Tink and I were both heading from Tucson to Albuquerque and had separate rental cars we decided to caravan. “We got ourselves a convoy!” Well, a very small one anyway. Traffic was very light, the scenery was the same as last year and we arrived around 3:30. We lost an hour even though we were in the same time zone because Arizona does not observe Daylight Savings time and are thus the same as Pacific time in the summer. Go figure.
After getting organized and changing I met the rest of the group at Applebee's around 5:00. There were quite a few of us there: Scott, Robert, Chris and Kelly, Dalton and Rockie, Dwight, Tink and myself, Jeff, Amy, and Gary and sons. I apologize if that's not accurate but there were a few people I had not met before. Robert gave me a bag of New Mexico propaganda trying to convince me that there really is scenery here; I may need a little more convincing. Dalton had bright yellow Fiddler Crossing t-shirts for everyone. Now we can all look like “neon Scott.” Dinner was excellent, despite Chris's sizzling plate which got everyone's attention!
After dinner, though, is when the main event began. As most of you know, Scott has been with the forum virtually since its inception. It is Scott that has made this place what it is, a place of respect and honor for the one who's name it bears. It is Scott who, despite dumping all of the hard work on me, continues to keep it a place that Máiréad can be and, most importantly, is proud of. He has done so many things for the forum and its members, myself included, that I felt it was time to return the favor. Tonight would be his 50th show, an event worth noting, and it seemed to be a good time to repay that debt. Over the last several months I had been working on several things, which some of you knew about and helped with, but the celebration was kept secret from Scott.
Since Robert was relatively local I had him get a photo cake made with a picture of Máiréad on it. Before dinner we delivered it to restaurant personnel to be brought to the table after dinner. This was the first time that I had a chance to see it and it was stunning; almost too good to eat! After photos were taken I gave Scott the knife and asked him to make the first “incision.” He refused to cut the picture but there was enough around the perimeter that everyone got a piece and Scott gets to keep the picture in his freezer. Máiréad on ice!
n addition to the cake, and since we love buttons, I had commemorative buttons made for the occasion. I delivered buttons to the girls, including Rachel, in Tucson and everyone at dinner got one. Fortunately for the button manufacturer, and the general public, Scott's picture is not on the button. There is a much nicer picture on it.
The final item presented at dinner was a picture frame that I found at an Irish gift shop in, of all places, Gettysburg, PA, only a few miles from home. I had been looking at all sort of things online for weeks but could not find anything that really jumped out at me. I stumbled across this place by sheer happenstance. The frame is handmade Irish porcelain with a hand-painted shamrock design on it. I also spent quite a long time trying to find the perfect picture to put in it. Eventually I stumbled upon two pictures of Máiréad in the white Isle of Hope gown that she debuted at Máiréad Fest in Wilkes-Barre. For Scott and many of us that is our favorite of all of her gowns and there are only a very few good pictures of her wearing it. If and when I am able to get permission from the photographer I will post them for everyone to enjoy; they are stunning. I also included a few other pictures printed in the correct size for variety.
Finally it was time for the show. The venue was the same as last year, Popejoy Hall on the campus of the University of New Mexico. It's not a fancy place but it is quite nice with excellent acoustics. Most of us were in the second pit row with a few overflowing into the third row. The stage is quite high at this venue, like Wallingford, and second row is actually much better than the front row. I had a short person in front of me and had a great view of the girls, with the converse also being true. The combination of the venue acoustics and the closeness to the stage allowed the direct sound from the performers to be heard in many cases, including Máiréad's violin, and greatly enhanced the show.
With a sea of familiar faces up front the girls were noticeable happy and put on a great show. Máiréad spotted all of us right away and mouthed a “Hi!” to Scott. Chloe has now begun doing a little extra audience encouragement during her introduction to Galway Bay, trying to get everyone all charged up. I had my new signs with me and got a laugh out of Máiréad when she saw my “Spin Limit 12” sign. She obeyed but did 11 spins for the first time in a while. After my six shows in July I had gotten accustomed to the new harmonies in Orinoco Flow but both last night and tonight they took me by surprise. Lynn's voice seemed to be back to normal tonight and My Lagan Love was amazing. Danny Boy was equally spectacular, especially since it was a largely acoustic performance up front. I had my “No Bow Shredding” sign displayed for Granuaile's Dance but she shredded many a bow hair anyway.
Like Tucson, there were no steps up to the stage so Anthony walked from the back and stopped along the side for his opening to Amazing Grace and then sneaked backstage when nobody was looking. Lynn keeps adding more and more to her introduction to Dulaman. Tonight, after receiving the usual silence when she asked if anyone spoke Irish, she said “I'll teach you one word.” After explaining that dulaman means seaweed she then joked, “And now you know more Irish than most Irish people!” The intro will soon be longer than the song if she keeps this up. Last Rose Fantasia was beautiful as always and I displayed my “No Head Butting” sign for The Mason's Apron. Unfortunately, she doesn't do that anymore so I'll to think of something else now.
The highlight of the night came at the end of the Finale. I had one other trick up my sleeve for Scott and I wasn't sure it was going to happen. I had told Máiréad at the Meet & Greet in Tucson that this was his 50th show and that there was something special I would like her to do for him. I've known that she keeps the green birthday bow with her and I asked her if she would honor him by using it on stage tonight. She explained that it is quite different from her normal bow and it's difficult for her to switch back and forth, but she didn't say “No” so I had hope. That hope became reality when she appeared with it. She brought it out at the very end of the Finale so she didn't have to use it too much. She switched back to her regular bow for Spanish Lady. It was a very lovely thing for her to do and much appreciated by all of us. I said “Thank you” to her as they were taking their bows and got a lovely smile in return.
No Meet & Greet tonight, so after watching Anthony for a bit in the lobby we walked across the street for an after-show chat and do our best to close up the place. What do you say we do it all again tomorrow? OK by me!
The original review is here.