Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thoughts on the Celtic Thunder Christmas Symphony Tour

It's been a year since I've seen a Celtic Thunder show. It's been a year since I've seen the Celtic Thunder players in any performance of any kind.  And it's been a bit of a hard year.

We lost one of my most beloved singers, George, of course. And, over the year, I've walked a path of frustration.  I've felt jaded... incredibly jaded... and that's upset me a lot. I haven't wanted to feel that way, but I haven't seemed to be able to shake it either. And as the year has gone on, I've felt myself grow unhappier and unhappier with a show that I have always loved so much.

Last night, I attended Celtic Thunder's Holiday symphony show that they are currently touring across the eastern half of the country. And, as I walked into the theater, I honestly hoped that seeing them would be the antidote I needed to fall in love again.

I loved the show. I truly did. Simply put, it made me very happy. I had forgotten how much I love them, and last night reminded me. In last year's tour, Ryan Kelly sung the song House of the Rising Sun. It ends with this killer finish, and I can remember last year leaning further and further forward in my seat as the song went on, knowing that that ending was coming... literally on the edge of my seat with anticipation.  I spent pretty much the entire night like that last night.

The night was a lovely collection of fun and somber...  sometimes so funny and simply fun, sometimes poignantly serious and beautifully arranged.  It was a perfect combination.. one second taking your breath away, the next making you laugh and ramping up the energy of the room.

I kind of fell a little bit in love with Neil Byrne last night. Truth and more on that later...  Ever since the latest Christmas CD was released last year, I've really liked his version of Mary, Did You Know? I've just really enjoyed it, and watching him perform it last night was a delight. He gets better dramatically every time I see him, and I love seeing that so much.

Of course the talk of the fall has been newcomer Emmett O'Hanlon, and deservedly so. He really has a beautiful rich voice and brings a bit of sweetness and twinkle with him into the mix. His delivery of O Holy Night seems to garner him a standing ovation every night - which he still takes in with a touch of the overwhelmed. I look forward to seeing more of him. I really do.

His duet of Winter Wonderland with Colm Keegan was very funny, and was the first good dash of humor to the evening.  It was really cute and the over-the-top hamming made me laugh a lot.  You can't help but love it.

But where the night shone the most for me was the sometimes-beautiful, sometimes-plain-fun ensemble songs. Oh, what a joy and what a beauty some of those arrangements were. Dave Munro, your work is gorgeous.

Fairytale of New York, the Christmas medley, and Most Wonderful Time of the Year were all songs that had me laughing, clapping along, and just plain enjoying myself. These were fun and really just brought me such joy. But, oh... Silent Night and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.  I have always loved CT's Silent Night -- it's beautiful and does not disappoint in any way. But it's Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas that I really love the most.  I am just so in love with this arrangement, and these wonderful singers perform it seamlessly and with such beauty. The way the melody floats so easily from soloist to soloist....  It is perfect. It is just perfect.

But Ireland's Call...  Boys, just cause it's Christmas and holy doesn't mean you can't twirl.  What the what?

If you have the chance, go see it. Please go see it.  They are wonderful and I left that theater very happy that I flew three hours on Thanksgiving weekend to take them in.

Now... I need to go back to Neil...

Neil...  years ago, when you weren't a principal singer yet and you played guitar in the band, you used to bring delight to my heart. Do you remember when we used to sometimes bring signs to the show?  We couldn't always count on the guy they were intended for to even notice them.  But we could always count on you. I can remember always looking at you and you would smile that sweet smile of yours and nod so encouragingly. It was a simple thing that meant a lot.

Last night, I needed your smile. I needed to remember so many things about why I love coming. You smiled and nodded so much at me last night that my heart was filled clear up to the top with delight, I walked into that theater last night, needing to remember why I fell in love with Celtic Thunder.  And really, it was a lot in thanks to you that I was able to remember. It's a simple thing that didn't really cost you anything...

But it meant much to me.  So thank you. You gave me a gift last night.  Thank you.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Love is Messy

Loving people is messy.

