East Side Story at the Strand

Anthony performed at the Strand Cinema last Thursday night for the launch of the East Belfast Arts Strategy. His role was as 'curator' for an hour-long showcase of talent with connections to the East of the city, so the night featured Anthony as director of the 'house band' - himself on guitar, Peter McKinney on drums, John McCullough on piano and Conor McCreanor on bass. The featured performers were Anthony, Ken Haddock, Gareth Dunlop and Kaz Hawkins, with everyone joining on stage for a closing rendition of Tupelo Honey by Van Morrison, east Belfast's most revered export.

Ken Haddock, front, with left to right - Anthony Toner, Kaz Hawkins, Gareth Dunlop, John McCullough, Conor McCreanor and Peter McKinney.

Ken Haddock, front, with left to right - Anthony Toner, Kaz Hawkins, Gareth Dunlop, John McCullough, Conor McCreanor and Peter McKinney.

Anthony adds In the Round date at Portstewart Songwriters Festival, March 30

Anthony has added a new date to the list of shows for the Spring – on Sunday March 30, as part of the brand new Portstewart Songwriters Festival.

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This event has been pulled together by Coleraine Borough Council and features a three day mix of shows, workshops, presentations and sessions.

Anthony is appearing twice – offering a songwriting workshop on Sunday morning at 11am with Gareth Dunlop in Big Telly’s The Box on the Promenade, and then appearing that evening in concert, In the Round, with Gareth Dunlop and Amanda St. John.

For the workshop, Anthony promises a personal glimpse into the songwriting process, and offers some tips for budding songwriters. ‘I’m hoping to get some discussion going with Gareth and with some of the people who come along,’ Anthony explains. ‘The idea will be that the workshop will be led by the discussion and the questions from the audience, so it could go in all kinds of directions. We’ll probably perform a few songs, too, and offer some insights into how they came together.’

The festival offers a list of about 20 free gigs in coffee shops and bars throughout the weekend, featuring Briana Corrigan, Silhouette, Tony Villiers, Mandy Bingham, Alana Henderson, Rory Nellis, Songs of Caliber, DANI, Giraffe Stairs, Lonesom George and hosts more.

The highlights of the weekend include:

Friday March 28:

The Art of Songwriting – a panel discussion with Paul Aiden and Paule Steele, hosted by Generator NI at Big Telly’s The BOX on the Prom – 4pm (FREE

Saturday March 29:

Songwriters Workshop hosted by Briana Corrigan and Amanda St. John at Big Telly’s The BOX on the Prom, 11am (£5)

Getting Noticed: Making an Impact in the Music Industry – hosted by Paul Kane of the Oh Yeah Music Centre, at Big Telly’s The BOX on the Prom, 20m (£5)

30 Years in the Music Business – a talk by BBC Broadcaster Stuart Bailie at Big Telly’s The BOX on the Prom, 4pm (£5)

Saturday Night Showcase – hosted by Ralph McLean of BBC Radio Ulster: Bronagh Gallagher, SOAK and Paul Casey in concert at Portstewart Town Hall, 8pm (Admission £12)

Sunday March 30:

Songwriters Workshop with Anthony Toner and Gareth Dunlop at Big Telly’s The BOX on the Prom, 11am (£5)

Movie Screening – ‘Once’, at The BOX on the Prom, 1pm (FREE)

Raised Voices – The Genius of Bob Dylan, with Ralph McLean of BBC Radio Ulster and live music at The BOX, 3pm (£5)

In Concert, In the Round – Gareth Dunlop, Anthony Toner and Amanda St. John, Portstewart Town Hall at 6pm (£10)

Tickets for all of the shows are available from Coleraine Tourist Information Centre (028) 7034 4723, and Flowerfield Arts Centre (028) 7083 1400. For the complete list of FREE gigs, visit www.northcoastni.com/music

Nice review for Arrivals

We've had a lovely notice for 'Arrivals' on the Culture NI website, thanks to reviewer Jayne Coyle. Click on the link HERE to read the review in full.

And don't forget the show is running for four more nights on the road - Ards on Wednesday, Coleraine on Thursday, Armagh on Friday and finishing off on Saturday night in Downpatrick.

