the Backroom

Baron Wolman, First Chief Photographer for Rolling Stone, RIP

by Chris Murray on November 4, 2020  |  45 Comments »
Baron Wolman on stage at Woodstock, August 16, 1969, while Santana performs. Photo by Bill Graham.

Baron Wolman was among the first photographers I exhibited at Govinda Gallery to feature musical artists. In July of 1994, he and I co-curated the exhibition “Woodstock: Photographs,” which also included photographers Henry Diltz, Lisa Law, Joe Sia, and Elliot Landy. It was a great exhibition documenting both the performers and the historic scene at the now legendary festival.

John Sebastian performing at Woodstock. Photo by Baron Wolman, 1969.

In June of 1996, I exhibited Baron’s first one-man show at Govinda, “Baron Wolman: My Generation.”  That exhibition was also a launch for his book, Classic Rock & Other Rollers. Both Baron, who was on hand to autograph his book, and the gallery visitors had a great time during that exhibition, with music playing to accompany the photographs which included George Harrison, Jimi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell, Tina Turner, The Grateful Dead, Little Richard, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Miles Davis, Johnny Cash and many more.

George Harrison at Apple Records, London 1968. Photo by Baron Wolman.

Baron was also featured in the epic traveling museum exhibition, “Sound & Vision: Monumental Rock & Roll Photography,” which I curated and co-organized with the Columbus Museum of Art in Columbus, Georgia. His large-format photos of Janis Joplin and Mick Jagger were remarkable. His photos from that exhibition were seen in five major museums throughout the south.

Janis Joplin, San Francisco 1968. Photo by Baron Wolman.
Mick Jagger, on the set of Performance, London, 1968. Photo by Baron Wolman.

One of the most wonderful pastimes Baron and I shared together was in Salamanca, Spain in the fall of 2008. The contemporary art museum in Salamanca, Domus Artium, had organized a truly extraordinary group of exhibitions that filled the entire museum on the subject of music as seen through a variety of visual arts. Baron and I were brought to Salamanca by the museum for the opening of the exhibitions. Baron was part of a major group show of photographs. It was a great pleasure for me to curate the exhibition, “Elvis at 21: The Photographs of Alfred Wertheimer,” for the museum. We had a blast walking the ancient streets of Old Salamanca together.

Domus Artium Museum, Salamanca, Spain.

In 2012, I edited the book Rolling Stones: 50 x 20 (Insight Editions).  In that book, I included a section devoted to Baron’s photographs of The Stones.  I interviewed Baron for the book and he said to me, “The Stones are the ultimate Rock & Roll band.  Every time you go to a show, you get so energized you have to dance right in your seat.”

Keith Richards, Oakland, California, 1978. Photo by Baron Wolman.

The thing about Baron Wolman is that he was one of the kindest people I ever worked with and was always a gentleman. He gave me every opportunity to make the exhibitions I organized of his photographs successful and a pleasure. I loved Baron and will miss his cheerful demeanor. Baron and I continued to work together right up to these days. His stunning large scale images of Janis Joplin and Frank Zappa are on permanent display at Hamilton Live, the music venue in downtown Washington D.C.

Frank Zappa, Los Angeles, 1968. Photo by Baron Wolman.

The last two photographs I recently bought from Baron for my own collection were two color images of Bob Dylan and Fats Dominoe. I love them both.

Bob Dylan, Slow Train Coming tour, 1980.
Fats Domino, Backstage Las Vegas, 1968.

The first-ever interview in Rolling Stone magazine was with Donovan. Here is a shot by Baron Wolman of Donovan from that photo session to accompany the interview in November 1967.

Donovan from Rolling Stone shoot, 1968. Photo by Baron Wolman.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland has just opened a retrospective exhibition of Baron Wolman’s photographs.

Baron Wolman’s photographs are available through Govinda Gallery.

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Jane Fonda’s Mug Shot…and Fifty Years Later.

by Chris Murray on November 2, 2020  |  53 Comments »
Jane Fonda’s Mug Shot, Cleveland, Ohio, November 3rd, 1970.

