Monday, January 28, 2013

Celtic Thunder's "It's Entertainment!" DVD Review

Celtic Thunder released its DVD, It's Entertainment!, in early 2010. It was the first release where the audience of a dedicated filming was comprised of predominantly fans. As with the accompanying CD, Celtic Thunder has received a good amount of criticism for this release as it's heavy on American covers, and very light on what would be considered the more "Celtic" leaning. But, I find that a lot of my favorites come from this release and it's a fun one to watch.

One major criticism... and it's a criticism that begins with It's Entertainment and just keeps going through later releases..  The audience shots.  It's not even just the audience shots. I can appreciate the visual need to break away from the action every once in a while. It's the vast number of shots showing audience members singing along. Words cannot express how irritating I find that.

The Great

Damian McGinty's Standing on the Corner is one of my favorites to watch him perform. It's a cute song about a young man girl-watching, and Damian sings with with adorable flirtyness! If you can watch this without a big grin on your face, there's something wrong with you.

The version of Hallelujah that is on this DVD is truly beautiful. It's a trio, beginning with Neil Byrne (his first release with a performance that is more than guitar and backing vocals and possibly the last time he appeared looking all rebel-like) and later adding Ryan Kelly and Keith Harkin. The harmonies are poignant and gorgeous, and it consistently figures in my Celtic Thunder favorites. Do NOT miss this one.

George Donaldson's version of The Proclaimers' Life With You is one of George's more popular upbeat songs and, I would argue, possibly his best. It is very fun and lively and always puts a huge smile on my face.

With a full accompaniment of dancers, Ryan Kelly performs a hugely entertaining Bad Bad Leroy Brown. This song is full of action with even Ryan trying out his dancing moves. It's worth a watch just for that, but the song itself is a great match for Ryan's flirty and smoky nature.

The standout of the recording is possibly the ensemble performance of U2's Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. It's upbeat and catchy, full of great harmonies that are sure to please the ear. The singers themselves seem to be having so much fun performing and that's very contagious.

The Good

Keith performs a three-song medley of beachy 1960's hits in Surfer Medley that is a lot of fun to watch. He looks very dapper in his dad's vintage suit! I enjoy the dancing girls that come out to entertain during his song, but my young daughter thinks they could have lost that part.

You Raise Me Up, performed by Paul Byrom, is breathtaking. A repeat from the Take Me Home product, it's delivered with tenderness and poignancy, before smacking you back in your seat with an ending infused with power.

Oh, Just Like Jesse James. It's, oddly, sung by Charley Bird, but lip synced to by dancer Caroline Torti. Filmed on the same night as a different product, Storm, which needed a dancing singing girl, there are surely contractual deals that went into why this was performed the way it was... but... Honestly, I would have just preferred to have Charley, who is a talented vocalist, come perform the song.

The Skippable

Nada. I like them all to one degree or another, and there's really not any that I dislike enough to not bother with.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Thursday Tales: Kissing in the Rain

Ben and Tessa walked along the sidewalk, hand in hand, under the awnings of the stores all closed up for the night. The young couple was in no hurry, immersed in the butterflies of new love. It was as if the night was made for them... despite the rain that fell.

The water dripped to the ground between each awning and, as they jumped from shelter to shelter, Tessa was aware of the havoc the little bits of rain were having with her carefully arranged hair. She hoped it still looked alright and occasionally put her free hand up to check.

It was in the middle of one of these checks that Ben stopped.  He paused under an awning and looked out into the rain. "Come on," he invited, as then walked right into the downpour, pulling Tessa with him.

"Are you crazy, Ben?" she pulled him back. "It's wet out there! We'll get soaked."

He winked at her and shrugged. "So we get soaked."  He drew her out and she could feel the water seeping into her clothes, dripping down through her hair.  The strands began to stick to the sides of her face and she knew there was no hope in salvaging it now.  She must've looked like a drowned rat.

She frowned, her eyebrows coming together in her discomfort. "Are you happy now?"

Ben turned and stepped close to her. "Not yet." He slid his hand behind her neck and dipped his head to taste the raindrops on her forehead. "But I will be." They stood in the pouring rain as he kissed down her nose and finally brushed his lips against hers.  Tessa sighed contentedly and her lips parted against his as she leaned into him. They stood in the rain a long time.

