The group in attendance consisted of my friends Doug and Francesca plus two cast members from the Broadway-bound production of The Pirate Queen, which I wrote about here several postings ago. If you recall that posting, you might correctly surmise that one of those two was Jeff, with whom I worked during my trip to Greece in 2000. The other was Aine (pronounced “Ahn’-ya”) whom I had not met before tonight. She’s the person I really want to talk about here.
I very nearly wrote of Aine in my original posting about the show but decided not to in the interest of brevity (yes, I actually pursue brevity on occasion, despite all appearances to the contrary!). Her function in the show is to lend some Irish authenticity to the proceedings, which she does by singing an extraordinary solo in Gaelic. She has a kind of stillness to her presentation, which, combined with her enchanting voice, causes the world to go away when she begins to sing. She was, incidentally, also the featured soloist in the original cast of Riverdance, since I know that a few of you saw that. When she isn’t busy doing Broadway shows, she is still a resident of Ireland.
After my show was over tonight, we all met up in the lobby and decided to go to Celtic Crossings. It’s at 751 N. Clark and advertises itself as a place where one may find authentic Irish pub music, people, and atmosphere. It would appear that the ads do not lie. After we had been there awhile, Aine volunteered that it was the real deal. “This is exactly what it’s like back home,” she said more than once, and she bemoaned the fact that she was only just discovering the place now, barely a week before the show closes and she leaves town. She spoke with disappointment, and even a bit of derision, about some of the more well-known Irish pubs in Chicago, and of how quickly she had turned around and left them. Those experiences made tonight even more of an unexpected delight for her.
As we could see from the schedule on the door, various musical acts play there on a regular basis. But tonight was Sunday night, and Sunday is jam night. A collection of Irish musicians were gathered around several tables at the end of the room, and they played for hours. According to the sign, they were to play from 6 to 9 p.m., but they kept on going until about 11 tonight, due in part to the presence of our friend Aine. It seems she’s a known performer to many of these people. My internet research shows one CD with her name on it, but she’s apparently made quite a name for herself in Ireland. The players prevailed upon her to sing a couple of tunes with them tonight, and she obliged. Out came that same wonderful voice I’d heard last week in the Cadillac Palace Theatre, only this time, she was literally sitting right next to me! Her second offering was sung completely in Gaelic, but it didn’t matter; one scarcely breathed lest one should miss a single syllable of her performance. When she would begin, a quick round of “shushes” would fly around the room and the bartender would turn off the heating & cooling system. This was not done for anyone else who performed tonight; only for Aine.
While Aine talked a great deal with several of the Irish folk who were there, it was my great pleasure to chat with her quite a bit myself. I can even say with some confidence that the two of us hit it off very well. I even managed to double her over with laughter at one of my stories, and anytime I can merit the laughter of someone I esteem so highly, I feel greatly honored. At the end of the evening, I told her as I took her hand that I hoped I might have the great good fortune to cross paths with her again sometime. She smiled and returned the sentiment.
I remember turning to Francesca at some point, motioning towards Aine and stating, very simply, “Well, I’m in love.” Francesca smiled and agreed wholeheartedly. Oh, you don’t have to remind me – I know we don’t really know each other very well. But I have one real and precious thing in my possession: my memories of this evening, and those are beyond the reach of either fantasy or reality.