The "HEARTH" Launch Concert
At the National, on Good Friday, April 3rd 2015, the "Hearth" CD was launched with a concert featuring three of the singers who had recorded Michael's new songs for the album. The singers were Chris While, Shane Howard and Carl Pannuzzo. They were supported by vocalists Jane Thompson, Penny Larkins, Elsie Rigby & Maggie Rigby ...and instrumentalists Ewen Baker (fiddle), Corinn Strating (flutes & whistles), Chris Duncan (fiddle), Luke Plumb (mandolin & bouzouki), Kate Burke (guitar), Shannon Birchall (double bass).
My name is Carla Kennedy, Michael’s wife. This evening we celebrate Michael’s life by launching his album Hearth. Thank you to the National Folk Festival and the financial contributors for making this happen. And to the singers and musicians, for your kindness and for telling the Hearth story with beauty and reverence. And to Luke Plumb, the producer of Hearth, for your perseverance and brilliance and for making the dream of Michael’s Album and this launch a reality.
The album itself is comprised of two discs – the first called Hearth, showcasing Michael’s new material sung by Shane Howard, Carl Pannuzzo, Karine Polwart and Chris While. And an amazing international band: John McCusker, Mike McGoldrick, James MacKintosh, Luke Plumb, Kate Burke, Shannon Birchall and Phil Carroll. With backing vocalists Penny Larkins, Maggie and Elsie Rigby and Jane Thompson. The second disc is Michael Live and as always we are reminded of his masterful stage presence and exceptional voice.
Michael was booked by the festival two years running to appear as a headline act … and both times illness prevented him from being here. He was devastated that he couldn’t return to the stage with this new material. So third time lucky, here we are … without Michael but with Hearth, full of warmth and wisdom.
Michael knew that his time was short. In fact he lived everyday of his life unsure of how long he would be here, and I guess the reality is that we all don’t know how long we’ve got. Michael did not take time for granted and decided to walk the path of being bigger than the prognosis, the statistics, the nay-sayers, refusing to be owned by them. In the confrontation of his own mortality and eye-balling his fragile life … Michael looked through a lens that brought our natural world into a brilliant focus. The mystery was addictive.
With a sharp sensitivity he was a stirrer of those complacent bodies around him, he was energetic, creative and musically captivating. Or just plain captivating really!
He found the puzzle of song writing compelling … lyrics were on a constant journey around our house, whether on the backs of bills or in the Age next to the crossword. In cafes, serviettes were fair game along with receipts, used envelopes and parking tickets! Michael may have rushed the grocery shopping or cycling home from town but he never rushed lyrics, the message was too important. His mind and heart were filled to the brim with words and images and the desire to bring the wonder of this life to you …
At this album's heart beat you will discover the delight of the natural world, songs for the Earth, mysticism mixed with tradition, challenging political thought and a little Irish magic to boot … It is about the world beneath your feet … your Wild Cathedral. And then the mystery of our amazing beyond … our Earth, our Indigo. It is about the wonder of a new dawn, a bowing sun, that Scarlet Robin, your fragile life.
It is with the greatest of love for Michael that this album is sent out into the world. Hearth is a story is about you and me, our place here and what we choose to do with all this glory … it is powerful, tender and reverent. This story, these songs are for you …