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By Sharon Lint

"May the roof above us never fall in,
and may the friends gathered below it never fall out."
An Old Irish Saying


March 23, 2005

Ketchikan, Alaska - Even though St. Patrick's Day was officially over, Irish eyes were smilin' brightly at the Monthly Grind last Saturday night. Shortly after 7 p.m. on March 19th, the show got underway at the Saxman Tribal House, and although it may have been short a few leprechauns, it was very big on talent.

The Host, Mrs. Surefire (Susan Walsh) and her guest, Mr. Misfire (Mark Jaqua) started the program from their rocking chairs situated at left stage. Walsh was both funny and charming with her hair done up in a gray bun, her tongue tripping on an Irish brogue and her hands busily clicking knitting needles. And, always a favorite, first on stage was the House Band, kickin' it up with "Whiskey in the Jar." The entire audience was laughing and clapping along, singing, "Musha ring dum a do dum a da, Whack fol the daddy-o, Whack fol the daddy-o, There's whiskey in the jar!"

jpg Kanayama Kids

"The Kanayama Kids"
Photo by Lisa Thompson

The Kanayama Kids took over the stage from there. Dressed in matching black jackets, they sang a song from the land of their ancestors. Although they didn't look at all like leprechauns, they were still well received by the crowd. As they finished their first number, more than one audience member could be heard saying aloud to another, "Wasn't that wonderful?"

The Kids' next act was a dance number done to a recording of the song, "Mickey." The choreography was great, especially when the Kids all turned their backs to the audience, wiggled derrieres and received hoots of laughter from the audience for the antics. Another favorite point in the routine was when they lined up and did a chorus-girl-kick to the delight of all.

At this point, their line-up had to change slightly because of technical difficulties. After a very long pause, during which the audience was left wondering what was going on, the Kids finally regrouped back into their "Mickey" dance formation and repeated the song for a second time. By the time they had finished with the repeat performance, the goblin, gnome or elf making mischief with the sound system had finally been eradicated and things were back to normal. Their fourth number came together more easily, and they finished with a group smile to enthusiastic applause.

The next act was the Dreepin' Plaidies, (Rob Alley and Christine Mander). This lad and lassie stepped onstage with a brisk step wearing traditional Irish costumes. Their music was full of pure Irish delight and their performance was excellent.

Tomoka Kato was up next. Although only learning the guitar a mere two months ago, she performed several songs with Carl and Tom Thompson, including "Springtime in Alaska" and "I Will Always Love You." Kato, here in Ketchikan because of an exchange program, said goodbye at the conclusion of the act.

jpg House Band

"House Band"
Photo by Lisa Thompson

"I love Ketchikan!" she enthused backstage with tears in her eyes.

After coffee, tea, dessert and friendly conversation amongst neighbors, Walsh and Jaqua brought the crowd's attention back to the show. After the intermission, the first to perform was Mike Salee. His speech, "Sitting Pretty," took second prize at a recent Toastmasters Laughathon competition, and he graced the audience with a repeat performance. However, this time, instead of simply delivering the speech at the microphone, he accompanied the words with a guitar and set it to the music of "Ghostriders In the Sky." The finished product was even better than his winning speech, especially the hilarious refrain of "Outhouse's sad demise." (For those of you who have not yet read the review on Sitnews, check out the words to Salee's tale as heard at the Laughaton here).

Following Salee's humorous bit was the long-awaited Teri Tibbett. This dynamite singer hit the stage with all the magic of a leprechaun. Before every number, she even assured the audience that the song she was about to sing was an authentic Irish Folksong. With her slim elfish form, her mischievous smile and a little cap on top of her head, who could disbelieve her?

Even if her first number wasn't Irish, it was a toe-tapping, leg-jiggling, hand-clapping song called "It's A Wonderful Day If You Like Rain." Absolutely perfect for Ketchikan, it was a surefire hit. Her next song, "Fat Bob," was a song she wrote about a friend and his snowboard. Although it also didn't sound a bit Irish, it was full of life and fun and spirit. While listening to it, one could almost feel the powder under the board and the fresh, crisp air hitting exhilarated lungs.

