The Arts Column: This week's highlights

Local talent to the fore

The Arts Column: This week's highlights

Local Donegal talent is very much to the fore at The Balor, Ballybofey this weekend, write Conor Malone.

Lifford singer-songwriter Martin McColgan launches his album “The Originals”, with proceeds in aid of mental health charity Aware, tonight, Thursday, September 1st. And the following two nights will see the very first performances of Conal Gallen’s new comedy play, “How’s Your Father?”

Elsewhere tonight, there’s another in the series of open Mic nights at The Alley, Strabane, while there’s a National Theatre Live screening of The Deep Blue Sea at The Playhouse in Derry.

Christy Moore plays The Millennium Forum in Derry along with Declan Sinnott and Jim Higgins. They’re there for two nights – Friday 2nd and Saturday 3rd of September. Also tomorrow , Eleanor McEvoy plays The Alley in Strabane.

Top of the ukulele tree

Interest in the humble ukulele has experienced a surge in popularity in recent times. I’ve always associated the ukulele – a member of the lute family which originated in Hawaii - as a sort of music hall novelty thanks, in part, to the likes of George ‘Cleaning Windows’ Formby and the like.

The ukulele has acquired a lot more street cred in recent times, with organised ukulele play-a-longs a feature of the music scene in many towns and cities around the country. Top of the ukulele tree are The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, a group of all-singing, all-strumming ukulele players on a mission to show that all genres of music are available for reinterpretation, as long as they are played on the ukulele.

A genre-defying set list takes you from Tchaikovsky to Nirvana via Otis Reading, Talking Heads and even some spaghetti western soundtracks. From popular to highbrow, from serious to frivolous (often in the same tune), you’ll be astonished at the rich palette of orchestration afforded by ukuleles bought with loose change (with some singing and a bit of whistling). There are no drums, pianos, backing tracks or banjos, no pitch shifters or electronic trickery and the effect is quite extraordinary and very, very enjoyable.

The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain play An Grianán Theatre, Letterkenny on Thursday next, September 8th at 8pm. Tickets are steep enough at €32 but there is a great value offer of a family of 4 (2 adults, 2 children) for €89. Tickets from An Grianan on 0749120777 or online at

‘O’ what a voice

Roy Orbison undoubtedly possessed one of the most distinctive and recognisable voices in the history of music. The singer, known affectionately as The Big O, was reckoned by music experts to have had a three or four-octave range; the unique falsetto quality of his voice was almost operatic, which led to his other nickname, ‘The Caruso of Rock’.

It’s that distinctiveness I’m guessing which has made Roy Orbison tribute acts a rarity. It’s extremely hard to replicate the man’s vocals unless you’re Barry Steele – widely recognised as the leading Orbison tribute act in the world. He’s stunned audiences around the globe with his uncanny similarity and ability to authentically revive the exquisite toe-tapping sound of this musical giant.

Visually he’s got it spot on too – the solitary, standing-still stage presence with the dark clothes and dark glasses adding a layer of mystery to the persona.

Orbison’s career contained not one but two distinctive peaks – his Monument Records ‘60s era success with songs such as Only The Lonely, Pretty Woman and Crying was bookended by his ‘80s revival, when his presence in supergroup The Travelling Wilburys alongside Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne was followed by the hit album Mystery Girl. This show encompasses both, right through to the late ‘80s and the acclaimed Black & White Night concert.

Add to the mix a phenomenally talented backing band and fabulous singers, and you have a really special night celebrating the legacy of The Big O.

Barry Steele’s The Roy Orbison Story is at The Balor Arts Centre, Ballybofey on Thursday next September 8th and at The Millennium Forum, Derry on Saturday 10th. Tickets for The Balor show are €20, available from The Balor on 074 9131840 or while tickets for the Derry gig cost from £12.50 to £20 sterling – contact the Forum on 048 7126 4455 or

The Nualas

Top comedy trio The Nualas are coming this way shortly. The musical-comedy trio, described as a cross between Little Mix, The Nolans and The Blind Boys of Alabama, play the Balor in Ballybofey next weekend.

It’s hard to believe but The Nualas have been entertaining crowds all over the world for the past 21 years. Since their first outing in 1995, their unique brand of intricately arranged, self-penned songs and provocative perspective on everything from fashion to global warming has wowed audiences from Singapore to … Moat.

In those 21 years the all-girl, shiny-dressed trio have played extended seasons in London, Dublin and New York, written and recorded several series for BBC Radio 4 and played at The Royal Albert Hall. They were named as one of the top five comedy shows of the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe Festival by the Scotsman – that’s basically like winning a comedy Oscar and a sign that they remain as entertaining and sharp-witted as ever.

They come to The Balor as part of their new national tour entitled ‘Glitterbomb’. The performance features spanking new classics and red hot chat, which the girls promise will leave you helpless with laughter and delirious with pleasure.

The Nualas – Glitterbomb is at The Balor Arts Centre, Ballybofey on Saturday September 10th at 8pm. Tickets are €18 (€16 concession) available from The Balor Box Office on 0749131840 or online