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Author Topic: My Nashville Destiny - March 5, 2016  (Read 1658 times)
MrPeabody
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« on: March 07, 2016, 10:53:18 PM »

Part 1 - The show

It seems like forever since I have written a review of a Celtic Woman show. Indeed, except for the 10th Anniversary tour openers in Ireland last year, it has been quite a while. The reason? It's quite simple really, there hasn't been much to write about. The last 2 tours, and the last 3 years, have all been rehashes of songs from previous tours with minimal changes. David seemed to be in a bit of a rut. Or perhaps, like Sauron, his attention was diverted elsewhere by the Bloody Irish and other projects. Regardless of the reason, new musical director Gavin Murphy has breathed new life into what had become somewhat stale and the result is absolutely spectacular.

My journey to this show was rather circuitous. I had originally purchased tickets for both nights, front row seats through Ticketmaster and then PBS tickets with M&G when they became available. At the time I didn't realize that I had a conflict on opening night, a humdinger of a conflict. Órla had announced last year that she would be doing a concert in Binghamton, NY, on March 4 and, of course, I purchased my tickets right away. When the CW schedule was announced, the opening date initially didn't ring a bell. Once I discovered that I was double booked I had to make a decision: CW opening night or Órla. The decision was actually rather easy, Órla of course! Luckily I had no problem finding homes for the CW tickets but the shows were in opposite directions from home. I explored flying from Binghamton to Nashville but there was nothing that would get me there in time for the pre-show dinner. I widened my search to Scranton but that didn't work either. Finally I ended up with a flight from Allentown which got me to Nashville early Saturday afternoon. That meant driving from Binghamton to Allentown after Órla's show, a little less than 2 hours, and then getting up early for an 8:30 flight. It also meant a night of short sleep but you do what you gotta do!

So after saying goodbye to Órla and all of the other friends that were there I headed south. I crawled into bed about 2am and was back up at 6. Yikes! And no Dunkin' Donuts for fuel either. The trip was uneventful, both flights into and out of Charlotte were early and I arrived in Nashville just in time for an unadvertised rain shower. Jim Allen kindly picked me up at the airport and delivered me to my hotel where I could relax for a while. With Jim was his wife, Ann, who I had never met; Méav's biggest fan, Sandy, who I hadn't seen since Órla's Christmas recording, also in Nashville; and Randy from Richmond. At this point I was too wound up to sleep so I used the afternoon to post my pictures and commentary about Órla's show.

A little before 4pm Jim returned to pick me up for dinner. We made a short detour to pickup Daniel and we were downtown in plenty of time for Jim's 4:30 reservation. There were a total of 14 of us and, with the exception of Sandy, we were all “regulars.” I was famished because I had last eaten in Charlotte around 10am and the 12oz rib-eye steak that I ordered tasted mighty fine! The servers took good care of us and we were done and on our way in plenty of time. Those of us with M&G passes had paperwork that said we needed to pick them up at Will Call by 6:15 but when I got mine I was told that someone would be meeting us at 6:50 to take us to the room where the M&G would take place. While we waited I visited the merchandise table and chatted with the Merch Dude for a while. Of course, I also got a program and a calendar; both are extremely nice.

As M&G time approached, I saw Sett and we exchanged pleasantries. Soon we were led by a combination of Sett, PBS and venue personnel down an elevator and into a rather nice room. The group was surprisingly small, only about 10 or so. I had visions of previous pre-show M&G's and the specter of a 7:30 show time was in the back of my mind. We waited for what seemed like an eternity but finally the girls arrived in their lovely multicolored first act gowns. First in line was a young girl with some teddy bears. Needless to say she got lots of attention. I was very surprised to see how Sett was handling things this year. There was no more rushing to get people in position for their photo and no more more hurrying them out afterward. Everything was very leisurely with plenty of time for hugs and chat. It was actually better than some of the post-show meetings last year. Susan was first in line, followed by Eabha and MairéadC with Máiréad last. I was greeted with 4 wonderful hugs and explained why I wasn't there the previous night. Since I hadn't seen the show yet I couldn't make any comments about it so we just made small talk for a bit, There was a PBS photographer taking the “official” photo as well as someone else taking pictures with our own cameras so we all got an immediate photo as well another one to be sent next week. We were also allowed to take picture ourselves while in line, something that was actually prohibited at some meetings last year. We all stuck around to watch each other go through the line with no pressure to leave. It was very pleasant and hopefully it sets the tone for future meetings.

