I don't know why, but every time I see Órla it just gets better and better. I drove to Rockport on Thursday so I'd be there in time for the Border's signing event. Bruce also arrived Thursday evening and we had a pleasant dinner at one of the very few places open in town. Rockport is primarily a summer resort and most places were closed for season. Friday morning I took the 10:00 train into Boston; it was much easier than driving into the city. The State Street subway station is right across the street from Borders so it was very convenient. After checking with store personnel to see where Órla would be performing, I grabbed a quick lunch and walked around a little; I hadn't been in downtown Boston since my college days, a very long time ago.
I returned to Borders a little before 12:00 thinking I'd have an easy time getting a front row seat. It turns out that the seating area is permanently set up and customers use the chairs all the time to relax and peruse potential purchases. I grabbed a second row seat while trying to determine if those in the front row were Órla fans or not. Finally someone left and I seized the opportunity. I ended up sitting next to Kate, a fan who traveled all the way from Wisconsin! I thought I was crazy.
We chatted while waiting and shortly Joe and Kathy arrived, followed by Kelly (not Kelli). The surprise, for me, was John's (meavman's) appearance. He hadn't originally planned to come but decided at the last minute to make the trip since he had never met Órla before. The long distance award went to Casey who came all the way from California.
Borders had a small sound system set up, but neither Órla's harp stand nor her harp were to be found. When Órla arrived she said that they didn't want to bring the harp inside because they were afraid that their vehicle might be towed!
She performed anyway and sang 3 Christmas songs a capella
: I Saw 3 Ships, The Wassailing Song,
and Soul Cake
. Needless to say she sounded wonderful. Afterward she happily signed things for any and all and posed for pictures. I got caught up on everything I had pending for her to sign, including several things for other people, and got my first 2 hugs for the day. When it was over we all went our separate ways, temporarily, until the concert. I walked around some more since my train back to Rockport didn't leave until 4:00.
We all met again for dinner in Rockport and had a delightful time sharing stories about Órla, CW and other things. Around 7:30 we headed for our seats. What a spectacular venue the Shalin Liu Performance Center is! Newly constructed, it is designed for chamber music and is very small and intimate with fabulous acoustics. Front row is practically against the low stage and my second row seat was closer than most front rows I've been in. Joe and Kathy were in the third row and Bruce and Kate were in the fourth row; we had the front covered. John got a last minute ticket in the side balcony but got an ISU to the third row.
The show started with I Saw 3 Ships
and I immediately noticed that the sound was absolutely amazing, by far the best I've ever heard. Dan's keyboard was just right and Amberly's violin was wonderfully crisp and clear. Órla's voice was stunning and the mix was “spot on.” I thanked the audio technician after the show and he was very appreciative. The set list was similar but not identical to Statesville. I got the set list after the show and Isle of Inisfree
was to be the first song after intermission. Instead, in honor of being on the Atlantic coast with the ocean only a few dozen feet away, Órla substituted the “mermaid song,” An Mhaighdean Mhara
. I hadn't heard that one in quite a while and it was lovely. She said that it was the first time she had ever played it in America. She dedicated Distant Shore
to John, some of you will understand why, and Hard Times
to Bruce, of course. Per my request in Statesville, Amberly adjusted her music stand so the audience could see her tonight. I'm glad because she is a joy to watch. It is obvious that she is having way too much fun up there and is really getting into the music. She is also very
talented and accomplished and gets several opportunities to show off a little. She did her little jig again during The Wassailing Song,
but no spins. She said that she can
spin while playing and I told her after the show that I'd be checking in the spring. She accepted the challenge!
After a resounding standing ovation Órla came back for an encore and we sent her off with another standing O. It was a glorious night in an amazing venue but it wasn't over yet. As usual, Órla adjourned to the lobby to sign autographs and we stayed at the back of line. After complimenting the sound engineer I talked to the facility manager and made arrangements to return Saturday morning to take pictures inside the venue during daylight hours. Those of you who read about the venue earlier will know why, the rest of you will just have to wait.
While Órla was talking with others, we chatted with Dan and Amberly and got them to sign autographs and pose for pictures. I now have two Amberly “novels.” Eventually it was our turn and once again Órla expressed her appreciation of her dedicated fans supporting her as she launches her solo career. I got my set list autographed and got a few more hugs. After we all had individual pictures taken, we then had the usual group photo taken. Before they rushed off, we all got more hugs and wished Órla safe travels and a Merry Christmas. She has two more promotional appearances in New York and then heads for home on Monday. She was excited about that, and justifiably so; she's been working hard the last few weeks and deserves a break.
After I get my venue pictures tomorrow and get home I'll add pictures to this review. I recorded this Borders performance, too, and I will let everyone know when I have both of them available for viewing; they are lovely.
That's it for me and Órla until April 1 in Harrisburg and I already can't wait! Dan said that the spring set list will have a few new songs, so there is definitely something to look forward to.