When one walks along Mockingbird Lane, the strains of Celtic guitar may waft to the ears, guitar accompanied by a uniquely feminine, strong singing voice singing old Irish airs or sea chanties. One of the treasures of TRF, the Bard O’Neill, a.k.a. Diane Linn is a consummate musician and entertainer.
Originally on cast at TRF as “the third Bawdy Sister in a trio of women who sang old English catches as a path show,” Linn has shared her talent for musicianship and story telling with TRF audiences for over 20 years, with performances that hearken back to the troubadors and wandering minstrels of the sixteenth century.
When asked to describe her early artistic journey, this is what Linn had to say: “I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember. When my first grade teacher auditioned her class for a special chorus at a convention, I sang as loud as I could. I was part of that chorus. I sang with the mixed chorus, glee club and with theatrical productions too. I sang the soprano solo in Schubert’s Mass in G, with full orchestra, my senior year. That high B two octaves up from middle C still hangs in a rafter somewhere. The roses at the end of the performance left their imprint on my gypsy soul. Singing with the Houston Symphony Chorus for a season with Carmina Burana was thrilling. Being part of the Main Street Theater’s production in Sweeney Todd was a six month odyssey. I was part of the cannibal chorus with several small ensemble pieces. The full immersion murder mystery at Allenberry Resort in PA incorporated character improv with the guests between scenes, music and dance with a band and of course, scene work with amazing entertainers from New York and the Northeast, folks who had toured with Broadway shows. It really ‘upped’ my game!
Piano is my first instrument but it’s too heavy to drag from show to show. I studied classical piano for 14 years. I tried playing in a jazz band but I am a sight reader. Chord charts with back slashes with improvisation in between is a foreign language.
Enter the guitar! I started with folk music in junior high and learned as I went along from a few chord books and mostly by listening and by watching other guitar players. ‘Shepherd’s Hey’ drew me into the Celtic folk music world when I worked at KPFT 90.1 FM in Houston. Gary Coover, the host, wove British Isles magic with Silly Wizard, Steel Eye Span, Planxty, Capercaille and so many others. My Scots-Irish heritage awoke and begged to tell the story. [Former TRF Entertainment Director] David Casey encouraged and directed my improvisational characters to emerge.”
Something that many TRF patrons may not know about Linn is that she is also a painter. Her work recently showed in both Dallas and Grand Prairie. Her paintings are vibrant and colorful, some based on real places in nature, others on imaginary flights of fancy. She once vacationed in Alaska and fell in love with it, and now dreams of being “Alaska’s O’Keefe.”
Next time you’re at faire, stroll down Mockingbird, and at its end you may happen upon a lady in blue with dragon flies adorning her hat, singing and telling stories, transporting her audience to the Celtic lands of old, infusing her set with a wink and “a splash of blarney.” Give a wink back and raise a glass. Any day that includes with the Bard O’Neill is sure to be a good one.
The Bard O’Neill can also be enjoyed at Sherwood Forest Faire, Sherwood Celtic Festival, the Los Angeles Irish Festival, the Tachi Palace Resort and Casino (CA), the Celtic Fling (PA), Bristol Renaissance Festival, New York Renaissance Festival, Ohio Renaissance Festival, and many more listed at her website www.dianethebard.com .Her five CD’s can also be sampled there.