We were then escorted back to the theater where we proceeded to our front row seats. The stage at TPAC is medium height and the view was excellent. The staging continues to get simpler and is now basically just a set of full stage-width stairs with the two drum kits at either end of the top level. The first step is large enough to form a small platform and the piano is centered there. The lighting has also been simplified with virtually no stage-level lights. Overhead lighting is now just in the rear with the front lighting bar gone and no “spotlight guy.” One big addition, though, is a huge LED screen replacing the crinkly backdrop. It spans the distance between the drum kits and extends from the top of the platform to the rafters. There were two large sections in each lower corner that were blacked out; I don't know if that's by design or if there was a technical issue. I suspect that it is a flexible display and probably rolls up into a tube for transport; something that big would be rather fragile otherwise. I didn't see the trucks but my guess is that they can probably get all of the staging in one truck now, rather than the two or three it took in years past.

The now-standard announcement stating no flash photography and no audio or video recording was played and we were off. The Celtic Woman Destiny logo had been displayed on the screen and as the house lights faded Máiréad entered from the right and began playing a slow instrumental, first in the shadows silhouetted against the screen and then gradually lit by a spotlight. I didn't recognize the melody but it was a lovely way to introduce the show. After a few minutes the big drum beats started, and the introduction to “When You Go” began. The girls entered from behind the stairs and gradually worked their way down to the stage. Choreographer, Daryn Crosbie, has certainly put his stamp on this show with lots of rather intricate choreography, something that would be a theme for the night. He even rates his own photo page in the new program. I didn't particularly like the CD version of this song; the chanting and heavy drum beat made it seem like a march which didn't feel very “Celtic Woman-ly.” This version is much, much nicer and I like it a lot.

At this point some of the other changes became more obvious, primarily in personnel. The band is arranged the same as before but Ray, Anthony, Eoghan and Brian are the only ones remaining from previous tours. According to the program the replacements are as follows: on percussion, Catriona Frost; on guitars, Tommy Buckley; and on Uilleann pipes, Darragh Murphy. However, when Máiréad made her introductions at the end of the show she identified them this way: on percussion, Fran Green; on guitars, Gavin Murphy; and on pipes, Amos Dillon. I don't know if those personnel changes are temporary or permanent. The heart breaker for most of us is the loss of Sarah and Edel. The choir is now four male singers (no dancers) whose level of involvement is greatly reduced. Incidentally, none of their names matched the program either. On the plus side, all of those changes really put the spotlight on the front four and they certainly rise to the occasion.

Susan introduced the next song explaining that the chorus means "Walk my love, walk to the door and come away with me" in Gaelic. Thus began “Siúil a Rún” in a lovely arrangement that included all of the girls. Each one sang a full verse as a solo with the chorus sung as a group. MairéadC then introduced one of my favorites, “Ride On,” talking about Jimmy McCarthy, who wrote it, and how it came to be written. It started as a MairéadC solo, accompanied by Máiréad, with Eabha joining in at the second verse. The harmony of their two voices together is stunning.

Pixie time! Eabha introduced Máiréad's first solo of the night, “Hills of Ireland.” Since she was already on stage from the previous song she did not perform barefoot. She did, however, bring the house down when she switched from the slow to the fast part. It was so great to see her doing something new, rather than the same standards she has always done. Sadly, no spins to count.

Next was Susan's first solo, “Whole of the Moon.” Up to this point the background screen had been mostly showing images of the lovely Irish scenery, especially during Máiréad's solo. . For this song they used a variety of images from the night sky including, obviously, the moon. One particularly beautiful moment was when Susan was standing to the right of the piano with the full moon right behind her.

After Susan finished, the stage stayed dark but we heard Eabha's voice. We turned around and she was standing on the wing of the stage with a single spotlight on her. It was a very effective way to begin her first solo, “How Can I Keep from Singing.” After the first verse she walked back to center stage for the rest of the song. Again the stage went dark and we heard the familiar sound of bagpipes as Anthony began the introduction to “Amazing Grace.” As always, he finished at center stage as the girls entered. The arrangement hasn't changed but images of beautiful stained glass windows were displayed on the background screen which enhanced the visuals immensely.

One of several highlights for me came next as MairéadC began singing “I See Fire” a capella. For those who don't know, this song was written for the second Hobbit movie, “The Desolation of Smaug.” It is about the inevitable destruction to befall Laketown when the dragon is awakened. Images of an abandoned castle were shown on the screen with increasing amounts of flame being added as the song progressed. It was very impressive.