I have a print of Jane Fonda’s mug shot and noticed the photo was taken 50 years ago tomorrow. Time passes quickly. Fonda was crossing the border from Canada where she had begun a speaking tour about the Vietnam War. The Cleveland police told Fonda they were getting their orders from the White House. Tricky Dick. They confiscated her vitamins, suggesting they were drugs. The charges were later dropped when they tested the so-called drugs…they were indeed vitamins.

Fonda is speaking at Kent State University tonight to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the killing of four students and the injury of nine on May 4th, 1970, when the Ohio National Guard opened fire on a crowd that had gathered to protest the war in Vietnam.

Chris Murray with Jane Fonda, U.S. Capitol, Washington D.C. February 2020. Photo by Carlotta Hester.

I attended several Fire Drill Fridays organized by Fonda at the U.S. Capitol this past winter, with talks and seminars to raise awareness regarding climate change and related environmental issues. The Financial Times just this past weekend had a feature story by Leslie Hook on how climate change is exacerbating the spread of viruses.

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Harold ‘Doc’ Edgerton, Andy Warhol, Lucian Perkins, and the Govinda Girls

by Chris Murray on October 25, 2020  |  4,128 Comments »

Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Lucian Perkins shared with me some words and photos about two historic photo sessions of his at Govinda Gallery. I was knocked out by what he wrote and photographed, and which is now presented here.

“I continue to find little gems as I go through boxes of negatives and prints during this pandemic, including 4×5 negatives (Polaroid 545 positive/negative film) that I shot of Andy Warhol, tucked away in an envelope and never published or used.

Chris Murray and Andy Warhol in The Back Room at Govinda Gallery, 1985, Photo by Lucian Perkins.

There is a reason for this. Photographing Warhol with a 4×5 camera was not the smartest idea I ever had, and I remember thinking just that back in 1985. I was standing inside Govinda Gallery on assignment for The Washington Post. A whirlwind of activity rocked the space while Warhol and his minions prepared for a book signing of AMERICA. The large camera I was using requires patience: your subject needs to remain perfectly motionless as you carefully focus him/her on the camera’s ground glass and pop in a 4×5 film holder into the back of the camera, all along hoping that your subject doesn’t move even the slightest bit when making the exposure. Then to take the second shot, you have to pull the film out, and restart the process beginning with refocusing.

Govinda Gallery assistant Karen Anderson holding up Warhol’s photography book “America” while Lucian Perkins photographs Warhol. Polaroid photograph by Chris Murray.

After the first few minutes, Warhol and his entourage were getting restless. Since I couldn’t keep him still and attend to what I was doing, I quickly went to plan B by pulling out my 35mm camera to finish the shoot, ensuring that I had something for the newspaper.

Larry Morris, Lucian Perkins, Doc Edgerton, and Fred Sweets at Govinda Gallery. Polaroid photograph by Chris Murray.

When I returned to The Post, I didn’t even bother checking the 4x5s. I was under a deadline, so I quickly processed the 35mm film, printed, captioned, and turned in a selection of images. The Post ran a large photo of Warhol the next day on the front of the Style section. As for the 4×5 negatives— I glanced at them and stuck them in an envelope.

Govinda Gallery assistant Laura Harney in The Back Room with Andy Warhol. Photo by Lucian Perkins.

Looking at them now, my favorite image is not of Andy, but of a young teenager I had asked to stand in and do a test shot before I brought Andy into the photo. Moments earlier, I had reached out to a member of Andy’s entourage, who resembled him, to see if he wouldn’t mind helping, but he snidely replied, ‘I don’t do test shots.’ Last week, with the help of the Govinda’s Founding Director Chris Murray, I tracked down that former teenager who turned out to be Susanna Bernstein. At 16 she was volunteering at the Gallery as a Govinda Girl: ‘Andy spoke at almost a whisper and didn’t say much,’ she wrote me. ‘I have a small stack of postcards that he signed for me plus a piece of paper that he wrote ‘Roli Zoli’ on. I still have them all.’

Govinda Gallery assistant Susannah Bernstein. Photo by Lucian Perkins.

