Well, the previous blog was certainly a different one and I am still on the mend. The onset of gout has been stubborn and painful but we just deal with it and move on. Recovery from surgery is going fine and my digestive system seems reasonably normal now. But let's step back a few months and move forward.
February began yet another long grinder tour for the artists and crew of Celtic Woman. I had planned on about a dozen shows though really had no financial business doing so! I would miss the opener for the first time in many years and the closer as well. I'd miss Máiréad's birthday too after four years being front and center for that. Things simply did not work out in the schedule and I had no desire to fight winter early on in the tour. Why the powers that be scheduled it that way I have no clue, and it looks like that won't be the case in 2014. My first shows would be around Paddy's day and my first ones in that area of the northeast with Newark, Wallingford, Boston, and Manchester. I had meet and greet for all except Boston which has not offered them since the 2007 debacle. I went in with a bit of reluctance due to the new format for the meetings. In some cases that was justified and in others it was not. Newark we had great seats and I met Kenn Craig for the first time who is the person assigned to run the show on the road along with Brett Miler. We were stacked in a hallway and entered a small room singly for a group photo. It was brief but fine and Kenn is a very personable gent. In Wallingford, though, CPTV did it right and the meeting was huge bang for the buck! The artists themselves and Kenn's tolerance about it all made it even better. THAT is how it should be done and we had front row seats to go with it. Most special was the warmth and care of all the artists with no shortage of hugs and I had this candid photo with the ever delightful Lisa Lambe. Boston was fine and the venue is amazing. We were blessed with a bit of face time with band, choir, and front four near the stage door. Plenty of security but they stood back and watched as things flowed naturally. I commend them and the CW staff and artists for that lovely interaction. Manchester was in an arena. Those that know me know I'm not fond of this group in an arena setting. Yet we had good seats thanks to Mike and even better ones after intermission. Lisa was wonderful in making sure we were included in spite of our location early on. The meet and greet was more what I had worried about and was not at all worth the money. PBS seats were mediocre and there were two stations involved. So, 40 or so people and a very rushed meeting was not at all the way things need to be. I said earlier on this page that meetings have to be limited to 20 or less regardless of the number of stations involved. Yet it was St. Patrick's Day and we did have a great time at the show. We had tried to set up lunch prior to the show across the street at an Irish pub with Máiréad's in laws. All looked fine but at the last minute it fell apart and we never connected with them at the show either. So, in the five shows (double-header in Boston) I had overall positive experiences with the artists and touring staff. Yes, some snags and some tweaking needed but I did feel as though things were going in the right direction.
It would be until June 1st until my next show, so a long gap. In the interim I watched as other fans had their experiences and they too were mixed. While on my break I also connected with another Irish group, Celtic Nights, who some fan friends had seen in Austin due to former CW choir gal Una being one of the main artists. By all accounts it was a marvelous show though without the major production elements of Celtic Woman. Since then some of us have been in contact with their management and a couple of the artists and are very much encouraged in our input and support. They will tour again in early 2014 and I do plan to see a few shows. It is refreshing when artist management asks for fan input and embraces them rather than pushes them away. EMI, Madstone Productions, and CW LTD over the years have been inclined to push the avid fan community away rather than embrace it, although the artists do not seem so inclined at all. Over the years CW has certainly been paying attention to fans and adopted some of the ideas especially on stage, although they have never asked for input or acknowledged it. I also became connected with a lovely Canadian foursome called Naria. A bit different tack with opera combining with techno pop. But they have a lovely presence, and a nice sound. Each have been open to fan support and input and willing to connect on line both on Twitter and Facebook. I even have the odd chance of one of the songs Liv and I created being a Naria song. Their leader, Katya, even did a guide track of the song and sent it to me for approval. So, fingers crossed there.
Celtic Woman learned along the course of my break that some things were not sitting very well. Oversized meetings at some locations and with very poor places within the venues chosen for photos was part of that. Fuzzy photos and too brief encounters combined with mediocre PBS seats were not going over well. The biggest bonehead move was the slap in the face to the avid fan communities and the short notice given for a DVD recording at South Bend. Three days notice and all the primo seats were long gone. It was a clear and intentional affront to the most loyal fans yet a handful were lucky enough to have gotten tickets for the show. I sent a message to one of the artists and to CW that while I supported the artists without question, I would NOT acquire that DVD due to the insult given to their most dedicated fans. It will be the first DVD or CD from them that I don't own. This was clearly a decision by Madstone and likely Maggie Seidel. I have no affection for her at all knowing the things I've heard her and Mr. Hochwald say over the years. I was not pleased when she received a promotion to essentially manage the group and suspected she would do something averse to the fan community at some point. She did. After Springfield in 2011 many of us had hopes she would be gone or at least disconnected from CW. EMI retains that company and it is not a positive. In any case, I still looked forward to a nice string of shows in June.
