Wow! Or to put it another way: WOW! And just in case you didn't catch that: WOW!
It was an absolutely fantastic evening. The most important word in the title (besides Orla, of course) is with,
because it truly was an evening with
her. It was like having her come over to your house. She did a little singing, a little chatting, and a little hugging. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
The evening started with almost everyone meeting at Flannery's Irish Pub. There were twelve of us and we spent about an hour and a half eating and talking. I got to meet a few more forum members and got reacquainted with some that I hadn't seen in a while. Of course, there were some of the “good ole regulars” (as Lisa says) there, too. Jenny (chocolat) had prepared small gift bags with a lovely scented candle, a new Orla button, some Hershey's chocolate, and a few other goodies. Each person in our group got one, plus there were bags for Orla and her entourage. Jenny had also purchased a beautiful bracelet to be presented to Orla after the concert. Everyone chipped in with the excess going towards Máiréad's charity fund for next year.
After dinner we walked over to the “venue.” I use that term loosely because it was not really a public place; the show was actually held in one of the small theaters inside the WVIZ television studios. There were only 200-300 seats which made for a very intimate setting. Thomas had worked his magic with Robin of WVIZ and even though the seating was officially “first come, first served”, the entire front row was decorated with bright red signs that said: “RESERVED for Friends of Thomas”. How cool is that? I got Thomas and Orla to autograph mine.
There was no stage, just some chairs and small speakers setup on the studio floor. The only instruments were a small drum, a keyboard, a guitar and a violin. A large black box sat on the right side of the set but no harp. Two other people joined our group at the studio and, as show time approached, the theater appeared to be almost full. 7:30 came and went and still no harp and I was getting worried. Finally someone brought it out and the PBS representative joked that it took him “longer than usual to tune it!” After he talked for little while it was time.
Orla walked out in a lovely gown that was a black on top and gradually faded to a beautiful blue. She went right into a lovely a cappella
song, sung in Gaelic. Her voice is so crystal clear that it almost takes your breath away. And being in such a small studio made it even more amazing. After wowing us with that, she chatted for a bit and introduced her accompanists for the evening, Dan and Mary. Dan switched between the drum, guitar and keyboard while Mary played both the violin and keyboard. I will apologize here that I don't remember the sequence of the songs, or even some of the titles, because it was such a mesmerizing performance.
Orla introduced each song with a little story about where it came from, who wrote it, and how she came to record it. For her own compositions she explained how the idea for the song came to her. It really enhanced the event and now when I listen to Distant Shore
the songs have a lot more meaning. There were two songs on that album tied for being my favorite and now that I know the “back stories” it is no longer a tie. You'll Never Be the Sun
is now the clear winner.
At several points she took a break from performing and took questions from the audience. Someone asked a rather general question about what she likes to do in her spare time and she mentioned that she likes horses and especially her garden. She joked that her neighbors sometimes think she's “mad” because she is sometimes out in her garden at 5am! She told stories about how she came to learn the harp, about her sisters and brother, about the pony she had as a child, and so many other things. As I said at the beginning, it was like she was sitting in your living room just having a wonderful conversation.
She performed quite a few songs from her new album as well as many traditional numbers, some sung in Gaelic and some in English. She also played a few instrumental numbers and boy do her fingers fly on those strings! She finished with Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.
This was the first time I heard it since I don't do iTunes and her arrangement is beautiful. They were selling CD singles of it at the small merchandise table and I purchased several. After a long standing ovation she performed Hard Times
as her encore. Before she started it she said that she was singing it for Bruce because she knew it was his favorite. I couldn't see him from where I was sitting but I suspect he was floating above his chair! After another standing ovation, it was over and time to adjourn to the lobby.
WVIZ had an open bar and snacks for anyone who wanted to stick around and meet Orla. Our group stayed separate with all of our gifts and left everyone else get their turn. Orla was extremely gracious and signed anything that people wanted and happily posed for pictures. She spent almost an hour meeting people and then it was our turn. We posed for a group photo and Bruce got his first hug of the night. This was my first time meeting Orla and I got a hug, too! I actually got several. Then Jenny made her presentation of the gift bags and the bracelet. Orla was quite taken aback but, of course, graciously accepted. Dwight presented her with a Build-A-Bear from Wickie and she just loved it. Then came the cards, the candy, and so much more. Finally there was another group photo, more signing, more conversation, and all too soon her manager came over and took her away. I think she would have stayed another hour if she had been allowed to!
It really was an evening with
Orla. She gave an amazing performance and connected with her audience on such a personal level. The PBS announcer said that when he met her it was like he had known her all his life. That's what the whole evening was like; that's just the way she makes you feel.
Finally, a couple of Thank You's are in order. First, thanks to Thomas for working so closely with Robin and WVIZ and getting us those fabulous seats and the special Meet & Greet. Thanks to Jenny for getting all of the gift bags and the bracelet. Thanks to Robin, too, for going out of her way to make the evening so special for everyone.
I never had the chance to meet Orla when she was with Celtic Woman so this was my first time. And what a first time it was. It was an evening I'll never forget.