At the time, Govinda Gallery was becoming a familiar haunt for me, then the hotspot in Georgetown, and for decades to come. Earlier that year, I had an assignment there to photograph Dr. Harold Edgerton, who at 82 was a bundle of energy and a joy to hang out with. If you don’t know who he is, you probably have seen his image of a splashing drop of milk caught in mid-air frozen at 50,000 of a second or the one of a speeding bullet frozen in time after exiting an apple. When I explained to Murray that I wanted to photograph Edgerton with objects suspended in motion behind him, Chris told me he could help because he knew how to juggle, and juggle he did, behind Edgerton with an apple, an orange, and two books as I shot away. That ended up being another lead for the Style section.

Doc Edgerton in the back room of Govinda Gallery. Photo by Lucian Perkins.

The following year, at another packed gallery opening, he pulled me toward a very attractive woman, and said, ‘You two should meet.’ I don’t have any photos of that evening, but that’s okay, because Sarah is still here with me.”

Sarah and Lucian Perkins around the time they met at Govinda Gallery. Photo by Bill O’Leary.

Thanks to my friend and photographer Chris Makos and Harper Collins editor Craig Nelson who were also at Govinda Gallery that day.

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Invitation to Tom Meyer’s Exhibition at Addison/Ripley Gallery

by Chris Murray on October 19, 2020  |  23 Comments »
Someday We’ll All Be Ghosts, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 30.5 x 40 inches

This weekend is the opening for Tom Meyer’s exhibition of new paintings at Addison/Ripley Fine Art in Georgetown. Tom’s last exhibition there was a sensation, with an extraordinary response from collectors and the public.

The gallery will be observing Coronavirus protocols, with a maximum of six persons in the gallery at a time. The exhibition will be on view through December 5th and visitors are invited for private viewings and to make appointments at the gallery. To do so simply call (202) 338-5180 or e-mail

Tom Meyer will be at the gallery this Saturday from noon to 7 pm.

This exhibition is organized in association with Govinda Gallery.

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Bob Colacello and Andy Warhol Exhibition at Govinda Gallery

by Chris Murray on October 11, 2020  |  60 Comments »
Chris & Andy at Watergate, 1980. Photo by Bob Colacello.

Yesterday marked 30 years to the day that Govinda Gallery hosted the first exhibition of Bob Colacello’s photographs, a two-person show which also featured Colacello’s former boss and mentor Andy Warhol and his photographs. Bob’s exhibition was also a launch for Holy Terror (Harper Collins) his biography of Andy Warhol. The photographs from Warhol’s “Exposures” portfolio were on exhibit and featured his images of Truman Capote, Diana Vreeland, and Tennessee Williams among others.

Exhibition card from 1990.

Bob and I became lifelong friends starting at Georgetown University where we spent four years together. Along with being a most dear friend, Bob has long been a great influence in so many ways with my work at Govinda Gallery.

Bob Colacello in NYC circa 1971.

Bob wrote in his biography of Warhol about the photo at the start of this post, of myself and Andy relaxing together in his suite at the Watergate Hotel in 1980. Not long after Bob took the photo, Andy went to the bedroom to change into his black tie for a formal reception he was going to attend at the White House. After Warhol left for the reception, Bob and I had a great time catching up and watching TV.

When Andy returned Bob and I sat with him while he told us great stories about his evening at the White House. At one point Andy got up and started to take off his tuxedo pants. I was somewhat surprised to have Andy undress in front of me, until I saw he was wearing blue jeans under his tuxedo pants!! I thought to myself how cool is Andy to wear his jeans under his black tie trousers at the White House!

I loved Andy…he was a cornerstone of Govinda Gallery, and so is Bob Colacello.

Larry Rivers, Francois de Menil, and Andy Warhol, 1976. Photo by Bob Colacello.

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“All You Need is Love,” John Lennon’s 80th Birthday.

by Chris Murray on October 9, 2020  |  16 Comments »
John Lennon, “Black”, Hamburg, 1961. Photo by Astrid Kirchherr

Today is John Lennon’s 80th birthday. I was thinking of Lennon and his inspiring legacy. We sure could use songs today like “All You Need Is Love,” “Imagine,” “Come Together,” “Give Peace a Chance,” “Help,” “In My Life,” and “Revolution,” all of which Lennon wrote.

