composed more than 500 pieces of music, including waltzes, polkas, quadrillas (whatever they are), several operettas, and a ballet. Up until the last couple of weeks I was totally oblivious to his music and career, however while browsing one evening through the hundreds of TV channels that we now have, I stumbled across one of the many concerts that were on, and I can never recall any shows that had as big an effect on me.

The concert featured the world famous Dutch violinist, André Rieu, who is such a fan of Strauss that he called his orchestra after him. For more than thirty years he has brought his mesmeric shows to cities all over the world, and having enjoyed excerpts from several of them, I have never before seen such vitality, exuberance, and sheer enjoyment on stage anywhere!

Rieu and his Johann Strauss orchestra are coming to the 3Arena in April, and if I win the lotto, I hope to be there. At 73 years of age, he has no intention of retiring, so hopefully we will continue to be enthralled by his musical brilliance for many years to come.

However, nothing compares to the regular open-air shows that they put on in his home town of Maastricht; if you ever get the chance, go there and sample what appears to be the most spectacular of all his performances, complete with unbelievable fireworks displays.

That said, while Strauss and Rieu really have found their way onto my musical favourites list, I still have a soft spot for country music (don’t tell Carol), and I see that my favourite female singer, Lisa McHugh, is making a comeback after taking time out to get married and have a baby. I hope she manages to come down to our part of the country some time soon!

For the moment however, I’m now off to attend my dance lessons; soon you will see me flying around the floor to the beautiful music of ‘The Blue Danube’… something that has about the same chance of happening as a snowball’s chance in hell!

It was no Live Mike…

Staying with television…over the holidays I happened to come across highlights of one of our older iconic programmes, The Live Mike.

The Live Mike was a show that played all types of pranks on members of the unsuspecting public, even producing one of the all-time enduring comedy moments when main man Mike Murphy, as a French rugby supporter, wreaked havoc with Gay Byrne’s recording of a piece in Trinity College. Mike and his very talented team produced many hilarious moments over the course of the show’s run, which eventually came to an end in April 1982 after three full seasons.

More than twenty years later, PJ Gallagher came along with Naked Camera, and it too was a very funny series, one which lasted for eighteen episodes. And so, when I heard that Doireann Garrihy and former rugby international Donncha O’Callaghan were launching their own hidden camera show on Christmas Eve, I was very excited and really looking forward to seeing their efforts.

Unfortunately however, the truth is that I was never more disappointed. I found some of the pranks to be almost cruel; in one of them, people let the person behind them in the supermarket queue go ahead, only to find that that person was the millionth customer of the store and had ‘won’ €500,000.

While it was all a scam, nevertheless the customers were genuinely upset at believing they had just missed out on a half million euro. How that could be funny beats me, and indeed some more of the pranks were almost as distasteful.

The good news is that there was only the one episode (I think), so at least we don’t have to worry about it any more. I like both presenters, but please stick to the radio show! Mike and PJ carried the hidden camera shows off so well, but it’s not for you Donncha, or you either, Doireann!


St Stephen’s Day in Creggs

Just after 9.30 am on St Stephen’s morning, my son Mark and I headed to Creggs to do the big Stephen’s Day charity walk.

The minute we put our feet on the road out of the car, we realised the roads and paths were ‘lethal’, so we pulled the plug until a little later in the hope that the thaw might come. After about two hours we tried again, and this time all was good.

And so, for the first time in three years, we headed off on the beautiful walk that brings you up, down and ‘round the mountain. The iconic pit stop that is Mary D’s was back, and the array of goodies on offer for the hardy walkers was mind-boggling. My brother Kieran had teamed up with us as well, and after the turkey and ham and all the other Christmas Day treats, it was great to do the walk and benefit from the clear, dry, cold conditions.

The usual St Stephen’s Day festivities took place in Mikeen’s afterwards, with music by Sean Donoghue. I’m told the dancers were out in force for Sean’s lively show. I’m showing my age here, but I stayed home that night and practised my waltzes (by myself) to André Rieu around the crowded floor of my sitting room.

Four very worthy charities are benefiting from this year’s walk, so if you haven’t contributed or given back your sponsorship cards yet, you can still drop cards, or a few bob, into O’Roarke’s in Creggs any time soon.

All the charities need your support, and at times we all need the support of the various charities, so be sure to contribute if you can.

And finally…

It’s time for New Year resolutions – though most years I don’t bother with any!

This year however, after years of eating all kinds of substitutes – including Flora, Low Low and Dairygold – I have decided to go back to the original real Irish butter. From now on, the margarine lookalikes can stay on the supermarket shelves.

To celebrate my new resolution I went off to a major supermarket chain and bought a butter dish from the Paul Costello range! I admit it was a bit high class, but what I hadn’t bargained on was that the butter just won’t fit into the dish!

I foolishly thought the packet of butter would be the same width as the butter dish – or vice versa –  but no such luck! No matter how I try, I have to ‘operate’ on my lovely Kerrygold to get it into the dish.

However, I am made of tough stuff, so that small inconvenience will not make me give up on my resolution. For 2023, real butter it is! (Just don’t tell my cardiologist!)

Wishing everyone a Happy and peaceful New Year