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2009 Dublin Ohio Irish Festival

from Mary

I've uploaded my pictures. They can be found here:

http://www.flickr. com/photos/ braider/sets/ 7215762183354266 9/

I've also uploaded one video, to be found here:

http://www.youtube. com/watch? v=bCgIKSiJBQg

Maire Brennan of Clannad was at the Dublin Irish Festival this year (2010), and her band did a Robin of Sherwood medley that included the theme from Harry’s Game, which the Tenors sang with her last year at Dublin. They got to a particular chord, and I thought, “It’s missing the great bottom.” None of you understand this yet, because I never got around to completing the festival report from last year. So, if you will, read on, and pretend that it is 2009 rather than 2010.

So here it is, the kiss-and-tell edition of A Weekend with the Celtic Tenors.

….wherein the only actual kissing are quick hello and goodbye kisses on the cheek.

The boys are, at this point, apparently terrified of what I will say in these write-ups. Ah, the power. There are so many things to talk about, I have decided to structure it as a bulleted list – for those who want the short sum-up – with footnotes for those of you that want the funny stories.
So, here are the things that really stood out at the festival:

Breaking into Matthew’s room. (For which I was rewarded!)[1]
Listening to the Tenors’ Friday night set, and getting gestured to as the “pale, drooping maiden”. Daryl stuck his tongue out when I played it up.;-) [2]
Seeing the Tenors perform a piece with Dervish, including the Tenors sitting at Cathy Jordan’s feet like children at story time.[3]
Getting a second-hand compliment on my voice from Matthew by way of Colm.[4]
Dancing with Colm. (“You’re a girl, you can dance. Stand here,” said Daryl.)[5]
Directing the Tenors to a piano they could use for rehearsal Saturday morning – with Maire Brennan of Clannad fame.[6]
Getting to sit in on that rehearsal to watch and listen.[7]
Waltzing with Matthew.[8]
Hearing Daryl cursing at James.[9]
Getting to sing Wild Mountain Thyme with the Tenors at the end of that rehearsal.[10]
Hearing the boys plan what they should say to introduce Maire on stage.[11]
Hearing Daryl play some jazz on the piano. Really gorgeous.[12]
Seeing James’ one word in sign language.[13]
Seeing my friends’ baby’s face light up when Matthew played with her. It looked like kindred spirits connecting.
Seeing the Saturday Tenors’ concert.[14]
Hearing stalker stories – things that have actually happened to the Tenors, and things other bands have told them happened to their bands.[15]
Matthew threatening to kill me.[16]
Having breakfast with James, with Matthew joining us partway through.[17]

Great to see the boys. I hear that Maire will be back for Dublin 2011 – with luck, they’ll have the boys back again, and they can have each other on stage without sound bleed from the next stage! Saw some of the folks in 2009 whose names I recognized from the fan club – I hope if the Tenors return, to see more folks this coming year.
(Incidentally, absolutely BEST part of Dublin 2010 for me was hearing Maire’s harp player and fiddle player doing a duet of a tune the fiddle player had written, on the porch outside the bar on Sunday night. Enchanting!)

[1] Breaking Into Matthew’s Room
See, this year I was volunteering on Friday, doing performer check-in. Got to see the guys as they arrived – James already in his suit, just carrying his coat, and Matthew and Daryl carrying their garment bags to change backstage. This bit is important.
So, half an hour later Matthew shows up back in registration as I’m eating dinner. I glance at the clock, and teasingly say, “It’s half an hour before your set and you’re still not dressed!”
“I, um, forgot my shirt. It’s at the hotel.”
“Oh, sh**.”
“Is there any way that someone could….” He waved his hands helplessly, as if requesting teleportation, or perhaps the use of a spell of summoning. I thought frantically. My car was back at the hotel, so no good for driving him back to it. Looked outside, and saw the shuttle, started to gesture, and realized he couldn’t go – he had to be on stage, whether or not he had his shirt.
“Give me your key. What’s your room number, and where is the shirt?”
Got to the hotel, dashed in, tried breaking into the wrong room – glad I wrote down the number. Having the number written down was very useful in bringing me back several doors previous to the correct one. Grabbed the shirt, then looked around the room, my mind suddenly alive to the possibilities. There was a computer – if he doesn’t have it password locked, I could set the screen display to be sideways or upside-down. There was a cell phone on the bed; I could text everyone in his phone book with something like, “Secretly, I long to be a toaster.” I hesitated a moment, firmly said, “No time,” grabbed the hanger with all three shirts – he could decide which was the “normal” one on his own – and dashed back downstairs.
The driver for the trip back very kindly drove me right up to the stage itself, and we got Matthew his shirt with a full ten minutes to spare! Go me. (Hero complex, anyone?)
On top of this, Matthew almost forgot to get his key back. I started thinking of Krogers’, buying streamers, balloons, confetti – and realized that such a trick would require me to miss their concert. Called Matthew back and gave him his key. Aren’t I such an altruistic mischief-maker person?
And this was just the start of a very entertaining weekend….