John Lennon, New York City, November 26, 1980. Photo by Allan Tannenbaum

Astrid Kirchherr and Allan Tannenbaum’s photographs are available through Govinda Gallery.

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Lou Brock, Walter Iooss, Baseball and Cuba: Part II

by Chris Murray on September 28, 2020  |  Comments Off on Lou Brock, Walter Iooss, Baseball and Cuba: Part II

Flush with excitement after having collaborated with Fototeca de Cuba on our first exhibition in Havana, La Revolución del Rock & Roll, I thought to myself, what theme could we present for another exhibition there? The response to La Revolución del Rock and Roll exhibition was extraordinary, and working with my colleagues in Havana was a great pleasure. I had been invited to do an interview on Radio Progreso in Havana, produced by Guille Villar, and it seemed as if all of Havana heard that broadcast and had come to the exhibition.

Jimi Hendrix by Gered Mankowitz, from the exhibition La Revolución del Rock and Roll

Along with music, Cuba loves baseball. I had organized the first exhibition of the great Walter Iooss’ legendary baseball photographs, and launched his book Classic Baseball at Govinda Gallery in 2003. A year later during the spring of 2004, I brought Iooss’ baseball photographs to Fototeca de Cuba. What a hit it was! The exhibition also featured the great Cuban photographer Osvaldo Salas and his baseball photographs.

Just a few weeks ago, baseball Hall of Fame inductee Lou Brock passed on. He was a superb all-around player, and as The New York Times wrote, “He became the greatest base-stealer the major leagues had ever known.” It was Iooss’ remarkable photo of Lou Brock that I happened to use on the front panel of the invitation card for his exhibition in Cuba! Brock, in a World Series game against Boston, is flying in the air to home plate with the baseball racing alongside him. Brock won the race, and his team the St. Louis Cardinals won that World Series in 1967.

The photograph on the inside panel of the invitation card was also an amazing one. Iooss had traveled to Cuba in 1999 and had taken photographs there. This photo of children on a street corner in Old Havana playing baseball with a home-made ball shows the Cuban’s passion for the game. Iooss told me that a good photographer sees things in his photos that he could improve, but that the street baseball photo he took was perfect, and he would not change a thing.

After a few days of searching for the location of that photo, I found the corner where the photo had been taken five years earlier, and most of the kids in the photo were still in the neighborhood. I handed the Fototeca de Cuba invitation card to dozens of people there. They were delighted. Along with my friend Jose Filosa, I returned to the corner the next evening with cases of refreshments and had an impromptu street party. We went on to recreate the photo Iooss had taken with most of the same characters from the original image. Everyone had a blast!! It was the kind of experience in Cuba that stays in your heart forever.

Here are some photos from that street party, and the exhibition opening for ‘Baseball Clásico’ at Fototeca de Cuba in Plaza Vieja. All the photos are by Jose Filosa.

One last story. Across the street from my hotel in Havana was Parque Central. Every day a large group of about 40-50 people would congregate there, and they would discuss, argue, and laugh with great passion. I thought it was something akin to Hyde Park corner in London where people would speak about current events.  It turned out that the people in Parque Central were talking every day about nothing but baseball.

I approached the crowd one early afternoon with a stack of the invitations to Walter Iooss’ exhibition at the gallery. The people loved the invitation cards and I could not hand them out fast enough. They were clearly excited to have them. The cards I distributed to them were in Spanish. When the cards were all gone I spoke to one of the gentlemen and asked him if he enjoyed the card. He looked at me and replied “ We will build houses with these cards! “ That was the measure of his poetic expression for those invitation cards and Walter Iooss’ photographs. It was a privilege for me to present ‘Baseball Clásico’ to the people of Cuba.

Fototeca de Cuba by Nathalie Grenzhaeuser.

Walter Iooss‘ photographs are available through Govinda Gallery.

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Cuba and Eusebio Leal, Historian of the City of Havana: Part I

by Chris Murray on September 19, 2020  |  97 Comments »

A true hero in my life and work is Eusebio Leal, who passed away on July 31st. It is Leal who oversaw the restoration of Old Havana and its baroque and neoclassical monuments, colonial mansions, and much more. I am indebted to Eusebio Leal and have a personal story about him.

