Friday, January 29, 2010

Snowed In

Snowing here in Knoxville. The weather threw a giant wrench into my weekend plans. I had planned on going home to Chattanooga, but got a call from my mother saying that the weather had gotten pretty bad at home and strongly advised that I stay in Knoxville.

Mother knows best, right?

To make matters worse, it seems all of my friends are already home, so I'm sitting here in an empty dorm suite with absolutely nothing to do.

But am I gonna let that get me down? NO!

My new Celtic Woman CD came in today, and I must tell you, the past week and a half have been a resurgence of love and excitement for the 5 ladies from the Emerald Isle. First of all, their new CD/DVD, Songs from the Heart, came out a few days ago, so I've been itching to get my hands on them. My CD was delivered to my dorm today. My DVD has also arrived....but it's at home, because my mother had bought it as a birthday present (thank you, weather).

I've been surfing youtube again, watching behind the scenes footage of the new CW special. It's really exciting, because this is the first time you really see the real girls of CW. You see their laughter, their pranks (Lynn stealing the golf cart), their mishaps (Mairead getting locked in her trailer), their gentle annoyances (Chloe: -getting her makeup done- Come back in 20 minutes and I'll stare into your camera all you want), as well as all of the wonderful things long since confirmed by my meeting them, such as their wonderful hearts and personalities.

The goodness that comes from CW is almost like a natural element like fire, water, earth, and wind. Such an element makes me long all the harder to see Ireland and its beautiful splendor. Friends of mine have advised me to go with Tenon Tours over Paddywagon Tours (if you don't know what I'm talking about, look two posts ago). I think I agree with them. I like the idea of living in the great accommodations as I make my way through the Emerald Isle, and I also like being able to have the freedom of being able to explore by myself throughout Ireland. If a group wants to go to the Jameson Distillery, but I want to go to the Guinness Brewery, so be it (the use of alcoholic landmarks in Ireland has no almost no correlation to my plans in Ireland).

My funds have passed the $1,500 mark - halfway to acquiring the necessary funds to go to Ireland. Mother doesn't think that I'll have enough to go by the end of the summer. I hope to prove her wrong...but I'll probably need a lot of help along the way.

Le gra.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Meeting Lisa Kelly, Chloe Agnew, and Mairead Nesbitt

It was a lovely spring semester in 2009. February rolled around faster than January had the month before. January was always a lovely month for me, but granted I'm a little biased (my birthday is January 14th). However, 4 months prior to that particular February, I had ordered my friend Natasha and I a pair of Celtic Woman tickets to their showing in Knoxville along with a pair of meet and greet passes. As the months counted down to weeks which counted down to days, it was getting harder and harder to sleep as I kept getting more and more excited about seeing my favorite performers and meeting them in person.

The wait was not without worry, however. I had learned from the lovely throng of members at that I would not meet every member of the group. At typical meet-and-greets, only 2 of the 5 performers came out to greet the audience, and it was a random process as to which of them came out to the greeting. Lisa Kelly being the first of the group I ever saw and heard, I desperately wanted to meet her so much. That said, meeting any of them would have been truly a wonderful and memorable experience. But in the back of my mind, I had set aside a goal to meet Lisa, as my adoration for Ireland had been realized for the first time by hearing her dulcet tones.

The last day in February finally came. Natasha and I were ready to go, so we made our way to downtown Knoxville to the Knoxville Civic Center to see the women from the Emerald Isle.

3rd row seats, dead center.

It was truly a magical experience from the beginning. From the windy and echoing opening stanza of "The Sky, The Dawn, and The Sun" with Mairead's pixie silhouette against the fog and smoke, to the finale with all the girls clapping along with their adoring audience and waving their final goodbyes, I was wowed and amazed. After the night, my cheeks ached from the wide (not creepy) grin I had on my face the entire night.

