Our USA tour through March was a wonderful success due to the incredible gift of devotion, service and hospitality of the hosts and we are back here in Ireland with glowing gratitude and a deep love for the USA people we met and shared with.
Despite its severe challenges and systems in place that attempt to breed and spread fear and stress among its people the USA is a stunningly beautiful country with millions of people eager to be good stewards of it and sustain it as a great country.
Claire and I do like the USA’s president Obama as we feel he fits into the spirit of community America which we shared in all over the USA. There’s possibly not much Obama can do on a national policies level and is bound to put his foot in deeply in the wrong places due to the quagmire there but he reminds me a lot of Britain’s Prince Charles. On the surface Charles can seem like a complete idiot and I think that will happen to Obama sometimes too, but behind the scenes Charles has been an extremely powerful force in driving and inspiring community creativity, action and successful enterprise. I think that will, in time, be Obama’s legacy, guiding people to believe in their communities as solutions much more than any national government policy can provide.
It was this experience of community that Claire and I enjoyed so much everywhere we went. It was community, often centred by a local church or gathering, that made it possible for us to be there and was a driving force behind the lovely lives of the people we met.
Looking Back At Where We Were
Just about everywhere we were there was a singular person who took the lead in communications and arrangements, who was accompanied by a spouse or close friend who remained fairly nameless through the whole event yet applied outstanding service and even sacrifice while remaining fairly anonymous. Sometimes we left a venue asking ourselves “who was that”, so here’s a huge hug and thank you to those anonymous people without whom this tour would not have happened!
First was Ormond Beach FL, where extreme music fan Chuck Spano and his wife, Pat, run a series of fine house concerts and a beautiful dedicated part of their home. We turned up a little late and unprepared with Claire hot having looked at her rented harp and me not even looked at my script, but I believe it was a good show. Pat did a superb catering job for the break and end. Shame Jenn Weidley did not make it and it was too much arrive, perform and then go, but we thank Chuck and Pat, a lovely time.
Next was Robert LA hosted by Jamie Haeuser, a very lively event in their remarkable LA southern style home and beautiful small farm, attended by renaissance and Marc Gunn fans, where hospitality and celebrations were the flags, and Jamie’s husband John keeping the settings and elements together while Jamie sustained as a brilliant MC. This was one of those shows where the audience flowed with the moment and were totally with whatever was happening.
We had hoped for more for Birmingham AL but a gig did not materialise here, but a lovely visit to their vast Botanical Gardens did. It was a wet day but we learned a lot for our future gardens, especially from the Japanese Gardens.
Saluda SC, invited and hosted by Cindy Willis along with remarkable arrangements provided by her husband Tommie. This was our biggest and most attended event in a stunning preserved community theatre with superb professional lighting and sound, including total wireless sound plus even our names lit up on the neon exterior marquee. A highlight of this day was some time with Beala a local retired teacher well loved by the town, and retired is not really the appropriate word. She is still teaching.
Hot Springs NC, though not near the town but way up to the top of the NC mountains. An evening of mountain folk, and experience few would ever experience whether they were visiting the USA or even living in the USA. This was a very, very special evening of stories and tradition and of culture that is so important to keep alive.
Bryson City NC, was another show in a remarkable small town community theatre. Co-ordinated by local travel agent Caroline Russell, who was a thrill to meet and then arranged by her local pastor and musician husband David. Cd sales here were remarkable with everyone seeming to buy 2, 3 or 4 cds. Best part here was Claire performing with a harp that David had built. The sound of this harp was the most superb we had heard on a Celtic harp, and this was David’s first harp building job!
Onto Nashville included a beautiful ride over the Smokey Mountains, but Nashville gig was cancelled and our experience in Nashville downtown was not the best though our bus driver was a superb guide. Not sure if we will visit here again. Well set up for touring visitors though. Hollywood CA could learn some lessons from Nashville. Best part of this day was on the journey where even Cherokee people were eager to share information on their Irish ancestors.
Urbana IL and to the wonderful Heartland Gallery hosted by the tireless Jan Chandler, a remarkable woman of visions and who knows how to make them happen. Again we were treated to and gifted by dedicated service and sacrifice to make this event happen. Again a large attendance and very warm audience. I enjoyed a later encore featuring a local dancer.
