Sunday, April 14, 2013

An anniversary and persepctive

  Hello from the Rockies!

       April 15th brings a very special anniversary for me. It is the sixth anniversary of my first poem. Those words came to me in the middle of the night and were inspired by now former Celtic Woman artist, Lisa Kelly, singing Send Me A Song. It is called Celtic Woman Sing On. A few nights later after a vivid dream I wrote another. The flow picked up at a rapid pace and kept going all the way through 2011 at which time events took over and the pace slackened quite a bit. In recent months it began to pick up again in no small part thanks to the kindness of current Celtic Woman artist Lisa Lambe. The total now approaches 430, along with one novel, and eight songs.

      As I sit here in a pleasant little cafe in Crestone I am once again inspired. I wrote a fresh poem brought on by the weather and events in the cafe. I'm reminded of a parable that Jesus taught about the three men given money (called Talents) and what they did with them. One made what he was given grow. Another made his fortune grow even more. The other stuck his in the ground and that is what he had when he was asked. But that parable is not about money, it is about life. It is about the gift we are given and what we do with it. Do we stick it in the ground and hoard it, afraid to risk it? Or do we take a chance and live life and give as we've been given? We don't get all we ask for. Life is a mix of blessing and challenge. But we cannot stop living it, sharing it, and building upon each precious day.

      In this world we have a few ruling elite who want to control every aspect of our lives and inflict upon us slavery. They do not believe in freedom of the individual but in group think. They create a variety of issues they use to divide people against each other. Divide and conquer. Gun rights, abortion, homosexuality, and other issues are used as wedges to divide. No matter what side of those issues you fall on you can clearly see they are being used to keep citizens from being unified and strong. They are meant to keep our eye off the ball about what the small ruling elite are working so hard to do. We cannot allow ourselves to be distracted.  Yet we each have lives to live and contributions to make based upon our unique gifts.

    In 2007 it became clear to me that my unique gift was the one of words, written and spoken. I had always known that to a degree but not to the extent I did in my 50th year. With God sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes it is no, and at other times it is wait. I am not a man of any significant means. I have clawed and scratched to keep my head above water for years now. My own financial foolishness put me in that position yet it has always been about living life. The people, the moments, the inspirations simply transcend money. I simply cannot bury life and take no risk. At times the risk has paid off but not in financial ways but rather more important ones. Such is the case now or so it appears.

      In 2008 I met Kim in Australia and took a risk with the gift his daughter Olivia offered. It paid off in the creation of several songs. None of them have hit the mainstream and she has since changed her musical direction and associations to things more in line with her own peers. Yet the time spent and the things created are beautiful and those things will live on in some way for all time. The words over the years were inspired mainly by the artists of Celtic Woman and the journey they led me on to Ireland, and to other places and events I would have never experienced otherwise. I didn't travel this much when I worked in the airlines! Sure wish I still had those travel benefits as I'd have much less debt now! In any case, there have been moments so uplifting and others that felt like crushing darkness. Vain hopes and dreams and yet one must persevere through that and come out the other side stronger.