More details than that. Listening to Lisa singing "The Voice" just a few meters away was a wonderful memory I will never ever forget. Throughout the show, I would find that my smiles and simple clapping gestures to her would often get reciprocated from her to me (read the entire article, and you'll find the full extent of said reciprocations). She'd grin or do a slight wave from her hip. To my astonishment, a lot of the girls did the same, but the ones who did it the most were Lisa and Chloe.

In the middle of "You Raise Me Up," a spotlight went through the crowd and stopped right above me, lingering there for a moment before spreading out to the rest of the orchestra pit section of the audience. For that brief moment where I was engulfed in the light, the girls seemed to turn and sing to me as I lip-synced the song back to them. Another memory etched deep within the archives of my brain.

After the amazing show was over, it was time for the meet-and-greet. Excited though I was, I was also anxious about a few things. I wasn't sure who was coming to the meet-and-greet, and I wasn't sure what I was going to say. As for the latter worry, I eventually said during the long wait, "Screw it. I'm just gonna wing it."

Finally the meet-and-greet coordinator came out. "Good evening, everyone. The two girls that will be at your meet-and-greet will be Chloe..."

Damn the girl for pausing! My heart skipped so many beats. What lasted only about a second and a half lasted forever in my mind.

"...and Lisa."

If I coulda done a back-flip without looking utterly ridiculous in front of the small crowd of people at the meet-and-greet, I certainly would have. Going over my lines which would soon be forgotten when I got to the point where I'd use them, I looked to Natasha for strength. Granted, my dear friend Natasha is a very darkly sarcastic person, so looking to her for strength was like looking to a horse for cow's milk!

From the door behind the table with two chairs came two of the most stunning women I ever seen. Chloe's bubbly smile greeted us first, her blond hair shimmering in the light above her. "Hello, everyone!" she said brightly. Lisa came out second, her hypnotic smile scanning the crowd with an equally bright "Helloooo!"

Waiting my turn gave me time to take some much needed breaths of air. As I came up to Chloe, she extended her hand with a bright smile, and it was at that time I realized that she had an amazing pair of eyes much like Lisa's, and if I remember correctly, they were an intoxicating blue.

"Hello! My name is Chloe!"

"Hi! My name is Taylor."

"It's so nice to meet you, Taylor! I saw you down there in the third row. You looked like you were having a good time. You were all smiles and singing along. I almost thought I could hear you up on stage!" Oh my God, this goddess recognized me!

"Thank you! It's very nice to meet you, too. I must say, Chloe. I've been watching the Celtic Woman specials for a while now, and I must say your voice has grown so much and you look absolutely fantastic."

"Awww! Well, your check is in the post! You can take a seat right here and stay all night!"

We laughed and chatted a little more as she graciously signed some memorabilia for me. Chloe quickly became almost like a "buddy" to me as you'll see later in this article (I hope you've kept up so far).

Time to meet Lisa. Be still, my beating heart.

Handshake. "Hello, Taylor. Nice to meet you! I'm Lisa, and I also saw you down in there smiling and singing along."

"Hi, Lisa! I wasn't sure if you could see me, because I've been onstage before, and I know those lights can blind you."

She told me that the people in the orchestra pit were easy to see, because they were just under the lights that darken out the rest of the audience.

"Lisa, I love your voice and I love "The Voice." It is my favorite song, and I must thank you so much for inspiring me to find out about my Irish heritage."

"Oh, really? What have you found?"

"Well, my search has only just started, but I can tell you that my last name, Gibson, comes from England, Scotland, and Ireland."

"Oh, yes! My neighbors back in Dublin were Gibsons! What a small world!"

"Speaking of which, Lisa. Remember the song you sang for the Slane Castle special, Caledonia?"


"I go to school here in town, and my dormitory sits on Caledonia avenue."

She laughed, we said our goodbyes and shook hands and parted ways. Natasha said my face was so red. Well, the girls were probably used to blushers.

Natasha and I quickly called our mothers as we walked to the car, beaming with excitement and joy. It wasn't until after we finally reached out cars where we (at the same time, mind you) hung up our phones, took one long breath, and promptly screamed, "They recognized us!"

