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'Celtic Woman' Carries On Irish Music Legacy

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 10, 2009 3:59 am    Post subject: 'Celtic Woman' Carries On Irish Music Legacy Reply with quote

Celtic Woman’s stars are, left to right, Lisa Kelly, Chloë Agnew, Alex Sharpe, Máiréad Nesbitt and Lynn Hilary

Music trade publication Billboard reported in its December issue that the Celts, including Celtic Woman, Celtic Thunder and the High Kings, once again ruled the World Albums chart in 2008.

Of course, Irish music is no stranger to international audiences. Tenor John McCormack sold millions of records from the early to mid-20th century. McCormack’s repertoire included classical favorites as well as such sentimental favorites as “My Wild Irish Rose.”

The 1950s and ’60s saw the rise of Irish folk groups the Clancy Brothers and the Dubliners and the instrumentally inclined Chieftains. Through the decades, Irish talent performing non-traditional music included Celtic soul man Van Morrison, rock bands Thin Lizzy and the Pogues and new age chanteuse Enya.

Making its debut in 1995, Irish dance and music sensation Riverdance kicked the gates open for another Irish tide.

Dublin native Lisa Kelly joined the North American touring company of Riverdance in 2000 as lead vocalist. She joined the original cast member of another internationally popular Irish production, Celtic Woman, in 2004.

Ireland’s reputation as an isle of music and art is no exaggeration, Kelly said from Charleston, S.C.

“It’s something I didn’t realize until I married an Australian,” she said. “My husband is amazed that someone in every family in Ireland either plays an instrument, sings or dances. We probably take it for granted. It’s a huge part of our school curriculum as well. I suppose it’s always been part of our culture.”

Riverdance, Kelly said, “was incredible, a huge phenomenon. It’s still on the road. They keep saying it’s the final tour but it never ends.”

After Kelly’s nearly five years with Riverdance, that show’s music director, David Downes, invited her to join Celtic Woman.

“We all had worked very closely with David before,” she recalled. “He knew what we liked singing and saw something in each of us that he wanted to work with. It’s been wonderful. I’m very lucky to have worked with David.”

As exciting as Riverdance was, Kelly prefers being in the more music-oriented Celtic Woman.

“In Riverdance I was a singer in a dance show,” she said. “Music was part of it, but Riverdance is about the dancing. And in Celtic Woman I get to be me, as opposed to playing a role.”

Downes originally conceived Celtic Woman as a single performance at Dublin’s Helix Theatre. Videotaped in September 2004 for a PBS special, the show featured a cast of singers and fiddler Máiréad performing the now familiar Celtic Woman mix of traditional Irish music, pop and classical favorites and original songs.

Kelly and the other cast members didn’t hear much about the program until Christmas 2004, when Downes recruited them to promote the show for American public television.

“So we promoted it and, by the end of the week, we knew it was going to be a huge hit,” Kelly said. “A tour was booked on the back of that and it spiraled from there, really. We’ve been touring ever since, but I honestly don’t think any of us thought we’d be here five years later.

All four Celtic Woman albums reached No. 1 on Billboard’s World Music chart, residing there for 90 consecutive weeks.

The latest Celtic Woman show, Isle of Hope, features new songs, costumes, sets and lighting. It’s playing more than 70 U.S. cities from Feb. 13 through July 2.

“Each tour has been different,” Kelly said. “It’s important to keep it fresh for all of us. And the girls have been incredible. You couldn’t continue to tour without the friendship and the support we receive on the road. Everybody looks after us really, really well. It’s one big family.”

Music critic
Published: Apr 10, 2009
Baton Rouge, LA
Always Remember All Things Are Possible With God !!
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