It is time for the annual end of the year blog. I would have waited a week but will not be online and what can happen in the last week. Don't answer that! after this year so far it could be anything. I'm sure almost everyone can look back and find good moments and bad in the course of a year. Some may have had an overwhelmingly positive year, and others the opposite. For me the latter. What follows is the usual commentary on various topics wrapped up by my final entry regarding my favorite artists.
Politics. Anyone who knows me knows I am a constitutional conservative. I do not like Mr. Obama's policies or his party's ever increasing turn to the left. I'm not wild about the other major party either as they too are farther left than they should be, so much so that there is little difference in the two. That is why I chose years ago to not affiliate with party. They are bankrupt. Our founding fathers and founding documents find big government socialism to be anathema. I agree. Some think it is more fair to the average citizen, yet they fail to see that the same percentage rise to the top as the bottom tier grows. The middle class is shrinking and over half the people in this country now qualify as poor. I am among them. The new year will likely bring the harshest campaign ever for the Presidency. Yet the Republicans seem bound and determined to foist on us a so called "moderate" in Romney. Moderate equals left of center. That will cause the base to sit out and give us four more years of elitist, racist, anti-Christian, bloated government who will finish the constitution and drive the final nails in its coffin. Frankly, even China looks pretty good right now. I know I have plenty of friends and no shortage of artists I support who have no issue at all with Obama. Friends can agree to disagree in an effort to resolve issues. Artists are well served to distance themselves from any politics or risk alienating half of their audience. The outlook for politics and peace throughout the world in 2012 is bleak to say the least. But I encourage every eligible voter to be fully informed and then vote their conscience regardless of whether they think a candidate can win and regardless of party affiliation. If you don't vote, then don't complain.
Economy. The economy is poor. There has been no recovery. Unemployment figures are far higher than stated as is inflation. Did you know that if wages had kept up with inflation since 1971 that the minimum wage now would be $60 per hour?! Did you know actual unemployment to be between 20-30%? Actual inflation is double digit if you add in food and fuel. Those were conveniently dropped from the statistics in the 1980's. My own personal economy took a hit due to those I work with or for cutting back out of fear of an imminent collapse in their business. It did not happen but it is their business and choice. It forced me into work for which I was not suited but needed to pay the bills. I'm now doing contract work which is sporadic. That in addition to some of the things I do on the side and I can get by but barely. I had to resort to a room mate but that was only until this month and now back to paying full rent. every month is on the edge. It would not be that way had I not been so incredibly foolish in my passions. The accumulated debt I likely cannot pay off short of some miracle with my writings and songs. It is what it is. Some things I simply felt worth the expense over the years as the creative results were so voluminous. The new year does not promise to be much better. But you wake up every day and just do your best and trust.
Online things. This has been a year of change for me and others on the internet. My Space for me has become rather useless. The account will be deleted soon. Twitter has proven to be more frustration than blessing and why would anyone care what I'm up to anyway? It seems dominated by females talking to each other and males sitting idly by watching as the moss grows on them. I left it once and may do so again, except that a couple of people I follow are not on Facebook so no place else to keep up. Facebook has been an interesting place on a whole range of topics and interests, though they really need to stop tweaking it. A rift occurred there, though, and the damage caused by that person is likely not repairable.
Then there are the forums. At one time I was admin in six of them. That was by request. I'm now down to one, the relatively inactive Lisa Kelly one owned by Jim Allen. The Olivia forum disappeared earlier this year. The artist had "moved on" with her music and only wished to interact with people in her own peer group. Guess the international fans and their efforts could go stuff themselves. It was a huge blow and very hurtful. Some nice songs came out of all of that and maybe they'll make their way out there. The orphanage in India I guess is not on her radar any more either. What few CD's I still have are available for donations to that orphanage. The Lynn forum changed hands as did the Alex forum. Early this year the original Alex forum was down for several weeks and a member elected to create a new one. That is the one that survives with any level of activity. That same fan went on to create forums for Lisa Lambe and Sarah Burke. Fine and dandy. All deserving of them.
