The Galway Years returns to the Town Hall Studio

galway years studio show“The Galway Years” first performed as a work in progress as part of my Theatre Artist Residency in the Town Hall Theatre is returning to the Town Hall Studio for two nights in October this time with the inclusion of some some songs and music. As part of a series of memoir shows this performance begins in Galway 1986, includes the early days of Macnas and assorted adventures, on stage, screen and street corners.

Sparkplug in the Town Hall Studio!

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Little John Nee “Irish Times Best Sound Designer 2012 for Sparkplug”

Very delighted to be bringing Sparkplug back to the Town Hall Theatre Galway this time to the studio for an extended run of two weeks.

“Imagine Garrison Keillor relocating to Ulster’s northwest in the company of Tom Waits and D’Unbelievables and you get an idea of Nee’s singularly enjoyable production” Mick Heaney Irish Times 13/9/12  Star Rating ★★★★

“…bringing to mind something like Katherine Dunn’s novel Geek Love, with its traveling carnival, as Tullyglen community looks forward to “vintage day”, or John McGahern, with its clear-eyed take on a world that is not as it first appears.” Siobhán Kane irishtheatremagazine 11/9/12 Star rating: ★★★★

“A mesmerising piece of theatre balanced somewhere between the stories of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and a zen meditation session. The evening made me feel as if I was a child again, enthralled by a magical story…” Michael Harding Irish Times 22/3/13 



thank you for funding it!

The Caledonia Highly Strung Orchestra photo by Paul McGuckin

The Caledonia Highly Strung Orchestra photo by Paul McGuckin

Thank you everyone who supported our “fundit” campaign to produce the album “Songs from the Lough Swilly Delta”; the target has been reached and the process is well under way with all songs recorded mixed and mastered, photographs taken and artwork being designed prior to the vinyl pressing.


Origins of the Lough Swilly songs


IMG_2053 “O Arranmore”

O Arranmore was originally written in 1979 in 30 Theberton St. Islington, London; a large Georgian house squatted by young people from Letterkenny and New Ross. The song was one verse in entirety and performed acapella.
It was two years later that I first sang it in public at Dalston Junction Alternative Cabaret. Subsequently it became part of my act “The Zen Mc Gonagall” It would usually lead directly into a poem. Surprisingly it has been sung on the stage of the Abbey Theatre; I performed at Gala benefit for “The Centre of the Performing Arts” on a bill with Maureen Potter and The Dubliners”
It was 1995 before it became fully integrated into a theatre show “The Church of Chill”
For the recording I am adding a second verse, and harmonium, with Orlaith on alto clarinet, Jeremy on piano and Fionn on bass.
Arranmore go there.
photo by Lilian Haliday





The Belle of Tyrconnell – The Mental
This is the first song sung in The Mental by the character Joe Boyle, a resident of St Conal’s in Letterkenny. Joe was first institutionalised in New York after a meltdown in the East Village where he had sung with a punk band “The Mary Duffys” In St.Conal’s he forms a relationship with the ghost of the Irish language writer Seosamh Mac Grianna who he likens to a Donegal Jack Kerouac.
I wrote the song on ukulele at the same time as I worked on the script; I have a few ukuleles around the house it’s a very handy instrument to pick up at any time if you get an inspiration. I wanted it to be old worldy, dripping in a past that clings to so many broken lives. In the show the musical parts were played by Laura Sheeran on ukulele and Nuala Ní Chanainn playing the violin pizzicato, they also sang harmonies. (Laura and Nuala composed an exquisite score for the show.)
Our delicious new recording is played waltzy; we are led round the hall in the masterly arms of Fionn Robinson who plays both bass and six string guitars, while Jeremy and Orlaíth cast their dreamlike magic on grand piano and clarinet. Many of my theatre songs need to be short for the sake of dramatic pacing so for the album there is a new second verse that follows a most perfect atmospheric guest trumpet solo by John Ruddy; Orlaith sings the second verse as only she can. The song is not mixed yet but so far so very happy.
The Mental was commissioned by axis ballymun.
photo: Paul Mc Guckin



