Monday, December 29, 2014

A very Celtic 2014

Hello everyone, and Merry Christmas!

       Yes, it is still Christmas a few more days. Remember those twelve days of Christmas? Yet soon another event will intrude, New Year. So it is time to reflect back on this current year as it slowly fades away.

     It has been a VERY Celtic year for me. It began with a tour of Celtic Nights, a product of Michael Durkan and GFD Productions in Ireland. I went in with certain expectations. Some of those did not bear fruit, such as actually being part of the operation in some small way. I and others did, however, do a great deal of promoting early on with an eye to helping the operation find investors. By the end of the tour things were not as either they or we had hoped off stage. No matter. What was ON stage was exceptional. It was a fine troupe that blended well together in song, dance, and instrument. I was very impressed with the show from the opener in Nampa to the wrap up in South Carolina. Not only was the show on stage top rate but it was an incredible value. Tickets were far less than what I had been spending to see Celtic Woman and the full cast meeting after the show was free. No dog and pony show, no quickie photo op, and best seats first come, first served. All of the vocalists were excellent. But the one that struck me most was the beautiful and soulful alto, Eabha McMahon. I snapped up her four song EP right away just to keep that voice with me. The dancing team was professional and got the audiences plenty juiced. The instrumental was simple with one piper/guitar player and one superb fiddler in Ben Gunnery. I'm all about the fiddle. I did ten shows in my first tour with them and each was a gem on stage and the meetings after were quite nice. Yes, there were some events over the course of the tour that did not sit well on either side but it is best to leave those alone and move on. I do not regret one dime spent to see and hear this fine ensemble.

    After that it was time to do my usual Celtic Woman touring. Not as many shows this year as my personal economy was no longer able to handle that. Yet I would have several packed closely as they hit my region very hard. A couple of over-priced meetings were included in that and seats were mixed between great and poor. The new show, Emerald, was a high energy ceili. There were very little slow tunes involved, which for me was sad. But you could not help but smile and it left you in a very up mood. As always, every one of the on stage artists were superb. Heck, you can't swing a dead cat in Ireland without hitting an amazing artist it seems! It was not my favorite of the touring shows I've seen but still well worth seeing and hearing. It was not quite the same without the delightful and whimsical Lisa Lambe on stage. Lynn Hilary returned for the bulk of the tour. She is a fine vocalist and certainly seemed much more relaxed than her previous stint with CW. But nothing is quite like the personality that L'il Lambe has brought to the ensemble. I was there for her very first show in 2011 in Florida and she is an important reason why I still attend. Not that Susan McFadden or Mairead Carlin aren't amazing. They are. Incredible voices and presence. And, of course, for me, it will always be about their premier violinist, Mairead Nesbitt. Part of my heart will always rest in her fiddle case, though hers is fully given to a fine lighting director on tour.

    Then there was a brief hiatus until my first Irish/Celtic festival. It was the Colorado Irish Festival in Littleton, the Denver area. I shared the days with a fan gal pal and two of her friends. We were there for the Saturday and Sunday shows and there were some great acts involved. Angus Mohr is a local group and a fun mix of heavy metal and Celtic. Gaelic Storm is one of the premier Celtic groups in the USA with a huge following. Rightfully so. The Elders are another excellent group and they too got the crowd on their feet. Actually for those two groups no one ever sat down! It poured rain Saturday so it mattered not anyway. Sunday was my main reason for going as we had The High Kings. I had not seen these fine lads in person since Killarney in 2009 after the CW Powerscourt recording. I was thrilled they were in my neighborhood. They are very gifted and very nice people. It was a great event from start to finish and one I hope to revisit in 2015.


    It was then time for a long hiatus until December. Oh wait, you say I forgot something? Well I figured I'd combine the two events here. Late last year Lisa Kelly announced she was going to do a performance in her new home community of Peachtree City Georgia. It would be at a local outdoor venue the locals call The Fred, and would have special guests. As time moved forward a huge gathering began to take shape especially in light of Chloe Agnew and Paul Byrom being her guests. Chloe worked with Lisa at Celtic Woman and Paul is a former Celtic Thunder stud. The fan gathering was the largest since the Celtic Woman Believe recording in Atlanta in 2011. Nothing will likely approach that event but we still had 80 or so familiar faces for Lisa's initial event. Her husband was in the show as well dancing as he had done with Riverdance where he and his lass met. He was joined by another ex-pat from Riverdance, Aaron Tolson. Scott would later announce a dance academy to open this fall to go along with Lisa's voice academy. It was a brilliant show in every way from beginning to end. Fans had long told every Celtic woman artist we'd be there for them after they left and did their own thing. We meant it. So, they hinted at another show to come later. Most of us figured on a Christmas show to highlight the students again and we were right. Same guest stars were present and it was yet another healthy fan gathering and brilliant show. Most of us are already set for the next event in May! Build it and they will come has never been more true for the Lisa Kelly voice Academy or for the shows Kelly-Porter Productions has been putting on. Oh, and the backup folks wer excellent as well. James Casto opened both shows and also served in the main show. Dermot Kiernan had a cameo role in the December show and he is excellent! The backing choir had a bigger role in December and I was especially impressed by Juli Gilbert, a local soprano. Yep, I'll be back, God willing.

   And then we wrapped up the year with the annual Celtic Woman Christmas symphony tour. That is always such a treat. Best of all Lisa Lambe was back! My buddy up in Alaska invited me up to the three shows, later four, in Anchorage. He had tons of miles and used them to get me up there and both of us to Peachtree for Lisa and company. It was Celtic Woman's first ever visit to that state and mine as well. The shows were beautiful as always. David is there and that too is always a treat. We had great seats and I was able to give Lisa the check from the charity drive on her behalf for her charity of choice, Alone Ireland. Sett graciously had us meet on stage after the show for the handing over of her copy and a photo op. It was most appreciated by Lisa and myself as well. That took me to 97 CW shows so far. I've planned four for the spring tour. I spent a few days in Valdez with my buddy and his employer graciously put me up at the camp in a room and that included some great meals. We visited his property in Chitina as well. We had meals while in Anchorage at two iconic local places, Gwennies, and Sourdough Mining Company. Yummy! My first reindeer sausage (no flying ones make the plate), and king crab. I've serious pounds to lose now! Alaska is an amazing place. And yes, there is Anchorage and then there is Alaska!


 Other things happened this year in normal life. I lost my contracting position at the solar site and so had to file for bankruptcy. I will operate from here on without a credit card and that's fine. Health is still questionable at times. Vehicle is very long in the tooth at 311,000 miles. But in general there were no serious negatives. The except to that was the loss of long time friend Mike Kimmons, taken by cancer back in Nebraska. A few months later the same thing took a wonderful fan and friend in California, Glenn Skinner aka Rott'n Rebel. I had known Mike since 1976 when we bowled together back in the days when I lived on the lanes. Did that for a couple decades. He and his wife Nancy actually remarried in the home I built outside Lincoln that they rented for awhile. Glenn was a marvelous artist with pencil and had created some beautiful work over the years. Both will be very much missed by those who knew them. And so thus ends a very Celtic year. It was typical of a year in a human life with a mix of positives and challenges just as 2015 will be. Until next year, cherish your special moments, friends, and family. All of it can end in a hurry. Peace


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