Ray's bodhrain solo was next and is largely the same as on previous tours, although Ray did ham it up a little bit more than usual. As he was leaving the stage, though, instead of Máiréad appearing and scolding him it was Eabha who entered singing the opening bars to the “Bean Pháidín” or as I call it, the “diddly” song. She was followed by Máiréad and. as Ray disappeared. Susan and MairéadC entered to finish the song as a group number. The song is a mix of Irish and English but if you listen to the English verses it's quite funny. At the end Eabha remarked that all Irish children learn it in school when they're about 5 years old.

What Celtic Woman show would be complete without “Danny Boy?” None, of course. However, this is a new arrangement which is a little less of a dirge and features noticeably more Mairéad. Simply gorgeous. Next was “Níl Sé n Lá” in a somewhat toned down version compared to previous tours because the girls were still in their gowns rather than their ceili dresses. It was still a great number and a very upbeat way to end the first act.

As intermission drew to a close the house lights dimmed and a small figure scampered in from the right side of the stage and took her place at the center of the upper platform. She began playing and my excitement rapidly grew as I immediately recognized the opening notes of “Skyrim.” When she moved down to stage level Anthony appeared on the upper level with his new drum, providing the rhythmic beat. This was the only song where I really noticed the male chorus since their deep voices are such an integral part of it. There were two on each side of the stage and, interestingly, they were all reading from song sheets. Hopefully they'll eventually learn the words! This was my favorite Máiréad solo of the night, although sadly still not performed barefoot.

The classic Enya song, “Orinoco Flow,” was next with no changes to the arrangement except that it did not start with the thunder and lightning effect used previously. Susan then introduced her next solo, “Sometimes a Prayer Will Do.” She talked about its writer Brendan Graham being a great friend to Celtic woman over the years (he wrote “You Raise Me Up”). This song is perfect for Susan and boy did she pull out all the stops. Her range is amazing, from the quietest lyric to the most powerful one, and she demonstrated both here. Totally awesome.

Next, in a complete change of pace, was Celtic Woman's homage to the centenary of the Irish Easter Rising of 1916. It started with MairéadC doing a dramatic reading summarizing the events of that fateful weekend. She was then joined by Eabha and Susan, standing on opposite sides of the stage wings. They recited the poem “Mise Éire, I am Ireland” written by Patrick Henry Pearse (Pádraic Mac Piarais, 1879–1916), commander of the revolutionaries who, along with the other leaders, was executed by the British for treason. Lit by a single spotlight each, they spoke each line alternately in Irish and English. That was followed by Máiréad on fiddle leading into a haunting MairéadC solo of a song I've heard but don't know the title of. It was incredibly moving and a fitting tribute to those who spawned the rebellion that ultimately led to Irish independence. It brought me to tears at the show and still does even now. To lighten the mood they then sang the traditional Irish song “Ó Ró Sé do Bheatha Bhaile,” also written by Patrick Henry Pearse. Those of you have watched or listened to the “Bloody Irish” will recognize this one immediately.

Susan then talked a little bit about Irish emigration and how most of those who left never expected to return home which led into “My Land,” featuring Anthony on pipes. Another favorite of mine was next, “Like an Angel Passing Through My Room.” There are really no words to adequately describe how beautiful this was. With just MairéadC and Brian on piano it was just sublime.

Wait, there's a barefoot fiddler on stage! Yes, it's a third solo (count 'em, three!) for Máiréad and it's her classic, the “Butterfly.” Flitting about the stage like the song title, she had no problems getting the audience to clap along. As she cranked the speed from slow to medium to fast to ridiculous she became a blur on stage. Then she transitioned to a short jam session with the band where each one got a chance to show their chops for a bit. As always, it was a hoot to watch and well deserving of the standing ovation it received.

Eabha then returned to the stage and began singing “Walk Beside Me” alone. She was joined by Máiréad for the second and third verse. Finally MairéadC and Susan entered and they all finished the song together. Máiréad then had her chance to speak and I expected her to introduce “You Raise Me Up.” But no. She thanked everyone for coming and then Eabha wished us all a safe journey home (in Irish) and announced the last song of the night, “Westering Home,” again featuring Anthony on pipes.

