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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Saying Goodbye to George Donaldson

Last week at this time the big issues in Celtic Thunderland were the cancellation of the New Zealand part of the upcoming Celtic Thunder tour and the fact that Emmet Cahill has left Celtic Thunder to pursue his solo career. All of a sudden neither of those issues seems so hugely important. Yesterday George Donaldson, the oldest of the Celtic Thunder singers, died at the ripe old age of 46. We found out this morning, and in a gesture of uncharacteristic openness or maybe just a side-effect of shock, the Celtic Thunder website already has a post on it telling us what happened, and all the other principal singers- Ryan, Neil, Keith, Emmet, Colm, Paul and Damian- all included brief public statements. In other words, while some aspects of the aftermath of his death must remain private and we must respect the feelings of his family and friends as they deal with their sudden, terrible loss, we are all in this together, as one big Thunderhead community.

The rest of this season may be a bit trying, as the news slowly filters through the rest of the Thunderheads. The 2014 Australia tour is scheduled to start in May, and without Emmet and George the tour may be less likely to happen, or may require another rushed newcomer to learn the songs for the Australia tour. We have seen already over the past few years that bad news takes a long time to reach the whole community, especially those who are not on social media very much, so there will be many frustrated, confused fans who find out about George when they find out a show is cancelled or when they realize he is not on stage at the show they have looked forward to for months. For today and this week, let us remind ourselves of that supportive community we can be, and let us appreciate all the more the rest of the artists we love. And, in the days and weeks and months to come, let us remember to be patient and supportive of each other and of the Celtic Thunder artists and management.

It will probably take a while for the reality of his death to sink in- it was just so sudden and unexpected, and he was so young! I updated my profile article on George this afternoon, and hunted down the two halfway tolerable shots of him that I took the last time I saw and met him, in Loveland this past November. I went through some of George's youtube videos, and now I have the Celtic Thunder albums playing on spotify. I barely knew him, so I can't imagine how today must be for the Celtic Thunder band and singers. We will all get through this, with more good times and great music still to come, even if right now those good times seem a bit out of reach.

George will always be missed, but he will live on in his music and in the music of his friends, forever.

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