Tuesday 23 April 2019

Brothers striking a chord

Christy Moore and Luka Bloom have inspired and guided each other through lives filled with music, writes Andrea Smith

Andrea Smith

'HEIGHT!" says Christy Moore when asked which of Luka Bloom's qualities he would most like to have. "And hair," he adds, as both brothers dissolve into laughter.

Christy and Luka, aka Barry Moore, are the oldest and youngest of their family, respectively. It's clear that they have an easy, warm relationship. They're also very close to their brother Andy, and sisters Eilish, Anne and Terry,

"I was born in 1945, and everything was going grand until 1955, when your man turned up," jokes Christy. "All of my memories of childhood are very positive, until 1956 when Daddy passed on."

Andy Moore Snr, died aged 41, when Christy was only 11 and Luka was a year and a half. He died under anaes-thetic, while having an ingrown toenail removed. He was a great man, say his sons, and very involved in politics.

The music in the house came from the brothers' "amazing and inclusive" mother Nancy, who passed away in 1992. All of the Moore children learned piano, and went to voice teachers for singing lessons. The brothers began singing and playing guitar while young.

After school, Christy worked at the National Bank for three years. When there was a bank strike, he took the opportunity to go to England to play in clubs.

"I had a wild and wonderful time in England, with no bank manager looking over my shoulder," he says, adding that, at the height of his banking career, he was regularly sent home to shave, change his shirt, or wash.

Luka recalls being a boarder at Newbridge College, and having a guitar hidden there. He wrote songs from an early age, and enjoyed the romantic sense of having this brother out there in the big world, publicly doing the thing that he would have loved to do.

"I'd say Christy was my hero then," he says. "Even to this day, I still get that same sense of excitement when I know I'm going to be seeing him. I'll be thinking of all the things I want to talk to him about in relation to gigs I've been to and artists I've seen."

Once, Christy came over from England to bring his two younger brothers on an ill-fated camping trip. Luka was sick all the way in the car, it rained incessantly, and they forgot the tent poles. They had to sleep in the van, and came home after only one day. Other trips home were better.

"Every time I came home, Barry always astounded me with the progress he'd made with the guitar," says Christy. "He was playing chords at 14 that I didn't even know existed."

As he got older, Christy brought Luka over to England during the summers, and would get him to do a couple of numbers at the folk clubs he played. The great reaction he received gave him a taste for life on the road.

"He started going down too well," laughs Christy.

At 17, Luka played support

to Planxty, and recalls one gig on the Aran Islands where the equipment went up to the venue in a donkey and cart. After a stint at college, he recorded three albums as Barry Moore, but didn't have much success with the second and third.

After struggling for a while, he decided to do something dramatic, and gave himself the name Luka Bloom as fresh start and a way of forging a new identity for his music.

"I showed a lot of potential in the beginning, but then I got nervous and it went pear-shaped," he says. "Some people thought that changing my name was to do with Christy, but it wasn't. It was to do with myself and my own ability to get to a place where I was writing songs and playing music that people wanted to hear."

Once he became Luka Bloom, his career soared, and he has become very successful, particularly abroad, with a great following around the world.

Christy has recorded several of his brother's songs, and says he wishes he had the same prolific drive to write.

"I've been to his gigs and listened to his albums, and it frustrates me that he doesn't get more airplay," he says. "I was aware of a respect for his work abroad that has never broken through here in Ireland. He has a really good following here, but it's never gone mainstream and I think that the quality of his work entitles him to be mainstream."

In their personal lives, Christy is married to Val and has two sons, Andy and Padraic, and a daughter, Juno. Luka has been separated for a long time, and has two sons, Robbie and Tom.

"Christy has been unbelievably inspiring to me," he says. "He was always trying to open doors if he saw I was struggling, but he always did it discreetly. Christy is always phenomenally helpful and generous to people, but he gets embarrassed if people know about it."

Given Christy's astronomical success, does his younger brother ever look at the huge sell-out runs in theatres, and think, "I wish that was me?"

"Do I wish that I was doing 10 nights in Vicar Street?" he asks. "Of course I do. Do I celebrate the fact that Christy is doing it? Absolutely, because he deserves it."

But then again he says, he gets to do great gigs himself, and will shortly headline the ESB Beo Celtic Music Festival at the National Concert Hall, alongside Paul Brady and Sharon Shannon.

As most people will know, Christy has overcome a few personal battles in life, including those with alcoholism and depression. Without elaborating, he says that Luka has been a great support to him on a personal level.

"Barry has steered me and guided me in ways that have been wonderful," he says. "It has been a great strength for me in my life to know that if I needed him, he's always there for me. I love being around him. I like going for a walk with him, like talking with him, like listening to him singing. And I really like the way he cooks dinner."


Eleven Songs by Luka Bloom is out now.


Luka and special guest Eddi Reader will perform at the NCH on Saturday, August 22, as part of the ESB Beo Celtic Music Festival, which runs from August 22-29. Bookings (01) 417-0000 or online at www.nch.ie

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