Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Christmas in Dublin, Celtic Nights meets Celtic Woman

   You know, it feels like full circle here in Dublin. Almost six years ago to the day, off by a week, I attended the Celtic Woman Christmas recording at The Helix featuring the original five. It was my first trip to Ireland in spite of having been in the airlines for ages. I had no intention of coming to this one as notice was way too short for an international trip. But, as things do with this group and their fans, fate stepped in and brought me here. And so as I type part one the night before the recording I have no shortage of background and commentary.

    Tony and I had been chatting as soon as it was leaked this was happening. We suspected early October between the Oz and European tours. That was the most likely. But my crystal ball was off a wee bit and so had to scramble if we wanted to go. Was it worth it? Well, it turns out it was when the management of a competing group said they would be up for a meeting if we came over. Well, cool! So Tony started looking at flight options and they did not look good. Ahh, but he forgets I’m an old hand at this airlines stuff and we found a viable, though still rather high fare. Combined with hotel for a week it worked out to about $500 more per person than my trips in 2007 and 2009. Again, we can thank EMI/Madstone for the delightful short notice that raised fares (always higher inside the 30 day window internationally) and kept a goodly number of familiar faces from coming. So many were sad they were left out just as many were on the short notice for South Bend. It really has become very clear to a great many this is intentional and aimed at the avid fan community. But, for those in a flexible situation, not to be denied, and fully willing to support the hard working artists, where there is a will there is a way. And so, I type this from my hotel in Central Dublin looking forward to the morrow and a business meeting with Celtic Nights and they attending the show with us. I invited them and received extra tickets for two of them so they could see how this is done and take notes for their own future recordings.  The Helix very kindly informed me of four tickets and so we were set. I also made contact with a couple other artists and plans are now somewhat set to meet with them later in the week.

     So, on Saturday I left by bus to overnight and meet up with Tony in Denver. We had a hotel near the airport (is ANYTHING near DIA?!) with a major storm blowing in. I had about three hours to kill at DIA and made use of them by enjoying some coffee. We meet up and can check in for the flight next day as we are within the 24 hour window. We delay dinner as the storm is way too intense then wind up at the only place within walking distance. Go figure, as always with Celtic Woman, Denny’s! Honestly they should get them as a sponsor as many times we fans eat there after a show! Up the next morning and off to the airport. We have long security lines but they move along fairly well and soon we are at the gate for our 757 to Atlanta. Yes, yet another magical connection to this show. Atlanta, where the previous major DVD was filmed, and where a certain Lisa Kelly now has a business in a nearby suburb! I wave as we fly over Peachtree City. A few hours layover then we board an A 330 for the 7 plus hour flight to Dublin. We are near the back but the seats are good enough for as comfortable a ride as you can have in peasant class. Decent dinner and a snack and we arrive in the Emerald Isle at about 0730. Now, all my advice about getting around fell flat as we learned the day before that Dublin Bus is on strike! Complicates matters a bit but we’ll work with it. We get an alternative bus to O’Connell Street then walk to our hotel near the central bus station. We wanted convenience to bus, taxi, and DART. It was a “soft” (ie WET) day upon arrival but cleared off for the most part by afternoon. Our room is not ready that early which is no surprise. Neil from Canada is staying there as he arrived the day before. So, we met up and changed in his room after seeing him in the café for breakfast. No point napping so we just get busy touring about. We wanted to book a tour for Tuesday and so went to the visitor center and booked a nice Wicklow tour of Glendalough and Powerscourt. Neil wanted to go see Riverdance at The Gaiety so we made our way there up Grafton Street. This is now my third time here and I know all this so well now. Feels like home. He gets his ticket but not before we made a slight diversion to check out where the Celtic Nights offices were, a couple blocks away. We stop and watch numerous buskers then I take them to Arlington Hotel and we book the show there for Thursday night and grab a pint of the black stuff (Guinness). At this point there is plenty of day left so I take them across Halfpenny Bridge and to the Temple Bar area. We wander about and then decide it is time for dinner. I suggest we eat in another area as Temple Bar is touristy and prices are higher. So we wander back over the bridge and up a street I had not been up. The result was finding a very inexpensive food court with all you can eat buffets for 9 Euros. Asian food hit the spot. Then back to the hotel to catch up on line and then meet up again an hour later. We decide to go back to the Arlington for another pint and watch the show from a distance. It is done by 10:30 and we head back to get some sleep after a long day.