Part 2

Not long after the Knoxville show, I ordered another pair of ticket/meet-and-greet package for another friend and I for the show in Nashville, Tennessee. Don't need to go over the details of the show as they were the same as before mentioned except for one major difference - the interaction between me and the girls.

This time, I set in the second row and dead center. As I sat there, smiling and singing along, I caught Lisa's eyes as they neared the end of a song. When it was time to applaud, I clapped and put my two hands to my lips and blew a kiss at her. I was surprised to see her pucker her lips and kiss back! As Billy Mays once said, BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE!

Another song, this time, a Lisa solo. Again, I blew a kiss at her, and this time, she put her hand to her lips and blew one back! That, coupled with the reciprocated winks I got from her and Chloe made for a very happy me.

Time for meet-and-greet. This time, it's Chloe and Mairead. I was so excited to finally meet the Pixie of the group.

There they came in. When it was my turn, I shook hands with Mairead.

"Hello, I'm Mairead. It's lovely to meet you!"

"Dia dhuit (Hello in Irish), Mairead. I'm Taylor. Nice to meet you," I said as I handed my Irish textbook.

"Oh, are you trying to learn Irish?"

I said yes.

"That's very cool!"

"So tell me your secret, Mairead. Is it Gatorade?" I was referring to her seemingly never-ending energy as she sprinted around stage, danced, and played the most amazing fiddle solo's you will EVER see in your entire life.

She laughed and said, "Nope." We chatted some more, and she was so kind (although she did appear to be a little tired).

Time for Chloe. I was surprised to see her reach across the table to grab my hand."

"Hello! How are you?!"

"Hiya, Chloe...Do you remember who I am?"

"I do! I was talking to Lisa backstage, and she said, 'Taylor from Knoxville is in the second row,' and I said, 'I know!' We love seeing you out there. You're always smiling and singing along. You're an inspiration to us."

We have just lost cabin pressure.

My friend next to me patted my chest and said, "Chloe, you've made the night for this poor little boy." Chloe laughed as my Irish textbook was presented to her.

"Oh, are you learning Irish?"

"Indeed. Dia dhuit, Chloe. Taylor is anim dom. Conas ata tu?" (Hello, Chloe. My name is Taylor. How are you?)

She replied in Irish and I still kick myself to this day for not asking her what it was she said.

Another wonderful memory forever etched in my mind.

I am happy to announce that I will be seeing them yet again in April here in Knoxville. I can't wait for it! I'll be sure to blog about it! Thanks for sticking with me.....those of you who are actually reading this out there. :-)

Le gra

Saturday, January 23, 2010

My Ultimate Goal

My ultimate goal, my dream, my quest is to go to Ireland. I've saved up for about a year now, and am halfway to my goal of three grand. That money will pay for a 10+ day bus-tour going all around Ireland, as well as food, souvenirs, and (I hope) plane ticket. If it's not enough for plane ticket, then that means more saving.

And more waiting.

I'm usually a pretty patient person. However, in my unspoken goal to learn as much as I can about Ireland, my patience wears pretty thin. Ireland is so beautiful and so full of places I long to see. As it is now, with no income until the summer, I will probably not get to Ireland by the end of this coming summer, which is my biggest wish. I will probably have to wait till the summer after to go, which while I'd finally reach the ultimate go of actually going to Ireland, is unbearable for me to think of in regards to the wait. One of my good friends advised me to advertise my Paypal account to see if people would donate to the cause. -shrugs- Maybe it'll work. If you're feeling so inclined to help me, if you find it in your heart of hearts to send a young man to Ireland to achieve his dreams, AND if you're in a good place financially, my e-mail for my paypal is

I'm stuck between two different bus tour providers - and

Paddywagon tours All-Ireland Deluxe Tour Pros:
Cheaper (but not by much)
Goes all around Ireland (including Belfast in Northern Ireland, a place I want to go to as it was where the Titanic was built).