And probably that's because we're all a little messy. We're a little broken and a little selfish and a little confused and all doing our best to navigate a world we don't have a map for.

You invite people to be a part of your life and it's good! It's all flowers and sunshine and honeymoon-y. And then maybe it isn't.

Maybe that means conflict. Maybe that means disappointment. Maybe it means a lot of things.

And then it's harder. Loving people is harder.

But sometimes loving people is. It's easy to love when it's sunshine. It's hard to love when there are storms...  but that's when it's most important to love. That's when it's most important to show up and to keep showing up.  That's when it's most important to do the things that those you love really need you to do.

Loving people is messy. And so is love. And so are we.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

After the Bus

"Have a good day, girls!" I waved to my children as they walked off to the bus.

"Bye Mom! Have fun with the laundry!"

I smiled as I wandered back to the house in the morning cold. What they didn't know...

The grey fog turned to a lighter sky as I showered and primped. I checked my mascara before slipping my feet into the red high heels.

I suppose I understood. A day of laundry, dishes, and sweeping probably didn't seem like much compared to their dreams of grandeur.

I threw the leather jacket over my arm.

but they didn't know about my other life.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Byrne and Kelly, "Live in Australia": An Irritated Review

This isn't really what I want to be writing. I love Neil and I love Ryan... I have followed them for years now and I love them truly. But I also promised myself, when I started writing about Celtic Thunder and related, that I would do it honestly. That I wouldn't sugarcoat and that I would be honest about what I thought.

So here I am, knee deep in irritation, pouring my thoughts out on paper - consequences be damned.

I don't keep myself as deeply into "the know" as I used to a few years ago. But I was pleased when I began to hear rumblings over the summer that there was talk of a new Byrne and Kelly album on the horizon. I really loved Acoustically Irish, and I was happy that another one would be coming soon. I really wasn't sure when they would have had time to record one, but sign me up.

Then it came out that it was a live album of their show that they had done in Australia.  I was less excited by that, but thought maybe there would have been enough changes in it since the last one I saw to make it worthwhile to me.

Then when the tracklist was finally released... I was the total opposite of excited.  Out of ten tracks, there were a grand total of two that I didn't already have on previous albums, and only one extra that I'd really be willing to pay for to have that version specifically.

Can we talk about that for a minute?

I am sure there are fans... and maybe lots of them... that are so thrilled with a live album of songs they already have that they can hardly help themselves.  I'm just really not one of them. To me, it's a cheater album. Celtic Thunder occasionally puts out new CD compilations that are all old tracks, with ONE new track thrown in. So if you want that one track, you have to shell out for the whole thing all over again.  It feels kind of like that.

I am SO HAPPY to buy new music from these guys. They bleed talent. They are wonderful singers. They blend beautifully. Their harmony is gorgeous. I am almost as happy to watch/listen to Neil play the guitar as I am about Brad Paisley. And if you know me at all, you know that's a LOT. But seriously, don't make me buy a filler album just because you've run out of beer money. It doesn't make me happy. It makes me feel used and taken advantage of.

*sigh*  Okay, let me talk about the things in the music that I actually like first.

Fields of Athenry. 
Beautiful Affair. 
On Raglan Road.  

All three of these tracks are beautiful. Lovely harmonies, touching and haunting deliveries. The guitar on Beautiful Affair is so pretty, I could listen to it for days. On Raglan Road is gorgeous, and the addition of Nicole Hudson's violin is perfect. And I like Fields of Athenry more and more, every time I hear it.

Course, I also already own them. So.

I'm glad to have Wagon Wheel in audio form finally, and Land Down Under is a really fun tune (more on that one in a second, maybe).

Ride On... oh Ride On.  This is the track on the album that I both love the most and hate the most. Let me explain.

