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« on: March 17, 2015, 04:56:37 PM »

           It was July 20, 2005 when a newly-formed group called Celtic Woman embarked on their first tour, kicking off its US tour in Cleveland Ohio. Formed initially for a one-night concert performance filmed in September 2004 at The Helix Theatre in Dublin, Music Director David Downes took the calculated risk of bringing the show on the road on tour?where it has now been for ten  years.  Now, this night of March 13, 2015, Celtic Woman was back to the place where it all began with a nearly sold-out performance of its Tenth Anniversary Celebration North American Tour at the State Theatre on Playhouse Square in Cleveland.

         At past Cleveland Celtic Woman shows, Chloe Agnew never failed to mention that this was where it all began, always to the audience?s delight.  On this night, of the original cast remained only the back-bone of the show, fiddler Mairead Nesbitt and instrumentalists Ray Fean on percussion, Eoghan O?Neill on bass and returning to the lineup for the month of March and early April, original soprano vocalist, beautiful M?av N? Mhaolchatha. 

         We had last seen Meav on the Home for Christmas DVD, filmed also at the Helix in Dublin in August 2013.  Fans were pleasantly surprised to see her step in as the replacement for Lynn Hilary, whom herself had replaced Meav in 2007 and was now subbing for Lisa Lamb, who had replaced Lynn in 2011.  Celtic Woman fans, as a rule, have loved all these artists, grieving when they left, rejoicing anytime they have returned. And tonight it was time for the Cleveland crowd to rejoice at the return of Meav.

          Daniel Cobble and I had joined Patty and Dave Tucker & family for a pre-show dinner in Strongsville, where we were joined by Tom Troxall and Barbara K.  The Tuckers had front-row center seats and M&G passes!  Daniel had a couple of seats on the second row piano side, while I had tickets on the center aisle of Row E.  Tom had purchased an adjoining seat from Bill Hoffmeyer, who unfortunately could not attend due to other commitments which had arisen. 

          The dinner was great, but made us late in getting to the hotel, as we were arriving in show traffic!  We had to double park and remove our luggage and leave the car to valet parking.  I left my garment bag with my show attire (principally my Mairead jacket) in the car.  :-\  We made it to the venue just before the show in time to have Daniel pick up our M&G passes and get to our seats.  Upon entering the lobby, I looked about for choir members Edel Murphy and Sarah Gannon, whom we knew had been selling programs at past shows this tour. Not seeing them, I purchased one from the concessions table.  Then hurried to our seats.

   The view from my second row seat was obscured by a speaker so that I couldn?t see the piano, so I moved to the row E seat with Tom.  Daniel elected to stay in his second row seat instead of joining us in row E.  My seat was on the aisle with steps leading down from the stage.

   The show begins with one of my favorites from David Downes, The Sky, The Dawn and the Sun!  How wonderful it was to see Meav come in singing her part in the song as she did in A New Journey.  It felt as if we HAD found a way to follow here after all!  I consider it THE signature song for Celtic Woman.  I last heard the song sung by Meav in the Louisville Palace in April 2007, my first Celtic Woman show.

   Meav followed with the haunting a cappella Cailin Alainn. Her seems somewhat less mournful than the versions of Lisa Lamb and Lynn Hilary, but certainly no less beautiful.  That is followed by Dulaman, Meav?s version of which was our first, seen first on  the DVDs and then in person. You wouldn?t know she had been away from it!  Ray and Andy look like they are having great fun.  Ray delivers his lyrics loudly and confidently.  He looks like he is enjoying delivering them to Meav.

   The haunting song New Grange is next from lovely Mairead Carlin, sporting shorter hair.  It certainly becomes her, as I mentioned to her at the M&G following the show.  I though initially her longer hair and photography was designed to highlight a resemblance to Kate, Duchess of Cambridge.  Mairead probably is content not to resemble the soon-to-be-delivering Kate too closely at the present time.  :P   The choir in this number is quite prominent and both their appearance and sound adds greatly to the appeal of the song.

   Mairead N presents Butterfly, syncopated quite differently.  I think she purposefully varies it to highlight the fact that she is in fact performing it live and not per a taped performance. I might ask her that sometime, were not howling time-keepers always at our heels at the M&Gs.  I display my Fiddler Crossing sign during the standing O.

   Piper Tommy Martin?s masterful  rendition of The New Ground is followed, as it should be, by the moving Isle of Hope, performed by beautiful Susan McFadden.  Other highlights came from Susan with the performance of Caledonia, at the piano with Brian McGrane.  The Voice was done by Meav fantastically well, though it is hard not to associate the song with Lisa Kelly. 

    It was so great to see Meav do Si Do Mhaimeo again!  She and Mairead C did a wonderful job on it.  Their interaction with the choir was both visually and musically highly entertaining.  This song was a highlight for me for sure!

   Teir Abhaile Riu (TAR)  was the closer for the first act.  This being my first show of the tour without Lisa or Lynn, I was treated with seeing Susan emerge from the crowd singing ?Da, da, de latendeda?.  Shortly thereafter emerged her formidable opponent, Mairead C, who descended the steps and stopped in front of me as she displayed demonstrative and heated opposition to Susan?s proposed Galway trip.  I was in the spotlight too, so I thought I would add my support to Mairead?s viewpoint, looking disdainfully over toward the wandering Susan (the opposite of what I did when I was on Lisa?s side of the room).  Meav steps out as the intervener in the internecine warfare  about to happen on stage and puts a stop to it.  She did a perfect  job at it, as did Susan in adopting the role Lisa and Lynn customarily played as the Galway-lured sister.  I suspected she always really wanted to go to Galway too.   :D  The first act ended on this incredible high note.