When he finally lifted his head, Ben whispered, "I've always wanted to kiss a beautiful girl in the rain. Thank you."

And as he walked her home, she smiled.  He'd called her beautiful. Clothes soaked to the bone, hair plastered against her head, and he'd called her beautiful.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

What You Put Up With

I felt like an afterthought.

It was a friendship that I had invested in, and I thought that they invested in it, too.  But I began to feel like an afterthought... always put off, never honest with. In the beginning, I excused it. They were busy and they had other things to do.  I could understand that.  But, as time went on and it just got worse, it became more and more of a thing. It became more and more something that I couldn't ignore.

And while this could very well go on to be something about how I felt mistreated and how wrong they were to treat me that way... it's not what I want to say.  I had a part in this, too.

When you notice that people are treating you in a way that you don't want to be treated, I feel like you have three choices.

1. You can ignore it.
2. You can talk to them about it.
3. You can walk away from it.

Much of the time, I feel like we do #1. We don't want to confront anyone, we just hope that it will magically work itself out.  But, the problem with that is that the way they're treating you isn't actually bothering them. So why would it change? Why would they change?  So, if we choose #1 all the time, it will go on bothering us. And in the end, the habit of it will be something that is partly on our shoulders. We perpetuate it by accepting it.

We can also do #2.  We can talk to them about it. Hopefully, that will help things to change. Maybe they don't even realize that they're treating you in a way that you don't like, that makes you feel less-than. Talking to them can bring that into their awareness.  From there, it's their choice whether you mean enough to them to change the way they behave towards you or whether you don't. The best scenario is that they do value you enough... and they try to change, and you can have healing between the two of you.

But sometimes they don't choose that way... and you're back to another choice.

1. You can ignore it.
2. You can walk away from it.

From here, you have to decide...  If the status quo is going to keep on being the status quo, can you accept that? Can you be friends with nothing changing?  Maybe you can.  Or maybe you can't.  But, you get to choose. You get to choose what you put up with and what you don't.

They say that what you put up with is what you end up with. What are you putting up with? What are you ending up with? And are you pleased with it?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Thursday Tales: In the Back of the Truck

I was driving home today and I took the long way. I usually don't and you know why.

There was just something about the day... the sun shining, the clouds rolling by. It was the kind of day we would have liked.

So I took the long way, and I drove by the field. I even stopped.  I stopped and I got out, and I walked all the way to the back.

It's still there, you know... our truck.  The paint is old and faded, even more than it was when it was ours. Rust has begun to eat at it, much like time has begun to eat away at our memories.

Do you remember the same things I do?

I climbed in the bed, and I sat with my back up against the cab.  I thought about all the days and nights we spent there. All the dreams we had.  All the kisses.  How the moon spilled light over your face or how the sun would feel on a lazy summer day as we just watched the clouds roll by.

I thought of you and I thought of us and I thought of all that's passed since then.  And I wondered what our lives would be like now if things had turned out differently.

But, mostly I smiled.  Because I had memories of you.

And I wondered... as I'm wondering now... do you have memories of me?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Keys to the Castle

Overall, I don't have a very thick skin.  Pieces of it, sections, have become thicker over time.  But, for the most part, it's really not that hard to pierce through the layers and leave me feeling hurt. I'm overly trusting and I want to believe the best in people. I'm impetuous and impatient... but easily wounded.

I give that neither praise nor insult. Sometimes I feel like, at this point in my life, my skin should be thicker. I should be less impervious to injury and hurt.  At the same time, I'm glad to not yet be completely desensitized to people. I'm glad I can still care enough to be hurt.

All the same, I've learned some things about being hurt. I've learned that, probably, I will never be the kind of person who easily lets things roll of her back. I will probably always be the girl who loves too deeply and often... and thus encounters wounds too frequently. This is a part of who I am, and I'm learning to accept that, and I no longer wish to change that part of me.

But I've also learned that not everyone needs to have that power... the power to create pain in my life and my heart. Not everyone's opinion of me has to matter. I've spent a lot of time in my life just wanting to be liked and accepted... and by everyone. But I'm learning that I won't be liked by everyone, but I will be loved by some.  And it's the opinions of those who matter most.

And so to you who matter most, I entrust you with that power to wound... because you matter to me.  But I also trust you. I trust that you won't use that power. I trust that you will understand that giving you the keys to the castle of my heart means that I'm calling off the dragons and I'm calling off the soldiers and I'm putting down the drawbridge.

