About 4 years ago at one of the Anderida Gorsedd open rituals at the Long Man of Wilmington I was approached by a young man called Eurik from the Czech Republic who asked if I was Damh the Bard. I nodded and he took me by the hand, shaking it vigorously and exclaiming that “your music is huge in our Country! We all sit around our campfires singing your songs!” As he was shaking my hand I remember being incredibly excited to discover this, but also grinning, thinking I know I’ve only sold one CD to the Czech Republic.
So it was that 4 years later me and Cerri are boarding a flight to Prague to play a concert organised by the PF International in this beautiful city. After an incredibly short 1 1/2 hour flight we were met at the airport by Barbora and Petra and taken through the warm, sunlit city to our hotel. We’d got up at 5am and the concert was at 7.30pm, but they had also organised a radio interview for me at 3pm, so it was going to be a full, and long, day. After a short rest we were picked up and took the tram to the Celtic/New Age radio station. I told Barbora, one of our hosts about my meeting at the Long Man a few years ago and she smiled and said, “I think I know who that was, and he will be the translator at the radio station”. And the World shrunk once more… Sure enough when Eurik arrived I recognised him immediately.
The plan was to play some songs from The Cauldron Born album intermingled with questions about my music, spiritual path, and the story behind the songs. Things were going really well until they tried to play Green and Grey. It has a long intro with bird song and flute, and it crashed the computer software, twice! I probably wouldn’t have been that worried had I not seen the panic on the presenter’s face as he waved his hands to encourage me and Eurik to keep talking. We managed the first crash, but when it happened again I did have to say, “I think you’re going to have to ask me another question now…” But even with the computer problem it was a real pleasure to do. Sitting in a radio studio doing a live interview is a strange thing. I tried not to think about the people listening, and just have a nice chat with the presenter. When I thought about the amount of people listening, and that it was live, I got a lot more nervous!
After the interview we headed straight to the venue. The PFI had hired a 150 seater theatre, and when I asked how tickets were selling I was told “about 45 so far, but more have said they would arrive on the day”. I was a little worried for them. It costs a lot to put on a show like this and I wondered just how well known my music really was here in the Czech Republic. The last thing I wanted was for the PFI to lose money bringing me here.
We soon arrived at the theatre and it was lovely – a proper little music venue. There was even a few posters outside advertising the gig. I was invited to see the theatre, and when we got inside I instantly knew it was going to be a good night – the sound check went well, and the acoustics of the hall were superb. Top tip – always get to know the sound engineer, he is the most important person in your life at a gig where there is a PA. So I did, and the sound was as clear as a whistle. So, all ready to go, it was just time to chill out and wait to see who arrived.
Doors opened as 7.30 and slowly the theatre began to fill. And the more it filled up, the more excited I got. The last hour before a concert is so hard for me – I just want to get on stage and get communicating. I go from nervous, to overwhelmingly excited – imagine ‘Xmas day when you’re 8 years old’ excited, if that makes any sense. The only thing that exists is the music, the only people that exist is the audience, the only time that exists is now. I took a little look through the curtains to see how the theatre was filling up, and was so pleased to see only a few empty seats. Barbora, one of the organisers, was backstage with me and she looked even more nervous than me! I knew then just how much the next few hours meant to them. To be brought here to play for these lovely people was a priviledge, an honour, and I was not going to let them down. Tonight we were going to have a blast!
So the time finally arrived to get on stage. When I walked out I could see that only a few seats on the balcony were left, and the cheer that went up felt like just as much a release for those in the audience as it was for me! Eurik was my translator for the concert and, as usual, I opened with Song of Awen. Almost from the first few lines I could hear people singing along, could see the smiles on the faces of the people in the first few rows, and instantly felt the connection. The Wheel was next and as the audience sang the refrain so the evening opened up before us and we shared many beautiful moments.
As I had only brought one guitar with me, and I didn’t want to keep retuning, I’d organised the first set to be songs in regular tuning, and the second DADGAD. Here are the set lists:
1. Song of Awen, The Wheel, Merlin am I, Pagan Ways, Pipes of Pan, Lughnasadh, Spirit of Albion and The Winter King
2. Hills they are Hollow, Green and Grey, Twa Corbies, When I become the Moon, Domeanna, The Cauldron Born, Wild Mountain Thyme
Encores. Gently Johnny, Winds of Change.
It was obvious that Lughnasadh is my most popular song here in the Czech Republic. The response from the audience was, to say the least, enthusiastic, with the loudest singalong I’ve yet experienced on this musical journey (but not the loudest of the trip…! More about that in a later blog post). It’s almost like the Czech Pagans’ anthem, awesome!
Talking to people after the show it seems that a good number of them had heard the radio interview that afternoon and decided to come along to hear more. Whilst others had been fans for years. We had a great time after the concert with members of the PFI, and discovered that a goodly number of them were going to accompany me and Cerri on a tour of the city the next day!! So more soon!