        We meet up Tuesday morning for breakfast downstairs. Cloudy and misty to start and it remained mostly cloudy for the day but nicely cool. Perfect day for our Wicklow outing. But not before I alert Tony and later Neil about the stunning Chloe news. She is done. No DVD recording, nothing. Several of us had talked for many months especially when she moved to LA that she would be the next to leave. Celtic Woman is almost all she has known as a performing artist. We could sense at times a restlessness and certainly this past tour a heightened emotion at times and a stronger connection with her fans. That was certainly obvious at her birthday event at Red Rocks. Many of us feel so blessed about that and the entire event. So, it is with that chatter we head for O’Connell Street and to hook up with the bus. Bus Eireann is running some buses on contract to make up for some key routes not operated due to the strike. We walk across from the Dublin Bus main ticket station and see no shortage of picketers. Our bus driver was pulled from his city tour duties to do our route. Joe is very  pleasant and has plenty of great information, jokes, and sings a bit all through our journey. Tour goes from 1000-1730. First stop is Glendalough, a place I went to on a tour in 2007. More of that full circle thing. It is such an amazing place, home of St. Kevin, and one of the most amazing monastic sites in a land filled with them. Our bus driver must have had some funny issues with Canadians and jokes around about them throughout which gives us all a chuckle with Neil sitting there. We make sure the driver knows Neil is from there and so that assures more joking around! We are there for over an hour and get photos and just take in the place. Then off to the next stop, Powerscourt Estates. Yes, more full circle as the last time I was here was for that recording. We have 2  ½ hours to wander the paths and take photos. We take plenty of areas we did not visit when we were there before as we had been distracted  by a certain Irish group and the sound checks. Interesting photos of the lawn area used back then now simply a big patch of grass. Along the path we talked to an American couple from Ohio and other as well and told them why we were not only here in Ireland but at this site.  The Ohio couple knew about Celtic Woman but not about the recording here.  At the end of the tour we directed them to the CD and DVD available in the gift shop. The format for the DVD would not work in the USA but we did hand them a CD which they promptly bought! OK, EMI/Madstone, in spite of you we are still promoting the group! That is because of the amazing artists and their kindness. How much longer that continues is up to you as many fans are becoming far less interested due to short notices and the almost steady stream of artist losses. Sigh. Anyway, we have a wonderful walk and it brought back so many great memories of two amazing nights and, for me, two amazing weeks in a wonderful country. Back in Dublin we part with Joe and get off at Grafton street. Neil is seeing Riverdance this night so we stop at Bewley’s Oriental Café for dinner. Very nice. Neil then heads for his show and Tony and I back to the hotel to catch up on line. While Tony and I do that we get treated to a crime scene. OK, is this CSI Dublin? Nope. A car pulls up to the Store street Garda station next door to our hotel and a man who has been shot up (his car as well) runs into the station for help. The area is taped off including our hotel and folks cannot leave or enter until they are sure the shooters are not around.  The area is still cordoned off and RTE has the story up now. The car is sitting outside our window with windows shot out and bullet holes in it. OK, so tell me again disarming the citizens stops gun violence when the criminals can still get them? Just ask Chicago. In any case the guy was taken to the hospital with a serious wound to the head. LUAS and buses are fouled up a bit as the area is sealed off. I do hope the night will quiet down a bit! Neil returns with some interesting news about his Riverdance experience. I won’t let on here yet, but will do so later. Rest assured it is very cool news.

       So, this wraps up the events leading up to what will be part two and that is show day and meeting day. Stay tuned, everyone. Also, more excitement to come in the days to come as we meet up with others and do more touring. I’ll follow up on that in this thread too. It feels like Powerscourt all over again and I’ll be up all night getting you all as much show and experience detail as the coffee and pixie dust will allow me to dispense. Part two next. 

      We awoke as we did yesterday and went downstairs for a hearty breakfast. Once done we grabbed a taxi and headed for the Helix box office to snag our tickets for the night. I chat with the lady dispensing the tickets and ask some questions. One question I had was to confirm venue capacity. I remembered it to be 1200 and that is correct. But with the design for the show it was down to 750 including the balcony. I ask about seating and it is open but with possible variations set up by the producers. Hmmm. OK. With tickets in hand we get back in the taxi and back to the hotel to dress up and get ready for the day.