The first time I saw Ryan and Neil in an Acoustic by Candlelight show, it was just the two of them making music. There was a strong reliance on Neil's stellar guitaring prowess to power up the musicality of the instrumentals.  I loved this. Neil is SO GOOD and I am delighted any time there is chance to watch him show off. When the guys started adding more instruments to their arrangements, I understood why and it sounded good too -- but I also missed some of the prominence of Neil's awesomeness.

That's the first part of why I love Ride On. The arrangement highlighting Neil's skills is so lovely. Ryan's vocal delivery is haunting, thoughtful, and beautiful. This will ever be a song I associate with Ryan, but ever since I first heard him do it, I have loved this version where he isn't so much Mr Sexpot but conveys something much different and far deeper.  And oh I have wanted this version in my hands for a long time.

But then there's the part that I hate. To anyone who's never been to one of Ryan and Neil's show, at the end of this song, the audience is invited to sing the chorus. And I hate it. Like... really hate it.  For some reason, Ryan thinks I have a plague that is communicable by eye contact, so he wouldn't know this.  But every time he invites the audience to join in, I glare eye daggers and throw imaginary darts at his head.  Sometimes they aren't imaginary.

So... to have it forever immortalized is awesome. (Note.... to the uninitiated, that's a little sarcasm.)

To the rest....  eh, I'm ambivalent.  There are things I don't like, but are generally small enough that it would just be nitpicky to bring them up.  Above all, it's the crowd noise that gets to me. To me, it is so distracting. So so so so distracting that I just stop enjoying the music and start swearing at the album instead..

I know. I know. It's a live album. Clearly, it's just not my shtick. I am so grumpy over it.

Look, I'll be back for the next real one, and hopefully with a less irritated attitude.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Why do I have to be the one to forgive??

It was a hurt that I kept coming back to - those words that had been said, the thoughtlessness that had been acted on. I knew I should let it go... but it just wouldn't let go of me.  And so I kept going back to it. Over and over.

I knew what needed to be done. I just didn't want to do it, you understand. But I knew.

That little voice in my heart cried out, "Why? Why do I have to be the one to forgive when I'm not the one who did anything wrong?"

And that was a good question... why do we?

We forgive to allow relationships to heal. Sometimes, without it, they can't.  In fact, most of the time probably, they can't without a little forgiveness on both sides. I once had a chance to mend a rift with a friend. We both had hurts, and we talked about some of them. But some we didn't... and those ones were mine. I really struggled with that. Wasn't it okay for me to need healing too? But in the end, I decided my choices were to hang on to that hurt and walk away, or forgive and rebuild.  It was my choice to make. But without that forgiveness, there was no chance at all. With it?  There was a bit of hope.

We forgive to give space for new relationships to grow. Hurts we can't forgive grow in our hearts. With every pass, they get bigger and take up more space. We focus on them more and more. We begin to give them size and precedence that they don't deserve. And they get in the way of other people's attempts to reach us. We begin to think that the hurt someone else caused is something that is going to happen with someone else, and so we lock up our trust. But when we can forgive what happened before, we allow other people the chance to show up in our lives and show us the good people that they are. We can give them our trust, instead of our doubt.

We forgive to set ourselves free. The answer to why you have to be the one to forgive is because you are the one that is hurting. Forgiving isn't saying that what they did is excusable. It's saying that you aren't going to let it own you anymore. Those things you keep going back to are the things you can't let go. But those things you keep going back to? They aren't hurting the person who said them. They're hurting you.  Forgiveness isn't always a gift that you give to them. It's a gift that you give to yourself. It's allowing yourself to not let their words or their actions define you, become you, own you. Forgiveness allows you to let things go and to embrace who you really are... to live your life again.

We forgive because we have been too. Don't tell me you're perfect and have never hurt anyone. I know that's not true, and so do you. Someone else has had to forgive us... and probably many times. And so sometimes the answer to why you have to forgive when you didn't do anything... is because you have in the past.  And the only way you can expect to be given forgiveness when you are the one who has done the hurting is to be the person who does the forgiving when someone else has doled out the pain.

And so we forgive. And we heal... sometimes together, sometimes not.  And we move on stronger.

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