Arrivals tracks available for download

Arrivals - with a soundtrack composed and recorded by Anthony - opens at the Crescent Arts Centre this Wednesday and runs for four nights before going off for dates in Ards, Coleraine, Downpatrick and Armagh (see the Shows page for full details).

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Over the next few days, Anthony is making all of the soundtrack pieces available as free downloads, so please visit his Reverbnation profile at www.reverbnation.com/anthonytoner and help yourself. There will be alerts on Facebook and Twitter as the tracks go live. There are no catches or sign-ups or anything. Just have the track, and feel free to e-mail it or give it away to anyone you think might like it.

And come along and see the play - four actors performing the work of five writers and finding uncomfortable and shining truths in the places where cultures rub up against each other in Northern Ireland. Full details at www.anthonytoner.net/live-dates.

New date just added

Anthony has just added a new date at the 174 Trust Building on the Antrim Road for February 1st at 8pm, appearing at the 4Corners Festival in Belfast, with a special In the Round gig in the company of songwriter Dave Thompson and performance poet El Gruer. The theme of the evening is 'where there are people there are stories - where there are stories there are songs,' and the three performers will be discussing the role of place in their songs and stories, and how songs and places influence each other. You can read more about the performers at Steve Stochkman's blog HERE and you can also visit the 4Corners website at www.4cornersfestival.com.

Writing for Arrivals

Anthony is currently composing some instrumental material for a forthcoming stage production. 'Arrivals' will open at the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast on February 12, running for four consecutive nights, before touring to Ards Arts Centre on February 19, the Riverside Theatre in Coleraine on February 20, the Marketplace Theatre in Armagh on February 21 and Down Arts Centre on February 22.

The production was launched last night (January 9) at the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast, with short excerpts from the script being read by the actors and Anthony improvising some music between the readings. Reactions to the music were extremely positive.

'Most of it was based on drum loops, with some very simple guitar arrangements played over the top,' says Anthony. 'But it seemed to suit the mood of the pieces. I'm imagining the finished soundtrack for the play will be more evolved, and will feature a number of other textures. Different instruments and found sounds, etc.'

The music will be worked on as the play gets into rehearsal in early February. Arrivals was conceived and will be directed by Anthony's wife Andrea Montgomery, and has been written by a group of talented writers from Northern Ireland - a cast of characters cross crosses the globe to land in Northern Ireland, searching for love, for marriage, for refuge, for work, for passion, for friendship, for inspiration, for a new beginning.

To find out more, visit the Terra Nova Productions website at www.terranovaproductions.net.

Anthony lined up for music industry event

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Anthony has been asked to participate in a special music industry event at Flowerfield Arts Centre on Thursday December 12, as guest of Northern Ireland Music Industry development programme GeneratorNI. The event runs from 2pm to 4pm. 

Anthony joins a variety of specialists from Northern Ireland’s music industry, who have been assembled to discuss their diverse areas of knowledge:

Rory Friers (And So I Watch You From Afar) Rory is principal creative in the extraordinary Northern Irish instrumental band ASIWYFA, who will round off their most successful year to date with shows in the USA and India.

Shauna Tohill (Silhouette) Shauna is the creative force behind Northern Irish band Silhouette whose track “Can’t Keep Up has been a huge radio hit in Ireland. She’s spent the summer playing with Blondie in June, Imelda May in July, Jake Bugg in August, as well as playing at V Festival and Electric Picnic.

Paul Hamill (Psycatron) As one half of electronic duo Psycatron, Paul has played shows in Europe, the USA and Australia, remixed artists including Simian Mobile Disco, and released tracks on some of the most credible global dance labels around.

Lyndon Stephens (manager/label) Lyndon runs Champion Sound Recordings – releasing music and managing artists includingUnknown (whose fans include Annie Mac and Ellie Goulding) and Ryan Vail (whose remix with Soak surely is a highlight in recent Northern Irish collaboration across genres).

Rocky O’Reilly (Start Together Studios) After putting down the keyboards in NI band Oppenheimer, Rocky now runs Start Together Studios. The client list reads like a who’s who of extraordinary Northern Irish talent – including ASIWYFA, General Fiasco and Duke Special. He also co-manages The Wonder Villains.