Eusebio Leal by Liborio Noval

It was my great pleasure to present at Govinda Gallery in June of 2001 the first exhibition in Washington DC of the legendary Cuban photographer Alberto Korda, who took the epic photograph of Che Guevara, known as “Guerrillero Heroico.” The exhibition also included photos by Jose Figueroa, who was Korda’s printer and assistant.

After the exhibition was over, I went to Havana to return the exhibition prints to Fototeca de Cuba, Cuba’s national photo gallery in Old Havana at Plaza Vieja which had been restored by Eusebio Leal and his team of artisans and workers.

As I crossed the Plaza Vieja, carrying a box of Korda’s prints, I was overcome by the beauty and activity in the great plaza. It seemed to me Plaza Vieja was the ultimate example of “mixed-use architecture”, repurposing the stunning colonial buildings on the plaza with a school, multiple museums and galleries, cafes, residences, shops, and restaurants, with a grand fountain in the middle of it all. I was enlivened by the atmosphere created by the dynamic restoration of “the Old Plaza”.

Aerial view of Plaza Vieja.

I was so moved that I was inspired to try and organize an exhibition there in Plaza Vieja at Fototeca de Cuba.

Fototeca de Cuba in Plaza Vieja.

That stroll across the Plaza led to my presenting four photo exhibitions at Fototeca de Cuba: La Revolución Del Rock & Roll in 2002, Classic Baseball featuring Walter Iooss, Jr.’s photographs in 2004, John Lennon: Photographs by Bob Gruen in 2006, and Bob Dylan NYC 1961-1964 featuring photographs by Ted Russell in 2017.

I also presented an exhibition of the artist Carlotta Hester’s prints titled “Elemental Journey” in 2005 at Galeria del la Biblioteca Ruben Martinez Villena at Plaza de Armas, which Eusebio Leal also restored over a period of 11 years. It was a thrilling series of exhibitions on which I was able to collaborate with my colleagues at Fototeca de Cuba.

On one visit to Havana, I wrote a letter to Eusebio that I hand-delivered to his office in Old Havana, thanking him for his extraordinary work, and telling him how it inspired my work, presenting exhibitions in Cuba. Eusebio wrote me back the most gracious letter telling me that Havana was not just for the Cubans, but for me and everyone. Eusebio Leal’s work led to Old Havana being designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Eusebio Leal’s business card.

Here is a link to Eusebio Leal’s obituary in The New York Times, and below is the feature story from The Washington Post regarding the Korda exhibition at Govinda.

The Eyes of A Revolution
By Eugene Robinson
June 28, 2001

The first thing you notice, looking at the famous photographs of Fidel and Che and the rest of the bearded revolutionaries, is the enormous difference between conquering a country and running one.

In these images from 1959, taken by their court photographer Alberto Korda, just days or weeks after the triumph of the Cuban revolution, Fidel Castro and his lieutenants look more like boys than men, boys doing boyish things. They smile and mug. They preen for the camera. They are the victors, and this is their time. They are invincible.

Castro makes his grand entrance into Havana on a truck. He shakes hands with a grinning Ernest Hemingway. Castro and Che Guevara try their hand at golf and spend an afternoon deep-sea fishing. On his first trip to the United States, Castro looks a tiger in the eye at the Bronx Zoo. He stands at the base of the Lincoln Memorial and gazes up at the Lincoln statue, having removed his military cap as a sign of respect.

The images from 1962 are different. By then, whatever Castro is doing — revisiting the terrain of his guerrilla campaign in the Sierra Maestra, taking notes in a little pad, hunting with Nikita Khrushchev in the vast Russian cold — he no longer seems to live in the moment. His eyes are focused on a point somewhere out there, beyond the camera — focused on poverty, maybe, or the sugar cane harvest, or maybe the delivery date of a shipment of Soviet missiles. He has other things on his mind, and — from the sadness in his eyes — knows that he always will.

Thirty remarkable photographs from the infancy of Castro’s regime taken by Korda, who died May 25 at the age of 72, are on display at the Govinda Gallery in Georgetown through July 21.

