Rocking night in store with Eddi, Alan and ‘motley crew’

Arts Week with Judy Murphy

In the late 1990s, accordion player Alan Kelly accepted an invitation to perform in Peter and Wendy, a musical adaptation of JM Barrie’s Peter Pan story, for which Scotland’s Johnny Cunningham had written the score. Alan never imagined that Johnny’s invitation would lead to a friendship and professional relationship with singer-songwriter, Eddi Reader that has seen them tour the world, with nine consecutive annual gigs in his adopted city of Galway in pre-Covid times.

They’re back in the city’s Town Hall Theatre on September 3 for a show that Alan is greatly looking forward to. He’s just returned from London, where he went to see Eddi in a stage version of Brokeback Mountain in the West End, for which she was singing and acting.

“She’s a talented actor as well as a singer and has done a lot of theatre,” says Alan about the Scottish singer who’s still probably best known for fronting the UK band Fairground Attraction, although that was for a brief period, in the late 1980s.

Alan began playing with Eddi in 2003, with the first gig being in Tokyo. By then he’d toured all over the world with Johnny Cunningham’s show and loved it.

He was no stranger to theatre, having cut his teeth on Vincent Woods’ acclaimed play, At the Black Pigs Dyke, at Druid Theatre, in the early 1990s.

Alan on piano accordion, Cora Smyth on fiddle and Brendan O’Regan on bouzouki – who also composed the score – were integral to that play, set along the Leitrim-Fermanagh border, which drew on the area’s mumming tradition. Directed by Maelíosa Stafford, it toured the world and Alan also appeared in its successor, The Song of the Yellow Bittern.

Alan shakes his head in wonder as he thinks of those days and his good fortune at landing that job, just after arriving in Galway from his native Roscommon.

Pictured: Eddi Reader and John Douglas with Alan Kelly and Steph Geremia of the Alan Kelly gang.



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