“Dead Rooster Blues”
Dead Rooster Blues is from the show of the same name which premiered in Killargue Hall Co. Leitrim in 2008 as part of The Flights of Fancy Festival.
In Dead Rooster Blues the bluesman hero sets off in his vintage lorry to a mysterious gig in a singing lounge up in the hills in the middle of nowhere “The Mothers Arms” The dodgy owner has organised a new age healing festival and spread rumours about possible surprise musical guests; this draws an audience of expectant bikers as well as a busload of Daniel O Donnell fans and some Bjork fans; the pressure is on our bluesman, who while unloading his equipment from the lorry accidentally reverses over a rooster. When he brings the dead rooster to the nearby caravan of its owner, the beautiful Bella, she informs him that the rooster was likely already dead and proceeds to explain her conspiracy theory involving an assassin in the hills targeting roosters.
The song was composed on my mahogany Paul Hathway ukulele, and it featured in a broadcast of “Sunday Miscellany” in November 2010
For “Songs from the Lough Swilly Delta” the ukulele is joined by Fionn on electric guitar, Jeremy on harmonium and Orla playing both alto and soprano clarinets. We all succumb to the glory of the spirit and sing the chorus with a righteous fervour that will make the feathers in your pillow dance like dervishes.
Photo: Jane Talbot

the making of a musical long playing record

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I do procrastinate but it’s usually about things I don’t want to do. I’ve wanted to make an L.P. (Long-playing record) since I bought Jimi Hendrix’s Axis/Bold as Love with my Christmas money aged thirteen; I was already playing in garage bands. Since then I’ve written many plays, and many songs. Like most independent theatre makers I’ve created shows when it seemed impossible, yet up until now I never attempted the L.P. For the next few weeks I’ll be working to make it a reality.

“Songs from the Lough Swilly Delta” with The Caledonia Highly Strung Orchestra is a selection of songs that featured in my theatre shows down through the years. I can’t emphasize enough how much I consider it my great good fortune to be working with this band and we have plenty more planned in the area of live performance and creating new work. The creative contribution of Fionn Robinson, Orlaith Gilcreest and Jeremy Howard in the musical arrangements of the songs and their playing of some very tasty solos adds a whole new dimension to the songs that I find exciting.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be talking a bit about the songs and the shows that they come from “The Church of Chill” “The Derry Boat” “The Mental” “Sparkplug” and more.

I am asking you to participate in what is very creative time for me by buying an advance copy of the L.P. or one of the very special limited edition packages, I am asking you to invest in the creation of something original, the positive effects of which will no doubt be far reaching.

To buy an advance copy (don’t panic its available on CD and MP3 – I’ll even make you a cassette tape if you prefer)  and for further information please follow this link

Good news from the Arts Council!

It is very belatedly that I am getting around to this exciting update, what can I say to redeem myself only “I were mad busy doing the art I had no time to talk about it!”

Theatre Artist in Residence at the Town Hall Theatre Galway. 

Thanks to The Arts Council, The Town Hall Theatre Galway and Galway City Arts Office I am installed as the headline suggests and have been busy writing, mentoring and setting up a program of events that I trust will impress and delight and a full schedule will be announced over the coming weeks. As part of the residency I will be presenting a series of “work in progress” performances and it is my intention to have workshops around the process of creating the work while offering mentorship to other writers, storytellers, performers, musicians or theatre makers at the same time. If you have a project that you would like help with please feel free to contact me through this site.

Blue Train to Clifden. Under the Arts Council Theatre Projects Awards I received funding to develop a script “Blue Train to Clifden” with Raymond Keane, Emma Martin and Michael Chang to be produced by Craig O Flaherty. I shall return to this post to tell you in more detail about the artists involved soon. I am delighted with the progress so far as we prepare to take it to another level when we all come together for some intensive work at The Tyrone Gutherie Centre in Annamakerrig,

Sparkplug on the radio

I am re-posting the link above to the RTE radio adaptation to make it handy for those who haven’t had a chance to listen to it and below is the link to “Wee Black Bees” commissioned by RTE and featuring The Caledonia Highly Strung Orchestra.