Korda, born Alberto Diaz Gutierrez, was a fashion photographer who got caught up in the nationalistic and revolutionary fervor that swept Cuba after Castro took power on Jan. 1, 1959. His stylized images of glamorous models had begun to seem effete and useless, he said, after he looked into the eyes of a young girl so poor that her only plaything was a piece of wood, worn to smoothness, which she called her doll-baby.

Korda positioned himself in Castro’s inner circle and became a more or less official photographer, chronicling the early years of the revolution that seemed destined not only to remake Cuba, but the rest of Latin America as well.

He will always be famous for taking one of the best-known images of the century — “Guerrillero Heroico,” the iconic picture of Che Guevara with his long hair, his beard, his beret with the star, just Che in tight focus, shot from slightly below, against a featureless background. He looks fierce, he looks romantic, but most of all he looks like a man who belongs to a future that only he can see.

Guerrillero Heroico by Alberto Korda. Copyright The Estate of Korda

It is an image that has graced uncountable T-shirts, dorm-room posters and coffee mugs. And, as is the case with all his other revolutionary photographs, Korda never made a penny from his Che. The only time he went to court to assert his rights was last year, when a London-based ad agency tried to use “Guerrillero Heroico” to sell Smirnoff vodka. Korda said that was a slur on the “immortal memory” of a man who was certainly not a capitalist and who, in any event, hardly touched alcohol.

The photograph, taken at a memorial service in 1960, went unpublished and unnoticed until the late 1960s, when an Italian publisher happened to see it hanging in Korda’s Havana studio. He admired it, and Korda gave him two prints. A few months after that, Che was killed trying to foment revolution in Bolivia. The Italian realized what he had, and launched the worldwide dissemination of the image. He, as it happens, was a capitalist.

Several copies of the Che photograph are hung at Govinda, including one that shows the full frame. It turns out that Che-as-icon was the beneficiary of a good job of cropping. The full-frame version also shows the profile of an unidentified man intruding from the left, and a bit of foliage coming in from the right. With these elements, Che looks like a man. Without them, a Superman.

Despite what history might eventually conclude about Castro, or what Cubans might think of him now, some of these photographs are simply stirring, especially the ones with the multitudes.

It was a time for multitudes. The old dictator, Fulgencio Batista, was gone, and with him his thuggish policemen. No one knew much about this audacious Castro (Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre were among the intellectuals who made the pilgrimage to Havana to check him out; Korda captured them too, chatting with Che), and no one really knew what he planned for the country.

Everything was possible, and the thing to do was go out into the streets and create a new world.

The best of the Korda photographs evoking this sense of the crowd in the act of creation is “The Quixote of the Lamppost.” A sea of people is marching toward the camera; only one of the signs they are carrying is readable, and it calls for “Reform.” Amid this immense crowd, a man has climbed a lamppost and sits at the very top. His legs dangle; he wears rough work boots. His undershirt is soaked with sweat. His straw hat bears a tiny Cuban flag. The message is that somehow he made it to that impossible perch, against considerable odds, because he believed. Simply because he believed.

The Quixote of the Lampost, July 26, 1956, Havana. Copyright The Estate of Korda

Reforming and running a nation turned out to be much more than a matter of simple conviction. But Korda believed until he took his last breath. He was buried in Havana on May 29.

“Guerrillero Heroico,” Alberto Korda’s famous image of Castro cohort Che Guevara, was taken in 1960.Caught up in the Castro fervor, Alberto Korda focused on capturing the promise of Cuba’s revolution. At left, a picture of a little girl from 1959 and, below, “The Quixote of the Lamppost,” part of the Korda exhibit on view at the Govinda Gallery through July 21.

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Book Launch in Ireland For ‘The Pure Drop’ by Carlotta Hester

by Patrick Pearse on September 9, 2020  |  111 Comments »

There was a brilliant book launch in Ireland last month for The Pure Drop, Carlotta Hester’s book of drawings of traditional Irish musicians, singers, and dancers, and featuring a foreword by Alice McDermott. It took place on a beautiful sunny Sunday in Cavan town’s Market Square, with over a dozen musical artists performing. It was organized by musician, teacher, archivist, and M.C. Martin Donohoe, and was hosted by Cavan Arts and County Cavan’s NYAH Society of the Musicians of Ireland. Covid-19 protocols were observed.

