I was paging through the Calgary Herald on Thursday and saw an advertisement for a St. Patrick’s Day themed concert; a joint performance by the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and Natalie MacMaster. For those of you unfamiliar with her, she is a world renowned Canadian fiddler. I thought, ‘Oh, I bet that would be good’ followed quickly by, ‘I wonder if I could still get tickets?’
So, Friday night, on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day, Jim and I and our good friend Jan, found ourselves sitting in Jack Singer Concert hall. I was the one with the tears streaming down my face. All of us were feet tapping, smiling and clapping along. It may have been the best concert I have ever seen. It certainly was exactly what my heart needed.
When I was a young girl, I think I would have been between eight and ten, my mother enrolled me in Irish Step Dancing. My sister, Mary, three years my elder, had already been taking lessons, and I guess I was asked if I would like to take them too. I am guessing all of this because I don’t really know the precise details. I do know that on Wednesday evenings, Mary and I would walk to the bus stop, and she and I would ride it all the way downtown to the dance studio where we would have our lesson. I also know that we were expected to practice and I recall transforming my ‘classroom’ that was in our basement beside the wringer washer, into a dance studio so we could practice our steps. Mary was a patient teacher and I loved it.
We each had the most beautiful performance costume to wear. Mine was green, completely hand embroidered by our mother. It had first been worn by Mary, but she had graduated into the purple dress, also hand embroidered. I also have a vague recollection of a box arriving from Ireland with a pair of hornpipe shoes in it for Mary.
To add to our childhood story, our family gathered around the television on Saturday nights to watch, Don Messer’s Jubilee. This was East Coast music at it’s finest and with both our parents hailing from the Maritimes, it must have felt a bit like home to them. To make it even better, our Dad had a fiddle playing friend who resembled Don Messer enough that when he came to visit, fiddle in hand, we truly thought that Don Messer was at our house! At the time, this was just my normal childhood. I did not recognize that all of this music and dancing, exposed me to and connected me to my roots. In those early years, it was simply my normal.
It also spoke to my genetic roots, which I have discovered via the miracle of Ancestry.com, and a gift from my sister, make me 55% Irish and 25% British (Great Britain).
Somewhere, during the dancing and Don Messer years, our normal changed. Our mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, and despite several surgeries and treatments, no cure was to be had. Our beautifully embroidered dresses found themselves in a closet, the Irish music quieted and our family situation changed. Dad remarried and new traditions surfaced. The new was not bad. It was different. In some ways it was exciting. We had a new mother, new siblings and soon a new home. And the Irish parts faded.
Flash forward almost one-half a century. Something was calling me to find a place to dance. I must have heard about the Chinook Country Dancers somewhere although I have no recollection of this. However, when I did some internet searching, I found this group. Despite finding out that I had missed the first three lessons of the season, despite not knowing one single soul there, despite losing my way the first night, I somehow found myself in a dance class again. It’s hard to describe the feeling of finding something that you didn’t realize you had lost. But I recognized it right away. My body remembered what my mind had put aside. And later that season, when Reba J introduced our new song, Belle of Liverpool, and I heard the first few bars, the part of me I had allowed to become silent, began to be heard again.
Last night at the Jack Singer Concert Hall, Natalie MacMaster, increased the volume on that part of me again. For the first forty minutes, her music combined with the incredible Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, was the perfect balm for my soul. Her down to earth manner and her superb musicianship captivated me. But then, her inviting her 12-year-old daughter, Mary Frances, (my mother’s name) to the stage to dance was what opened the floodgates for the tears. The combination of the music and the dancing was breathtaking and inspiring. The dancing wasn’t the perfect match for what I had learned but it was close enough that I recognized it. I could have watched for hours.
Each of us have parts of ourselves that we have allowed to become silent. Sometimes this happens because our situation in life changes. Sometimes it happens because we get busy with other things. Sometimes others convince us that we no longer need this part. Sometimes it is that we have simply forgotten. Sometimes it is linked with fear of the feelings it may bring forth. Sometimes we have lost our courage. No matter how it happens, no matter how silent the memories have become, there is a knowing part in us that, if given the slightest encouragement, will bring them back out into the open.
Take time this week, to bring back tiny pieces of something you have allowed to go silent. May your soul be fed with it as mine was last night.
As for me, I am ever grateful to Natalie MacMaster and Mary Frances Leahy, for sharing their warmth and music with each of us last night. I am also grateful to be dancing with my little group at a St. Patrick’s Day event today and I think I just might bring out my inner Mary Frances for the performance. My Irish eyes are smiling.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘What is whispering to me?’
Elizabeth is a Life and Leadership coach, working with motivated clients wishing to live their best life. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for corporate, public and private groups and provides leadership coaching for individuals and groups. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to create your best life.