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Author Topic: Orla: Celtic Christmas with the Upper Canada Chorus (2018)  (Read 51 times)
CWazyTom
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« on: December 02, 2018, 01:10:13 PM »

Celtic Christmas with the Upper Canada Chorus featuring Orla Fallon


Last night (December 1st), I finally got to see Orla Fallon live and to meet her!

She performed in Toronto at the George Weston Recital Hall at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, Toronto, Canada.



Set List:

Christmas Pipes
Walking in the Air
Deck the Halls (sing-along)
Pat a Pan
Bells of Christmas (Orla)
Away In A Manger (Orla)
How Great Thou Art (Orla)
Carrickfergus (Orla)
Do You Heart What I Hear (Orla)
Mo Ghile Mear (Orla) (sing-along)

Intermission

Evergreen
Edelweiss (sing-along)
Orinoco Flow
Green Grow the Rushes (Orla) (sing-along)
I'll Tell Me Ma (Orla)
In the Bleak Midwinter (Orla)
Glow
All Is Well (Orla)
Silent Night (Orla) (sing-along)
The Parting Glass (Orla)
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (Orla) (sing-along)



The Stage

The show wasn't in a particularly large auditorium. It has just over 1000 seats, but it felt smaller, like the intimate sized venues in which Chloë normally performs.

The stage was appropriately decorated for Christmas (certainly more so than the Best of Christmas show in Buffalo). The front of the stage was lined with candles (artificial, of course). There were several bare trees on the stage that were decorated with Christmas lights. There were also Christmas lights draped along the balcony behind the stage.

To my left facing the stage (aka "stage right") was a piano, a double-bass, a percussion set, and probably a few more instruments I couldn't see from my vantage point. On the other side of the stage, there was a section for string and wind instruments, perhaps 6-10 pieces.

In the center of the stage was a rostrum for the conductor. There were several rows at the back of the stage for the choir. There was also a few rows in the balcony above the back of the stage for additional choir members.

I got tickets the moment I was alerted to her show by Bands In Town, but they must have had a pre-sale or something, because our seats were in row G. We still had a pretty good view of the stage and Orla, but she did confirm after the show that she couldn't see any of us that far back from the stage.



The Concert

Orla performed with the Upper Canada Chorus, a choir of mostly children and young adults. It actually reminded me a lot of the Lisa Kelly Voice Academy and brought back some good memories of Lisa's "Voice of Ireland" show in Peachtree City last year.

The Choir entered the stage in a simple but creative criss-cross, with alternating rows entering from opposite wings of the stage. There were multiple rows of choir members both on the main stage level and in the balcony along the back of the stage.

A large portion of the crowd were family members of choir members, who waved excitedly and called out to their kids before the show started.

The young ladies in the front row of the choir, some of the oldest and likely the longest-tenured members, had some very pretty black dresses on. I don't think I've seen a choir dressed up that well before, not even on a Celtic Woman DVD. The contingent in the balcony I suppose were the newer members and had on t-shirts instead.

The show opened with the choir, band, and orchestra. It was great to hear Christmas Pipes live. I think they should have put a microphone somewhere near the choir to amplify the sound a bit. With them being at the back of the stage, they got drowned out a bit at times by the band and orchestra at the front. It's definitely a song that benefits from power. Still, the choir sounded great for this song and for the whole show.

The conductor explained before the next song that Walking in the Air was about a snowflake. You'd think I would have known that already, but it's been a long time since I saw the movie (maybe 25 years) and I honestly never thought about it before. I actually used to dislike that song until I heard Chloë sing it.

The audience got to sing along with Deck the Halls! The men and women in the audience sang alternating lines. The lyrics were printed in the program for the show. As luck would have it though, I had recently practiced some of the lyrics. The crowd participation was quite good and we did a great job of singing along.

