Derry native Ewan bringing new concert to Playhouse theatre

The Playhouse theatre in Derry is set to feature a new concert from renowned Irish musician Ewan Cowley.

Wednesday, 14th April 2021, 11:40 am
Ewan Cowley. Picture Conor McCabe Photography

Ewan lived much of his youth in Derry spending his school days at St. Columb’s College. At the age of eighteen, he left Derry first for London, then on to Dublin, to study music and fulfil his musical ambitions. In Dublin, he completed his studies in music and began working, playing alongside many artists, from the likes of Moya Brennan, to Tommy Fleming and Riverdance. These days Ewan can be found working on and releasing his own music, composing for theatre or working with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra amongst other musical endeavours. RTÉ Lyric FM’s Paul Herriott once described Ewan as a ‘musical polymath.’

His new show is set for the Playhouse stage on April 22. Motherland: Songs Of 20th Century Women, features well-known singer and actor Edel Murphy as the lead performer. The concert will bring audiences through the period of the Great Depression, through 1950s urban desperation, down streets of protest in the 1960s, and into the confusion of the 21st Century.

The concert will also utilise projected images, as well as selected poetry and spoken word. The performance will also feature a segment devoted to Amelia Earhart, the great heroine of solo transatlantic flight who landed her plane in Derry in 1932.

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Edel Murphy. Photo by Ruth Medjber

Edel Murphy and a live band will perform iconic songs of struggle and celebration from such song writing greats as Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Nina Simone, Kate Bush, and The Beatles.

Dublin born Edel Murphy, the concert’s main performer, has collaborated with Ewan on various musical projects over recent years. Edel has toured extensively with Grammy winning shows such as Celtic Woman and Riverdance. Ewan described her as ‘an outstanding performer.’

He told the Journal how the pair met, and first began collaborating.

“I spent a number of years touring the world as a guitarist in a very successful Irish music show called Celtic Woman. Edel Murphy was also performing in the show and we used to wile away long journeys on the tour bus sharing songs we knew and especially duetting tunes by Nanci Griffith; we are huge fans of her music. In 2015 we put out a CD of folk duets called ‘Bluebonnet Spring’ which earned some decent national radio play.’’

Ewan said that his new show: Motherland - Songs Of 20th Century Women is inspired by the music that both he and Edel love.

“We made long lists of songs, and everything was pointing toward songs that were written by, or sung by, or indeed written about women. They are songs of struggle and celebration - a historical jukebox of great songs within a historical and social context from the era of the Great Depression through the turbulent 60s and 70s right up to the present. We are also performing new arrangements of Jolene by Dolly Parton, Love for Sale by Ella Fitzgerald, She’s Leaving Home by The Beatles and Trouble in the Fields by Nanci Griffith. Other songs are by Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Nina Simone and Kate Bush.’’

Ewan added: ‘‘I wanted to put together a show that highlighted Edel as a performer and to showcase her truly remarkable singing. Very few artists can effortlessly move from country to jazz to pop as she does.’’

Ewan’s faith in Edel’s ability certainly seems well placed, with her performances gaining rave reviews.

In a review of Motherland: Songs Of 20th Century Women, Dick O’Riordan, from the Sunday Business Post described it as:

“An amazing show...Edel Murphy was stunning, the sharpness of her delivery was outstanding… I was blown away by it.”

Other musicians from the North also feature in the concert. Namely Cellist Roz Curlett, a member of the Ulster Orchestra, and Brian Connor from Belfast, who is considered a renowned figure in Irish music who has played with Van Morrison and Eleanor McEvoy.

With Covid-19 bringing so much disruption to our lives, much of the Arts were affected. Including plans to send Motherland: Songs of 20th Century Women on tour. Ewan spoke of his delight in bringing the production to Derry.

“The pandemic and subsequent restrictions last year resulted in the cancellation of our national tour. The team at the Playhouse in Derry have been a tremendous help and tireless in their devotion to live performance. It was the first venue in the country to come to me with the idea of presenting an online performance. Naturally it was a definite ‘yes’! To be able to perform has now become a luxury and a rarity, so we are all raring to go. We really hope the audience can lose themselves in these great songs and the characters in them.’’

‘‘Derry knows good songs, well sung. That’s what we hope to present,’’ he added.

The Motherland: Songs Of 20th Century Women concert will be available to stream live on April 22 at 8pm or to keep (watch back on demand for 7 days). Prices for the live stream are: £7 to stream live, £10 Stream & Keep for 7 days or £12 Stream, Keep & Donate (with proceeds to both the artist and The Playhouse).

The Playhouse will also be hoping to offer a limited number of in-theatre live tickets for this event, if a small, socially distant audience in the theatre is permittable come the time. In theatre tickets are priced at £12/ £10.

An EP of songs from the show are available in CD or MP3 download, and can be found at show tickets, call the Playhouse theatre on 02871 268027 or visit