[2] Friday Night Tenors’ Concert
I managed to get out of “work” in order to see the concert that night – it was a great concert. Things that delighted me:
- They now give a little jump between Spanish Lady and Mhari’s Wedding.
- The guys, one and all, seem incapable of keeping track of their clothing. James’ tie, Matthew strewing clothing about the stage – tie on one side, coat on the other. Except for Daryl. He kept both jacket and tie on that night. At one point they were lined up in the order of: coat and tie, coat but no tie, no coat and no tie. I think I’ll title the picture “Celtic States of Relaxation”, or possibly “States of Celtic Undress.”
- James gestured at me – I was in the front row – during the “pale, drooping maiden” line of Hard Times. I played it up a bit, and Daryl stuck his tongue out at me.
- They did a nice one-person-per-note arpeggio at the end of Hard Times that I don’t remember from last time – liked that a lot. Also, the whole song has *way* more energy and vibrancy than the last time I heard them do it, and more even than what’s on the CD. I think they’ve sung it enough now to have broken it in and made it really their own. It was a delight to hear.
- When the guys are doing a serious song and they are silent whilst one of the other Tenors is singing, they get a forcedly-serious, thoughtful expression as they gaze off in space. When my friend saw it on the DVD, her comment was, “Cream. I think the walls are cream.” This time, I found myself thinking, “Pink. I think the lights are pink.” Had to work hard not to snicker.
- They did Fionnguala!!!!! This song had gone the way of the dodo when Daryl joined the group because he doesn’t speak Gaelic. He’s finally had time to learn it by ear. This makes me incredibly happy. (Celtic Tenors: Bringing songs back from the brink of extinction.)
Other notes from the concert… I was sad that Colm didn’t do the four-note intro to Remember Me. They remedied this the next day. Also, I thought Matthew was going to trample Daryl’s guitar on his way offstage. He turned and saw it *just* in time.
I’m not certain that Nessun Dorma makes a good encore song – it has a lower-energy start that does build, but at first it’s a bit of a let-down from the excitement of the last official number.
Over all, really lovely concert. Just a bit of sound bleed from the next stage over.

[3] Encore with Dervish
An hour or two later, I wandered back to the Dublin Stage in time to see the last of the Dervish set – and who should be asked up on stage for their encore but our lads! The audience was standing to applaud, so Cathy Jordan, the lead singer, told them, “You can sit down for this one.” Obediently, the boys sat on the stage at her feet. My god, but I wish I’d either been closer or had a good distance lens on my camera. It was a lovely sight. It looked like story time with the kids looking up at a very nonplussed mother. They stood back up to do what I thought sounded like a blues or jazz club version of Eileen Aroon. The guys later confided that this was the “we have no idea what harmonies we’re going to sing” version of the song. Sounded not at all Irish, but interesting and much better than they thought it was. I think it was on this topic that Matthew made the quip, “Celtic Tenors put the ‘c’ in ‘rap’.”

[4] Second-hand Compliment
I forget if it was 2009 or 2008 when Matthew suddenly appeared whilst I was singing for the golf cart drivers outside the performers’ lounge. However, Friday night after-party of 2009, Colm said that he wanted to hear me sing because Matthew had said I had a lovely voice. Awww….

[5] Dancing with Colm
At the after party, my drink was empty and I headed back into the bar for another. Just as I came up the steps, Daryl grabbed my shoulders. “You’re a girl, you can dance, stand here.” I found myself in a line of women, all of whom looked rather bemused. “What kind of dancing is he expecting us to do?” I asked the woman next to me. She shrugged. Righhhhht. I really hoped he wasn’t looking for a cancan line.
It turned out one the guys from La Bottine Souriante (sp?) was going to teach us a French Canadian dance. Oddly enough, they had more guys than they had had girls, and since it was a country dance, we needed a line of couples. They needed another man, and Colm got dragged in as well, as my partner.
Very fun dance, although the description got a bit muddled. We ended up accidentally doing what we were assured was merely a more complicated variation of the dance he’d been planning to teach us. It was hilarious, exhilarating, and only somewhat potentially disasterous (remember those stairs I mentioned? Also, the bar was crowded! It was like a synchronized bumper car demonstration performed to excellent music. Everyone survived the dance unharmed, and a great time was had by all.