Orla finally entered the stage from my left (stage right) for Bells of Christmas! She wore a black dress with some white patterns on it. It was really exciting to finally see Orla! She sounded as great live as I could have imagined and she doesn't look like she's aged a day since she was in Celtic Woman.

After Away In A Manger, Orla mentioned something that she had been told when she was very young: A great performance isn't so much about hitting all the right notes; it's about singing with your heart and soul and connecting with the audience. Orla did all of those things very well.

Orla didn't have her harp with her. But during a few of the songs, like Carrickfergus, Orla was moving her fingers through the air as though she was.

I actually had to mop up my face a bit during Carrickfergus. It was so special to finally hear Orla perform such a beautiful song (which she sang on A New Journey) live. But it quickly got even more amazing, when the audience got to sing along to Mo Ghile Mear! You'd think I'd know the lyrics to this song by now, but I've honestly never looked them up. I just knew the approximate sounds from having listened to Celtic Woman, but I never learned the actual words. The lyrics were printed in the program so I got around to learning them! We practiced a few times, with the choir director coaching us. I was a bit worried that singing in Irish would intimidate the audience, but it surprisingly didn't. The audience eagerly and pretty impressively learned the lyrics after only a few tries. I got to sing one of my all-time favorite Celtic Woman songs with Orla Fallon! That was incredibly cool!

During Mo Ghile Mear, let me just say that was quite obvious how talented a violinist Mairead Nesbitt is to have been able to play that. I hate the phrase "it just wasn't the same" quite vehemently. But in this case, perhaps it would have been appropriate. Not even some of the best violinists in the world can play like Mairead or Tara can.

The second act opened with the choir singing Evergreen. I'm not sure I've heard that song before.

I guess the audience participation was so good in the first act that the choir director decided to do an impromptu audience sing-along of Edelweiss. That didn't go quite as well. The lyrics for that song were not in the program and we didn't get to practice before the song. Most audience didn't know the lyrics, at least not well enough to sing them confidently. The choir director called out the start of each line to us in advance, but that was a bit distracting and it didn't really help people who didn't know the rest of the line anyways.

The choir swayed their arms back and forth for Orinoco Flow. The audience really liked that one and it got one of the biggest rounds of applause of the night.

Then came another special moment: an audience sing-along of Green Grow the Rushes! The choir director asked the audience if there were any Celtic Woman fans in attendance. Before I could think about it, I started excitedly waving my arm in the air like a child. LOL! The choir director mentioned that Celtic Woman fans were very loyal and passionate. Yes. Yes, we are. <3

Orla came out on stage near the end of the song to sing along with us. As I was singing along, to Green Grow the Rushes, I imagined I was at the Fox Theater in Atlanta, singing along with Lisa and Chloë during the Believe DVD recording. I regretted missing out on that special experience but getting to sing this with Orla finally took away some of that long-held regret.

For Act 2, Orla was wearing a dress with a black top and a blue and black bottom. The top of the dress had an eccentric flourish of material. I'm not sure of the correct name for it, but it was like large, stylized pedals of a flower coming out of her dress.

We got to clap along to Orla singing Tell Me Ma, a fun song which she performed with The Dubliners on her My Land DVD. It was another experience during this show that made me feel I had gone back in time to participate in a DVD recording I missed out on. It was really special!

Orla singing In the Bleak Midwinter live was very pretty.

Glow was a song performed just with the choir, band, and orchestra. It had an ethereal flavor to it. They turned the lights down for this song. The choir was holding artificial candles in their hands and at the end of the song, they were supposed to reveal them all. It was really pretty when they did, although a few of the kids didn't quite keep their lit candle tips covered for the whole song, thereby letting the proverbial cat out of the bag.

Orla came back on stage, but I guess someone forgot to turn the lights back on, because Orla and the rest of the people on stage performed All Is Well and Silent Night pretty much in darkness (but for the Christmas lights), without any spotlights. All Is Well was another very pretty song and having the swaying, artificial candles still illuminated for it was a really nice touch.

