Friday, March 02, 2007

All for fun and fun for all

They may not go down in history like The Beatles. But The Moon & Sixpence will be remembered by many for all the right reasons. For their gigs which raised many thousands of punts and euros for a variety of charities.


It started in 1994 as a way to have fun, when a solicitor, a publican, a doctor and an insurance man merged their musical interests and formed a band as an antidote to the 'day job'.

Reflecting their ages, as did the 'OV40' moniker they first chose, the lads specialised in sixties music. John Reidy, instigator of the whole thing, played guitar, as did Des Byrne. Michael O'Connell played bass guitar. Michael McCarthy did lead vocals, and each of the others had their own special songs. Soon after forming, they realised they needed some female talent, and recruited Siobhan Hurley, proprietor of the Coffee Cabin in Newbridge as vocalist.


The OV40 name now didn't suit, as Siobhan had upset the age profile. John recalled the name of a pub he'd visited in Bath, England, and they redubbed themselves The Moon & Sixpence.


The debut gig is recorded as being in Kilcullen Town Hall, though they'd had a number of 'preview' sessions in The Hideout and the White Horse Inn. Possibly remembered as being more practice than preview, but everyone had a ball anyhow.

That debut year they did five gigs. For 1995 they planned a dozen. Following the departure from the group of Mick McCarthy, Aer Lingus pilot Henry Donohue -- a friend who had been advising the band musically -- officially joined as keyboard player. By the end of 1995, though the total number of events played is lost to posterity, they were able to return to Kilcullen Town Hall for a gig which raised enough money 'to buy at least two rubbish bins', according to Lesley O'Brien, then secretary of Kilcullen Tidy Towns.

Maybe it wasn't the big time. But they now knew 45 songs, and parlayed them through the following year to help raise money for a number of local good causes. Among their beneficiaries was the Horse Show Committee of the Newbridge College Parent-School Association. That grateful group responded with a voucher for a meal at The Red House, a kind of 'payment' much appreciated. The band also thought about the holy grail, pressing a CD, and even began a bit of trial recording.

MoonSix00196With 1996 ending once again on the now-traditional Kilcullen Tidy Towns event, they were told that they were even contributing a 'wonderful knock-on effect' to Kilcullen's community spirit. Peering into Guinness to evaluate this, they mused further on the prospect of a CD and resolved to push the project a bit more.

The next year was to be a heavy one indeed, involving no less than 16 performances through 1997 in venues which included Keadeen Hotel, Rathsallagh Golf Club, Curragh Lodge, Sarsfield GAA, Newbridge Town AFC and Naas LTC, all for good causes. Now they had a repertoire of 60 songs and they figured it was time to go to the next level. Getting serious about the CD.


MoonSix011Aware that they might be moving beyond the realms of a 'hobby', John suggested that they halve the number of gigs and devote the gained time to 'practicing or recording' ... otherwise having fun. There was a degree of discussion on this, which included a comment from Des that he was proud to be part of a group which had already that year raised up to 10,000 punts for charitable causes.

The 'big gig' for 1999 was entertaining for the Law Society's Annual Conference at Ashford Castle in Cong, Co Mayo. They waived their nominal fee in return for the Society making a donation to the Simon Community.

The CD project was moving, albeit at snail's pace. By August they had more or less selected the 12 songs to be recorded. They had also secured an overdraft of 1,500 punts to pay the production expenses. Clearly a band on the cusp of megabuck earnings! A number of sessions at the recording studio were booked, but the group crossed over the Millennium threshold with few actual tracks laid down.

MoonSix00501That year passed, and so did 2001, during which they played at, inter alia, the Lady Captain's Dinner at the Curragh Golf Club and the IAWS Golf Classic at Rathsallagh. For that last they were given a contribution towards the CD production costs. It was also a year of introspection about where they were and where they might be going. The discussions are protected under the 30-year Rule.

In the first half of 2002, more than 7,000 euros was raised for the Michael Garry House for the Homeless at a Moon & Sixpence gig, one of several for the year which benefited a number of good causes. In July they finally pressed and released the CD. Acknowledging its six years in gestation, they called it 'Better Late Than Never'. All proceeds were for charity.

MoonSix011604In February 2004 a two-night performance in Kilcullen Town Hall raised a substantial sum for the Kilcullen Lions.

A letter from St Brigid's Hospice in June of that same year acknowledged a sum of 1,600 euros from The Moon & Sixpence. It noted that the way forward for the organisation was the further expansion of its Home Care Service. The movement had been of particular interest to the band since they had played in 1997 at Keadeen at 'The Hop' to raise funds for it, and in Kilkenny in 2001 for the same cause under the auspices of Weight Watchers Ireland.


On December 7 2005, Des Byrne died of lung cancer, peacefully at home with his family and under the care of nurses from the St Brigid's Hospice & Home Care Service.

Two concerts in Kilcullen Town Hall next week are a tribute from The Moon & Sixpence to Des. Proceeds go to the Hospice.

Brian Byrne.