[6] Looking for a Piano
At the after-party that night, Colm was looking for a piano. I pointed out that there was a baby grand down the hall and around the corner. In the midst of discussing this, he let slip that their Special Guest for the next day, with whom they had to practice, was Maire Bennan of Clannad, who was at the festival to interview performers for a TV special.
Maire Brennan’s singing with Clannad on the Robin of Sherwood sound track is the reason I got into Irish music. I was nine when I first heard her, and quite literally thought of her as having the voice of the angels. My sister told me that this was Irish music, and I dove into the archives at the Cincinnati Public Library to find all the Irish music they had. Maire Brennan is, apparently, responsible for driving my mother demented. ;-)
So, here are they guys who inspired me to start taking voice lessons again, singing with the woman who inspired me to get into Irish music in the first place. “So, um, what time
is the rehearsal? Mind if I come?” Opportunistic, YES!

[7] Rehearsal with Maire
Got to the hotel the next morning early at the crack of eleven. While running through harmonies and waiting for Maire to make her way down, they joked about having me sing her part. James also gave me very strict instructions on what types of pictures I should and should not take, and told me not to quote him on that.
The music for Harry’s Game had seven flats. This would be the delightfully ridiculous key of Cb, which can apparently also be notated with a mere five sharps.
It was fascinating to see the amount of work and consideration put into each note of what was really a very short, simple song. I got a video of the final run-through, and got permission from the boys and Maire to post it on YouTube. I posted the link to the fan club last year, but it’s http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCgIKSiJBQg. If you watch carefully, you can see Matthew realizing I’m doing video instead of photos, and pointing it out to James.
At one point Maire said that a chord was missing something, and Matthew suggested he use his bottom range. James added, “Yes, Matthew has a great bottom.” There was a pause as everyone considered what James had just said. Maire reached over and patted Matthew on the backside. “Yes.”

[8] Waltzing With Matthew
After Maire left, the boys rehearsed a few more songs as I sat and watched. One of them was waltz-time, and they took turns doing the verses. (I can’t remember which song it was, sorry. It’s one they’ve recorded, I’m pretty sure. Certainly one I knew.) After a couple verses, I thought about the bit from the Tenors’ video in which Matthew and Niall danced, and gestured to Matthew to ask him if he wanted to dance. And so it was that we waltzed around for the length of a verse. Very silly, and very fun.

[9] Daryl Cursing at James
Daryl needed a refresher of the words to a song they were doing in Gaelic, and James said he’d write them out at the end of rehearsal. At the end of rehearsal, Daryl, Matthew and Colm got talking about…something, don’t remember what. However, they were well occupied when James said, “Oh, I’ll write out those words now. Shall I write them phonetically or in Gaelic?” He tried catching Daryl’s attention, failed, shrugged, and started writing. When he handed them to Daryl, the response was, “Oh, thanks! *looks at sheet* You bastard, you wrote it in Gaelic!”

[10] Wild Mountain Thyme
I used to sing Wild Mountain Thyme acapella with a three-person group. We had a lovely harmony, and I have been singing my part from that along with the Tenors’ CD, even though it doesn’t quite match the underlying chords they use. I’m louder than the radio, so it doesn’t particularly matter.
I had forgotten that my harmony wouldn’t match their underlying chords, and realized very, very quickly that I had to come up with an entirely new harmony. What you can ignore on a CD becomes very obvious and embarrassing when there are good musicians singing around you.
I played with the song, going from my mid range to my gutter range, at which point I realized that – unlike the Tenors – I hadn’t warmed up my voice. James gave me a strange look when I was singing a part lower than any of the boys. I’m hoping it was a, “what are you doing down there? I thought you were a soprano!” look, rather than a, “why is she singing so low? She really doesn’t have good control of her intonation down there,” which was also true at that moment.
But still – got to sing along with the Tenors. Squee! (Yes, I am a fangirl.)

[11] Introductions
It’s amazing how much thought they put into Maire’s introduction. They batted around possibilities for a good 10-15 minutes. Just goes to show their level of … professionalism.

[12] Daryl on Piano
At the end of rehearsal, Daryl sat down and started playing the piano. I knew he liked jazz because of tshirt he’d worn the previous year, from a jazz festival. I’d assumed it was the type of jazz I don’t like – the sort of slow, mellow, drowning-in-posh-drinks sound generally played by old black men at very smug, rich, white country clubs.
This was not that sort of jazz. I love big band; this wasn’t big band – being only one instrument, for one thing – but it had that same lively spirit and great swinging sound to it. After seeing that Daryl would be awhile, the others decided to go for lunch. I walked with them, feeling unwilling to intrude on Daryl’s playing, but wanting to enjoy the music. I ended up sitting down around the corner to listen. It was really gorgeous. I was delighted to get to hear such awesome music.
When Daryl came around the corner and saw me, he complained he’d nearly broken his wrists, the “action” on the piano was so stiff. I just barely choked back a joke about how his wrists should be plenty strong, seeing how much time he spent on tour. Let it pass, Mary, just let it pass….