I'm trusting you that you come in peace and you come in love and you come with goodwill.

For that is how I am welcoming you.

Monday, January 14, 2013

When Manipulation Loses Its Sting

Have you ever felt manipulated by someone... and then later come to realize that their hold over you is not as strong as it used to be?

I have a friend who's been punishing me for a long time for something that they had been hurt by. In the beginning, that punishment stung-- as it was meant to.  "If you hurt me, I'll stab you." But, it's been going on for a long time now.  And every time it happens, I've put on another layer of armor so that the punishment hurts less.

Enough time has passed now that I'm wearing a lot of armor.

It's not even so much that it's armor, but I've grown a thicker skin there. I'm noticing something else, as well. The constant punishment has done the job of destroying any affection. I just don't care anymore. It no longer stings. The only person they're punishing now is themselves.

And maybe that's the effect when we try to manipulate people.. when we try to punish them for their transgressions instead of finding it in our hearts to forgive them. In the end, we just end up hurting ourselves, growing hate in our hearts, and destroying the love that people have for us.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

George Donaldson's "The White Rose" CD Review

George Donaldson, original member of Celtic Thunder, released his premiere debut album to fan clamouring in the Summer of 2011. The White Rose, a marvelous collection of both covers and original songs, is an album that will especially delight lovers of folk music. George has been performing in pubs across the world for decades of years, and that experience translates into a presentation of strongly written and performed music.

Full of both passion and tenderness, George's voice, thick with a Scottish accent, is pleasant to the ear and makes for a very enjoyable listening experience. For harmony and counterpoint, Erin Boyle has been invited to sing on the album, and she is a perfect compliment to the deepness that comes from the main artist. The songs on the album are full of story and historical significance, a perfect folk album.

The Great

-- The album's title song, The White Rose, is definitely one of its strongest. An original penned by George, it tells the story of Sophie Scholl who was part of the resistance movement to the Nazis in WWII Germany. The song itself is driving, exciting, and inspires feelings of both courage and horror of the realities of that history. Definitely one you'll want to listen to often!

-- Beeswing is the first cover you'll hear on the album and it's fantastic. It has a really nice tempo to it with some beautiful music. As with most of the songs on the album, this one tells a great story -- this time of a man who pursues a woman who will not be tied down. Erin Boyle is a great contrast to George.  Really well done.

--  Rounding out the album are a duo of really beautiful tunes. Grace is a definite favorite, full of history, tenderness, tragedy, and patriotism. It's beautifully sung and performed. Coming right on its heels, the original Let the Tears Flow is a tender entreaty, an invitation to be true to your story, hurts and all, and the power of cleansing. It's one that brings tears often.

The Good

-- The first song on the album is A Song for Harry Chapin. It comes in two parts-- the first is full of a pleasant mellow sound and details George's introduction to Chapin and the resulting musical impact on George's evolution as a singer and songwriter. The second part slides into a faster, more driving tempo and tells the story of Chapin's life and eventual tragic death. It runs a little long but it's a great song written by George about one of his music heroes.

-- Another original, starting with some great pipes, is Halifaxtown. Featuring some nice harmonies with Erin, it's a passionate folk tune about Scots who emigrated to Halifax to escape English persecution.  

The Skippable

-- Hierarchy Blues is a very fast-paced track and the music is pretty cool on it, but I just don't love the song. I think that, perhaps, there is less for me to "connect" to in it, and so it just doesn't speak to me as much.

If You Can Only Afford 3 Tracks

  1. The White Rose
  2. Beeswing
  3. Grace

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Thursday Tales: At the Bridge

I stopped at the bridge to look into the icy water below. It was frigidly cold. The wind seemed to go through my coat like a sieve, and yet I couldn't help stopping. I loved this part of my walk home... quiet and peaceful.

In the spring, this creek trickled along with a happy melody, ducks floating along its path and flowers filling its shore. But, the winter's creek had its own beauty. The water still flowed, but there was a firm layer of ice on its surface. I wondered what it was like to be a fish living under there. A world that still moved on, yet was so separated from the one we existed in.