Back: Dylan, Shane & Ryan Duffy, Martin Donohoe, Sean, Niall & Aoife Curran, Charlie, Emily & Hannah O Reilly.
Front: Zoran Donohoe, Martin Whelan CCE Co Board, Cllr Brendan Fay, Cathaoirleach, Cavan-Belturbet, Municipal District, Carlotta Hester, Chris Murray & Aoife Murray.

Aoife McEntee, Aisling Brady & Leigha Hyland Kinsella, Co. Cavan, Fiddles and Piano Accordion

This video from the Market Square launch features remarks from Chris Murray, the editor of The Pure Drop, Councillor Brendan Fay who officially launched the book, a surprise performance of “The Parting Glass” by traditional singing champion Aoife Murray McGovern, and closing remarks by Martin Whelan, the county board chairman of The Irish Society of Musicians. 

Pat McManus, Co. Fermanagh & Larry Nugent, Co. Fermanagh, Guitar and Flute
The Pure Drop cover.

The Pure Drop is available from Govinda Gallery for $15 plus shipping. Order at

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Carlotta Hester and ‘The Pure Drop’

by Chris Murray on August 3, 2020  |  208 Comments »

Ireland’s Anglo-Celt newspaper, publishing since 1846, recently featured a story about Carlotta Hester’s just-released book of live-action drawings of traditional Irish music artists called The Pure Drop. This book celebrates the 10th anniversary of the All Ireland Music Festival, the largest festival of its kind in the world. Here is that story and some visuals from The Pure Drop.

July 16th, 2020 by Thomas Lyons

During the summers of 2010, 2011, and 2012, American artist Carlotta Hester made over 150 drawings in County Cavan. Each a rendering of traditional Irish musicians, singers, and dancers captured at the height of their creative flow.

Tommy Peoples, Co. Donegal, Fiddle
Ed Reavy Tribute Concert, Cavan Crystal Hotel, Cavan

Now the artist has gathered a selection of her drawings in a beautiful publication called The Pure Drop.

Chris Murray is the publisher of the collection: “It occurred to me that the 10th anniversary of the Fleadh was this summer and that it coincided with the staging of the Ulster Fleadh in Cavan. I thought it would be great to mark that by publishing Carlotta’s wonderful live-action drawings. Even though the Ulster Fleadh is canceled, we felt that because the drawings are timeless we would go ahead with it.”

Hester’s drawings are created directly from life while listening to the music in every festival setting: street sessions, theatres, dance classes, pub sessions, masterclasses, outdoor concerts, cross-border gatherings, and more.

Bernadette Nic Gabhann, Co. Limerick, Fiddle
Johnston Library, Cavan

The impact of the experience on the artist and the publisher is apparent when Chris speaks of the time: “Those three summers were an extraordinary time for us. We had never been to an All Ireland Fleadh before and the experience was just magical.”

The book features musical artists from all over Ireland, Scotland, England, and the United States. The sketched portraits include fiddlers Tommy Peoples and Oisin MacDiarmada, harpist Catriona McKay, and lilter Seamus Fay.

The Pure Drop is a celebration of the artistry of deep-rooted Irish traditions which continue to thrive today: “We have to thank Martin Donohoe. He was our Irish music guru.”

Martin Donohoe, The Wind That Blows radio show,
Northern Sound Radio Station, Cavan

The book is very much a Cavan publication: “I had the book printed in Cavan at Harvest Moon in Killeshandra. It is very much a celebration of coming home and discovering traditional music and being moved by its artistry.”

Fintan McManus, Co. Fermanagh, Guitar
Farnham Arms, Cavan

Carlotta Hester has exhibited in Washington DC, Ireland, and Cuba. She combines her art practice with art teaching, and has been the art teacher at the prestigious Maret School since 1994.

The book will have an official launch on Sunday, August 9 in The Farnham Arms Hotel at 3:00 pm. It will celebrate the book and the 10th anniversary of the 2010 All Ireland Fleadh in Cavan.

The Pure Drop cover, by Carlotta Hester.

The pure Drop is available in Ireland at and in the United States at

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