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2008-11-29 Delaware USA

Road Trip: Surprises, Hard Times, Nights I May Not Remember, and Friends I'll Never Forget!
written by Robin

 
Just in case you don't know this about me, I love a good "Road Trip" more than most anything! I love to cruise down back-country roads and see fields spread out as far as the eye can see. Or roll into a big city filled with lights and excitement. I try to take one of these trips at least once every 3-5 months, usually only a weekend
or so long, and I always try to go somewhere I've never been. It's almost like an opportunity to be somebody else for a couple of days…see different sights, leave work and commitments behind, enjoy the freedom that comes only from an open road leading to endless possibilities. The hardest question for me is always, "Where do I go?"

This season's trip was a no-brainer for me…the hands of fate delivered a travel package the likes of which AAA could never match! Featured were a scenic drive along the positively gorgeous Eastern Shores of the Delmarva Peninsula; Christmas concerts by my ever-fascinating friends, The Celtic Tenors, in two of the most
beautiful venues I've ever visited; and a chance to finally get my hands on a copy of their highly anticipated new release, "Hard Times." What's not to love??

The Delmarva Peninsula is a fairly narrow strip of land nestled between the Chesapeake Bay to the west and the Delaware River, Delaware Bay, and Atlantic Ocean to the east. A drive along the Peninsula carries one through three states: Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia…hence the name, "Delmarva."

Nearly eight hours along beautiful Highway 13 showed everything from huge stately mansions holding court on rolling manicured farms to tiny rustic fishing shacks scattered almost haphazardly along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. The 23 mile stretch of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel is like a roller coaster ride over and under the Bay, the mood of which can transform from splendidly serene to viciously churning in a matter of hours. After a few hours exploring the jewel that is the historical and whimsical waterfront town of St. Michaels, Maryland, it was on to my first important destination.

Saturday found me in Delaware's capital city of Dover for an evening performance at the small but well-appointed Schwartz Center for the Arts. The space retained the intimate atmosphere and velvet-curtained grandeur of it's predecessor, The Dover Opera House (originally built in 1904), but had the comfortable seating and
amenities of a modern performing arts center thanks to a sizeable remodeling and expansion project in 2001. Overall, it made for a beautiful setting for the Delaware debut of The Celtic Tenors.

The evening began with a new twist on CT concerts…following his introduction, before the others took the stage, Colm mesmerized the audience and showcased his astonishing talent on piano. In times such as these, I'm desperately torn between wishing I had some sort of musical knowledge so I could understand the intricate details of the piece, and simply closing my eyes and enjoying the absolute magnificent beauty of it all. (I think I may also be slightly insanely envious of the ability to produce something so lovely!) I hope this remains a permanent fixture in future concerts.

I was then treated to a hilarious triple-take from the edge of the stage by a bewildered James when he spotted us in the front row….priceless, dear James, priceless! The rest of the performance featured old favorites (Spanish Lady/Marie's Wedding, Caledonia, Whiskey In the Jar, You Raise Me Up, The Holy City, Remember Me, Star of the County Down, I'll Tell Me Ma, Danny Boy, etc.), tracks from the new album (Come What May, Fearless Love, The Pilgrim: Chapter 33, Shenandoah, You Ain't Goin' Nowhere, Four Strong Winds, and…my favorite…the title track, Hard Times), Daryl's wonderful solo performance of Carrickfergus, and an array of Christmas songs including the absolutely most heart-stopping, breath-taking rendering of O Holy Night I've ever heard. That is my all-time favorite Christmas hymn, and yet I never knew just how good it could be until Saturday night!

There were the standard "jokes" including sea lions, questionable information about Tour Director Matt Svobodny's hometown of Fargo, North Dakota, and someone's parents writing and coloring in the Book of Kells. I'll be the first to admit that even having heard them dozens of times now, I still laugh at each and every one! I suppose, in the interest of full disclosure, it's more often that I'm laughing at the delivery (or deliverER) than at the actual joke itself!

The audience loved every minute of the whole evening, and overwhelmingly voiced their preference when given the choice between Christmas and opera for the encore. Having sided with the operatic myself, I was delighted to hear Nessun Dorma, complete with audience participation. A crowded lobby of thanks-givers and well-wishers then met the lads after the performance.

On Sunday, we struck out for the second half of our two-part Road Trip/CT Extravaganza: Wilmington, Delaware. The 45 minute trip took twice as long thanks to pouring rain and roads overstuffed with holiday travelers. And while the more industrialization-focused city of Wilmington lacked Dover's charm, nothing could compare to the opulence of The Grand Opera House! The building (originally opened in 1871; restored and rededicated in the 1970's) featured glorious ceiling art and an intricately gilded cast-iron façade.

There were minor set-list changes from the night before, including different Holiday medleys and the addition of another one of my favorites, Bring Him Home. I was once again rendered speechless (and breathless!) by both Colm's opening piece and a brilliantly sung O Holy Night…Matthew particularly shines during this one! The audience was one of the more rambunctious crowds I think I've seen at a CT show…I heard several appreciative whistles and "WooHoo's" thrown in with the thunderous applause and two standing ovations. And poor Daryl had his lines stolen when the audience interjected the website address for him in the middle of his speech! Ever the trooper, though, he played off of the crowd perfectly! The audience again expressed their appreciation afterward in a crowded meet-and-greet session. Never faltering, the seemingly tireless Tenors, along with their equally unflagging Musical Director and super-human Tour Director/CD Sales Extraordinaire, delivered many a hug, smile, photo op, and autograph for dozens of delighted fans before setting out on a grueling overnight drive to Ohio. I don't know how they do it, but there are certainly many who are grateful that they do!

As far as Road Trips go, this was one for the books! Beautiful scenery packed full of hilarious adventures best left quiet to protect the guilty….it was without a doubt a weekend filled with "Surprises, Hard Times, Nights I May Not Remember, and Friends I'll Never Forget!"