I turned to go, but as I did, slipped over a patch of ice. Breath exited my body in a rush as my feet flew out from underneath me. My eyes widened and then squeezed shut. It was all that split-second slow motion stopping of time that happens when something dreadful is about to occur. I threw my arms out to somehow cushion my fall, like a baby does when it loses its sense of security.

But before my body hit the ground, I felt arms lift me skyward and suddenly I was enveloped in strength and safety.

I blinked.  Looking up at my savior, I looked into deep brown eyes, framed in the blackest of eyelashes and furrowed in concern. "Are you alright, Miss?"

"Yes, I--" I stammered, taken off-guard by his sudden appearance but also with the nagging feeling that I knew this man.  Somewhere between the fall and the save and the warmth, it hit me.  It was Sean... or at least, I thought it was. I smiled at the memory. Sean had been my first love.  Hardly a love, I suppose.  We'd only shared one date. But, he had been handsome and sweet.  He was Hawaiian with dark hair that went so smoothly with his complexion. His face was more lined now than it had been back then, but he was no less breathtaking. Perhaps the lines even gave him more character; he was more handsome than I remembered. Than the dreams that I still had about him on lonely nights. "Thank you," I said, weakly. "I think... I think I know you.  Sean?"

He raised an eyebrow but shook his head. "Sorry, Miss. He must be a long-lost cousin or something.  I'm not Sean." He began to loosen his grip on me finally and I felt just a little disappointed. "Are you sure you're alright? Why don't you come sit over here?"

I let him lead me away from the bridge and to a bench along the creek.  I thought about this moment often later. Maybe if I hadn't been so struck by his resemblance to Sean, maybe I would have noticed the things that were just blips on my conscious then. Maybe I would have noticed the almost imperceptible nod he gave to someone along the opposite shore.

Maybe I would have noticed the glint of the moonlight on the knife he hid in his sleeve.

Friday, January 4, 2013

How Do You Build Trust?

The simple answer?


We live in a world of microwaves, email, instant messaging and Skype. We have become used to having things instantaneously. It has become the way of the world, and so we want things now. In fact, we want things to be there before we even know that we want them.

But, trust will never work that way.

In a perfect world, we would all be willing to trust each other from the get-go. We would be able to do that because, in a perfect world, no one would ever betray that trust and we would never have a reason to be careful. But, we don't live in a perfect world.  We live in this one.

In this one, we have learned to be careful about who we trust. Trusting opens you up to hurt. Sometimes little pinpricks of hurt, but somethings stabbings of unbearable pain. And so we have all learned to be careful. We have learned to build up our walls and raise our drawbridges. We have cloaked our hearts in impenetrable suits of armor.

And yet, we are not people who were meant to be alone. We have been created for relationship, and our hearts yearn after that. But how can we find those relationships when we are bundled so tightly inside of our fears and mistrust?

We try, but we are also afraid.  And so it's baby steps that we resort to. This isn't bad. Little by little is better than none at all. Maybe it would be simpler to just throw off the armor and choose to trust wholeheartedly. I'm sure it would be. But we've all been hurt too much to be willing to risk it.

So whether you are asking me how you can trust again... or how you can get someone to trust in you... the answer is the same. Baby steps, patience, and love. Be willing to wait for their courage. Be willing to exhibit yours.

Life is safe inside a coat of armor.  But, it's also cold and lonely and a terrible place to stay.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Guts to be Kind

Kindness is hard.

Because, you see, when you make the decision to pursue kindness, you don't get to choose who you dole that out to. It's not a conditional thing.  "If I like you, I'll be nice to you."

That's the easy way. But, it's not actually kindness.  That's just being nice to your friends.  Pretty easy.

It's being kind to the people you don't like, the people who rub you wrong, the people you don't agree with, the people who do things that you just don't understand...  that's the hard part. That's the part that requires you to dig deep into your beliefs, to dig into your patience, and to dig into your capacity for compassion.  That's where you find real kindness.

And it's elusive... because we don't want to do all that.  It's hard and it's work.  It's unpopular and you will find yourself being the only one.  And so it's also lonely.

But, in the final days... it's not the crowd that you will answer to. And so, still it's kindness that I seek after. I fall down a lot in its pursuit. I mess up. I snark off. I say things I shouldn't. I fail to exhibit compassion. I do what makes my selfish heart feel good and I fail.

And then I get up and I try again.

Hard things are not easy things.. but they're worthy things. So I keep trying.
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