[13] James and Sign Language
It’s a bit limiting, yet a potentially versatile word, depending on the temperament of the person doing the signing.

[14] Saturday Tenors’ Concert
I didn’t get to this part before, and the notes in my journal are sparse. I was unhappy that the next stage over was so loud that it very noticeably intruded on the set with Maire. (So glad they finally started forcing the stages to regulate their volume this year! Much more manageable.)
At the Lakeside concert, seen a couple months before last Dublin, they’d mentioned that someone told them they sounded like a Hallmark card, and I, erm, kind of agreed. Very delighted that by Dublin, they’d made the songs “theirs” enough that they no longer sounded like Hallmark.
They changed the arrangement of James’ verse for I’ll Tell Me Ma between the Saturday morning rehearsal and the concert that night, and it was really effective. In the morning, what they had done was a bit rough. In the evening, it really worked. (What was that difference? I no longer have any notion.)

[15] Stalker Stories
So, a Celtic Tenors fan from….somewhere that was a bit of a drive, but not an enormous one, came to the concert. James’ impression was that she felt that since she had driven a long way to see them, that he was obliged to spend time with her. They were somewhat worried that she would show up at the hotel – which I feel kinda guilty for, because I’m the one who mentioned the afterparty to her. She did not show, the matter was dropped, but whilst waiting to see if she would actually show up at the hotel and turn into a genuine stalker, they told stories of some things that had happened to them, and that other bands had recounted to them. It’s pretty stunning.

My responses to these stories are:
Because you have their CDs in your homes, and read about their doings, you [where you is people in general] feel that you know the musicians and that they are a friendly, familiar part of your life. This is well and good. The musicians do not have this same advantage. While they may recognize you, most likely you are still barely an acquaintance from their perspective. Remember this, and do not try to force them to invite you to their homes, or try to make demands on their time outside of a concert setting.
Your act of driving a long distance to see a band does not oblige them to spend time with you personally. Their only obligation is to provide a good concert and, if they’re really nice – which most musicians are – to do a meet & greet/CD signing afterwards. This obligation to the audience has nothing to do with the distance, great or small, the audience has freely chosen to travel to see the concert.
Not all performers care to have sex with strangers, whether or not they are single. Make sure you have someone’s full agreement and enthusiasm before showing up naked in their bed. (This comes from one of the stories shared by another band. Yes, a woman actually convinced the hotel to give her a key to the guy’s room and was there when he arrived. This was not at Dublin.)

[16] Matthew Threatening to Kill Me
He did! However, this footnote is just to wind him up. It would have been far more effective had I written this last year when he still would have remembered the joke he didn’t want me to repeat to the fan club.

[17] Breakfast With James
The boys ended up giving me a CD in thanks for collecting Matthew’s shirt from the hotel room. I got it as they were heading up to the room to drop off their merchandise. I figured I’d get them all to sign it when they came back down to the bar, and was very disappointed when it turned out that James had gone to bed. They were both filming a PBS special the next day – and so needed to be in good voice – and had an 8 o’clock lobby call, so needed to be conscious in the morning. Matthew and Daryl and Colm showed up at the bar, but they, of course, would only stay an hour or two. I got them to sign the CD, and figured I would catch James at whatever concert I saw them at next.
It was a fantastic session that night, largely because of the musicians of Salsa Celtica, but almost all of the bands there were very much session-loving musicians. I think it was the first time I had the guts to pull out my banjo at a Dublin afterparty session. I heard from Naimh Parsons that Matthew ended up sharing songs with … someone whose identity I forget…outside.
The session ended at 6, when the hotel staff came and said, “You have to go now. We need to set up for breakfast”. (Yes, Matthew and Daryl were still there; I think Colm went to bed at 4. Great sleep for the PBS special….) Some of the folks I’d met talked about hanging out in their room for a bit. It occurred to me that the Tenors had said they had an 8 o’clock lobby call; this meant that breakfast would probably be at 7. It was only an hour. What was I just saying about stalkers? ;-)
Had a great mini-session – talking, of course, turned into singing, and backrubs, and a little bit of very quiet banjo playing (yes, it *is* possible to play quietly if you are very, very careful), then headed down to the lobby. I was going to see if James had already checked out as a gauge of whether he was awake, when I saw him walk from the elevator on his way to the restaurant. Score!
Lovely breakfast. Got CD signed, had Matthew and another musician join us. Loved watching James’ double-takes as one guy then another from the 6-7 session stopped by our table to say hello.