Next, she sang "This One's For Free" and "The Refrigerator Song." By the end of those two tunes, she had everyone from eight to eighty singing about dancing pickles and jiggling Jell-O behind the closed door of the fridge.

Changing the tempo to one of a more serious nature, Teri's song, "Lady of the Chilkoot" was hauntingly beautiful. Inspired by a real-life avalanche during the Klondike gold rush on April 3, 1898, between Sheep Camp and the Scales on the Chilkoot Trail, the song tells of one man's life that was saved by love.

As the victims lay buried in snow, rescuers hurried to dig them out, hoping to find some still alive. The Lady of the Chilkoot worked alongside them, feverishly looking for her man. When she finally found him, all said he was dead, but she refused to believe it and worked single-mindedly to bring life back to him. Rubbing his skin, breathing air into his lungs, she worked for hours until she was ultimately rewarded with his revival. A miracle by an act of love, the song was played upon the dulcimer and brought tears to a few eyes as she finished.

"If You See Me Walking" was yet another song Teri wrote. She related to the audience that her boyfriend used to get jealousy whenever he would see her talking to another man, and so she wrote the song as her response so as to reassure him. The song was upbeat and Teri's performance of it was stellar, as usual.

jpg Terri Tibbtt

Teri Tibbtt
Photo by Lisa Thompson

Her next tune, "Coming Around the Tundra," was an adaptation of the old classic, "She'll Be Coming Around the Mountain." Teri's words, "She'll be mushing six white huskies when she comes," was substituted for the usual lyrics of the second verse, and "We will have a big fat walrus when she comes," was the revision for the third. Before beginning the fourth verse, Teri recited the lyrics and gave a short explanation of them.

"You may or may not know the words of this particular verse, I think they are Inupiat words meaning "whale blubber" and "ice cream," she said. "The words are maqtaq and akutuuq . . . maqtaq is very fatty and it tastes like almonds dipped in oil . . . akutuuq is a little different, it's made with berries and sugar and ice, oftentimes snow, and a whole lot of rancid seal oil. If you've ever had rancid seal soil, it tastes a little bit like Limburger cheese - and sort of like it it's been in your refrigerator for six months . . . it's a very unique flavor combination. So, the words are, "We'll have maqtaq and akutuuq when she comes . . ."

Her instructions brought a burst of giggles to some in the audience and a gag reflex to others, but everyone sang along anyway. Both the giggles and the gags changed to pure laughter as she sang the last verse: "then we'll all have indigestion when she comes."

"America, the Beautiful," was Teri's last number. "This one . . .is not an Irish folksong," she told the audience as she introduced the song, adding. ". . . I love to sing this song because I think that the lyrics of the song are absolutely beautiful. It talks not only about the beauty of America and the land between the two oceans and the purple mountains' majesty - just beautiful descriptive lyrics about the terrain - but it also talk about things like brotherhood and getting along and liberty with all kinds of freedom messages . . ." Teri played it on the dulcet and accompanied the clear, sweet notes with a soft, proud voice full of love for our country.

Although everyone joined in with the first verse and all the refrains, sadly, the second and third verses were left buried back somewhere in our childhood memories. Most, if not all of the audience members, could not remember the verses to the nation's favorite patriotic song. Here and there, people shook their heads silently, as if they could not believe they had forgotten it, but all stood and applauded at the end.

The last act to perform was the favorite, Otter Limits. As always, the music was familiar to us - the type of "Living Room Music" we love them for - lots of harmony and lyrics we all knew and all the songs were authentic jig-dancing Irish tunes. By the time the Otters were finished, most everyone in the audience was smilin' from their chin up to their eyes, and humming an Irish tune as they made their way out to their car.

"Whack fol the daddy-o, there's whiskey in the jar!"

The next Monthly Grind is scheduled for 7:00 p.m., April 16, 2005, at the Saxman Tribal House.


Related Article:

GRINDING A BIT OFF THE BLARNEY STONE An Interview With "The Otter Limits" By Sharon Lint


Sharon Lint is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Sharon at sharon(AT)
Sharon Lint ©2005


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