     First order of the day is a walk over to the Celtic Nights offices for our business meeting. So myself, Tony, and Neil hoof it the brief 15 minutes across the bridge to the office and buzz from the doorbell down below. I tell the girl who answers it is two crazy Americans and a Canadian whereby she buzzes us up and we head for third floor. Rebekah greets us warmly with hugs and welcomes us in to a comfortable but spartan office. No fancy digs but perfectly functional. We chat for a bit and then her younger brother, Jamie, comes in to add to the conversation. He is helping out with online things on a break from university in Scotland. That too is where Bekah hails from. Another gent, Derry, is there and asks some questions and for the next three hours we are all talking about strengths and weaknesses of what we have experienced from a fan perspective with Celtic Woman and we bounce a few creative ideas around regarding marketing and such. Time went so fast and before we knew it we were already late for our 1500 lunch at a nearby restaurant. A pint and a nice meal and much more conversation. Bekah is delightful and Jamie is a sharp young man. Both are great assets for the Celtic Nights organization. Michael, the producer, is away in Australia and will meet with us on Friday along with the others. Bekah could not say enough good things about him and how the operation is run. It is not the huge project and budget of Celtic Woman but it is building as is their following. While we are there Una calls Bekah and the phone gets passed around so we each get to talk with her. She thanks us each for the support and it was a very kind thing for her to do. She did tell me to not blab too much about the pub after the first night Atlanta DVD recording. As with the office, before you know it we're late getting under way for the Helix. Taxis are hailed and we get to the venue before six. It had been suggested we sit in the balcony and I thought the doors we chose would lead us there and we were first in line. Not before a Ray sighting and chat. Then while on second floor we look up to third floor and see the girls being photographed and interviewed. They are done and come down the stairs and Lisa Lambe sees me. She stops and waves and I send her the now traditional sailor salute whereby she returns the favor! They make their way down to our level but we stay back but within eyesight. Máiréad sees me and says, "Hello, Scott, thanks for coming. Enjoy the show!" OK, I'm already woolly and with pixie dust. We chat up the usher at the door and soon enough we are allowed in. My mistake but we are not at a balcony door but at the top of the floor and get ushered down to.......front row house right of three sections. We are roughly where the band on a touring show would be but well back from the stage. They have removed all the seating in front of us and added a short half circle extension in the middle of the stage. In the intervening about 15-20 feet there were about a dozen round tables set up like a restaurant each with four chairs. Candle, tablecloth, etc. These appear to be for family and friends. The first few rows of the center section are also reserved as I suspected they would be. The venue itself is nothing fancy but a typical university type theater venue. Good acoustics and flexible for a variety of staging and show schemes. The stage is a shiny black as are the risers up to a point on each side where there is white winter decoration. Above that on each side is orchestra and above them the drum kits for Ray and Andy. In the center back are bleachers for a full choir. On either side of that are pathways from the back for the front four to enter and exit. Above it all are a sweeping array of panels that have various decorative and moving patterns on them throughout the night and in various colors. Above and between those is a black background of points of light that will also vary in color. On stage left back there is a simulated spiral Christmas tree of white lights with a star on the top. It is not quite as elaborate as 2007 but is very elegant and reminds one of a 1930's big band night club sort of feel. I am seated at the far house right seat of the front row right section. Next to me are Bill from PA., Karsten from Germany, Neil from Canada, Bekah and Jamie from Celtic Nights, and Tony from Alaska. I have a big boom camera in front of me and at times during the first show it blocks our view at times. Normal and expected for this and at times I get a good view of what the cameraman is seeing and compliment him between shows. Plural you say? I'll get to that. So, we are set and soon a young lady comes out and lets us know what the deal is and gets us to do three rounds of applause for the cameras. It is now show time. That in part three.

        Part three: The show and after

    Lights dim and we are now in the Christmas spirit. I have donned a Santa hat and the white trim in front is adorned with the various solo artist buttons. I have a green fiddler crossing T-shirt under my black sport coat. Bill has a Santa hat as well and there are several sprinkled throughout the venue.

