Performance Review: Marines’ Memorial Theatre’s Production of Michael Londra’s “Celtic Yuletide”

[Reviewed by Bruce Roberts]

Elbow pipe?  What on earth is an elbow pipe? Oh, of course, that’s the little piece of plastic or metal that you get so your plumbing can roundcorners. Right? WRONG! According to Michael Londra of A Celtic Yuletide, an “elbow pipe” is another name for the uilleann, an Irish bagpipe, with a far sweeter and superior sound to the Scottish version.

Celtic Yuletide, playing this Christmas at the Marines’ Memorial Theatre in San Francisco, is a lively and lovely and informative variety show of Celtic music and dance and storytelling. Londra, the genial host, formerly the lead singer of Riverdance on Broadway, is a fine Irish tenor with a wealth of interesting cultural information. Because of him, my wife now wants to celebrate Women’s Christmas, January 6th, when after two weeks of preparing all the celebrations, women rest and the men must take over all the work. Londra is from Wexford, Ireland, and—among other classics–gave a hauntingly beautiful rendition of The Wexford Carol, a traditional Irish carol originating in his home town.

Also beautiful was Sephira,  Joyce and Ruth O’Leary, two immensely talented violinists, who sweep onto the stage in flowing diaphanous gowns, and play dramatic violin duets, with choreographed movements that  emphasize the rhythm and harmony and power of their music.

Backing the whole show was an 11 piece Irish band, featuring—besides the uillean—the flute, and the bodhran, an Irish drum, and a wild Irish fiddle that created clapping and foot stomping excitement with its lightning rhythms. Major world-class foot stomping occurred often onstage, with a cadre of Irish step-dancers, who punctuated the ballads and carols and violins with rapidfire dance appearances that energized the audience every time.

The Marines’ Memorial Theater, built in 1926, is an intimate theater only a block and a half from Union Square, the major Christmas shopping area in San Francisco. Its walls are lined with pictures of past performers, reading like a Who’s Who of American stage talent: Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, to name a few. With his Celtic Yuletide show, Michael Londra deserves to join this elite pictorial company.

“Nollaig shona!” (That’s Gaelic for Merry Christmas.)
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Bruce Roberts is a poet and ongoing contributor to Synchronized Chaos Magazine. Roberts may be reached by at brobe60491@sbcglobal.net.

Music Review: Devaa Haley’s “Sacred Alchemy”

[Reviewed by Katherine Merriweather]

 

Devaa Haley – Sacred Alchemy

http://devaa.com/music

Sacred Alchemy celebrates the Goddesses and how their power lives in “You”. If you want to relax or meditate, this is the disc you want as Sacred Alchemy has a slow beat and mellow sound. Sometimes it’s a bit soft that I nodded off a bit, yet since I’m all relaxed with my tea at the end of a stressful workday, it’s all good. Those with strong Goddess beliefs or focusing on the goddess in general would enjoy this album, and those who like “New Age” or “World Music”.

Track Breakdown:

“Narayani” is about the Hindu Earth Goddess. There’s a mantra to her in the bridge. “Ancient mother, I hear your song” is the predominant lyric. It could easily pass off for any other earth mother type or used generically if Narayani’s name wasn’t inserted.

“Tara” is about the Mother Earth Goddess in Druid religion. I thought at first it was about the star goddess in Hindu mythology (as she is the manifestation of Kali, the queen of time) because of the first track about Narayani.  If one is meditating, one can focus on either goddess, or even the polynesian sea goddess if they like (har har)

“Love, Lover, Beloved” is a change of pace as it’s about the consort, the other half of the goddess, and the god. The refrain is, “There is no main force greater than love.” I was reminded a bit of the Abrahamic concept of ‘God’.

“Kali” is about another Hindu goddess, though she’s a destructive goddess.  She’s also a mother figure type (as she also creates). As saxophone is featured making this track sound like smooth jazz, it becomes a continuation of Narayani but with Kali’s name and her mantra is in the bridge instead.

“Lady of Communion” has a definite Celtic sound and about the Mother Mary (“Lady of Communion, Mother of God”).

“Saraswati” was the one track I didn’t like. Although she’s a Goddess of education and creativity, the lyrics felt forced to me as if one was struggling to find the right words: “Using her joy, she spins continuously/a turquoise cape of starlight/she feeds you sweet dreams of ecstasy//My sweet fairy friends/you speak of your laughter and light/your golden bowls of honey/I’ll put on my wings and fly with thee.” Uh, what? After that lyrical torment, the rest of the track just gets weird, like they ran out of ideas, or just said ‘Screw it, go free form.’

“Aphrodite” is Goddess of love, beauty, and sexuality in Greek myth. The track is about love and wanting pleasure. I started to get bored here, as the song was quite simple high-school type poetry put to song. Instead of enjoying this, I got creeped out because of the basso vocce talking about how sexy Aphrodite is. If this song was supposed to make one feel the power of Aphrodite, the ball was certainly dropped on this one.

“Pele” is the Hawaii’an goddess of fire, lightning, and volcanos and the song has a distinct African sound with rhyming lyrics about how strong and fiery and like a warrior Pele is.

“Isis” is an Egyptian goddess of motherhood, magic and fertility, as well as the protector of the dead. The track starts with spoken dialogue, as if Isis were talking, chastising about how many lifetimes one must donate sacrifices to the ego and now was the time to set oneself free. Didn’t seem to fit to the overall concept of Isis!

“Shekinah” is the English spelling of a grammatically feminine Hebrew word meaning the divine presence of the Abrahamic god (also known as the Holy Spirit in Protestant Christianity). I couldn’t enjoy this track because either it was sung in a different language or the vocals were heavily slurred. The track features sitar, clarinet and sax and has an acid jazz sound.

“Spider Woman” is heavy with flutes and bells. Spider Woman is the creator of the world in many Native American religions/mythos such as the Pueblo and Dineh people/Navajo. If it weren’t for the reed flute sound, my first thought was about Jor Gumo, an Obake (Japanese mythological spirit) that transforms into a woman. Spider Old Woman or Spider Grandmother is the Earth Goddess they’re singing about here.

“Magdalena” isn’t about the Spanish muffin! This track is about Mary Magdalene (Magdalena is the original spelling) worshipped in Eastern Orthodoxy Christianity, by the Roman Catholic church, Anglican communion in Lutheranism, other Protestant churches, and even in the Baha’i faith.  Because of the slow and droning sitar and kote, it is similar to the “Shekinah” track. This could be used as background noise in a new age shop.

“Sacred Alchemy” is surprisingly a moderate pop sound with synths and bongos, rhyming lyrics and repeats of refrain and chorus. Talks about how mystically awesome one is with the magical powers that can change one’s life. No matter how upbeat this sounds, I couldn’t help feeling like the band was trying hard to convince the listener to be confident (by using ‘I’ statements). If this track weren’t used to meditate on and instead was listened to as a pop song, it could easily sound that they’re being narcissistic.

Overall, I enjoyed some of the album, but your mileage may vary. If used as background noise or for meditation then it will be a good buy.

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You can contact the reviewer, Katherine Merriweather, at knmerriweather@yahoo.com.