Jonny Tate (Harvest/Pigstock) Johnny runs two festivals in Northern Ireland - Pigstock, which has included headline sets fromFighting with Wire, and Harvest Festival which this year was headlined by Mercury Music Prize nominees Villagers.

OUTPUT is a partnership between Generator Northern Ireland and Honeycomb – Creative Works.

Admission is free. If you're interested in reserving a place, e-mail info@generatorni.com and they will register you for the event.

Last dates of the year

It has been a year of mixed blessings, with Anthony releasing his fifth collection to critical acclaim, enjoying a really successful tour, rounded off with Sing Under the Bridges being shortlisted for the Northern Ireland Music Prize.

Countering all of that, his parents have suffered a long year of illness, setbacks and challenges. Despite all this, Anthony has reacted by working working working. A collection of new material appears to be shaping itself already, and there are also plans to create a series of instrumental pieces for an upcoming theatre production called 'Arrivals', top be directed by Anthony's wife Andrea in the spring of 2014.

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As the year prepares to fade, Anthony has a cluster of live shows across Northern Ireland, and he promises to showcase some of the new songs in front of those audiences. Details of the gigs are on the show page, but here they are in case you need them in a hurry:

Saturday November 23 – The Island Arts Centre in Lisburn. Tickets are £12, and they’re available from the Box Office on (028) 9250 9254 - or click HERE.
 
Friday November 29 – Dr. Hillyard’s Music Club in Castlewellan. Tickets are £10, and can be reserved by phone 02843771999, email info@hillyardhouse.co.uk or bought in person at Hillyard House, Castle Avenue, Castlewellan.
 
Saturday November 30 – The Square Box Theatre in Dungannon. Tickets are £9 with a £7 concession, and the Box Office number is (028) 8772 8600
 
Sunday December 8 – SD Bells Coffee Shop, Belfast 12noon to 2pm with John McCullough, piano. To book a table for coffee, brunch and music, get in touch with Bells on (028) 9047 1774.
 
Monday December 16 – Flowerfield Arts Centre, Portstewart. The show starts with free mulled wine and mince pies at 6pm, with music from 6.30pm to 8pm. Tickets are £10, and they’re available from Flowerfield on (028) 7083 1400.

Shortlisted for the Northern Ireland Music Prize

Anthony's latest album Sing Under the Bridges joins thirteen other acts - some of them among the biggest names in Northern Ireland music for the Northern Ireland Music Prize, to be announced in mid-November.

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Organised by the Oh Yeah Music Centre, the new award is aimed at recognising the great wealth of recorded music from these parts. NI music is experiencing a creative boom. The quality and quantity of great records from all genres enjoying an all-time high point. The NI Music Prize will provide recognition of this fact.

An academy of music industry professionals connected to NI were approached to vote and to create a shortlist of albums. Fourteen records comprise the final list. A diverse and exciting array, it includes artists such as the world-conquering Two Door Cinema Club, esteemed troubadour Foy Vance, instrumental post-rockers And So I Watch You From Afar and the electronic adventure of Space Dimension Controller.

The ultimate winner of the prize will be decided by a select panel of experts and announced at a ceremony in Belfast’s Mandela Hall on November 12, 2013. A selection of shortlisted acts will be playing live at the event, including Anthony Toner, Girls Names, A Plastic Rose, The Bonnevilles and more.

The NI Music Prize aims to establish itself as an important annual event. Drawing attention to the local successes and providing a critical benchmark.The event is taking place during Belfast Music Week. Now in its fourth year, Belfast Music Week has become a focal point for the music scene in Northern Ireland and the NI Music Prize will be a highlight of this year’s festivities.

Blues and reviews

The Ronnie Greer Blues Band played a rather special gig on Saturday night past (June 15) at the Ardhowen Theatre in Enniskillen. It was a strange atmosphere - slightly tense as we approached, thanks to the imminent arrival of the G8 summit. 'As the band played,' says Anthony, 'we could look out the window and see the security forces in inflatable boats cruising up and down the lough looking for signs of risk on the shoreline.'