Of course we all knew that wasn't really the last song and they soon returned to perform “Téir Abhaile Riú” (I call it the “jabberwocky” song) as the first encore. Ah, but this was no ordinary performance. Susan entered first and began playing the spoons. Next came Eabha playing the tin whistle. They jammed for bit until MairéadC entered with a concertina around her neck. Finally, Máiréad joined the fray and they all proceeded to dance and spin and sing. Once small little secret, though. MairéadC wasn't actually playing her concertina, the bellows were locked in the closed position. She fiddled with the latch a few times like she was trying to open it but never succeeded. Still, it was a fabulous and fun performance.

But wait, it's still not over. Anthony returned to the top platform and began his frenetic solo which was followed by Máiréad doing the band introductions. Soon everyone was back on stage and it was a fitting “Finale” to the night. This time it really was the end and we waved to them as they disappeared from the stage for the last time.
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Mike

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« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2016, 10:54:00 PM »

Part 2 - Summary and pictures

It wouldn't be a Peabody review without at least a little tech. The stage lighting, despite the greatly reduced number of lights, was quite well done. It was much, much better than last year. The house spots, however, were a different story. Having said that, now that I know that the operators get their cues from a CW staffer, I'll chalk this up to new show teething. I'll be curious to see any differences at my next show in a few weeks. The sound seemed very uneven. I'm used to the sound not always being perfect from the front row because they have to optimize it for the whole house but it should at least be consistent. On the songs with less instrumentation the sound was superb, on those will fuller sound, especially the ones where Eoghan was hitting the bass pretty hard, the sound was sometimes noticeably distorted. I'm not complaining, just observing. The girls' voices, though, projected quite well and were quite often almost acoustic. I could hear Susan directly from the stage quite often.

In summary, on a scale of 1 to 10, I give this show a solid 15. It is easily the most Irish of any show they've ever done and that makes me very happy. The song selections skew towards the slow side which suits me just fine, too. The 1916 remembrance section was superbly done and could easily be expanded and stand alone as a CD. Some people I talked to didn't care for the video backdrop but I think it was well done. In quite a few places it significantly enhanced the songs and even when it didn't, it didn't detract either. There are only a few songs included from prior tours and those are welcome additions. The big surprise for me was the absence of “You Raise Me Up” and “Parting Glass.” It's not that I miss them, though, because quite honestly I don't. What surprised me was the break from tradition. It's nice to see things shaken up a bit.

The choices of solos for each of the girls are spot on. MairéadC excels on songs where her voice is the star with minimal instrumentation. Susan is the one with the power and both of her solos give her the chance to prove it. Eabha has the haunting voice and her solos still haunt me. And three solos for Máiréad! How cool is that? In fact, Máiréad has a much bigger role in this show than in any other that I can recall. Besides her three solos, she has a part in a much higher percentage of songs than before. On the last few tours she would often disappear at the end of the first act and not reappear until halfway through the second. Not in this show and I welcome the change.

The changes in the band are probably to be expected with the change in musical directors, although I am a little puzzled by the apparent second round of changes between program publication and show night. As a lover of the female voice, the change in the choir disappoints me but that, too, is the choice of the musical director. The male voices are used sparingly enough that it doesn't detract from the show for me. I suspect many of the female fans will disagree.

So, that's it. Some of us waited by the stage door for a while and had nice chats with both Anthony and Ray. The girls were in a bit of a hurry but we did at least get to wave goodbye and thank them for a wonderful evening. Jim chauffeured me back to my hotel and I relived the show through my pictures.

The combination of Órla on Friday night and Destiny on Saturday night made for a wonderful weekend of beautiful music. Add in time spent with great friends and it was just about perfect. A big thank you to Jim Allen for providing my transportation and for making all of the dinner arrangements. And a thank you to the artists for providing an escape, albeit brief, from this sometimes crazy world we live in.





































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Mike

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« Reply #2 on: March 07, 2016, 11:03:41 PM »

I always look forwarded to reading your reviews Mike they are so well detailed! This will definitely tie me over till my first show! I cannot wait to see this new show!
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Scott
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« Reply #3 on: March 08, 2016, 02:38:53 AM »

Mike, as always, you are a gentleman and a scholar.  Thanks for the extremely detailed review.  I actually won't see this show until after I meet up with you in Peachtree, at which time I'm sure you can tell me more about it anyway.  I am glad that they kept that bagpipe finale, not so pleased that they toned down "Nil S'en La" which to me is a song that only works when it's run at full throttle.  I'll be looking forward to hearing/seeing "Walk Beside Me" and "I See Fire" which are two of my favorites from the new CD.

