|Summer 2005. NYC and Cape Breton
July 14th, 2005
Celtic Spring is back from a wonderful tour that reminded us of our trip to Europe with all the dear people we met and the great cities and beautiful countryside we encountered, providing another set of adventures that made three and a half weeks away seem more like three months.
We flew into Indianapolis and rented a 12 passenger van, loaded up all our instruments, equipment, and luggage, and drove to Layfayette where we performed for the wonderful parish of St. Boniface. Aidan, our youngest child, made his debut dancing with Celtic Spring. He was delighted with his first appearance on stage and asked me if he could dance again. His opportunity came a short time later when we received a standing ovation and we let him join for the encore set. We were especially grateful when upon departing, Fr. Tim Alkire, the pastor of St. Boniface, presented us with a very special gift, a first class relic of our band's patron saint, St. Patrick. He said that we were the first Irish people to win his German heart, and he even offered to join us on our tour as our chaplain. We would take him any day, but I think his wonderful parish would not allow that. God Bless Father Tim!!!
Our next stop was New York where we performed at a school and then spent three days in Manhattan accomplishing some business followed by exploration and birthday celebrating. Our business at hand was to have Celtic Spring promo photos taken by the wonderful photographer, Irene Young. Irene informed us that her photo studio was on the top floor of a "New York City walk-up." We made our way to the fifth floor and spent about three hours doing a shoot. We are delighted with the results and will share them with you soon, as we will update the photo on the opening page of our web-site. (Celtic Spring members are growing up!) When the work was done, we played! We stayed right in the heart of the city near St. Patrick's Cathedral, and explored the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Natural History Museum, as well as Central Park, the Empire State Building, China Town, and Times Square. Navigating in New York City proved to be challenging at times manifested by the common occurrence of ending up on a bridge leading out of Manhattan. Sometimes parking was daunting. On one occasion, Greg dropped us off at Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral, intending to park the van and join us. Mass came and went and Greg did not show up. We waited in the cathedral for about thirty minutes and finally I decided that perhaps we should wait on the front steps of the cathedral. As we headed outside, we spotted our large white van thick in traffic slowly driving by. Relieved to find Greg we all ran and piled into the van as quickly as possible, making a taxi next to us none too pleased. From there we headed to the Met for an afternoon at the art museum. We were able to park our large van in the parking garage under the museum, and after we explored the museum, left it there to walk to a restaurant for dinner. After dinner, Greg decided that he would run back and get the van to save us the return walk. I told him that we would begin walking up Madison Avenue and that he could find us along the street. About half an hour later, I saw him coming toward us on foot. He announced that our large van could not make it out of the garage because the car roof was too tall. Our 600 pounds of bodies made the difference in whether or not the van could clear the roof of the garage!
During our stay in New York City, Aidan celebrated his fifth birthday by riding the carousel at Central Park and visiting the dinosaur exhibit at the Natural History Museum. He loved the dinosaur museum in London and was delighted to see the New York dinosaurs. After the museum we ate a birthday dinner at one of the multitude of great cafes and sang happy birthday with a delicious fruit and custard tart, with birthday candles aquired at a little market right next door to the restaurant. We then walked to Times Square where we purchased a gift for Aidan at the huge Toys R US. Our only interest in Times Square was the memory of our previous visit when we were on Good Morning America and had stayed in a hotel in the square right across from the abc studio.
From New York City we drove to Philadelphia where we were appearing on Fox's Good Day Philadelphia, to promote the Celtic Fling Festival. The festival arranged for us to stay in old town Philadelphia near the TV station so after the TV appearance we had an afternoon to explore Philadelphia. We met our good friend, Ellen, for lunch. Upon Ellen arriving at the restaurant, Aidan said, "I knew it was going to be Ellen, but I did not know that it was that kind of Ellen." I think he was very pleased, as Ellen is a frequent guest at our home.
All went fine until it was time to leave Philadelphia and head to Lancaster, PA for the Celtic Fling Festival. Greg wanted to show us his old neighborhood on the "Main Line," and after meandering lost for a time and even going through a very tough neighborhood, Greg found his lovely street but the car began to lose power. We made our way back to the main road where we could make phone calls and solve our car problem. The car would not go more then 20 miles an hour and we were glad we were not on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, where we would have been, had not Greg been so set on finding his former home. We found a small shopping center and called the Rent a Car office in Indianapolis requesting that they arrange with the Philly office for a car exchange. While we waited, we met the very helpful and friendly locals who took good care of us. The very friendly Dakota Pizza Company owners gave us a delicious pizza, and people kept stopping to offer us help. One very friendly man who was a pediatrician kept us well entertained with jokes and stories. We liked this unplanned way to see how good humanity still was... until five hours passed by and it was midnight and we were still awaiting a new van. At last, a tow truck and a large van drove by. We beeped our horn, and they noticed us in the deserted parking lot. We exchanged cars and began the two hour drive to Lancaster. My bad navigating had us driving north on the PA Turnpike Extension, where there was no way to turn back until 30 minutes up the highway. So we wasted a full hour, and finally were heading west, and in the middle of the night arrived at our hotel where we would stay for the duration of the Celtic Fling Festival.