Feels restricted to bus travel, a lot of time spent in a bus.
Doesn't seem to be a lot of freedom to do as you please.

Tenon Tours Irish Immersion Luxury Upgrade Tour Pros:
LOTS of freedom to do as you please, something I hold very dear.
Goes to most of the highlights in Republic of Ireland (not Northern)
Goes to Cobh (Titanic's last port of call)
Accomodations are second to none.
Truly immersed into the Irish culture.

Little pricey
No Belfast (However, I could always do a 2+ night tour of Belfast at a later time)

Let me know what you guys think I should do...that is if anyone's reading this blog.

Le gra

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Importance of Music

What is one of the first things (other than the obvious alcohol themed responses) you think about when someone talks to you about Ireland? The knowledgable people would probably answer with something having to do with music.

I mentioned in my first post how much I love Celtic Woman. While they are definitely my favorite musical group, my vision is not narrowed down to their music. Celtic Woman sings mostly traditional Irish music, some of them, while considered modern, still have that old Irish feel to them. Some examples of the former is the ever-famous Irish song, "Danny Boy." "Dulaman" is an example of a more modern song with an old Ireland feel. I'd strongly recommend going to Youtube and checking out both of those songs. You won't regret it.

As I said, I am not solely a Celtic Woman fan. The Dubliners are also one of my favorite Irish groups. They sing the tongue-in-cheek "drinking songs." My personal favorite is "Monto." That is where I learned one of my first Irish phrases - "Pog mo thoin" (Kiss my ass).

Enya is another very popular musician. She sings traditional songs, but also writes a lot of music herself, which could only be classified as within the "Enya" genre. One unique quality of some of her songs is her dubbing her voice over and over in order to get what sounds like an entire chorus singing together, with the harmonies and melodies gently intertwining within each other. A popular hit from Enya is "Orinoco Flow" (note that Celtic Woman also covered this song). My personal favorite is called "White Is In The Winter Night."

Irish music covers a wide range of genre's - Celtic, New Age, Pop, Rock, Irish, Traditional, Classical, and Folk. Before one could make an opinion about "Irish music," one must first experience all of the different styles of Irish music. Not all Irish music is like the slow and somber "Danny Boy," nor is it fast and funny like "The Rocky Road To Dublin." Look up on Youtube The Pogues' "Love You Till The End." If you didn't already know that The Pogues were an Irish band, would you have been able to tell that this song was an Irish pop song?

For me, I love all of the styles of Irish music. I especially love the songs where I can play my Irish frame drum (called a "bodhran" (BOW-rawn)). Speaking of which, if you want to start an Irish band, but don't know how to play an Irish instrument, try the bodhran if you have even the slightest knack for keeping time. The bodhran, I have found, is an incredibly easy-to-learn instrument and amazingly addictive.

Le gra <---Irish for "With Love"

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Introduction to Erin

University of Tennessee at Knoxville
Fall Semester 2008
Hannah's Dorm

Freshman year was getting off to a slow start. I missed home, and was labored with boring classes like calculus and geology. I was good in the former but usually nodding off in the latter. I was also the only freshman in the junior-level Japanese class (what was then my 5th year in taking the language, thanks to the Japanese program at McCallie High School). Thank God for meeting people. Through Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), I met the rivalry with Army ROTC. Through that, I met Hannah of Army ROTC. Through Hannah, I met Natasha. The two of them have become two of my closest friends on campus.

On an unusually cold night in the fall season of Knoxville, Tennessee, Hannah invited Natasha and I up into her dorm room to surf the Internet. The events surrounding my resulting epiphany are blurred, diminished by the passage of time. The feeling, however, has yet to leave me.

Natasha pulled up a Youtube page, and we took turns watching music videos and the like. I don't remember what I played for them, but I know precisely what Natasha played next.

A brief close-up of a burning torch-lamp setting piece...the opening stanza of violins warmly playing, soft and pleasing. Then the voice of an angel brought down from the highest order in Heaven infiltrated my ears and left me stunned and silent.

