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Musician Neil Martin's special relationships

By Kerry Mckittrick

The 52-year-old composer and musician lives in Belfast with wife Siobhan and their children; Maebh (22), Sarah (20), Mollie (17), and Neil Og (12).

My wife, Siobhan

We met 38 years ago when I was at a fleadh in Portglenone. That's where she's from and her father was very involved with traditional music. I fancied her a bit even back then but we didn't start to step out until we'd both finished at Queen's University, Belfast.

Siobhan is a music specialist at Holy Cross School in Belfast – she teaches the whole school, not just one class.

She's also the current Classic FM Primary School Music Teacher of the year. She received her award in front of 5,000 people at the Albert Hall in London last year.

My children

Maebh is at St Andrews University in Scotland studying French, German and music. I think music will be part of her life as she's an exceptionally fine musician. All our children are musical.

Maebh primarily plays the piano and violin, Sarah plays the trumpet in a blues band and has taken up percussion, Mollie plays viola in the Youth Orchestra in Belfast and Neil Og plays the cello and piano. We had dinner together a couple of weeks ago before the eldest two went back to university. It might be the last time we're all together before Easter as I have to go to New York in mid-October on a theatre project. I could be there until January if the run extends. FaceTime is a brilliant thing however, it allows you to keep in touch with your family.

My best friend

One of my closest friends is the actor Stephen Rea and we know each other through the Field Day Theatre Company which I worked with in 1988. He's in the play I'm doing in New York so that will be fun. We share a lot of interests and our holidays have coincided on Cruit Island in Donegal.

My parents

My mother Margaret is still alive and healthy. My father Brian worked in a shop called Radio Rentals where you went to get a TV. He came from Belfast and my mother was born in Derry – she's a retired primary school teacher.

Both of my parents were musical people although neither of them really played. I can remember their record collection at home. They had records by The Beatles, Ry Cooder, Louis Armstrong, Beethoven and the Hot Five. These were all original Parlophone disks. That's what I grew up with until my mother bought a piano and we all had lessons. My sisters and I went on to the School of Music in Belfast as my parents were great encouragers. I got a degree in music and Celtic studies from Queen's and they were happy that I had that to fall back on.

I was number two, Fiona was above me and Noreen and Adrienne are below.

Most Saturdays I'm here, we meet in my mother's house. It meant the cousins get to know each other as they grow up.

Who I go to for advice

I tend to ask one of my children. We can talk about anything under the sun and I find that very pleasing because they come to me for advice and I can bounce ideas off them too. It has become reciprocal and there's something very comforting about that.

My mentor

I met Liam O'Flynn, my music teacher, the same year that I met Siobhan. He's been a major influence both from a musical point of view but also in the broad sense of what the world and industry of music are like. I played a concert with him in France about a month ago and it was the first time we played together for a while. I was reminded that the world that Liam shares is one that I find very enriching. Liam comes from a very old line of uilleann pipers so his musical tradition is quite undiluted. I'm very lucky that he shares that world with me and that he taught me to pipe. We're very good friends now, too.

My secret crush... Kylie Minogue

I would like to meet Kylie Minogue because we share the same birth date although I'm not a big fan of her music. I would also love to meet Kate Bush – I remember her from Top Of The Pops when I was young. I reckon she would be a very interesting dinner guest.

My fantasy dinner party

I would love to have dinner with the late Seamus Heaney; we were good buddies. I'd also invite TV producer, the charismatic, folk singer and innovative film-maker David Hammond who has also passed away. He was the most engaging man around the table. Next, I'd ask Jack Nicklaus the golfer as I play golf in the summer. Finally, I'd ask Meryl Streep and former Irish President Mary McAleese.

  • Neil Martin will be appearing at the On Home Ground Festival celebrating the life of Seamus Heaney. The event takes place in Magherafelt next week, from September 11-14. For tickets and information go to www.onhomegroundfestival.com

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