To Shorten the Winter is a collection of songs drawn from the traditions surrounding wintertime in Ireland and, of course, Christmas. Joined by friends Dolores Keane, Liam O Flynn, Stephen Cooney, Arty McGlynn, and more, the album includes Tommy’s w... more
Tommy Sands was born, reared and still lives by the foothills of the Mourne Mountains in the North of Ireland. As a child he heard the lively fiddle and accordion, and the traditional songs and stories of his mother and father welcoming neighbours into the small farmhouse kitchen. Later with his brothers and sister, The Sands Family, he would travel the world bringing these same songs and stories to stages as far apart as Moscow’s Olympic Stadium and New York’s Carnegie Hall.
After the tragic death of his youngest brother Eugene in a car accident while on tour in Germany, The Sands Family toured less together. Tommy eventually set off in a more solo direction, writing new songs, recording albums of his own material and producing a weekly programme on Downtown Radio. Twenty years on, "Country Ceili" is still as popular as ever.
His first solo album, Singing of the Times (GLCD3044), released in 1985, is now regarded as a classic. Two songs from this collection, There Were Roses and Daughters and Sons have already passed into the Irish tradition and are currently included in the English Language syllabus in schools in Germany. Ireland’s Nobel winning poet Seamus Heaney spoke of "the airiness and heartsomeness" of Sands’ work. "You feel you can trust the singer as well as the song", he says, "his voice is at ease, it is not drawing attention to itself and yet, for that very reason it demands attention naturally."
Down By Bendy’s Lane (GLCD1085) came next, a charming collection of songs and stories. It consolidated Tommy’s wit and charm with children of all ages. In 1992 he released Beyond the Shadows (GLCD3068), a collection that reflected the changes in Tommy’s life as well as in the world. This included the remarkable Dresden and The Shadow of O’Casey, the title song from a stage musical written by Sands and playwright Sean O’Casey’s daughter, Shivaun.
Autumn 1995 brought the release of The Heart’s A Wonder (GLCD1158), a look at the tremendous changes that have occurred in Tommy’s homeland and around the world. It includes the song The Music of Healing co-written and performed with his good friend Pete Seeger and described by John Hume MEP as "a new anthem for our times". The album also features the accompaniment of the famous Sarajevo cellist Vedran Smailovic.
In August 1996 he organized the historical "Citizens Assembly" in Belfast where, in a climate of "neighbourliness and humanity" created by Ulster’s finest artists and literary figures, all warring political parties sat down together for the first time this century. The Music of Healing was the anthem sung by all.
In January 1997 he recorded the title track for the tribute to Pete Seeger album with Dolores Keane, Liam O’Flynn and Co. The blockbuster album, entitled Where Have All the Flowers Gone? also features Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Nanci Griffith and many others. Kathy Matthea from Nashville has also recorded a great version of the Sands classic There Were Roses on the American Narada Label.
In September 1997 he was invited to address a special study of UNESCO in Paris on the subject of the culture of peace.
March 1998 he completed the new Sarajevo to Belfast album with cellist Vedran Smailovic. Also in March he was asked by Irish Republic President Mary McAleese to organize and take part in a special North-South TV cultural concert programme in Aras an Uachtarain, Dublin.
In 2000 Tommy recorded To Shorten the Winter (GLCD1212), an album of original songs based on the winter season and Christmas, with Dolores Keane, Liam O Flynn, Steve Cooney, Arty McGlynn and others.