Then there is the queen of them all, the Máiréad forum. By far the most energetic, by far the most enthusiastic, and by far the most friendly and inclusive of the communities created for these artists. It produces the largest fan gatherings, helps more people attend shows who otherwise could not, has the greatest promotional mechanism for the artist and itself, and has the largest charity drive. Early this year a handful of members felt the forum was not what it had been when it began. None of them had been there in the beginning. In any case they took their ball and created their own court. Their right to do and any site that promotes the artist is a good thing. I wish them the best. The owner of it has by far the best archives on the artist anywhere. It far exceeds anything on her own site. There was growth in the forum, energy, well attended Sunday chats, and the very best site for show reviews of any related to this group. But it also has its share of controversy. Not on the site but off site. We tried to assure the artist and others that these are viewpoints of individuals and not the forum. In any case, my own outspoken nature and ties to some were enough that I stepped down as admin early in the year. The replacement did not last long, citing it was too much work for her schedule. So, I stepped back up to help Mike. I stayed in that role too long and more controversy came later in the year over the issue of the charity check presentation. This time it did show up inside the forum and that was wrong to allow. I made a statement in the forum blog accepting responsibility for that and I stand by that. I apologized to the artist there and do so again here. The forum is not the place for it. Because of that I stepped down again as it had to fall on someone. The buck stops at the top. She deserves better and the only way that site is ever going to stand a chance to get to the next level with her is if I am no longer speaking for it or representing it. Mike will do his best to make amends and soothe things even while additional off site commentary may occur. The artist should NOT condemn the forum for the opinions voiced off site by those who happen to be members. There is plenty of support there for her and lots of wonderful people in that community. It is a lovely family but with the usual odd characters you get in any family. Folks like me may just be the crazy uncle that gets locked away in the attic, but we mean well.
Celtic Woman. A far too engrossing passion for a lot of people. In some cases it borders on worship. But, taken at the proper level and with limited expectations, it is a very positive distraction. It has been responsible for building a great many friendships and resulted in at least a couple of fan marriages, and no one inside the group. It is not without flaws as you can see by my previous posts here. But the good far outweighs the bad. Such has been the case this year. A huge blunder on the part of someone led to uproar leading up to Máiréad's birthday in Springfield. In the end the fans had great seats and a great after show after corrections were made. Máiréad even graciously attended the after show which she had not done on her birthday previously. Everyone was very grateful to her for that. Celtic Woman listened and saw to it that more fan friendly folks ran the after show. The amiable Dustin represented Madstone and was a vast improvement over the surly Mitch. Bubba Dixon took over this aspect of the operation from Rachel. It was very well received and he has been exceptional in his courtesy and professionalism all the way through the year. There was still some discontent over poor seats at high prices from some PBS stations. There is still some discontent for the all too brief time given each fan at the after show for the money paid. But, photographs were once again allowed and that helped a lot and made for very many happy faces. My compliments to the organization and the artists for allowing this again as you had early on. The ensemble had very well attended shows in Europe, Japan, and the states. They ended the year with their first ever Christmas tour, and the first tour using symphonies. Even better for that was the return of David to the piano. There was also the Believe recording in Atlanta which brought a record gathering of familiar faces in one place. It was enough that a room was rented at the venue the day of the first show and a fan documentary recorded. The most special part for me, though, was the pub after the first night's show. In it were gathered fan and artist alike sans the front four. Those conversations and that courtesy were so very much appreciated. It was family, pure and simple, and God bless the artists who were there that took time to interact and to compliment us as much as we did them. Some negatives too this year from the organization mainly things on line and all on Twitter. Those do not bear recounting here. Now some thank yous.
Mike Brown. As dedicated and generous a fan and friend as any artist or fan could ask for. His expenditures in money and time are immeasurable. there is no way anyone could adequately describe or express thanks for all you have done. Now at 101 shows and climbing, and those are just the seats you occupied and not the many others acquired and donated to others. I wish Pittsburgh had been far more special for you. Recent events overshadowed what should have been a truly special night. You deserved far more than you received. Thank you for being such an amazing fan and friend. Good luck leading the Máiréad forum and mending the fences towards a stronger relationship with the artist.
Scott Meenen and Dave Bussells. Thank you for allowing me to lead the various forums you own or created. It has been an honor. Thank you, Scott, for paying the bills that keep the lights on in the enchanted forest. Thank you, Dave, for staying on top of things. I hope the artist at some point will thank you for those things personally.
Bill Jordan, Ralph Nye, Ron Foster, and so many others. Thanks for being people of such great character and friendship. It has meant the world in a difficult year. Also thanks to Jim Allen for his ownership in some of the forums and his personal support. Also to all the moderating team in the Máiréad forum. You're the best. Far too many friends from the forums and Facebook to thank. I want to say something else here. After the show in Springfield, ten or so men gathered for the usual post show nibble and chat. It was a conversation anyone's mom could have sat in on and not blush. It is always that way. These women are held in the highest and most proper regard. That anyone out there could ever characterize such men as risk factors or unsavory in any way is dead wrong and they would be lucky to have men like that in their lives. We are not and never will be like the screaming teenage girls who attacked the Beatles and ripped their clothes off. Things of beauty need to be preserved and cherished. These women and the music are all that for a great many.
