This would be my 75th show and it was everything I wanted it to be and more. I have been blessed to have attended several very special shows. MáiréadFest is and always will be number one, but (in alphabetical order) Albuquerque, Buffalo, Cleveland and Red Rocks rank right up there, as well. Another one was added tonight. Round numbered anniversaries and birthdays and such are supposed to be special; 25th is silver, 50th is gold and 75th is diamond. Today sparkled like the diamond it was destined to be.
But let's back up just a bit. Ann Marie is a forum member who has been a huge fan of Celtic Woman almost since its inception but has never been able to attend a show. I won't go into the reasons here because they are not important. The forum leadership has been trying to get her to a show, with a Meet & Greet, for a while now and has been stymied at every attempt. She lives in western Pennsylvania and this past spring we tried to get tickets to the Pittsburgh show but were unable to get good seats and the M&G passes were long gone. When I learned the the girls would be coming to Lancaster I immediately obtained as many front row tickets as the pre-sale allowed. I was only able to get four but it's a good thing that I acted as fast as I did because the show sold out in a little over a week; if I hadn't gotten up at 5:30 that morning and been in line at the box office this review might not exist. At that time it was not a PBS show, which meant no M&G, so phase 2 kicked into gear. I wrote a letter to John Flanagan at Celtic Woman explaining the situation and outlining our goals. Ann Marie plays violin and wanted to meet Máiréad so I requested that arrangements be made for an after-show meeting. I was realistic, yet cautiously optimistic. That optimism turned to elation when I got a reply from John saying that my request would be granted. The stars had finally aligned in Ann Marie's favor and she would see her very first show from the front row and meet Máiréad!
Well, there was still one catch. Lancaster is almost 5 hours from her home so it took some convincing to get her parents to take her that far. Scott used his best diplomacy and the final piece of the puzzle was in place. The countdown had started! She was so excited that she asked me to mail her ticket to her so she could actually hold it in her hand. I don't think that she really believed it was going to happen until that point.
Fast forward to today. Today would be a glorious day, in many ways. The weather had broken the day before and there was nothing but blue sky and white puffy clouds. We had a small forum gathering planned. In addition to Ann Marie and myself, we had Roy who brought a lovely fruit basket for the girls, Rebecca and her friend Ted, Annie, and the “other” Mike. I got to the venue around 3:30 and found a nice spot in the shade to relax while waiting for our scheduled 5:00 meeting. I had a clear view of the stage door area and saw quite a few of the cast passing by. I didn't intrude on their privacy; it was nice to see them just being themselves rather than performing. Around 4:30 Roy arrived and delivered his gift to security at the stage door. Then we chatted while we waited for the rest to arrive. Rebecca and Ted were first followed shortly thereafter by Annie and Mike. A little after 5:00 I called Ann Marie to find out where she was and it turned out they were just turning into the parking lot. I had not yet met her so introductions were made with her and her parents. After a consensus was reached we had a delightful dinner at Cracker Barrel, directly across the street from the venue. As usual, we all hit it off quickly and much conversation was had before, during and after dinner.
Finally, around 7:00 we headed back to the venue to prepare for the main event. I had a few items I needed to purchase for some other forum members and Ann Marie needed some things so we lingered around the concession table for a while until the doors opened. Our seats were front row, orchestra right, directly in front of Des. The “stop line” for the girls was set back from the edge of the stage, but the venue is intimate enough that it didn't really affect our enjoyment at all. Rebecca and Ted were next to us since she had purchased my other two venue tickets. Annie and Mike were in row J on the left since they had purchased my PBS tickets. Roy was also in row J, so we were a little scattered but had both sides of the venue covered. While we were waiting, Roison walked by selling programs (her second vocation) and Rebecca got her to sign Ann Marie's program. How rare of an autograph is that? Promptly at 8:00 the recorded announcement was played followed by an American Music Theater representative plugging upcoming events at the theater. Ann Marie was getting increasingly excited as the clock slowly inched forward. She and Rebecca were, of course, equipped with Fiddler Crossing signs and instructions on their use. The lights dimmed and Chloë entered. It was time.
I will not review the show here. Tonight was not about the show. I was not watching the show through eyes that had seen it many times, nor was I watching it through the critical eyes of a reviewer. Not tonight. Tonight I divorced myself from all of that and watched the show through Ann Marie's eyes. And what a show it was. Lisa spotted me right away and smiled knowingly. It was obvious that they all knew what was coming up later. The first time that Máiréad came to our side of the stage she flashed one of those amazing full-face smiles and mouthed a “Hi!” to me. I pointed to Ann Marie to let Máiréad know where her attention should be directed. Tonight was not about me. She got the message and throughout the show all of the girls gave Ann Marie lots of attention. There were several points where they sang directly to her for extended lengths of time. During You Raise Me Up, watching Máiréad in the shadows as I always do, she gave me several of the sweetest smiles this side of heaven. I wished I had made a “Thank You” sign but knew that I could thank her later.
At intermission, Rachel had come down to visit and explained what we needed to do after the show so we were ready. At the risk of overextending my welcome, I hinted that it would be nice if the other girls could stop by to say “Hi” while we were meeting with Máiréad but it turned out that I needn't have asked. In the weeks leading up to tonight I had maintained realistic expectations of what was going to happen, but I had this dream of what I really wanted to happen. My dream was coming true; Ann Marie would not only be meeting Máiréad, she would be meeting all of the girls! I was so happy for her that I could hardly contain myself.
After the show, Rachel returned and directed us to one of the side entrances where we would be out of the way of the crew tearing down the stage. Soon that door opened and four angels walked out. I was glad to see that they had not gone to the trouble of changing into their M&G gowns; that would have been a totally unnecessary waste of time. Instead they wore their normal street clothes and looked just as lovely, if not more so, than when they are in their gowns. They swarmed Ann Marie and it was both a little funny and so wonderful to watch as they chatted like old friends. She had brought a ton of items to be signed and the girls graciously signed as many of them as time (and Rachel) would allow,. As items were finished Lisa handed them to me for safekeeping and at one point she joked that I was Ann Marie's PA (Personal Assistant)! Far too soon Rachel began hinting that they needed to head for the buses. Before that, though, there was one final item in my dream for today and that was that the moment be recorded for posterity. That request, too, was granted.
Then it was over. I thanked them all as they left and thanked Rachel for all of her efforts. Ann Marie was floating on air as we waited for her parents to pick her up. My feet weren't touching the ground either and I drove home in a state of euphoria. Mission accomplished.
I will close here with some well-deserved thanks. First, and foremost, thanks to the Celtic Woman organization for being so accommodating. Thanks to Rachel for being such a sweetheart (yes, I said it) and organizing everything. Thanks to Scott for his perseverance and assistance. And, of course, the biggest thanks of all goes the four lovely ladies who graced us with their presence tonight, both on stage and off. And a small shout out to Rebecca for her help, too. The evening might not have gone quite as smoothly without her being there.
There you have it, my first non-review ever. I won't tell you how many spins Máiréad did, even though I counted them by force of habit. I won't talk about lighting or sound or the audience either. All I will say is that it was one of my most special shows ever. A final thank you goes to the forum, for without all of you supporting Máiréad I would not have been led to this place and to this point in my life and I would not have had this experience. Sorry for not putting a Kleenex alert at the top but you all know you take that risk with my posts sometimes. Some of you were forewarned.
The original review is here.