   At intermission I continued to give out buttons to the Mairead C and Susan fan forums.  Meav buttons went only to those who would commit to putting them on display immediately, as I wanted Meav to see a bunch of them in the crowd.  Hopefully, she took note of them.  Sandy H of the Meav forum and sent Patty and I a bunch to distribute.  I gave Meav one with her gift bag at the M&G.  I also checked in with our front row Captain  Patty, to assure her that Tom, Dan and I would always join them in SOs.  As always happens,  more and more of the audience joins us as the show progresses, until the whole house is standing at the end.

   Act II begins with Orinoco Flow.  How wonderful to see Meav in it again!  It must do the audience good to see her in it as well, she being in the performance of it on the Helix, Slane Castle and Greatest Journey DVDs.

   The strains of Amazing Grace come down from the back of the room.  I turn to see Bagpiper Anthony Byrne come down the aisle.  He mounts the stage and the rousing version of this venerated hymn continues, augmenting by the pipes of Tommy Martin.  They draw applause of their own for their much-appreciated contributions to the number.

   Granuaile?s Dance follows with fantastic Mairead Nesbitt?in the type of performance many have specifically come to see.  Next in a change of mood comes Mairead C?s rendition of Nella Fantasia, in close collaboration with guitarist Ewan Cowley, whose solo draws applause, a la that customarily given Des Moore at that point.  It is well-deserved.  It is a more intimate arrangement than the previous one of the song.

   At the start of the rousing number Nil Se?n ?La, I look around to see if the choir, Anthony and Andy are dancing up the aisles, as in last year?s arrangement.  Not this time.  I don?t know if this is due to space limitations or an actual change in the arrangement.  It is delightful to see Meav in it,  obviously having mastered the dance moves and having a wonderful time.

   Mo Ghile Mear: No Celtic Woman show would be complete without it.  And I get to see Meav in it for the first time since 2007!  That causes it to have an added emotional component for me, harking all the way back to A New Journey and its performance at Slane Castle.  I think God I was able to see Meav during this all-too-brief stint on tour!

   The Parting Glass is introduced by Meav.  Patty Tucker has distributed glasses along the front row to raise at the appropriate moments of the song,  This song is always moving to me.  The lyrics ?Joy be to you all? is for me like a bid of farewell from Meav, whom I will not see again on this tour (unless plans change).

   To resounding applause with a standing audience, Mairead N attempts to introduce You Raise Me Up.  Finally, the crowd quietens sufficiently to allow her to do so.  It is again great to see Meav once more in the performance of this signature Celtic Woman song. 

   The crowd won?t leave without an encore.  Mairead N leads introduction to all the cast, who each show their stuff by contributing solos.  Then the choir is introduced and finally the soloists are brought out in a rousing Mo Ghile Mear reprise.  The crowd knows they have seen a show!

   The Meet & Greet   

As the crowd disperses toward the exits, those lucky to have Meet & Greet passes congregate in the front, as we were instructed.  This year, unlike last, Meet & Greets have resumed being conducted at the end of the show.  The two PBS stations attempt to verify those on their lists.  We search in vain for a spare on to enable Tom to go in.  The M&G is full, nobody has an extra, nor are there no-shows.

We are taken back to a back-stage room where the M& G will be conducted.  It is conducted much the same as last year: a photo only, no autographs. Must leave the room after yours is taken.  Nick was passing through and I told him he had a great show!  He was very kind to the assembled fans.

I have gift bags for all the soloists. In addition to their gifts, I have placed forum buttons in the bags for Meav, Mairead C and Susan. I wanted to pass them out and quickly reintroduce myself   to Meav, whom I had not seen since the filming of Orla Fallon?s Celtic Christmas in Nashville in September 2010.  Meav was a guest on the DVD and graciously waited around to greet gathered fans and autograph items. Although I have been continuously active on the Meav forum and particularly the FB page run by Sandy Harlow, I honestly didn?t think she would remember be.

As I approached Meav, she said ?Hello John, how are you??  :o  No introductions necessary apparently!  I told her how thrilled we are to see her back with the group and that I hadn?t seen her since 2010, it having been 2007 before that.  I had tweeted them that I would be at the M&G, but you never know whether they will see it among all the other tweets they receive. I told her how thrilled we are to see her back with the group.

My photo with the group was taken.  That Meav asked if I didn?t need one of her for the forum?  Of course I did!  I suspect Sandy had asked her to be sure I got one for the forum.  Had she not asked that we pose for one, I doubt the M&G people would have consented upon just my request.  But pose we did and I got the shot.  Dan Cobble and perhaps others also got a picture of us.  Photos are attached below.

Since a M&G had just been conducted, we didn?t feel that we should indulge in added imposition by waiting at the bus for them.  The show and M&G were more than I could have hoped for.

In the lobby we came upon Sarah and Edel at the concessions table. During intermission I had heard the rumor that Alex might be returning temporarily this tour.  They said they knew nothing about it.  I told them I thought the substitution of a former soloist to spell someone during the tour was a great idea. They said they didn?t need spelling themselves. True for the time-being, but an opportunity such as Edel had experienced with River Dance right after the Christmas Tour may come again for either or both of them.

Next morning Daniel returned to the venue for photos of the marque.  We left Cleveland contented and thrilled beyond measure to have attended this wonderful show and had a M&G which included Meav!

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