Elaine Swanney and I provided the musical entertainment at the RSA Club today for a retirement home collaboration hosting an Irish party for old folks from Waipukurau, Pahiatua, and Dannevirke.
Some of the guests had found a green shirt or scarf. A few sprouted tinselly shamrock laurels. Nearly every staff member sported an emerald hat. Elaine looked a trick in an elf costume, but I forgot I had the camera with me!
Amy and Gemma McDonald brought three dancers over from Palmerston North for the Viking Choir’s Irish concert tonight, so they dropped in at the RSA, providing me with a convenient filler between my two brackets. Two of the girls tapped a lively but traditional style jig to a Lord of the Dance track, and the third girl did a barefoot scarf dance to what sounded like syllabus free dance music. The Dannevirke News reporter was clicking away with her camera by then, so I might get a news clipping in a day or two.
My first bracket opened with the lively “It’s a Great Day for the Irish”, followed by “If You’re Irish Come into the Parlour”, “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” with both verses, as I consider the chorus to be quite lack-luster on its own, and “An Irish Lullaby”, with suitable comments in between.
Prior to “If You’re Irish” I enquired if there were any Timothys or Pats present. Unfortunately I didn't think to ask for Kathleens when we opened the second bracket with “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen”. I later met two Kathleens, and the song absolutely made their day. I’m glad Elaine convinced me to do it. I hadn’t wanted to because I was sick of hearing it and it meant another long ballad to learn, but previous retirement home excursions showed how hugely popular it is and we thought it would be missed if we didn’t do it. I learned one verse and the chorus and we sang those twice, inviting folks to join in the second time round.
Next on the program was “Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go”, a bouncy number which didn’t flow as well as it could have because we added it to the program only a week before, had one practice with the chords written out for Elaine, and I had no music at all. It needs to go at a fast lick with a lively bass. We'll work on that.
I closed with “Be Thou My Vision”. Listening to Brian Hughes preach from Acts 6 last night, I realized I needed to say something before I sang it, something unashamedly pointing the way to Christ. I was nervous, but Mum, Dad, and I had prayed together last night and I wrote out what I needed to say. By this point in the program I seemed to have got over the hand trembles – here’s a good reason to eschew a hand-held microphone!...or to get more practice with one! – and to my surprise I actually remembered what I wanted to say and didn’t have to look at my notes (I had the a lyric sheet in my hand in case, and had to make use of it when I lost my way in “Irish Eyes”).
Having confirmed with the gathering that it was indeed Saint Patrick’s Day, I said, “Patrick brought a message to Ireland. ‘The only hope is in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the way, the truth, and the life.’ This next Irish song speaks that same message.” Then I sang verses 1, 2, and 4. Elaine and I weren’t in sync for the lead-up notes at the beginning of each line. I’d only put the song into the program a week prior, and hadn't realized that the words on her music differed from what I was singing. Other than that, it sounded fine.
We socialized with the old folks for a wee bit before going home. Elaine’s in the Celtic Band at tonight’s Irish concert, so we couldn’t stay long, but I learned that I’d made one lady cry, and I had quite a chat with 93-year-old Kathleen Hughes from Pahiatua who, despite significant hearing difficulty, wanted to know all about me, something I’ve not so far encountered in old folks. (They usually prefer reminiscing.) She touched my dress, wanted to see my shoes, and was delighted when I pulled my wool shawl out of my bag – it had been too hot to wear it. I saw some heads perk up, so I walked down the room letting ladies here and there finger the fabric and admire the vibrant colours. Two of them inquired if I’d got it in Egypt, and another hoped it was Irish – it’s Ukrainian, but was perfect for the occasion.
I knew that my outfit would please the old folks, but it’s not a style that holds the usual attractions of the world, so I was interested when, shortly after I arrived at the club, one of the home staff, I think in her late 30s or early 40s, although it was hard to tell under the green lunch-pail hat and sunglasses, murmured with delight, “You look so…” She couldn’t seem to find a suitable word, but I understood her intention and thanked her. “Marvellous,” she finished.
I've enjoyed learning these melodic Irish ballads and finding out how well they suit my voice, and it’s good to know that I blessed people with my music and appearance, but most of all I hope that the real sunlight has shone through the windows of their souls.
Now for some chocolate!