"I hear your voice on the wind, and I hear you call out my name."

The video fades to a castle setting, obviously European. Red and green lights all around the stage and in the foreground, a breathtaking woman dressed in a red dress continued her angelic singing of her Heavenly song. Her eyes were wide, blue, and shimmering. Her hair was a lovely light brunnette.

"Listen my child, you say to me
I am the Voice of your history
Be not afraid, come follow me
Answer my call and I'll set you free."

The Voice's verse is softly followed by another red-clad woman, this time playing an amazing fiddle solo, and her hair was a shimmering blonde.

The Voice came back.

"I am the Voice in the wind and the pouring rain
I am the Voice of your hunger and pain
I am the Voice that always is calling you
I am the Voice, I will remain"

Again, the Fiddler (who immediately reminded me of a Pixie) complimented the Voice.

"I am the Voice in the fields when the summer's gone

The dance of the leaves when the autumn winds blow
Ne'er do I sleep throughout all the cold winter long
I am the force that in springtime will grow"

This time, the Pixie not only tickled my ears with a lovely fiddle solo, she began to hop and dance around the stage in lovely freedom and grace. I would learn later in the video how talented she was. Not only does she play her fiddle amazingly well, she sprints and dances around on a multi-level stage in heels...while playing the fiddle. That and the Voice's ever-so-angelic tones and stunning beauty made for a very awed and inspired me.

After listening to the rest of the song, I looked at the title of the video:
Lisa Kelly of Celtic Woman sings "The Voice"

I would also find that the fiddle player was named Mairead Nesbitt (May-RAYD_NEZ-bit). While I adored (and still do adore) Mairead's fiddle playing, it was Lisa who I was most inspired by.

After looking up Celtic Woman, I found the original line-up consisted of 4 singers and Mairead, the fiddle player. The 4 singers consisted of Lisa Kelly, Méav Ní Mhaolchatha (Mayv_Nee-Wahl-ka-ha), Orla Fallon, and Chloe Agnew. All of them with the same talent, beauty, and allure.

They immediately became my favorite musical group of all time, but they were more than that, especially after I had the lovely opportunity to see them twice (and I'm gonna see them a third time in April of this year). I purchase meet-and-greet passes along with my seats, and had the lovely opportunity to meet my favorite, Lisa Kelly; Chloe Agnew twice; and Mairead Nesbitt, the awe-inspiring, lively, and ebulient fiddle player. The story about meeting them shall come later.

All of them have a deep love for their country of origin - Ireland, which finally brings me to the purpose of this blog. I fell in love with Ireland. The music. The culture. The Guinness people. -shifty eyes- Okay, okay, Guinness is amazing!

I adore everything about Ireland, and the more I learn about it, the more desperate I get to achieve my ultimate goal - go to Ireland. I'm about halfway there to acquiring the three grand needed to go on a ten day tour around all of Ireland. However, I probably won't reach my goal of going this coming Summer as I have virtually no income at the moment. You could tell me to get a job, but I can tell you with the way my mind works, and the workload I've already got with school, it would be very difficult for me to balance a job and schoolwork. On top of that, my summer job doesn't pay that well. Therefore, I will probably have to wait yet another year to go to Ireland. I cannot wait to see the beautiful and bustling city of Dublin, the rugged terrain of Connemara, the cultural hub in Galway, the beautiful Irish Gaelic language spoken in the Aran Islands, and the rest of the major landmarks that Ireland has to offer (yes, even the Guinness Brewery).

Wow, this is quite a lengthy first post on my blog. Think I'll wrap it up in this paragraph. Ireland is a wonderful place, yet its beauty is so widely unknown to Americans, which in my opinion, is wrong. Much of our population have at least one ancestor from the Emerald Isle, myself included (and proudly so). I hope you'll learn a little from my posts about how great Ireland is. Let me know what you think, even better, let me know your experiences in Ireland, what I should look for, where I should go, what I should do, when I finally make it there!