Into Springville and thinking we would be following the old Route 66, but ended up following a series of beautiful Missouri country lanes. Lunchtime at St, Louis did not happen but it was a lovely day and we enjoyed our drive and stay at State Park near Salem
Onto Tulsa OK and it was Route 66 time during another beautiful warm sunny day. This was a late afternoon performance at the contemporary The Collective, a wonderful custom venue for performances. Hosted by the very kind and generous Paul Marshall, a gathering of Facebook friends and good hospitality by owner Colleen. Very relaxed. We enjoyed it here.
Some serious Route 66 following from Tulsa through Amarillo to Albuquerque with a sunny day but ferocious wind hammering our RV sides. We really did get our kicks on Route 66 and just as well Albuquerque cancelled. We arrived late. Surprised to discover this to be a huge city.
Continuing roughly west on Route 66 to Gallup we turned off north into the red mountains for 3 days of wonderful landscapes including Valley of The Gods, Monument Valley and other wonders within the Navajo Nation. This was our glorious time out.
Hoping to resolve being gigless in Denver we encountered hostile weather from 20 miles before Denver with a challenging mix of blizzarding snow, high winds, no visibility and eventually turned the road into a skating rink. Hats off to the Colorado state who’s gritter and snow plough vehicles were plentiful and tried their best. We could not even reach our campsite so kept going for awhile through this weather towards Nebraska.
In Nebraska the weather was wonderful, sun, moderately warm and we loved travelling through this mainly prairie grain growing state. South Sioux City Library event was a relaxing joy hosted by the wonderful motivated Dan Nieman and equally served by his enthusiastic wife Jamie who together worked and lived a powerhouse marriage. Apart from the “whisper whisper” behaviour of the people, because of the library instincts we all seem to have embedded, this was a delightful show. I think I gave my best folk drama performance here.
Then onto our final show at Sauk City, Wisconsin, which was performed as a true grand finale. Folks were here from two groups I had guided in Ireland so this was quite a re-union. The venue of the Unitarian church was quite a gift in itself, but on top of that was the superb leadership and team co-ordinating of Marita Kelter with great help from Jeanine, Gabrielle and others. On top of all this the evening became a superb variety show with its array of performing guests, including the beautiful singing and songs of Marita. This was like a mini-festival.
Showcasing The Bards We Meet
As well as being performers we wish to also be hosts of others in performance. The biggest delight is hosting those in performances inspired by our tours, retreats and performances, people who have been inspired and went off to do their own writings, songs, music, dance and craft.
Our Co. Sligo Two Worlds little theatre is almost on red alert for this and Claire’s Woodford venue in South Dublin should be ready by mid-Summer.
Its a little awkward that we cannot share the same kind of market, USA population which must be reaching 300 million and here in Ireland with 5 million. We are linked up with a house concert network in the UK so maybe we’ll learn how to expand with that.
Now To Plan For USA Tour 2010
Well we now know that the formula of this past tour works. The RV in March helps well with costings. Next time we will try to keep all venues within 300 miles apart to enable comfortable travelling between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm. This helps keeps costs down and sustains our energy too. With all of the folks now inviting us we may need to expend to 4, maybe 5 weeks next time. I’ll have to see if Claire can sustain that.
Regarding show format there are mixed opinions about folk drama and mythology content. Some folks seem to think it should be thrown out and others think it should be expanded to include more, which was especially a common comment at South Sioux City. However, I was at my best there too.
The design of the folk drama is merely to add a frame around some of Claire’s music and not dominate it. We have found this has generally worked well and provided a more intense focus on Claire’s music, compared to gigs where it has just been Claire performing. Hopefully, this also says something about what we present on tours and retreats in Ireland.
Next year we will have to have new releases to share with you.
Claire is finishing off a new CD and DVD of personal songs, an intense and passionate ongoing personal project of her’s right now.
Claire also has a lot of songs of Ireland she now sings regularly that are not on CDs yet. I hope to arrange a studio and some local backing musicians to make this happen so she has a delightful new CD of this music by the end of this year.
I also have several unfinished books so maybe I’ll have “Seven Tales Of Celtic Ways”, “Walking The Labyrinth” and “Harps Around Ireland” released by then too.
Provisionally, our next 2010 USA tour will be March 8th until April 13th but Claire is keen to add in some Japan and Hawaii dates in then. Anyway, please let us know your hosting interests as soon as you can and we will try to map out something. We will do Jacksonville to Chicago again but would like to include some Pacific North West this time.