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.
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!