The Celtic Fling Festival was great fun. Although the weekend was extremely hot and humid the crowds were large and appreciative. We were sharing our stage with Eileen Ivers and her band, Immigrant Soul. After we had done one performance and were about to begin the second show, the producer of the festival told me that Eileen had not arrived yet and that the turnpike was completely backed up, and asked if we would perform during her hour, which would have been our third hour, not to mention, the hottest time of the day. Our children were feeling the heat and another performance was not what they wanted. I said we would do it, but I said to the family to pray that Eileen and her band would show up in time. In the middle of our second hour, Eileen did show up and we were all tremendously relieved. Our children are very fond of Eileen's fiddling so of course we all watched her hour set. It was from 3:00 to 4:00, boiling hot and humid, and Eileen and her band put on a great show, not ever once mentioning their misery as the sweat poured down. Our children were deeply impressed by the band's fortitude and cheerfulness, and they learned a good lesson that day. I don't think they will complain anymore about the conditions during a show. That night our children were invited to join Eileen in an encore set, along with a few other festival musicians, so they were thrilled. The festival was two full days, and the next day proceeded like the first, hot but really fun. Celtic Spring and Eileen Ivers had the mainstage audiences really loving the music and oblivious of the heat. The whole festival ended with a big jam led by Eileen and her band and joined by Celtic Spring and other musicians. What a blast of tunes and fun! Our family talked with Eileen and her husband and we discovered that her parents were from Kiltimagh in County Mayo, where my grandmother had come from. It was a joy to meet and talk with Eileen and we added her to our list of favorite and fine musicians and people, such as the Leahy family and Natalie MacMaster.
From Pennsylvania we headed to Rhode Island, Boston, and Maine where we visited relatives and explored on our way up to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.
From the moment we crossed the Canso Causeway into Cape Breton, our adventures up there began. We saw at the tourist office that a family from Ireland was performing that night in Natalie and Buddy MacMaster's town of Judique. We were interested in attending the show so we stopped at the venue, the Judique Community Center. Greg jokingly said that maybe the family, the Rooney Family, will be sick and we will have to do their show. After going inside to do inquiries, he came out and said that the family was still in Toronto because of bad weather in Halifax where the Cape Breton Airport is. We thought he was joking, but when we realized that he was serious, we said that he should offer our services. The MacDonald brothers, Cyril and Donald, who ran the venue, were delighted at the prospect of our family performing instead of the Rooney Family, but he had already cancelled the show. They wanted to reschedule for Saturday night, the next evening, from 10:00 to 1:00 a.m. (Those Cape Bretoners begin their musical events late in the evening and do not like them to end!) We explained that we could not do that time slot because we had already set it aside to attend the West Mabou Family Square Dance, one of our highlights of our trips to Cape Breton. We agreed to perform from 7:00- 10:00, and we did it. I was extremely amazed that our children could put together a show consisting of two one- hour sets after not having done a theater show in a year. (Since Elizabeth had gone off to college, we did not book any theater shows this past year.) Their show was fabulous and loved by the audience.
We spent that afternoon, a gray and rainy day, watching the Mabou Ceili Days Parade and then watching the local talent play music. After our performance, we headed back to Mabou for the Square Dance, a wonderful event where people of all ages dance in big circles to endless reels and jigs supplied by a fiddler and a piano player.
The next day we had to drive out across the island to the Gaelic College where we would be spending the next week, check in, drop our luggage off, and return to Mabou for an evening performance at the Strasthspey Place, with more local talent. We felt deeply honored to have been invited to perform. Then back to the Gaelic College for an incredible week of fiddle, step dancing, friendship, and fun and joy for all. We all took classes all day long from some of the best Cape Breton fiddlers and dancers. During the week Greg drove a van full of young people to another square dance in Glencoe, a long drive along gravel roads deep in the heart of the countryside. We received another honor during the week when Celtic Spring was invited to perform at the instructors concert. We were happy to share our Celtic culture with the Cape Bretoners. We ended our stay in Cape Breton with a hike in the highlands where we saw moose and Bald Eagles. Cape Breton has captured our hearts and we hope we return soon to this incredible place of music, dance, and the Catholic faith, all brought to this island two hundred years ago by the Scottish Highlanders.