Thursday, January 2, 2014

Another year in the books and a new one on the way

   Well here we are again at the beginning of another year. One is behind us and one is ahead of us. Most years for most folks are a mix of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Mine was no exception. I write this from a chilly valley still covered in a blanket of snow, with a couple inches of it fresh. The rest came the week before Thanksgiving and a layer of it is still around thanks to the cold. The sun is setting behind the mountains to my west and so with a cup of hot liquid it seems right to ponder the year that was and the one that is to come.
   You’ll note many of my blogs are a mix of politics, social commentary, personal, and mostly all things Celtic. This will be no exception to that. In politics and social events, it is it has been for quite some time now, a divided people and world. It is that way not because of the many but because of the few. Those few are the ruling elite who continue to use wedge issues to keep people bickering with each other while they profit from it in one way or another. It matters not what side of the political aisle one is on as both are guilty of caring little about their people but more about their own luxury, power, and wealth. It is clear to me the globalist movement that leans strongly left wants a vast planet of serfs, a few ruling elite, and no middle class. They impose all manner of contrived fixes to supposedly cure the very ills they create. Rather like a drug that has side effects their “cures” cause more problems. Until we the people are a unified one, and not in the way they want, we will continue to see the darkness looming ever larger. Agree to disagree on some issues but understand the big picture and that is the enemy is not each other but those that wield the dollar, the sword, and the boot. Strength comes from unity, not diversity. In any case, I see little change in the wrong direction our nation and world have taken and can only use what I am gifted with, pen and voice, to try to awaken a sleeping mass of humanity in my own small way.
    In personal matters it continues to be a challenging life both financially and in other ways. My gall bladder decided it wanted out at the end of May and so I was obliged to listen. I had no health insurance and could afford none. I had no resources, only far too much debt. But a Colorado program kicked in and helped a huge amount in cutting the bills to a reasonable level. Yes, without the “magic” of Obamacare. That program is yet another phony fix and fleecing of the middle class and came from a cloud of lies and a rush through a one party rule in congress. It is not at all what it pretends to be but is exactly what its creators wanted. That should say enough about the attitude among the ruling elite. So, in spite of the fine program I still had bills and still had to earn a living. That I made it through yet one more year successfully in that is due only to the blessing of God. Vehicle, health, and other bills don’t get any smaller or occur any less frequently as time moves on. I’m blessed to have a roof over my head, food on the table, and good friends without whom I could not truly live in any meaningful way.
   What meaningful way is that? Well, as it has been since 2007, a creative and musical way. I still write, though not as much volume as I used to. The inspirations remain the same and that is mainly the people and music from across the pond. Through the year it was a blessing to hear and meet again the lovely visions that have been the instruments in God’s hands to move me in various directions. Spring brought more Celtic Woman shows that always tend to fill me with what is positive about the world. It was lovely people, singing and playing beautiful music, in nice settings, and with my fan friends around me.  The artists were wonderfully kind especially after my surgery and are truly gems of great value. But the year also brought a new group and new faces, Celtic Nights. Some fan friends found them via one of their members who used to be in the CW choir. They attended a show in Austin and were hooked. They have now brought me along for that ride as well though I have yet to see the show in person.
   Celtic Woman, as has been the case throughout its history, had a few changes and a few twists in 2013. Most notable was the departure of iconic original cast member, Chloe Agnew, in August just as the ensemble was working up a new Christmas DVD in Dublin. We had given her a birthday fest at Red Rocks this past spring and I’m so glad we did. I had suspected she would be the next to leave but did not figure it to be quite so early. Several clues led to my thinking this, some the same as those left when Lisa Kelly departed. Those same clues are now making themselves known in their fiddler Máiréad. While the departure of a key vocalist has always been met with sadness and some fans going with them, the departure of the fiddler would certainly end the ensemble as we know it. Like the previous departures, Chloe has indicated some things on her plate and we already have a taste of that in her new Christmas single. I was not thrilled she chose LA rather than Nashville to move to but support her move to build a solo career. It is incredibly expensive to live in that part of California. We watched her grow up while with CW and many of us older types have rather fatherly feelings about this dear girl. In fact, I was born the same year as her dad and exchange posts now and then with him on Facebook. Stepping in to the closet full of shoes of Chloe came a delightful young lass from Derry in the north of Ireland. Videos clued us in about some things but could not approach what folks would hear live on stage. Her name is Mairéad Carlin and I early on quipped to her on Twitter that I was prepared to be Carlinized. I most certainly was. I have nothing but positives to say about her after my symphony experiences in November and December. But I get ahead a bit. In between the spring tour and symphony tour was to come Australia. That was not to be due to a combination of Chloe leaving and a new Christmas DVD to be filmed at The Helix in Dublin. For that Ms. Carlin had not yet been brought forward. Rather it was Meav who returned for the recording. I had not seen Meav since the last Christmas recording at The Helix in 2007. That was her last stage performance with CW. How perfect her next one was another Christmas treat. The resulting DVD is glorious and truly showcases them all and established a signature song for Susan McFadden. As always, the every lovely and ever gifted Lisa Lambe was a shining star. This brings up some negatives to follow, not regarding artists but once again management.