But it turned out to be a musically wonderful affair - the line-up was Ronnie on guitar and vocals, Alan Hunter on bass, Colm Fitzpatrick on drums, Linley Hamilton on trumpet, Scott Flanigan on keyboards, Anthony on guitar and vocals, and special guest Ken Haddock on guitar and vocals.

There's a very nice review of the show here on the Marlbank website: 

http://www.marlbank.net/lives

 

Taking part in the 'Belfast Skyline' event on June 2

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Anthony has been added to the bill for the Real Music Club's exciting 'Belfast Skyline' afternoon show at the Limelight Complex in the city on Sunday June 2nd.

This celebration of Americana & Roots music, which culminates in the performance of Steve Earle and the Dukes and Duchesses with The Mastersons that evening, will mark 15 years of the Real Music Club

Appearing on the afternoon bill will be: Bap Kennedy, Anthony Toner, Paul Casey, Ben Glover, Eilidh Patterson, Kaz Hawkins, Malojian, New Voices (featuring Maeve Dunphy, Bruce Joseph, Michael Kerr & Ruth Trimble) and Jackie Rainey

The afternoon concert is in Limelight 2 with Bap Kennedy and others starting at 2pm. Tickets are £15 - or £10 if you have a Steve Earle ticket.

There's also a free acoustic concert in Katy Dalys starting at 5pm.

Steve Earle & The Dukes & Duchesses plus The Mastersons are in Limelight 1, doors open 7.30, show starts 8pm.

A press release from the Real Music Club describes the event as 'A full day of “Real” music featuring some of the best of our local talent, all of whom have graced the stage at the Real Music Club, finishing off with multi Grammy winner, the Godfather of Americana and regular Real Music Club artist, Steve Earle & his Dukes and Duchesses'.

On the road again - this weekend

Anthony is on the road again this weekend, with solo acoustic performances (at The Alley Theatre in Strabane) and electric gigs with the Ronnie Greer Band as part of the City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival.

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On Friday night (May 3rd), Anthony performs solo in the foyer performance space at the Alley Theatre in Strabane - call the Box Office on (028) 7138 4444 for details, or visit the website and book tickets by clicking HERE.

And on Saturday the 4th and Sunday the 5th, Anthony will be playing the blues with the Ronnie Greer Blues Band (and special guest Grainne Duffy) as part of the City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival. On Saturday night from 10pm they're appearing at the Ice Wharf in the city, and on Sunday night, they'll be playing at the Carraig Bar.

If you'd like to visit the City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival, visit their website by clicking HERE.

The yummiest night of the spring tour so far...

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Anthony shares the stage with his dear friend Ronnie Greer on Saturday the 27th at Crusoe's Coffee Shop in Castlerock - one of Anthony's favourite watering holes on the north coast. The venue every so often transforms itself into full restaurant mode, with wonderful food, and some jazz or blues to help whet the appetite.

This time it's Ronnie and Anthony, so expect some gentle swing and blues and relaxed onstage banter. The menu, however, is extraordinary, and Anthony expects it to be the tastiest gig he will do this spring - get a load of this:

Menu For Saturday 27th April 2013 Italian style:

Selection of Italian Artisan Breads
Fresh Basil Pesto
Italian Whole Olive Mix

Starter

Perla Cooked Ham
Buffalo Mozzarella, Fresh Basil, Ripe Vine Tomatoes & Gourmet Finely Sliced Ham cooked in Milk

Fresh Handmade Giganti Egg Pasta
Ricotta and Asparagus

Confit of Duck Leg
Finished with a Simple Fresh Italian Salad

Dishes prepared using Family Reserve Arbequino
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Mains

Tomato and Fresh Herb Italian Chicken
Finished with Smoked Pancetta

Lamb Rump served on Tuscan Butter Beans

Mediterranean Tarts
Courgettes, Aubergine, Red Onion, Bell Peppers,
Sun blushed Tomatoes topped with Goats cheese
Served with Char grilled Fennel and Artichoke Salad


Served with Crisp Green Vegetables

Garlic and Rosemary Baby Roast Potatoes

Dessert

Affagato Plate
Frangelico (Hazelnut Liqueur), Braemar Farm Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and Crusoes Finest Espresso

Home Made Classic Italian Tiramisu

Fresh Orange, Lemon and Ricotta Cake
Served with thick Mascarpone Cream

Selection of Finest Italian Cheeses
Gorgonzola D.O.P. Creamy Blue
Cacicollo Firm Smoked 
Delice des Cremiers a decadent Creamy Brie Style 

Phone 02870849618 for more info...

