Skip to main content

Saying Farewell to Silver Dollar City's World Fest

I am an American, no demographic subgroup required. I believe in being fair and honest with one another in all things and at all times.

The Festival Comes to an End

Each April/May for the past 18 years or so, the world has gathered in the tiny town of Branson, Missouri. From across the globe, people come together and share stories, music, culture, friendship, and food with those of us who live nearby and those who travel from across the country. It is a wonderful exchange of ideas, food, culture, and music. And it is ending in a few short days.

Dearbhail (pronounced Derval), Robin and Caleb

Dearbhail (pronounced Derval), Robin and Caleb

It was but a year ago when I wrote an article for here on Hubpages about World Fest; a year ago that I first heard Ireland the Show and renowned harpist Dearbhail Finnegan, her husband, and accomplished flutist Robin Slater play in person at Silver Dollar City. I had waited ten years to see Ireland The Show and I was entranced by the Irish dancers from Ireland the Show. It was well worth the wait.

But what affected me much more deeply and brought me back this year, the final year of World Fest was not the dancers, for they are not here. It was not the singers from the show, for they were absent. It matters not, for what brought me back once more was the excellent husband and wife team of Robin and Dearbhail. Their obvious love of the music, for one another and for the people of the area drew me back this year and as I sat and enjoyed the show they performed for us on this Friday afternoon in April, it was with great happiness and a profound sadness both for the live music live the fact that never again will I hear them in person.

Silver Dollar City is canceling World Fest after this year.

After I wrote my little hub last year, I received a fair amount of traffic from viewers and a handful of comments. Then, near Christmas, I received a notification that I had another comment. Once I opened it and saw who it was from I grew excited. It was from none other than Dearbhail herself. She had taken the time to find my hub, read it, and send a comment to me. I was shocked and pleased that the very performer I wrote about took the time to contact me!

She appreciated what I wrote and asked us to visit them once more this year in order to introduce ourselves. How often does one get such a request from a performer? Never in this ol' country boy's experience.

And so we found ourselves seated in an outdoor theater at SDC on a lovely afternoon, anticipating another wonderful concert filled with harp strings, clear notes from the flute, and a bit of humor mixed in for good measure.

We were not disappointed.

World Fest and Ireland banners

World Fest and Ireland banners

Dearbhail has performed in Branson for some 18 years at World Fest; her husband of 16 years Robin has performed alongside her every year since their marriage. She has performed before President Clinton at the 50th Anniversary of NATO; before the House of Commons in London; and for Presidents of Ireland Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese as well as current United States President Barrack Obama. She is considered to be Harp Royalty and is an accomplished composer, teacher, director, and performer whose works appeared in film in Nim's Winter Tale.

Lest we take her and her husband for granted here in little ol' Branson, be it known her next performance following World Fest is quite literally in a castle. Yes, they will appear in Cabra Castle late in May. We should count ourselves fortunate indeed to listen to such an accomplished pair as they and it is beyond my comprehension why SDC would end such a festival that includes talents such as theirs.

Playing to a packed house

Playing to a packed house

Robin Slater, the husband in this duet of life, is an exceptional flutist and artist in his own right. Together their instruments carry one to another time, another place; one where the woes and worries of the day are left far behind, forgotten. Their music alternatively lifts one to soaring heights before pulling at the heartstrings with a mournful tune the next moment.

And then there are the jokes.

Yes, their performance would not be complete without the good humor and prattle of Robin, often speared by Dearbhail with a well-timed barb all in the name of fun. Some of the jokes are bad, and Robin is the first to let you know it won't get any better, but they are funny and told with an impish smile across his face. Dearbhail appears at times put out with his jokes and responds with a riposte muttered just loud enough for the crowd to hear and laugh along with. There is a great joy in attending one of their shows and I count myself fortunate to have heard them live and in person.

After their show (which ended far too soon), I hung back and watched as the crowd moved past their table of music for sale and listened as the audience spoke with them, and with their fans. There was an honesty to them as they listened carefully to the people, laughed with them, and took pictures together. It was evident this was exactly where they desired to be at this moment in time: together and performing before the standing-room-only crowd on this sunny Spring day in April at Silver Dollar City.

As the crowd dispersed, I took my turn at the table to purchase two of their CDs and introduce myself. I let them know that Dearbhail had responded to my article here on Hubpages in December and that they had asked me to stop by. They were delighted to meet me and my youngest son Caleb, allowing pictures to be taken, small talk to commence and autographs signed. They were, in short, exactly as I pictured them to be: open, honest, and endearing. They are the type of people I could easily call friends. And so, after meeting these new friends I am bound to say farewell, to bid adieu this royal couple, and wish them well on their travels through the world. Perhaps we will meet once more, but if SDC does indeed end this World Festival, I am at a loss as to where this might be. Perhaps, someday, my wife and I will travel to Ireland, the land of my ancestors. Perhaps we will visit Scotland and see where the MacCubbin branch of my family tree lived in years past. Or we might even visit Antrim, Ireland where who knows how many times Great Grandparents Clarence and Mary Bell Patterson lived in the late 1600s and their son Robert was born in Londonberry in the early 1700s 'ere he left to come to that new world America. We could even visit that haven for Irish history and culture, Belfast where Jane Huggins, another of my ancestors was born. What I fervently hope is that we meet our new friends once more and it would be wonderful if it were in that incredible world called Ireland where we could listen to the music of our past in the present in friendship. Until that time, I have this to say to Dearbhail and Robin:

Go n-eiri an bothar leat. May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind always be at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, and rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

© 2016 Mr Archer