I thoroughly enjoyed the Yuletide Concert provided by Christmas Ceilidh. This was my first chance to hear the band. It was a joy. Two of the members are long-time members of Golden Link: Pat Carey and Cathy McGrath. There were a few “firsts” for me: I did not realize that Pat and Cathy are such multi-instrumentalists. I had never heard digital Scottish pipes and Uillean pipes (or as I called them, “Non-Aerobic Pipes.” The audience was fully engaged, especially with the instrumental numbers.
A powerful moment was their arrangement of (and I hope I have the title correctly) Coley’s Field House. Never having heard it before, I was drawn in immediately by Paul’s fiddle, playing the melody of the song: lyrical, melodically beautiful, haunting, and “flowing through heart, mind, and soul.” One-at-a-time, each of the other four joined in with their instrument. Commandeering an old Yiddish phrase, I was “totally verklempt.”
I am accustomed to lead parts in many groups, but there was something about this peace, comprised with four subsequent leads compounding the initial melody. Rock music leads and bluegrass leads are moments of virtuosity. I am not the only one about whom Mary Poppins would say, “Val, close your mouth. You look like a codfish.” Eventually, virtuosity leaves me wanting, and ends up sounding monotonous. Coley’s Field House was hearing and feeling an organic growing process—a sense that the leads weren’t really lead parts at all. They were tonal contributions to what ended as a real hole. Take away any one of the “lead” parts, and the whole would have suffered. It’s hard to describe, but what I heard was a five part “variations on a theme.” The virtuosity was there, certainly! The virtuosity in and of itself was not the point.
A Seder song is Dayenu (loosely, “It would have been enough.”) Dayenu recites the events of the Exodus; structured “Had Ha Shem only . . . it would have been enough.” Had Paul’s fiddle been the song, it would have been enough. Had Iarrived just before Coley’s Field House, and then had to leave right after because of a phone-call emergency, it would have been enough.
At our best the same might be said of Golden Link. Each of us individually and many of us in groups, and all of us as a whole bring our particular tones, which combined with, provide countermelody or counterpart, enhance, and join to produce a larger “tone” that is wondrous. Perhaps your tone is faithfully attending concerts and/or/ the festival. Perhaps you volunteer to help events be successful. Perhaps you have contributed and idea, which grew to the Society’s besnefit. Perhaps you raised a critical question or a concern, which over time helped us to do better what we do. Perhaps you have served on the Sounding Board, or on a working group, or helped solve a problem. Perhaps you networked on behalf of Golden Link and helped Golden Link to move forward. Each of those could be considered a “lead.” Some would correctly be called “virtuosity.” The importance lies in how that lead combines with other leads to produce something truly good. How many of you have finished a really fine baked potato and said, “Wow! That salt (or pepper or chives) tasted good?”
So I thank Christmas Ceilidh for a wonderful, memorable, and virtuosic concert, and for holding up a nice mirror to reflect in one of their numbers, what has kept Golden Link Going for now almost 51 years, and will keep it going into a future which for all of us is a mystery.
I came to what turned out to be Allen and Bonnies first concert. It would have been enough. I joined the Society. It would have been enough. I started coming to sing arounds. It would haves been enough. I met phenomenal people, who helped expand my repertoire and skill. It would have been enough. I went to my first Festival. It would have been enough. The list goes on ….. Dayenuy.
May it be so for each and all of us, among whom I couldn’t be prouder to serve.
Val Fowler, President