The Parting Glass was one of the two songs during the night that made me tear up. It's still my favourite song. <3 I wasn't quite as spectacular as the finales from Believe and Emerald, obviously. But it was still very emotional and effective, with a steady build in tempo and energy throughout the song.

I knew there was one more song left, but I gave Orla a standing ovation anyways. So did the rest of the crowd. I wouldn't call it "thunderous, rapturous applause" by any means (we didn't have Caoimhe, pronounced "Keeva," cameras, or a castle to motivate us, I guess. But it was a respectable send-off and I'm sure she appreciated it.

The show wrapped up up with a sing along of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and then an instrumental rendition of Mo Ghile Mear as the audience playout!



Meet and Greet

There were allegedly only a few posters available for Orla to sign after the show, so I ended up rushing out to get one while the playout was still going on. I was therefore only the second person in line to meet her! The shortage of posters was greatly exaggerated though.

We had been told earlier in the show that Orla would only sign items purchase at the merch table, so the 8x10 photo I made for her to sign turned out to be unnecessary. The poster was really large (18x12 inches), but had pretty much the same picture (her Celtic Christmas DVD cover) that I was going to get her to sign anyways, albeit the poster had significantly less color definition than the DVD cover photo did. I would have preferred a much smaller poster, honestly. After getting my Best of Christmas poster framed and possibly a poster from a certain venue in Colorado in May, I think that will take up the last of my wall space and I'll have to start rotating signed pictures on and off the walls going forward. Either that or risk a cluttered look that would take away from the photos.

At the merch table, pretty much all of her CDs and DVDs were available. I of course already have all of her work. I felt kind of bad about not getting at least one of them as a gift, but the reality is that most of the people I would give such a gift to wouldn't watch / listen to it without me anyways, so it wouldn't do them much good.

We waited for a few minutes, but then Orla finally came out to meet us! She was wearing her Act 2 dress. The person ahead of me picked up a poster and 5 of her CDs, all of which she signed. So I had to wait a while. Then at last I got to meet Orla!!!!

One of the first things she asked me was whether I was the one that sent her the email. Uhhh, didn't know anything about that, so I said I Tweeted her I was coming. She said she didn't really use Twitter. Great waited like 12 years to meet Orla and her first impression was one confusion. LOL!!!

There was a long line behind me and based on how long it took to get the first person's stuff signed, I decided to only tell her the first part of what I was planning to say (so I didn't hold up the whole line for a few minutes). I told her it was nice to finally meet her and that she had one of the most beautiful and soothing I had ever heard. She seemed genuinely touched. I took that opportunity to give her my bag with my secret gift inside it, as well as a Canada postcard and a letter, which in my opinion, was one of the best I've written for one of the girls. I also told her I was really grateful I had a chance to sing along to so many of my favourite songs. I got to hug her. She signed my poster and got a photo with her. Orla was very sweet, although she did seem like she was in a bit of a rush at times.

After the line ended, I stuck around with some of the Celtic Woman Elders to chat with Orla a bit more. I did get to say a few more disjointed things to her. She was definitely distracted by the Elders though (or I suppose I was distracting her from the Elders). So I ended up saying a little less than half of what I wanted to and my delivery was a bit lacking. Anyways, I think she'll enjoy the gift and the card and hopefully the postcard plants the seed for her to come back next year. One day, maybe I'll be an Elder too. ;)

I do wish I had more attention during the Meet and Greet, but she didn't even know who I was before last night and I understand that she was eager to catch up with the Elders.



The Journey

Earlier in the week, I had been worried about the driving conditions to see Celtic Woman: The Best of Christmas in Buffalo. The drive both too and from Orla's show was MUCH worse.

There wasn't any snow, but in both directions, it was a drive at night with fog and pretty heavy rain. There was almost no visibility of the lane markings and passing through construction zones, there were marks on the road from where concrete barriers had previously been placed that were far more reflective than the actual lane markings were, resulting in dangerous levels of confusion.

