This evening Michelle and I went to see Altan in concert in Raleigh. I first learned that Altan, one of the best traditional Irish bands in recent decades, was coming to Raleigh through iLike. I told Michelle about the concert and, being herself a fan of their Donegal roots, she told me we could go as an early birthday present. I proceeded to buy tickets for the orchestra level of the Fletcher Opera House.
So this evening I left work a little early to come home and feed animals before returning to the church to meet with a couple preparing for their wedding (who never showed), then headed up to Durham to pick up Michelle. On the way, I noticed a smell in the air where I was driving, but chalked it up to the old beater next to me on the freeway. It wasn’t until I exited the freeway that I discovered it was our car that was smoking things up. Rather hastily stopping on the edge of the (multilane) offramp, I parked the car, propped open the hood, and called AAA road-side assistance. I then called Michelle who began trying to arrange alternate transportation for us to get to the concert by 8:00, which was my only concern. Through our carless friend (who is sadly leaving the area to return to Florida), Michelle was put in touch with a woman who works at Duke and lives in Raleigh who agreed to drop us off at the concert hall. AAA showed up and I had arranged with our Subaru dealer to have the car dropped off there, so we headed off to the concert.
Michelle had scored some leftovers from the cardiology seminar for our dinner, so we shared those before going in for the concert. I had a hard time convincing Michelle to forget about her anxieties about how we’d get home from the concert, having set aside my primary (and now allayed) worry that we wouldn’t make it to use our tickets. As we were in the concert hall early enough, we stood as long as we could scanning the orchestra level for anyone we might know with whom we could bum a lift to Chapel Hill. Despite one person whom I thought I recognized, we were unsuccessful. The first-half of the concert, however, was excellent. The range of Altan, from rousing fiddle- and accordion- dominated numbers to laments filled with Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh’s hauntingly beautiful voice is an amazing testament to the best of folk music. By the wide grin on her face and the tapping of her feet to match my own, I became convinced that Michelle too had allowed herself to forget worries and enjoy the music.
At the intermission I snagged a whiskey and then we wandered around to see the view from the balcony and still in the hope that we would find someone we knew who could give us a lift back to Chapel Hill. And, lo and behold, I noticed a woman from St. Thomas More who is a sponsor for a candidate sitting with a group of women, another of whom I thought I recognized. So we moved to the other side of the balcony to confirm we knew them and it turned out to be a whole group of women, a subset of the women’s spirituality group who just last month had invited me to give a presentation for them. After being recognized by one of them, we casually made small talk into which Michelle quickly found an appropriate entrée into our being stranded without a car. Of course we were offered a lift in the van with the six women which we graciously accepted.
The second half of the concert was as superb as the first half, which this time around included some solo performances by each of the five musicians, showcasing the distinctiveness of their instruments and skills. Again, a mix of jigs and reels was offset by a lullaby and several story-songs, characteristic of Celtic music. After the concert we caught the van back to Chapel Hill and then a ride with one of the women and her sister out to our place
in the boonies. All in all it was a wonderful early birthday celebration, a great example of everything working out wonderfully in the end (although I’ve yet to hear the prognosis, in dollars, of the car), and an exciting evening of excellent music.