Just a little about the young year so far. As always a mix of things. I did not watch the State of The Union speech and have not since Reagan. That was the last President I thought worthy of listening to. The only one before that was JFK when I was a kid. I do not watch award shows as they have gotten so raunchy and filled with other agendas aside from the artists and their musical contributions. I am so totally turned off by the pop divas and by rap "music". So many that win awards pale in comparison in talent to the artists I enjoy from across the pond and some in the states. Closest we come to a proper award is the Irish Music Association awards. Two artists I follow won awards this year, Meav, formerly of Celtic Woman, and the Washington state based Gothard Sisters. Both would blow away any of the artists who win the mega industry awards in my book. The artists I know, follow, and enjoy seem to think all the pop divas are so good. They are not. They are simply the most hyped and most promoted. I sure would not use any of them as role models for young girls! I would, however, use any of the female artists I follow as good role models. Are they human? Yes, thus not perfect. But you'll get none of the raunchy antics on stage or off in public places with them.
The two primary ensembles I follow are Celtic Woman and Celtic Nights. The latter is new to me and has grown quickly in my heart after only two shows. So what makes these ensembles special? Both are from mainly Ireland or have folks of Celtic origins in them. Both are mixed male and female although CN is mixed vocalists up front where CW is purely female vocalists up front. I did not think I'd go for the male mix in the music but I very much do. I have been to 86 CW shows and recordings and have a few more coming up in April. The artists are truly exceptional on stage and off. They have been an inspiration to me and to countless other fans. Management policies and decisions have been the only flies in the ointment, and at times large ones, over the years. Some of their artists are wonderfully interactive and fan friendly, others not as much, but it is ALWAYS up to the artist about that whether on line or in person encounters. I am especially impressed in that respect with current front row girl Lisa Lambe. What an absolute sweetie! But each of them over the years has been most kind and the only limits really are the constraints of the paid for meetings and management policies. Again this year that is a fly. We'll know more after opening night later this week as regards meetings but those that ran them last year are gone. Again PBS is NOT getting the premium seats with the meet and greets with some exceptions. It forces avid fans to either buy two tickets or choose a primo seat OR the meeting and a mediocre to poor seat. I chose the better seat. Pricing is not cheap but without the added PBS prices $100 or so is well in line for a world class show. My predictions for CW this year are partly now known wrong but partly I KNOW will be correct before the year ends.
As for Celtic Nights, my two shows thus far are enormous bang for the buck! No, they are not as well known, as they have had no TV exposure here and are far newer and the show lower budget. Does that detract from the fan experience? Not in the least! My tour opener in Nampa and the Albuquerque show the other day were marvelous. All the people on stage are world class just as the CW folks are. Michael Durkan has done a fine job in selecting these folks and is much more fan friendly in his view toward his audience. He is not encumbered with a Madstone or PBS and his tour manager, Alan Whelen, is top drawer and wonderful to work with. The show is a mix of musicians, dancers, and vocalists. with 13 altogether on stage. The band is simple with a fiddler, Ben Gunnery, and a multi-tasking piper and guitarist, Stephen O'Connor. Both are excellent and get the audience going and with great humor at times. The dancers, Gavin Boyle, troupe leader and man of many hats, is joined by new member Aidan McGinley, and three lovely lasses in Heather Metcalfe, Leanne Phelan, and Ciara Doyle. They are top drawer as one might expect from the same stable that has brought the world Gaelforce Dance. Then there are the vocalists. Male singers Will Mulvey, Gregor Firth, and Derek Moloney have great solos and wonderful ensemble pieces. They also do a nice version of Auld Triangle joined vocally by Gavin and Stephen. They connect well to the songs and the audience. For the ladies in the audience (and their female cohorts on stage) they are easy on the eyes as well. Then there are the three from row girls. Rebekah Robertson from Scotland has a wonderful, full, mid-range soprano voice and has some excellent solos. She connects very well on stage and off with her audience and fans. Rebecca Winckworth is a higher range soprano and also has beautiful solos and a CD available at the show. Then there is alto and hauntingly wonderful singer, Éabha McMahon. She has a voice like no other and will leave you spellbound. The three combine for some amazing harmonies. After the show there is a full cast meet and greet at no charge in the lobby. So, front row of an international and top drawer show and a full M and G after the show for what? Maybe $50 tops with few exceptions. Major bang for the buck. After meeting with Michael and Rebekah in Ireland last year we established a fan forum that has become an appendage of the organization but fan owned and operated. My meetings with everyone have been wonderful and I cannot recommend the show more to everyone.
So, with a great many events left on my plate the first half of the year I am anxious to tap into more Celtic magic. The hype and promotion of the major labels and media phase me not. I'll take any one of these artists over 100 pop divas any day! And with that I'm off to more shows. Check both ensembles out and go to a show near you.