     Máiréad takes center stage and is dressed in a lovely white gown with silver sparkles and plenty of frills. Sigh, I do so love her in white. The others enter with Lisa and Susan in dresses with silver tops and white skirts. Really pretty. Synan hits another winner as he always does. Meav is in a silver gown with wrap around silver glitter. It is fitted and is a strong competitor to the original Helix show mermaid dress. It is Meav who starts the first song which is the delightful Walking in a Winter Wonderland. It is what is on the CD and Máiréad has some nice bits in it. Very festive and a fine way to open.

     Máiréad goes back to center stage and Meav sings her lovely rendition of What Child Is This. Like everything else that has happened here this is more full circle. The last time I saw Meav perform live was at The Helix in 2007 for the previous Christmas DVD. Wow, has it really been six years?

    Meav speaks and introduces the next song, We Wish You A Merry Christmas. Everyone is involved including the full choir. BTW, there is no CW choir in this at all. Eoghan and Ewan are not there. David Agnew is up in the orchestra. BTW, we met up with David prior to the show and had a fun chat with him. I gave him one of the Chloe birthday pink T-shirts. He is a fine fellow and it was great to finally meet up with him in person after all these years and reading his funny FB posts.

    Next up is one of many melt moments in the show. Tommy Martin comes out with his Uilleann pipes and sits on a stool at stage left in front of us. Lisa Lambe takes position near the piano. It is her beautiful rendition of I'll Be Home For Christmas. Wow, does she ever connect with this. Just gorgeous.

    Next up the three vocalists take position and Susan leads them into Hark The Herald Angels Sing. Full choir joins in as does Máiréad during the course of the piece. Very full piece and wonderfully done.

    Máiréad is now center stage and Susan takes a seat at one of the tables at center stage floor. There are quite a number of kids on the floor seating at the tables and that is by design. Interaction with the artists during the show as Christmas is a major deal with kids, and as "props" for some of the songs. Susan sings Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. She wanders about the tables interacting with various kids before getting back up on stage. It is very cute. Near the end as she makes her way back stage she turns around and blows a kiss to the kids. Nicely done.

   We get another group piece and Anthony accompanies on pipes. Another rich song in We Three Kings. Anto adds a great deal to this and eventually winds up center stage up front at the end. Marvelous.

   The next piece is the only Máiréad solo of the night. Just as in the first Christmas CD she is given just one solo. For we M fans it is not enough but yet she is very liberally placed in most of the other tunes. This song on the CD is a vocal with her strong assist. Carol Of The Bells. She is skipping and twirling and and all over the stage. Not the gymnastics of a regular touring show but just lovely and a fitting showcase for fiddle and feet alike. She is just so amazing and no one does what she does the way she does it.

    Next up we get a surprise addition. Lisa comes out and begins singing in German. That is something she does very well. She leads into O Tannenbaum (O Christmas Tree) and is followed by Meav, also in German, and then Susan in English. They then do a gorgeous harmony in German to wrap it up including some sweet Meav high notes. Wow, and Karsten is grinning from ear to ear. Ausgezeichnet!

    The choir now holds candles and Meav enters and does a beautiful rendition of Silent Night. That piece is perfect for her and we are getting a heavy dose of the AMeaving one tonight.

    We get a short break for a costume change. The ladies re-enter wearing various hues of red. Gorgeous! Máiréad's skirt is more form fitting but slit and floral. Reminds me of a tropical sort of look. It is a beautiful look for them all. They sit at floor level stage right and start to sing It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas. Back up on stage they have great fun with it and we get our first batch of snowfall from the rafters! Good stuff

     Meav heads toward the piano and Máiréad occupies stage left in front of us. Lisa later joins in with the next melt moment of the night, The Light Of Christmas Morn. I'm all wet faced as I just love this song and arrangement. Stunning. But something didn't go quite right so they do a re-take. Oh darn, we get to hear it again! 

    Next it is Susan's turn to wow us and she does so in spades. She has a eight member multi-ethnic Gospel choir with her. Tommy is somewhere on pipes at some point too. She does It Came Upon A Midnight Clear. Since Susan joined CW we have all been waiting for a signature piece for her. This is it. What a powerful arrangement and performance. Another melt moment. David may have another one for her on next year's Emerald tour but for right now at least this is her power piece. Bravo, Susan. If you do this on the tour I will without question give you a standing O.