      In these years I have made a great many wonderful friends as a result of that Irish ensemble. Priceless memories, and treasured relationships that their upper management and middle men cannot take away. They too have made positive changes and that especially has come about the past year or so with the diminishing role of some road management and now the outright replacing of most of it. I credit a great part of that change to their now production manager, Bubba Dixon. EMI and Madstone have been dragged kicking and screaming into making changes whether they liked it or not. Those folks represent an old and dying industry model that must change or become extinct. They suck the life out of their artists by endless touring for which those artists receive scant compensation compared to the mediocre pop divas out there. Not a person on the road is truly paid what they are worth and I dare say the Madstone person now running the show probably is paid better than any of them. The 'business" of entertainment is filled with such vampires who care not a wit about artist or fan, only the bottom line. Yet at times they do listen or at least allow a bit more latitude. That is the case on this tour and the previous symphony tour. The barriers dropped and the fan family and artist family allowed to mingle as the artists saw fit and not as the powers that be dictated. It is healthy, it is normal, and it is positive, and I commend Celtic Woman management for allowing this to happen and the artists for embracing their avid fans in ways they are comfortable with. Some flies in the ointment are still there. The new meet & greet format is alright but happens far too close to show time. Good seats are not tied to the meetings as they should be and force folks who want both to buy extra tickets to get the good seats then sell off, if possible, the who knows what seats palmed off on PBS.  In my opinion you should buy your own seat and then simply pay PBS for a stand alone meet & greet and not the extra seat.So far I've had a mixed opinion of this experience. Wallingford and CT PBS was an off the charts winner. It was not cheap but had huge bang for the buck. Manchester was what I feared this would be, a rushed event certainly not worth the money on its own because there were too many people and not enough time. I like the before show thing as the artists want to get on the road and get rested and not get hung up with a formal meeting. That having been said, I had a wonderful post-show experience in Boston by the buses with band, choir, and front row artists that was carefully watched but not interfered with. Kudos go to tour manager Ken Craig and road manager Brett Miler for allowing that to happen in a natural way as dictated by the artists themselves. Every encounter was excellent. I'll see how much this remains in place later in the tour. The biggest issue this tour so far was the extreme short notice given regarding the recording of a live show in South Bend. I cannot say it was an intentional slap in the face at fans or simply a callous and careless attitude that reflects a typical focus on the bottom line with no respect to either artist or fan. But it was badly handled and I place full blame for it in the lap of Madstone. Many of us have known their thoughts about avid fans since a conversation overheard in NYC in 2009 between two of their principals. I'm not even certain the artists themselves had much more notice than we did! I get the impression, reading between the lines, that the China thing earlier this year blindsided the girls as well. When you are a salaried employee you do as the boss dictates when and where and the boss is under no obligation to give you any warning. While I dearly love Celtic Woman and its concept I find myself hoping the artists break away and follow a path more lucrative and freer for them. There is risk in that but I am here to tell them it is worth the risk.

       That brings us to some other artists and ensembles of note now on avid fan radar screens and for good reason. Some fan friends of mine were surprised earlier this year about a fairly new group called Celtic Nights. It is a mix of male and female, and not of the major production type as Celtic Woman. It has less staging and other frills and is more a focus on the artists. Some like that, and some don't. The main draw is former CW choir girl Una. The three avid fans who attended the show in Austin were universally pleased with the show, the interactions, and the overall feel of the event. They will go back again and again and I will sure give them a try when they tour again. It shows the power of the Celtic Woman exposure well beyond the time with that group. It shows the artists have legs beyond it and a following built while with CW. Orlagh, Amy, Meav, Deirdre, Alex, and now Una have found that, and any group that adopts these folks and others taps into the CW fan base. Smart move and especially so since great seats are available at much lower prices and meetings are generally free. No one is profiting financially from meetings at shows like this.

       That takes me now to an ensemble that is increasingly a personal thing for me. They are called Naria, and they are Canadian. The principals hail from mixed places and all are versatile and gifted sopranos and classically trained. They are not heavily toured. They have lives. They are not heavily promoted as they are not tied to a major label. This is the creation and brainchild of Katya and she has brought on board this concept three other sterling professionals. Is it Celtic Woman? No. They bill it as classical with an edge. It indeed is edgy in many respects. Perhaps not something granny or a little girl would feel easy at. But it is a dynamic concept that has a broad base appeal in age groups from teens to mid adult ranges. They are clearly smart, motivated women. No EMI, no middle men to speak of, just a concept and personal desires and dreams. So why is it personal for me? Because they are willing to take a chance on a virtual nobody in the business like me with songs and lyrics. I could never obtain that from a label-controlled group like CW whether the artists wish it or not. Unless you are also tied to the label you're an outsider with little if any chance of gaining entry. What's in it for them? Again, bottom line thinking. I see a good future for Naria in the different things they can bring to an event. Strictly classical arias and evening gowns for a more cultured crowd? They can do that. Heart pumping, hard driving techno pop with sex appeal? They can do that. Perhaps by the grace of  God I'll establish a professional relationship in the long term, perhaps it will not be. Perhaps I'll get a single shot, or none at all. But I do thank them for the opportunity and do want to be there if or when they perform any of my creations. Few people get the chance. But few people risk and persevere and dream. Many give up. Many never try. They bury their coin in the ground. So, as I sit here in my mountain cafe I think back on a blessing God has given me and thank Him for the gift. Perhaps I'll be just another poet "discovered" long after he is gone. But one must live life, give, love, and risk. We just never know when it ends. Until next time.


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