Celtic Woman LTD. I have been as guilty as any in throwing stones. If I did not care about the artists and fans I would have said nothing and simply walked away. You may have preferred that but it is not my nature and never has been. I encourage you to embrace those familiar faces and not push them away. Some of what you did in 2011 showed embracing and some pushing away. There really is no knowing what to expect. But take what is said both positive and negative and know there is always room for improvement. It is true for each of us as individuals and for companies as well.
David Downes. Brilliant. I don't know how many times I have heard that word when people speak of you. Show after show is consistent in the quality of the arrangement and the artistry. Thank you for this creation and for being kind to the fans in meetings after the Believe recording and on the symphony tour.
Anthony Byrne, Andy Reilly, Ray Fean, Ewan Cowley, Dermot Kiernan Not only are you each gifted but you are also exceptional in your care and concern for your fans. And yes, YOUR fans. You earn them with every performance and with every kind interaction on stage and off. You are not only the best at your craft, but good people. Andy, Dermot, and Ray, I would encourage you to create a Facebook fan page as Ewan and Anthony have done. MySpace and Twitter really are not all they could be for nurturing your fan base.
Sarah Burke, and Amy Rivard. You may not be current members, but that fan base you built while with the group has stayed with you and still promotes and supports you. Your kindness to each of us is part of that. May all the best things come from the gifts you have and share.
Orlagh Fallon, and Alex Sharpe. Exceptional artists but also exceptional people. You both proved that this year on stage and even more so off stage with the incredible kindness showed to those familiar faces. You now do what you do on your own terms and it blesses both your family and your fans. May your careers be brilliant ones and the fans as numerous as the stars in the heavens.
Lisa Lambe. From opening night in Florida to my final show in Buffalo you nailed it and weaved those curly red locks around the hearts of many. It is clear you are a true professional and very well suited to your role. I appreciate those few special moments like the blown kisses, the meeting in Sioux Falls, and the tweets early on. You have a fan here and I'm sure you'll not take any of them for granted. Please consider a Facebook fan site like Lisa and Chloe have.
Chloe Agnew. Ave Marie. L'Assenza. Two songs that showcase both the power and the persona. It is my hope you'll never go pop but play to the strengths that songs like these give you. Every standing ovation is well earned. Thank you as well for taking the time twice on Twitter to answer questions from fans. It was very well received and very much appreciated.
Lisa Kelly. Oh my. Another child on the way? Well, boy or girl, the little one will be blessed. How could one not be with The Voice singing lullabies to them? By far and away you are the most interactive and caring of your individual fans on both Twitter and Facebook. You were the one God sent to unlock my own creative gifts. I will forever be grateful. Thank you. Stay in touch and I will make it my priority to keep you in the review loop from the 2012 tour on the Lisa forum. You and that little one on the way will remain in my prayers.
Máiréad, um, hmmm, ni Nesbitt? Mustapha? We'll just go with Máiréad Nesbitt for now. First and foremost I owe you an apology for being way too far over the top. That certainly is even more undesirable with you being married now. I'm just a fan. A very avid one to be sure. A passionate one for reasons you well know especially from the writings and now the fan documentary. Some things have been said by me and others this year better left unsaid. That may yet hold true again in the weeks to come. I am stepping back from all of that. Things have happened this year that change what has been. It will never be the same. Thank you for the inspirations. Thank you for allowing my heart to rest in your fiddle case for awhile. Thank you for helping me feel alive and love again like I had not known in over 20 years. Thank you for answering the question about who it was that had haunted my dreams. The only gifts I can give you now are prayers and to take several big steps back and simply revel in the artistry and magic of what you do and how you do it. I'm sorry for anything said or done in the past four years that may have given offense. You may see me from time to time at a show. The prayer for you has always been that you be happy, healthy, safe, prosperous, and that you know The Lord, and know the best, most unconditional and rewarding love a human can know.
So to all of you who read this, I had planned a more hard edged blog. I cannot. It is Christmas. It is time to move on to a new path in 2012 and wherever God takes me. I'll be very active in political speaking, on social commentary, and in getting my creations out there for publication and use. Celtic Woman now simply must be like a family reunion with those in the audience and to a lesser degree on stage. Merry Christmas to all, and have a blessed 2012. For me, 2011 was largely a year I could have done without. Perhaps it will be something to build on and the new year far more positive.
God bless, Scott