     Next up Lisa is at floor level and introduces the next song. Oh yes, I know what's coming. She asks if there are any folks from Scotland whereby Bekah and Jamie chime right in with enthusiasm! It is her beautiful Auld Lang Syne. On the symphony tour I always look at this as a highlight of the night. It was again tonight. She nails it as she always does. Yer a bonnie lass Li'l Lambe.

     Susan then speaks and wishes us goodnight and they do the final song, Joy To The World. All stops are pulled, including more snow from the rafters, and at the end the audience is on their feet as they take their bows. On that note, the audience was very good. Not by USA standards, but by all others it was very supportive. Can't help it if we're just a bit nuts in the states.

     They then scamper off to some instrumental strains of Let It Snow and we are done with show one. We are then told to return at 2115 (about a half hour later) as they are moving cameras around. Essentially doing a mirror flip.

     Yes, they are doing the full show twice in one night! Yeah baby ya gotta love it! Twofers on Celtic Woman.

     On the break we are all ushered out but told to return to our same seats. We are out chatting and then Tony comes and gets me and says there is someone I need to meet. So we go outside and there is a man I've chatted with on FB for quite awhile who is not only a gifted artist but a huge fan of a certain fiddler and one who has worked with her, Colm Ó Foghlú. A nice gent and we chat and he surprises me. He said, "aren't you the man who sent me lyrics to There Is No Night?" I said I was but it was quite awhile ago. He said his computer got wiped out but he had always looked for lyrics for that song and would like me to send them again. I told him I would do that right away in a FB message. He said he'd like to try and work it up for Lynn Hillary and Máiréad. Say that again?! I told him I'd send it and he is free to work it up however he would like. I was and still am a bit shocked and it would be beyond cool to work with such a gifted man and for those two amazing artists. He has worked with the folks at Celtic Nights as well and did the music for Gaelforce Dance. He has no shortage of wondrous things on his resume.

      We make our way back into the venue and our seats are taken by a row of lovely ladies. The usher asks them to move a row back which they do and I have a nice chat with a couple of them. Seems they are friends of Susan's. One of them has a nice singing voice in her own right. So, some new people in the audience and some ones from the first show gone. Cameras moved and so no boom in front of me. A regular mobile one and a hand held this time.

      We are told we are going to start out with a special treat that will not air on TV. We get the fluffy socks talk which we know leads into Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas. It is such a beautiful harmony. During it the handheld camera is aimed right at me as I sing along. This would happen three times in this second show. Up close and very personal. No idea if I'll make it off the cutting room floor but I have a chance anyway. The rest of the set list is as before minus the re-take. We get snow in two songs. At the end we get a full added encore of Let It Snow. Great fun and yes, Máiréad does once again say "Let It Snow" at the end! Two amazing shows and that brings me now to 82. It was a brilliant evening and not quite over yet.

     In the lobby we hang out for awhile. Bekah is talking with Colm and it turns out he has done work with Celtic Nights. We see Sarah Gannon out and about and I simply have to get her and Bekah together as Una took Sarah's place in the show. Then something amazing happens. Dave Kavangh approaches us all and thanks us each several times for our long time support and for traveling over to see the show. He thanks us for all the money we have spent and speaks about them still being in a bit of shock about the Chloe departure. It was something I never expected and it took a great deal of courage for him to do that. Thank you, sir, the pleasure in supporting these amazing artists, past and present, is all ours. Next up a man approaches who seems familiar. I met him once before at Powerscourt. It is John Flanagan and yes he still does work in the CW offices. He is a very nice man and asked if we enjoyed the show and were liking Ireland. Most certainly yes to both. Susan is wandering around and we chat with her a bit too. Very nice of her to take the time. We do not see the other three but we're pretty well saturated in CW magic for the night anyway.

      Time to part company and get some taxis. We thank Bekah and Jamie and will see them along with Michael on Friday. From the start of the day to the end it has been a truly amazing time. The next part will be posted in a few days as I'll continue a travel log and more on our meetings. Thank you to the artists of Celtic Woman. You're such incredibly gifted artists and some of the hardest working in the business. No lump of coal in my stocking! Thank you to Bekah and Jamie for a great start to what we hope will be a great relationship. We hope the notes you took tonight will help you with your own DVD in the future. BTW, that may come sooner rather than later. Thank you all. Now time to get more reviews up in other places.