     There were a few curve balls this past year. One was a change in the way meet and greets were conducted. Now they would be before the show, barely before, and be a photo op only with no autographs. Gone was the barrier of a table, which was a good thing. I have plenty of signed things but I know many who don’t and we liked to get things signed for folks who could not get to meetings mainly due to their cost. Bubba Dixon was always good about that. However, part way through the spring tour he was gone. We can only speculate why but it always seems the fan-friendly ones get the boot and he will be very much missed. Ken Craig was the tour manager and did just fine along with able helpers like Brett Miler, Michael Elder, and Naomi Agnew. Yep, Chloe’s sister. Yet another Agnew gem. There were flies in the ointment about this new way of doing things. They were too close to show time thus creating potential for rushing things, there were times there were way too many people so that assured it would be rushed, and in many cases seats that went with the meetings were not the least bit optimum. Add to this that prices at some places were well out of line with the economy and it meant someone was not paying much attention to reality or didn’t care. We suspected good seats would not be with the meetings when they were offered through Ticketmaster long before any PBS pledge drive. That is again the case this year. PBS prices are insane in some cases and tell the general viewer that only the well healed need apply to meet these lovelies. Do the artists approve of such a policy? Last I checked they themselves did not feel elevated in social status above their audiences. Yet some behind the scenes still seem to believe that. Having the meeting before the show is fine but it should be an hour, not half hour prior, and should be firmly limited to 20 people. That also gives the artists time to warm up and reflect before taking the stage which they cannot really do now. Pricing is up to each station and some should be ashamed of themselves. Yet where the seats are located mostly falls to the promoter Madstone and for the prices paid tickets with meetings should ALWAYS be in the first three rows of the venue. Yet another boner was the incredibly short notice, barely any notice at all, of a live recording of one of the touring shows in South Bend. It was insulting and frankly a rather blatant slap at the avid fans community. Good seats were long gone and no one save for the well healed could hop a flight on essentially two days notice. For that reason I will not purchase the resulting DVD. I will acquire the CD as that had nothing to do with it. Later on the same short notice was pulled for the Christmas recording. While it was more than two days, it was poor notice for the busiest travel month in Europe, August, and within the 30 day window where fares jump for international flights. It was yet another slap and there is no reason for it other than hostility. Both events were planned well in advance, they have to be for technical reasons. However, this time was different as my old airline knowledge came in handy and a handful of us made it across the pond for the fine event and another wonderful week in beautiful Ireland. At the event were also some European fans and after the filming we were even stunned to be approached by David Kavanagh, the head honcho of CW LTD. That was not at all expected but very welcome and he was most kind in his comments, though clearly still in a state of shock about Chloe. Fine office staffer, John Flanagan, was also there, and had I been set to stay longer we’d have shared coffee one morning. Next time.
    But I also went for another reason and that was business with Celtic Nights. This group is operated under the umbrella of GFD Productions under the Columbia label, and is the brainchild of Irish artist Michael Durkan. His lovely office staffer, Rebekah Robertson, is also one of the principals of the group. Her brother Jamie was also there and we had two days of great conversation as they gathered information from us about the CW experience and we gained inside entertainment information about how things work. It was the kind of meeting several of us had hoped for with CW for many years but was ignored or refused. It was a great promotional tool for them to do this and since the meeting we have been doing what we can to promote the upcoming tour and find other ways to offer support. Their tour begins a month before the CW one and only goes to the end of March. CW goes from mid-February into some time as yet determined in June. As long as I am able I have tickets for both groups all up close. The nice thing about CN is no inflated ticket prices and a full cast M and G after the show at no charge.
   Here are my predictions based upon history, various clues, instinct, and just plain dart throwing. Celtic Woman will lose yet another front row girl in 2014 at some point. Celtic Woman may eliminate the choir and reduce the size of the band in a cost cutting measure due to the drop in ticket sales this past spring and since Madstone will not be willing to reduce its piece of the action. Fewer people on payroll, fewer hotel rooms, fewer buses. They will also simplify the staging to also reduce costs. There will be new faces in road management again and a reduction of opportunities by the stage door and buses as the girls are quickly herded onto the bus before folks can get there. Why would folks try to go near the buses or stage door? Poor seats and high costs of M and G will dictate that many familiar faces will opt for a good seat and then take their chances if the venue set up is conducive to it. Celtic Woman will do an anniversary DVD at The Helix in Dublin, likely on or near the anniversary date in September. Although they could opt to do it earlier again, it will most certainly be at that venue since that is where it all began. They will again give short notice for the event. Celtic Nights will have a good spring tour and release a new CD and DVD in 2014 to go with their 2015 tour. Artists will change a bit there as well. New CDs will be released by Alex Sharpe, Chloe Agnew, Mairéad Carlin, Máiréad Nesbitt, Rebekah Robertson, Lynn Hilary, and possibly Lisa Kelly. The latter already has a performance planned in May near her home. Chloe will do some solo gigs as will all the other former CW artists, though many will be in Ireland. Another tour and artists to watch will be The Roots Of Ireland which has indicated a CD release and a fall tour in the states. That ensemble includes Lisa Lambe’s hubby, Simon Morgan, and two artists we CW fans know, Deirdre Shannon, and Una Pedreschi.
  I have also tuned in to several other artists and groups in Ireland and the states and all combined they represent fine examples of what should occupy our entertainment dollars and time. We cannot take the eye off the ball on what is going on in the world. We cannot afford to be distracted. Yet at the same time we all need to be uplifted and surrounded with positive people and things that strengthen us. Music has that kind of power and can be used for good, as with the above groups and people, or can be used badly as we see with the plethora of sleazy pop divas and dark music. My prayer for you all and myself is that 2014 is a positive one for us all. More good and less bad and ugly would suit me just fine. Finally, my thanks to the amazing artists I’ve had contact with this past year, many of whom have been incredibly kind and interactive. You never cease to inspire. And my thanks to so many friends who made 2013 events possible for me that otherwise would not have. 2013 saw some fences mended, including a fan I had been long estranged from, and Maggie at Madstone, Both of whom I exchanged tweets with, some new relationships, and some old ones strengthened. If we all treated each other that way we’d have a truly wonderful world. Happy new year and God’s peace.


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