When Laurie McClain was a guest on my radio show "Never Too Old" back in September, she was raving about an artist she had met named Danny Ellis. She brought his CD "800 Voices" with her to our interview and asked me if I'd play something off the album. I did and was quite impressed. So, when she invited me to a house concert she was hosting for Danny, I was happy to accept.
Dublin-born Danny Ellis held a group of about 25-30 of us in Laurie's living room totally enthralled with his stories and songs from the "800 Voices" CD about his life in the Irish orphanage Artane Industrial School, run by the Irish Christian Brothers. Due to his parents' divorce and his mother's illness, Danny, his twin brothers and sisters were placed in orphanages. Danny was placed in the Artane School at age eight. As one of 800 boys at the school ranging from ages 8-16, he had to learn to adjust to life in an institution with an infamous reputation. Yet, it was here that he discovered his love for music. He told stories and weaved in songs of how it got him through his time at Artane, listening to it sung in chapel ("Tommy Bonner") and playing trombone in the band ("The Artane Boys Band"). There were also many songs and tales about shenanigans with bullies and buddies ("Who Trew Da Boot?"). Music also became his ticket out of Artane when he turned 16, taking his trombone skills to several show bands.
A couple of fascinating stories: shortly before Danny left Artane, he learned that two of the twin boys he helped teach music to were his lost brothers. After "800 Voices" was released, through a series of circumstances, he managed to also track down Tommy Bonner, the school's chapel singer that he admired so much.
Danny's songs and performance of them were moving and inspiring. There is talk of possible theater and film adaptations of Danny's story.
A memorable afternoon of music, potluck food and fellow music lovers. Turns out I knew several others who were there besides the folks who invited me. That's small town Nashville for you. Thanks, Danny and Laurie.