       Well, after quite an amazing Wednesday, it was time for a bit more laid back Thursday. I did not get to sleep until 0500 and was up about 1000. Once up I did a few more reviews on line and now have only one left to do in the Chloe forum. Blog is up and pages updated. I was up too late to get breakfast so was a bit hungry. Neil wanted to go see the coast so we went over to the bus office and picked up our passes. Then it was back to the hotel to link up with Karsten and take the DART down the coast. As with last time I felt the desire to have lunch in Greystones. Convenient for Neil that it is by the sea. The ride is pleasant and once in Greystones we look for a place to dine. I had forgotten that many of the places only serve dinner. Neil says the town must be operated by vampires. So, we wind up back at the same place I dined at in 2009, Bochelli's. The same person even waited on me! OK, how many more full circles are there? The food is yummy and we get into a conversation with an elderly lady next to us who dines there every day. She is 82 year old Mrs. Finnigan. She's a real joy and a dear lady. We talked each other silly and in the end I had to give her a hug and a kiss. Neil wants to make his way to the coast so we walk down the hill and under the railroad to the beach. It is a beautiful day but the coffee in me wants out so I search out a toilet. It is way back up at a parking area. Pay toilet? Sigh, so I walk over the railroad bridge and up an alley and I'm back at........Bochelli's. Talk about full circle! Back down to meet up with the others and then get back on DART and into town. We had reservations at the Arlington Hotel for the dinner show. Hmmm, the name of the group is........Celtic Nights. sigh, more circles! Anyway, dinner is great and the show is a very fun traditional show with four band members and four Irish dancers. The fiddler is a Michelle from County Clare and is very good. The dancers were wonderful. Gosh, how many gorgeous girls are there in Ireland? I do live in the wrong country. At the end I go to the stage and ask Michelle if she'd pose for a photo with Tony and the fiddler crossing jacket. She does but not before asking where the festival was?! Um, no, let me explain. Which, of course I did. So, off we go back to the hotel and perhaps a semi-decent night's sleep.

      Today dawned early as we wanted to have brekkie with Neil as he was leaving for Canada today. That done, we go back to the room and do a few online things before our meeting with the Celtic Nights management. We're getting used to this walk over to the office. We are buzzed up and make our way up and to a smiling Michael Durkan and Rebekah Robertson. Jamie is off doing something. We have a fine talk for about three hours and during it I give Bekah a hand written, suitable for framing copy of my winning poem, The Gift Of The Lough. But not before reading it to them both. Michael plays for us two as yet unreleased songs that are certain to be winners. The author of those songs has no shortage of accolades. The talk is very informative and productive on both sides and Michael is a very fine host and as nice a gent as you'd want to meet. He asks if we'd like to go grab a bite so the four of us head to a nearby dining place and he very kindly buys Tony and I a nice lunch. Thanks you! He has just come back from Australia and has tons to catch up on so needs to get on with some work. So we part company after a photo and then Bekah, Jamie, Tony, and I head upstairs for more chat. That goes another three hours or so and also includes me singing Will India Cry into Bekah's recorder for her to try her hand with. She likes it. So much great conversation and this is something that would NEVER happen with CW even back in the early days. There was a great deal of information given both ways and, of course, the details of which I cannot share. All I can say is it was an amazing seven plus hours and one I hope one that will benefit fans and artists alike. My thanks to Michael for taking some of his precious time and for lunch. My thanks to Bekah and Jamie for the lengthy talks and sharing the CW DVD recording with us. I will see them early and often on their spring tour.

Part five:The parting glass

     And so we are down to our last two days, the weekend. Saturday we awake a bit late but still make our way across the street to Bus Eireann and a day trip down to Cashel to see the rock. The fares are reasonable and it is a  2 1/2 hour ride with bus stops at a handful of locations along the way. Upon arrival we decide not to risk the last bus back in case it is full. So we have about three hours. I remember the walk and where everything was from 2009. There are a couple of changes now. Most of the roads in are now four lane and one is a toll road. Only the last bit into Cashel is two lane. Also, shortly after I left they erected scaffolding around Cormac's Chapel to cover it from the elements and allow the sandstone structure to dry out naturally. Aside from that all is as I remember and we take the guided tour. Tony has the entire tour on video and captured the lovely lilt of our tour guide. It is a pleasant day, more so than in 2009 and we're done on the rock after about two hours. We then make our way down the hill to a little bakery in Cashel that I went to before. We had a nice pastry and relaxed before the bus ride back. Upon return we stop briefly at the hotel room and then go off to find our stop for the bus on Monday. Nearby is a nice Asian buffet and we stuff ourselves properly. Then back to the hotel and to bed.