There was a lot of "white knuckle" driving involved. I had planned to play some Celtic Woman music both on the way there and the way back, but I ended up having to drive in total silence because I needed full concentration to avoid drifting out of my lane and watch out for other drivers that lost track of where they were on the road.

The drive into Buffalo had been surprisingly smooth, with very few traffic issues. The drive into Toronto was far from the most congested I've seen, but it still took far longer than anticipated. Traffic was moving steadily for most of the way there, but at less than 50% of normal highway speeds. I had to bail on the main highway into Toronto because in spite of having what should have been over an hour and a half of buffer time, about half way there, I decided there was a legitimate risk of being late for the show if I stayed on the main road. So I took the obscenely expensive express toll road around a section of the main highway. That's where things got even more interesting...

The traffic, as it usually is, was significantly better on the toll road. However, at some point on the toll road, I heard a series of three evenly-spaced loud pops/bangs just to my left, accompanied by three bright flashes. That happened in the space of about a second and it was literally within a foot or two of my car. It happened as a car was passing me in the left lane. My first instinct was I was getting shot at. However, I suspect those were actually low-yield explosives going off, most likely firecrackers, possibly cherry bombs. Thankfully, it didn't appear to damage the tires. There was a car to my right, so if I had panicked enough to swerve, I'd probably be dead now.

That's actually the second time this year that's happened to me on that road. Last time though was during the day and good visibility. I did swerve then. However, the fact that it had happened before probably kept me alive this time.

I ended up getting off the toll road to take a city road and avoid the last stretch of the main highway, which was really backed up. I parked in the first lot I could find near the venue. By that point, I had gotten turned around enough I tried to use the GPS to find the venue. Right on cue, my phone's GPS refused to cooperate. I asked someone on the sidewalk where the venue was, but the person didn't know. So, I jogged around rather frantically for a good 5-10 minutes (not an easy proposition on bad knees and atrocious cardio). I made it less than 20 minutes before the start of the show and probably scared the heck out of prideslaw, because I had his ticket to the show.

The drive back was mercifully less eventful, although visibility was absolutely terrible and temperature was right around freezing, creating the potential for black ice. That was a pretty terrifying driving experience in both directions.



Overall

Orla's show was really fun! Her live voice sounded pretty much as lovely as it does on her albums. Getting to sing along to some of my favourite songs was unexpected and very special! The choir did a great job and the instrumental arrangements were as fantastic as always with her work. The drive there and back was really bad. Considering I survived it, Orla was worth it, but I feel kind of lucky to still be here.

The show had a lot of Nostalgia and that made it even more special.

I meant what I said to her: that she has one of the most beautiful and soothing voices in the world. I'm so glad that I finally got to experience her live.

Many of her songs have touched my heart over the years, but to close this write-up, I wanted to share with you a paraphrasing of one of my favorites, which describes what Orla and indeed all of Celtic Woman, past and present, have meant in my life:

You'll never be the sun
Turning in the sky
And you won't be the moon above me
On a moonlit night
And you won't be the stars in heaven
Although they burn so bright
But even when the dark clouds gather
You will be my light.

« Last Edit: December 07, 2018, 09:47:37 PM by CWazyTom » Logged
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Tracie
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« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2018, 03:04:38 PM »

Sounds like an excellent Christmas show! The sing-alongs and meet and greet sound like so much fun. And I absolutely love the part about performing with heart and connecting with the audience. Celtic Woman current and former members are so amazing at doing that in every performance! Sounds like a rough drive - glad you made it ok!
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VegasDavid
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« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2018, 06:31:54 PM »

I'm glad you made it through the traffic and weather and had a wonderful experience!  I hope the drive to Ohio in March is easier.  Maybe you will move someplace warm some day 😎🌴.
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