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May 2019
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2004-03-02 Michael is another thread in Sligo's rich musical tapestry

Shane Filan, Mark Feehily, Cian Egan, The Conway Sisters, James Blennerhassett, Tommy Fleming, Anne-Marie Keaney and the legendary Michael Coleman are together just a small selection from Sligos rich and varied musical tapestry, but there is another virtuoso in our midst who has been described by The Irish Times as a most gifted and original artist and by the Sunday Tribune as one of Europes most distinctive and iconoclastic guitar voices.


In January 1955, a young Danish couple relocated from Copenhagen to Tubbercurry  as you do  with the Basta locks company. On May 16th 2004 Basta Locks celebrates its Golden Anniversary, and Carl and Sonja Nielsen, almost 50 years on, are still here on their now slightly extended 6-month contract. Carl was part of a skiflegroup in his early Sligo days which entertained the diners in the Tubbercurry factory canteen back in the late 1950s.

Later he toured the country as part of The Clefonaires showband, and later still as a trumpeter and bass-player with the ever-popular Jazz Lads. Founder members of the Sligo Sub-Aqua Club, Carl and Sonja had two boys, and their second son  Michael  was born in Ballymote on the outskirts of Coleman Country. Music was always central to the Nielsen universe. Peter, the eldest son, played the melodica, and for his 4th birthday Michael received a ukulele. This close-knit music-making and literally harmonising family was the perfect environment to nurture the young Michaels prodigious talents. In 1968, the Nielsens moved to Strandhill, and the two boys attended Strandhill National School under the tutelage/headmastership of the locally celebrated singer Paddy Thornton.

On one occasion, 6 year-old Michael and his family were caught jamming after-hours in an Aughris pub well after closing time. They broke into the National Anthem which prompted the accusing Garda to stand to attention at the door. The Garda then fined the Nielsen parents, but returned after a while to hear more from the gifted musicians.


By the time Michael (Mike) had started at Sligo Grammar he had begun guitar lessons in earnest and was already playing with many local musicians. For several years during his school holidays, Mikes love of Sligo was fuelled by working as an assistant to some visiting Swedish archaelogists at Carrrowmore.


In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Mike studied in Denmark, then at the Royal Irish Academy and College of Music in Dublin, and later at Berklee College in Boston. In February of this year, Mike graduated from the DIT School of Physics in Kevin Street with a Masters Degree in Microtonal Guitar Composition (a little too much for a tenor brain to even attempt to entertain). Mikes touring schedule has taken him throughout Europe, the Middle East and the USA performing in many festivals and solo recitals, appearing with such legends as Dave Liebman, and his programmes including many of his own original compositions. This constant performing coupled with his unique and undoubted musical talent, along with a little dash of the obligatory mad-musician scattiness has made Michael Nielsen an extremely popular teacher. Mike lives in Rathfarnham in Dublin and when not performing, he teaches guitar and jazz improvisation in several south Dublin schools, and at the Dublin Conservatroy of Music, as well as giving masterclasses across the globe. He has recently been approached about the possibility of setting up the countrys first real jazz school. 2004 also sees tours of Europe, the USA and Australasia.


On Saturday March 13th at the Model Niland, Mike appears once again in one of his mesmerising recitals, this time by way of launching his new CD Osmosis with the versatile songstress Ellen Demos. The following day, the CD will be launched in Dublin. Mike also boasts an impressive back-catalogue of recordings, and already, there are plans to release a further 2 CDs later in the year. Mike is also at the moment in the long overdue process of setting up his own website .


This local virtuoso with a passion for music and an equal passion for his home county has proved himself to be yet another vital thread in Sligos rich and kaleidoscopic musical tapestry.