     Our final day is also started late. We had a long Skype talk with Mustang Scott and did not get to sleep until 0500. Helpful talk as it pertained to some Celtic Night planning. So I awake at around 0900 and grab a light breakfast downstairs. Tony is up an hour or so later and we just goof around on line before heading for dinner at a food court we ate at earlier in the week. People are everywhere this weekend due to major sporting events in the city, so places are crowded. We then make our way to the Gaiety Theatre and Riverdance. Tony had snagged second row center in this lovely, small venue. Tony had not seen the show live before and this was my third time but by far my best seat. We know one of the dancers from Celtic Nights is in the show and so we are anxious to see her. The show is as I remember and the cast is very good. But we also know tonight is extra special. When Neil went early in the week he told us something that made this night one last full circle. And sure enough, the lights dim, a form appears, lights slowly brighten enough to make out where the lovely voice is coming from singing the opening tune. The voice is clear, pure, and sweet. I know it well. It has not changed. It is Lynn Hillary.She appears throughout the night and is the female lead vocalist in the show. In spite of our location she does not see us. That too is typical Lynn. The only interaction I get is rather frequent looks and smiles from the lead female dancer, Maria Buffini, who has marvelous stage presence. Cute as can be and with magical feet. The whole cast is top drawer and I really love this show. They all take their bows and Tony and I are off after waiting a bit for the place to clear. On the walk back we run into some of the dancers and other artists. The fiddler was very good and I wish I had a fiddler crossing sign to give her. And then SHE is there. She does a double take and gets this deer in the headlights look. The conversation is polite but she is clearly stunned to see us. Tony shows his Lynn button and she says "Oh you can throw all those away". Yep, she has not changed. Many pleasantries but no hugs or even handshakes. We opt to not ask for a photo as she is clearly a bit uneasy. In any case we wish her well on her CD and congratulate her on a fine performance. On the way back to the hotel one last task and that is to grab a 99 (ice cream cone with a Cadbury's Flake) to top off the cool summer night.

      The theme throughout from day one here has been full circle. It has been like closure in some ways but at the same time like a new beginning. I want to thank Tony for allowing an alternate form of payment that allowed me to attend. He did not want to go alone anyway and he knew I knew my way around. It was also important I attend the business meetings this week with Celtic Nights. Along the way there was the marvelous DVD recording and our support of the fine artists on stage. We had no shortage of encounters of the Celtic kind and established new connections that may prove to be life altering. This was my third trip here and I stayed the same amount of time each time. Each was special, but this was by far the most special. They get better every time. As always I do not want to leave. I have grown increasingly uneasy in the states with the rapid wrong direction the country is taking. I have always felt at home here. What the future holds only God knows. All I know is we are given life and we are meant to live it and use the gifts we've been given. Some folks may think me totally nuts. They're right. Yet life is not about stuff and money and drudgery. It is about relationships and experiences. I return back to the valley and reality on Tuesday evening. I have felt for awhile now it is time for a change and a big one. Alaska, Canada, Ireland, helping with a tour, working up new songs, any number of things could present themselves. This trip was about laying those foundations. It was personal, and it was private in many ways. 99% of folks had no clue I was going and that was by intent for several reasons. There are just times when it is too personal and no point in saying anything until more is known. This trip was one of those times. Thank you to Celtic Woman for the best excuse to take a bold step. Thank you to the folks at Celtic Nights, Michael, Rebekah, and Jamie, for their incredible willingness to engage and spend valuable time. Thank you to people I met in the business who are huge names with amazing gifts and success who have given me hope I may yet make the connection I dream about. Thank you to Dave Kavanagh and John Flanagan for the kind words Wednesday night and to John for the invitation to coffee. Wish I could take you up on it but I'm winging my way back to the states whether I like it or not. I don't. Finally, thank you to all the Celtic Woman artists who have been so kind in person and online throughout all this. I am truly blessed and the fans are in for a marvelous DVD. No more reviews from me now until December. Now we all wait and see what happens with Celtic Woman as it makes various transitions.  

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