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Mar 6

Robyn Kavanagh at the Sailing Club

Posted on Thursday, March 6, 2008 in Music, On the box, Poems and things

There’s an arts group here in Wicklow that encourages local talent and gives a leg up to poets, artists and musicians alike.  Their ‘Space Inside’ magazine can be found free on various shop counters around Wicklow and advertises local theatre, exhibitions and various music shows with the odd book review thrown in.  The group also holds a ‘Live Night’ on the first Wednesday of every month down at the Sailing Club in Wicklow Town.  It comes with my badge of approval.  (Jefferson Davis, I’m still mulling over your email… I think this place would be well worth a visit on your travels!)

I’ve been meaning to drop down to one of these live nights, but somehow never got around to it until last night.  I was so glad I went, and will certainly be going again. It was fantastic, and this particular session drew a large crowd because of a promised performance by local singer heroine Robyn Kavanagh of ‘You’re a Star’ fame, so the atmosphere was electric.



The evening started with dimmed lights and poetry.  Various people stood up and read their pieces while the audience listened and basked in the atmosphere.  Heaven knows how the eight year old Robyn-devotees up at the front row stayed still for so long- perhaps it was a testiment to the quality of the poetry?

After a short break, a young lad named Neil Tierney sat down with his guitar and began to play the most capturing music, it was Jazz-Blues style, but what made it so unique was the rhythm he incorporated into the music by thumping the body of his guitar while demonstrating extremely complicated finger-styling at the same time.  It was seriously hypnotic, seeming as though there were seven musicians playing instead of just one – he held the audience in the palm of his hand and recieved an ovation at the end of his set.  I’d seriously recommend you keep an ear out for this chap- his music is a feast for the senses.


Suddenly the room filled to capacity and I knew it was Robyn’s turn.

I hadn’t heard her sing before, not having RTE at home, but I had heard rumours that she was a great singer with a strong chance of winning this ‘You’re a Star’ extravaganza.  I had also heard vicious rumours circulating regarding her ‘knacker’-like accent, and was curious to hear her speak. 

The strange thing about Ireland is the enigma that is the changing accent.  Once you’ve gotten used to the Cork accent for example (which is no mean feat), you could travel thirty miles up the road and find yourself listening to completely different intonations.  You have the sing-song style Kerry accent, which sounds worlds apart from your northern lilts, and Wicklow is just as unique. 

I found it hard at first to understand the Wicklow accent, it’s like somebody a long time ago told Wicklonians to choose two notes and see-saw each word around them… remember the ‘Pirates of Penzance’ song; ‘I am the very model of a model major general’?  Wicklonians sing their words much the same way.  Once you’ve become accustomed to it, it’s quite pleasant to listen to.

Robyn’s speaking voice is possibly the cream on top of this accent.  It’s pure and sweet and innocent and absolutely nothing like the accent of a traveller, and trust me, I speak from good authority here.  Those that choose to make fun of the way Robyn speaks truly haven’t a clue.

She launched into ‘Feeling Good’, and ‘Natural Woman’, and though her nervous voice faultered slightly on lower notes, the power behind her voice at the emotionally laden choruses was awesome.  The girl has the sort of voice that makes your breath catch, and the tiny hairs on the back of your neck stand up.  She smiled after the song and fidgeted nervously.

“I’m going to sing Summertime, now, so I am…” 

She smiled shyly while I wondered how on earth such a young innocent would pull off such a tough song.

Robyn did indeed pull this off in such a way that if you were to close your eyes, you could imaging Ella Fitzgerald herself, sitting on a stairwell nursing a bottle of Gin and singing with her tortured soul wide-open.  Robyn Kavanagh is a girl that sweats talent, and I’m starting to think that if she doesn’t win this ‘You’re a Star’, it’s because she’s far too good for it.  Kudos to her, I know she’ll go far.

Bring on the comments

  1. Aww bless her, she looks about 12! I don’t watch telly much, but good luck to her, you have to admire anyone prepared to give something like that a go!

    I have adopted Cork as my home, and yes, the accent does take a bit of getting used to!

  2. K8 says:

    I wouldn’t watch You’re a Star usually, or any of that text vote tripe (apart from I’m a celebrity, I miss that strangely!) except when I’m in someone elses house and I’m forced to.

    The Cairc accent is the most infectious in Ireland, b’iy :)

  3. Alan says:

    That’s a great description of the accent alright. Now I’ve got “model of a…” song stuck in my head. aaahhhh!

    I don’t have a strong Wicklow accent myself, but it is still a Wicklow accent. The accent is often mistaken for a northern one (mine is anyway). It’s amazing the difference between accents between the various towns and villages in the county. Rathnew is only 2 miles out the road and the accent is wildly different.

    I have cousins that have lived in the town all their life like me and they are soo D4 it’s unreal. I can’t bear talking to them as I think it’s just fake. Had a conversation with a customer at work a few weeks back and don’t know how the topic came up but she asked where I went to college and when I said TCD, she was amazed I still had my Wicklow accent!


  4. How did I miss this post? Wicklow sounds intriguing. I’ll have to look into staying in Wicklow for a couple of days. Thanks for the info, K8. :)

    I thought it was quite humorous the last time I was in Dublin that very few people could understand what I was muttering. I butcher English, Spanish, French, and a microscopic amount of Gaelic (I’ve not been able to find an Irish linguistic tutor yet.). :)

  5. K8 says:

    Hi Alan! Welcomes :)
    I noticed that about the D4 accents too… a buddy of mine has lived here all her life but commutes to Dublin every day, as have her relatives before her but speaks like a true Dalkey’n. I reckon they speak like that just simply because Wicklow is one of Dublin’s oldest dormitory towns? It’s like the accent sort of washed down here!

    Jefferson; I hear you’re coming in April- can’t wait for that… email on its way :)

  6. Alan says:

    Hi Kate,

    Nah, I don’t think the accent washed down.. if that was the case we’d all speak “rindabite” + I’ve heard plenty of people from Galways, Roscommon, Cork etc. who all speak D4…. That’s a tough one to explain. I definitely think a person will lose their accent if they are somehow ashamed of it and/or they aspire to join the Ross O’Carroll Kelly set.

    Thankfully there are enough of us who don’t succumb to the Borgian influences to keep the local identity intact :-)


  7. Carol Boland says:

    Hi Kate,
    Thanks for your great comments on The Space Inside. We are in our fourth year now and are proud of the way we keep a “space” available for new and professional acts. All say that they love to perform in front of our attentive audience. Hope you’ll come back again. Perhaps during the Wicklow Arts Festival in May?

  8. samantha says:

    heya,im frm wicklow town and i know robyn reay well!!!!!
    she was brilliant in the sailing club and i luv er 2 bits and brendin sayin that she had a nackery wicklow acsent 4 gods sake like so wat it waz bout the singing like and as 4 leahan winning last night that waz a houx robin was way better then her the blondey cun t
    thanks and i hope robin isint 2 upset

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