Old Man Flanagan’s Ghost is Bringing Some ‘Normalcy and Escape’ By Delivering Live Celtic Music Straight to Your Screens
It is a challenging time for the performing artists we love and support, but artists like Old Man Flanagan’s Ghost are doing what they know best: sharing their love of performing live Celtic music to audiences in innovative ways to bring a sense of comfort and entertainment during this challenging time — showing us just how much the performing arts connect and nourish us as a community. As we eagerly await the day when we can welcome you back to BPAC, we are putting the spotlight on our artists and featuring the ways in which they are sharing their art, the upcoming projects they are excited to share, and how patrons can support them.
In honour of Old Man Flanagan’s Ghost’s St. Patrick’s Day performance that was supposed to take place in BPAC’s Community Studio Theatre last month, we talked to the band about what inspired them to start playing Celtic music, how music can unite communities during a time that can feel isolating for many, and the unique way they are bringing live music right to your screens every Friday.
Photo credit: Quinn Dalgarno
Who Is Old Man Flanagan’s Ghost?
Old Man Flanagan’s Ghost have been bringing a taste of Celtic music to audiences for years in Canada and internationally via radio and digital media play. They feature a dynamic fiddle performance by Brooke Richardson and Bexy Ashworth, the talented multi-instrumentalist/luthier Matti Palonen primarily on tin whistle and double-bass, though also on harp, kantele, bandura, mandolin and jouhikko, Scot Allan primarily on bodhrán, but also drums, and other percussion, and Stephen Lamb on guitar and lead vocals.
Best described as ‘high-energy Celtic folk’, they combine the sound of traditional folk instruments with a passionate intensity. Yet don’t be fooled, for when the mood shifts to folk-style story-telling songs, the haunting melodies and warm vocals created by these musicians would ‘bring a tear to a glass-eye’. Proudly several generations Canadian, they have members with ancestry from Scotland, Ireland and Finland, and have been featured on ‘The Celtic Music Journal’, been interviewed in Irish Music Magazine and appeared on multiple episodes of The Irish and Celtic Music Podcast. Their music has been heard across the country on CBC radio and community stations.
With their rendition of classic Celtic and east coast covers, traditional fiddle tunes, and a variety of original tunes dubbed ‘Music with a Celtic Heart’, they often invite the audience to participate in a fun, energetic stage show, that can be enjoyed by all.
Imagine the smell of the sea, cold pints of beer, old shipwrecks, stories of love and loss, and boisterous friends sharing a laugh and a song. Now mix it with an instrumentation that takes you on a journey east, and a feeling of being welcomed into your neighbour’s home for a kitchen party: THAT is the essence of Old Man Flanagan’s Ghost.
What inspired you to first start performing Celtic music?
It was a combination of influences that first inspired the creation of OMFG. Stephen Lamb first came up with the idea of pursuing this band after meeting Brooke Richardson (fiddle). Both took some inspiration from Canadian Celtic influences such as Natalie MacMaster and Great Big Sea, but there was also a familial influence due to some Scottish and Irish heritage in both families. Additionally, Stephen’s father played in an Irish show band as a young man which resulted in some Irish music being played around the house. In fact, his father created an independent Cassette Tape of Irish music with his band.
Perhaps most important though was that the music style, story-telling, and instrumentation brought a smile to us and others around us when we first started playing together at home, and we wanted to bring that same enjoyment to more people.
What do you love the most about performing live for audiences?
The interaction!!! We are a very visual experience and like to get our audiences to participate during our sets, whether it be clapping, singing or raising glasses. Our 2 fiddle players have been playing together since they were about 6 years old, and the movements and facial expressions of the entire band truly add an element of intensity and enjoyment. Our live audiences tend to feed off this and when they clap along, or make audible sounds of pleasure or amazement, that drives us to new levels. It’s always an adrenaline rush, especially when we deliver original songs to an appreciative crowd. Check out the video below to see what we are talking about.
Video credit: Quinn Dalgarno
What has been the highlight of your career to date?
Oh man! Getting to play at Hugh’s Room to a standing ‘O’ before it announced closing its doors. Or possibly the first time our music was aired overseas in Limerick, Ireland. Honestly, there have been so many new milestones that have kept us excited as a band. In truth, we felt like 2020 was going to be a big year for us with an appearance in our first international festival (Barbados Celtic Festival), new local Ontario venues such as BPAC and a return to some of our favorite festivals such as the Cobourg Highland Games and The Beaches International Jazz Festival. However, other highlights include the first time someone contacted us to say they heard us on CBC radio, and the first time we hit a #1 spot on some community folk charts across Canada. In addition, the positive reviews of our last album by Irish Music Magazine and Celtic Life International Magazine were also proud moments. I think it’s a combination of many little moments that makes what we do special. Moments like when a little girl requested one of our original songs so we sent her a personal video, or all the amazing musicians we’ve met along the way, from well-known respected artists to small, yet passionate independent bands.
There’s been no single achievement, it’s the entire journey that’s been a highlight.
What value do you think that music and performing brings during this uncertain time?
Though it’s without the full band, Steve and Brooke have started a live Friday stream called ‘6 60’s at 6pm’ from our Facebook Page. Someone referred to it as like an episode of Modern Family, ha ha! It’s from our home where our 4 children may suddenly “walk on stage” so to speak, and where we take requests and play some unfamiliar tunes. It’s unplugged, and unrehearsed, but I think that’s what people love about it.
It brings some normalcy and escape for people during a time when visiting other people’s homes and going out to hear live music are sorely missed activities. In some ways, I hope this brings more attention to the arts as being necessary for good mental health, and perhaps one day these events will help encourage people to get out even more to support live music.
For right now, we just hope the people that tune in enjoy themselves and find some excitement or solace in a live-interactive musical experience that is as close as you can get to being out at a venue or at a kitchen party.
How can audience members support you as the live performance industry goes through this challenging period?
So many little things are within everyone’s ability and they may not even realize the massive help it can be. Firstly, just ‘liking’ our Social media pages is a great start! Then when we share our upcoming virtual events (or one day our live shows again), sharing or tagging those with your friends is a great way to spread the word. This can help us draw an audience even if you are unable to watch yourself. The more people watching makes it exciting for us of course, and may direct a few new fans to our music. For those that do enjoy watching and want to purchase some music for as little as 0.99 cents, you can find individual tracks and albums available on our BandCamp page or iTunes, or you can add our music to your Spotify playlists for absolutely no cost. We are also happy to send purchased t-shirts or physical CD’s (signed) to anyone who requests such by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are there any upcoming projects you’re working on right now and are excited to share?
Outside of our live streams we mentioned, the one silver lining is this has provided more time for us to get the pre-production moving on our 3rd album. It is super-exciting to work on new original material and see the songs come together through the creative process. We have an album worth of songs completed at the core and are just figuring out which will make the final cut and go into a more intense stage of development. It’s hard to set any sort of time-line right now for completion, but just knowing we are walking that path is fulfilling and builds anticipation for us.
We already see this as being our best album yet and can’t wait to eventually share new music with audiences.
What are you looking forward to the most once this passes?
HUMAN CONTACT!!! Seeing our parents and extended family again in person and being able to hug them! Meeting friends for a pint and shaking hands! Walking the streets and passing people on the sidewalk without them diverging onto the street! All of these things that are intrinsic human needs that go beyond our role as artists. However, when that day comes, we are so looking forward to hearing once again from our festivals and other venues that ‘THE SHOW MUST (CAN) GO ON’, seeing new bookings confirm instead of cancel, and finally getting to return to the stage to perform in a live-setting together as a band. Oh, and readily available toilet paper. Yes, that too!