One thing that you didn't put in your review that I was really hoping to hear about... how were the harmonies now that they have a full-blown alto like Eabha working with them, in comparison to tours past?  I don't think CDs or even live DVDs do justice to music when it comes to harmonic range.  Last year was good having Alex back for her lower register to complement MC and Susan.  I'm hoping that inserting Eabha did even more for that.

Again, thanks for the review! Smiley



« Last Edit: March 08, 2016, 02:40:34 AM by Scott » Logged

Capn Davey
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« Reply #4 on: March 08, 2016, 08:58:08 AM »

Very nice job as always Mike thank you! hope to see you next month if Broke 1 isn't a problem
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cash
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« Reply #5 on: March 08, 2016, 12:38:52 PM »

Great review. Great photos.
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jturbitt
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« Reply #6 on: March 08, 2016, 03:09:28 PM »

Thanks  Mike for your review. It was another good one !  I agree , that the show perhaps needed some Fresh ideas and from what you say, it has indeed been shaken up. I have listened to the Destiny CD & I want to hear the New songs done live too.  All the personal changes too are a slight surprise.  But nothing stays the same!    The 2016 tour is just starting,  but I hope they decide to bring back YRMP into the show.  I will miss  hearing it after all these Years. Thanks again !
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John910
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« Reply #7 on: March 08, 2016, 09:22:17 PM »

Great review and great pictures.
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VonnyandJohn from Oz
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« Reply #8 on: March 08, 2016, 10:20:43 PM »

Thoroughly enjoyed reading your review, Mike. Thank you for including all the special details that you notice, too.

Wonderful photos.  Grin
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Starman
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« Reply #9 on: March 09, 2016, 02:10:58 PM »

  Fabulous review Mike!  It was well-worth the wait!  I agree that the lack of female voices in the choir is perhaps the biggest minus for the show, plus the lack of dancers such as were present with Craig, Chris and Nick.

  I personally also enjoyed sharing another great show with you!   Smiley
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BeckyW
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« Reply #10 on: March 10, 2016, 07:54:22 AM »

Wow.  Fantastic review and photographs Mike.  Thanks.   
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MrPeabody
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« Reply #11 on: March 11, 2016, 10:20:20 AM »

I am glad that they kept that bagpipe finale, not so pleased that they toned down "Nil S'en La" which to me is a song that only works when it's run at full throttle.
To clarify, I only meant toned down physically and that's only because the girls were still in their gowns and couldn't spin and twirl as freely as they could in their ceili dresses. The song was otherwise identical in tempo and arrangement and was very much "full throttle." The same comments apply to TAR.

One thing that you didn't put in your review that I was really hoping to hear about... how were the harmonies now that they have a full-blown alto like Eabha working with them, in comparison to tours past?  I don't think CDs or even live DVDs do justice to music when it comes to harmonic range.  Last year was good having Alex back for her lower register to complement MC and Susan.  I'm hoping that inserting Eabha did even more for that.
Check out the last sentence in paragraph 9 of part 1, Scott. Being my first show, I was busy taking notes and absorbing the newness which unfortunately meant that some of the nuances may have been missed. In the group numbers, Eabha's voice, being outnumbered 2:1, didn't stand out as much I thought it would. Some of that may have been due to the sound mix, of course. There are really only two songs that I can recall where she duets with either Susan or MairéadC. "Danny Boy" is one and the new arrangement is stellar; you will love it! There is a great mix of solos and duets in various combinations. The chorus of "Ride On," with just MairéadC and Eabha and their very distinctive ranges and tonal qualities, is one of the best things I have heard in a very long time. I can't wait to hear it again in a couple of weeks.
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Mike

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« Reply #12 on: March 12, 2016, 07:26:02 AM »

Great review Mike, really looking forward to my June show. Will you be at the Providence show??  I know you particularly like the acoustics of PPAC.
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« Reply #13 on: March 12, 2016, 06:20:21 PM »

Great review as always. Its so great to have a new show, while I adored the previous shows, it was a circulation of old music and was getting boring. I am sad they are not having Oonagh on tour to do 'Tir Na Nog'. I am glad Mairead does have several solo pieces, since she had only one on the CD and two on the DVD. They will be doing two shows in June in Minnesota so I hope to get to see the show.
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« Reply #14 on: March 13, 2016, 03:55:06 PM »

They will be doing two shows in June in Minnesota ...
I hope none of them get carried off by those giant MN mosquitoes. Wink
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