Second gig SOLD OUT in Ards

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Such was the demand for tickets for Anthony's show at Ards Arts Centre last Friday that the gig was already sold out way back in February. So the organisers added a second date, on May 17. This allowed Anthony to add Ben Glover as the special guest for the night (Ben will also be Anthony's guest on the May 16 show at Antrim's Old Courthouse the night before).

When Anthony arrived for the April 19 show at Ards, he was told that only 15 tickets were left for the May 17 show. After a storming show with THREE encores, a member of the Ards Arts staff told him as he packed his guitars that the remaining 15 tickets had gone that night.

This is the second year in a row that Anthony has sold out TWO shows at Ards.

'A record to cherish...' Culture NI review

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Anthony's new album has picked up a warm and very positive review on the Culture NI website from no less a reviewer than the BBC's own Ralph McLean, a man who knows a thing or two about music, you'd have to say.

(He's the second BBC pundit to have praised the collection. Almost within days of the album's arrival, Stuart Bailie was singing its praises on his blog. Again, Stuart's a man who personifies good taste in music. You can read HIS blog post on the album by clicking HERE)

Ralph's recent review describes the album as 'full of pin sharp portraits of life, both broken and beautiful... It is a record to cherish'. Sing Under the Bridges, he adds, offers 'story songs peopled with real characters attempting to make their way through lives that are peppered with pot holes and unexpected twists in the road'.

Elsewhere, 'The Road to Fivemiletown' 'does exactly what a truly great short story should do,' says Ralph: 'lays out its tale and leaves you to make of it what you will. Evocative and economical, this is literary songwriting at its very best.'

He concludes: 'In a world of sweat shop produced sneakers, Anthony Toner is a pair of lovingly sculpted Italian brogues, all handmade and finely finished. Go ahead and treat yourself to a little luxury.'

You can read the full review, complete with more detailed references to the songs, by clicking HERE.

Live this weekend

Anthony (who celebrates his birthday on Sunday...) has two shows this weekend - one at Ards Arts Centre on Friday night the 19th, which is sold out. An extra date has been added on May 17, with special guest Ben Glover. If you'd like to book tickets for the May show, get in touch with the Ards Arts Centre staff on (028) 9181 0803. We understand they're already starting to move fast...

On Saturday night, the 20th, he's appearing at the Marketplace Theatre in Armagh - you can book tickets for the Marketplace show on (028) 3752 1821 .

And Anthony was featured as the Live In Session artist with Ralph McLean on his Local Voices programme on BBC Radio Ulster on Wednesday night past. The performance featured two songs - 'Things Fall Apart' with John McCullough playing some great blues piano, and 'The Road to Fivemiletown', which featured John on piano and Neil Martin on cello.

Click HERE to be directed to Ralph's Local Voices page on BBC Radio Ulster, where a video of the whole session is available to view. And click HERE for a link to the programme, which is avaialble for online listening until next Wednesday. Anthony's performance is around an hour and a half in, if you want to scroll forward.

On the road again - with Ben and Brendan

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Ben Glover and I had a super night down in Omagh on Saturday night, and we're on the road again this week, with performance at Ballymoney Town Hall on Thursday April 11th. I will be performing solo at the Burnavon Theatre in Cookstown on the Friday night, the 12th, and then I'll be sharing the stage with Ben Glover and Brendan Murphy (right) at Ballymena's Braid Arts Centre on Saturday night the 13th.

For tickets to the Ballymoney gig, call the Town Hall box office on (028) 2766 0230. For Cookstown, get in touch with the Burnavon on (028) 8676 9949, and for the Braid show, the box office number is (028) 2563 5900.

Super review on the No Depression website

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Reviewer Alan Harrison has been very kind in his review for the new album on the always-coveted No Depression website. A careful listener, Alan has singled the album out for some rare praise, for which I'm delighted and humbled. If you'd like to read Alan's review, click HERE to be directed to the No Depression website,