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It was a nice 'little show' with many positive changes
on December 21, 2013
Similarly to what another reviewer or two have said, the show was good but could have been better. It's not the fault of the ladies in the show; it was the editing and technical crews who are mostly to blame. I've followed Celtic Woman from the very beginning so I can't help but interject a somewhat more in-depth evaluation than my peers.
There is an incessant compulsion (by Celtic Woman's video editor) to chop the performances into bits, in order to show the people in the audience `singing along', bobbing theirs heads, swaying to the music, clapping, holding sleeping children, smiling, or simply gazing out catatonically, none of which adds anything to the event and seriously impedes the continuity of the show. Over time I have become a little desensitized to this video editing chaos, but it still annoys me because it's so obvious, and the girls in the show deserve better. In this show, which is less than an hour long, there are (by my count) 121 edits taking us to these interjected shots of the audience. That's NOT a typo; it was one hundred and twenty one times in less than an hour! Let me make a point right here. I have been to several of their concerts and NEVER ONCE have I looked around at the people sitting next to me, to watch them singing along or bobbing their heads in tempo with the music. Why should I be forced to, when watching them on TV!
There are also (by my count) 45 shots of director David Downs where he is unquestionably, yet pointlessly, being made the focus of a camera shot. To his credit there are also opportunities when he is fittingly given deserved camera coverage, at points where the piano accompaniment is worthy of being the focal point. But what gives? Why do we need an additional 45 superfluous close-ups?
I'm pleased, (in fact ecstatic!) that they finally moved into the 21st century and produced this show in Blu-ray but why have they gone back to the last century with the hand-held microphones? They did the hand microphone thing in the last show and it really gave the show that `reality TV atmosphere'. This isn't some low budget TV show with people trying to break into the business, these are trained professionals! Stop hiding them behind a microphone!
Well at least this time they didn't splice video from 2 performances (like they did in the Believe DVD). That was a BIG mistake! Even then, they should have known (and probably did) that you can't use audio from one performance and layer in video from another performance if you care about maintaining audio-video continuity. [Well actually you can, but you need the right equipment and sound team, and it's pretty obvious that 'they didn't' when they threw the last DVD together.] The good news on this front is that the audio and video are synchronized properly in this performance.
Also on the plus side ... the audio recording quality was done much better this time around. On their last DVD the ladies were almost being drowned out by the orchestra, backup singers, bagpipes and such. This time we actually get to hear the ladies sing! Furthermore ... for the most part, the song selections, the orchestra, the musical direction, the stage set, the costumes, and even the backup choir were all very acceptable this time around. I reiterate that this show is less than an hour long and as such, there are limitations in the range of material, as to what can be achieved for a show. For this reason there will never be complete agreement on which songs would best represent the endeavor so let's just say they walked the tightrope fairly well. (with one exception. See the note below.*)
Moving on to briefly discuss the changes in the cast, I (personally) think they made an excellent choice picking up Susan McFadden. There have been too many changes to the cast too quickly, and dropping down to 3 singers was a big mistake. The show will never be the same. And ... although all of the ladies through the years have had fantastic voices, as well as each having their own unique persona, Lisa Kelly was the stand out. With Lisa Kelly retired, they lost the best voice they ever had, and when Alex Sharpe left they lost a sparkling stage presence which I've missed until now. Susan has brought the sparkle back.
A special thank you goes out to Meav. Meav was gracious to come back for this Christmas show and she was as enjoyable as always. I wish Meav would stick around (but of course that's not going to happen). Her voice has changed (just a bit) over the years but I like the change.
Now we come to the tough part of my review. You want to know why only three stars, even though I liked it better than their last DVD release. Here is the problem. My DVD player shows it at about 58 minutes. Were the producers afraid the audience couldn't handle a 90 minute show or why did they make the show so short? And remember ... this is a very limited performance, so the added time would not require months and months of added performing stage time.
Okay ... I know others of you are saying it is way more than an hour with the bonus material, and if you think the bonus material is on the same level of entertainment you would be right. But as I see it, all they did was pad out the total playing time by adding some so-called bonus material. The bonus material is somewhat entertaining but not up to the level of the main show and certainly cheaper to produce. Call me suspicious but I wonder if the reason for calling it bonus material is to con PBS viewers (during fund raising time) into thinking they have missed a big chunk of the show and that they therefore need to order the DVD to see the rest, where in fact they really haven't missed much of anything.
I will end (as neutrally as I can) by simply saying, It was a nice 'little show' with many positive changes, but it was over before it should have been. Where's my other 30 minutes?
* Qualifying what I said at one point above ... I did not care for the rendition of `It Came Upon a Midnight Clear'. It was like jamming a square peg in a round hole. It was neither Celtic nor traditional, so why was it forced into the program? I will take one star off for that alone.
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