In late May I had a major health crisis and so was unable to attend five shows in the northwest. That hurt almost as much as the infected gall bladder and the gout! I gave my seats to a fan from California who is in a wheelchair and struggles with life in general. Tony flew him to Portland and Glenn would occupy my seats. They did not have meet and greet but opted instead for great seats bought early on through Ticketmaster. Yet at three of the locations they did get some lovely face time with the artists after the shows and again that is thanks to the kind road staff and the artists themselves. Such things are not expected and are so very appreciated. But Tony had created a special gift for Lisa Lambe in the form of a personalized Lambe Crossing jacket. He found a way to link up with her hubby, Simon Morgan, who happened to be along with her for a few shows, and gave the jacket to him. Everyone in the fan community who has met Simon has found him friendly, warm, and a very nice gent. He saw to it Lisa received her gift and she very kindly tweeted a photo of herself wearing the jacket. I have to say that of all the girls past and present from this group that she is the most engaging and warm with her fans on stage, at meetings, on line, and out and about. Certainly Lisa Kelly was and is good at that too, and Máiréad at times as well. Al of them are delightful at the formal meetings and Susan really came into her own this tour connecting with fans. But Lil Lambe is off the charts and Simon is a wonderful and fitting partner for her.
Meanwhile, back here, I opted to go forward with Red Rocks and Omaha. I've not missed a Red Rocks show with them except the first one in 2006. The hiking would be misery for me and my gouty foot but I was not going to be denied. The gathering of fans was a good one again and we had made plans to celebrate Chloe's birthday by donning special pink birthday T-shirts. It was a special venue on her special day and we had to do what we could to make it more so for the girl we've watched grow up before our eyes. She has matured both vocally and in other ways and is a strikingly beautiful woman. She has always been so but she has trimmed down and simply looks marvelous. I was given a surprise meet and greet when someone backed out and managed to hide around a corner until the end to surprise them. Mike was celebrating his 150th show and bless his heart had sent to me a card he had the girls sign in Las Vegas wishing me well. I cannot thank him and the artists enough for that little treasure. The meeting went so very well and hair chap, Michael, was now taking photos. He is the one posting photos on the CWNAT Facebook page and is very generous at taking various shots. He's a fine gent and a good compliment to the touring team with Kenn, Brett, and Chloe's gorgeous sister, Naomi. After the wonderful show we made our way to the buses and were treated with some great chat time with band, choir, and the very grateful Chloe. Michael took and official photo of all of us with her and posted it later. Nice touch and it goes along with a group shot before the show taken by 303 Magazine. Next day I flew to Omaha to be with old friends. Half my life was spent in Nebraska and I had not been back since the CW show in November 2007. I had front row center and later picked up a meet and greet from another fan. My good friends were right next to me at the show and simply loved it. The meeting was a continuation of Red Rocks and a real delight. Most special was a photo I had longed for many years, a proper solo shot with Máiréad, my muse and inspiration for so many of my writings. It was a wonderful ending of this tour for me and again I had some chat time with band and choir afterwards. I really did have some warm and wonderful encounters with her this tour including a very kind first ever tweet that wished me well in my recovery.
All along the way the artists and touring staff have done the best they could to make fans feel welcome and embraced. At points along the way it was a bit rough but the tweaking made it better and perhaps they now have the proper formula. There are still bugs and those are not from the artists or touring staff but upper management. I do commend the organization for relaxing things a bit and not chasing the few fans away after the show who might gather near the stage door or buses. That is a far cry from the Rachel days and very welcome. Makes for good PR and more ticket sales. I was pleased with a positive attitude towards familiar faces from people like the merch dude all the way to the fine Bubba Dixon. The latter has been a positive ever since his expanded role in 2011. Sadly, for whatever reason. he is no longer with the group. He will be very much missed and he is the last of the original crew. The longest lived one left is Máiréad's hubby, Jim, and perhaps only because of that relationship, although he does his job well. Tour dates for the symphony tour and 2014 are already leaking out. I have no idea how things will work in 2014 but it appears it may be much like this year. EMI is working the artists hard and squeezing every dime out of it they can while there is still an economy to support it. Sales were down by about 1/3 from my reports and yet there is still a solid following. I encourage EMI to minimize the role of Madstone and keep a leash on Maggie regarding fans. It worked fine this year and I encourage EMI to retain this touring staff. I was not happy seeing the grumpy and fan hostile Mitch at Red Rocks. He needs to stick to counting beans and not be involved in any way with decisions about fan interactions. The team of he and Rachel in 2010 was not a good one.
So, now time to devote to attempting to keep my financial head above water and look forward to symphony shows, Celtic Nights, Celtic Woman 2014, and perhaps a bit of Naria if I can swing it. That is if we can keep our country from descending into the dark abyss DC is attempting to force us in to. A lot can happen between now and then including currency collapse, civil war, or other things created by and forced upon the people from both parties in DC who seem more aligned with globalists and Muslims than their own citizens. Such allegiance runs counter to their oaths of office and does not serve the people of this nation at all. I pray things will change in a manner that upholds our constitution and permits us and the artist families to meet again and enjoy each other. Between now and then CW will be in Australia and Europe and doubtless to warm, though not by USA standards, supportive receptions. We're a bit more demonstrative here as they well know now after nine years. My thanks to the fan community, the artists, and the touring staff for an overall positive tour. Enjoy your break and thank you for being such bright beacons in an ever darkening world. God' blessings and peace.