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PBS Helps Lift Group Celtic Woman To U.S. Popularity

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 14, 2009 5:17 pm    Post subject: PBS Helps Lift Group Celtic Woman To U.S. Popularity Reply with quote

Lynn Hilary admits she felt a bit intimidated when she joined the popular Irish group Celtic Woman in 2007.

After all, the group's four CDs have enjoyed record success atop the Billboard charts, their tours tend to sell out and their three PBS specials helped establish them here and expand their audience. They're much bigger than her previous group, Ireland's Anuna.

"I didn't feel like I was necessarily worthy of stepping into such a big role," said the soprano, who replaced original member Méav Ní Mhaolchatha nearly three years ago.

"I didn't expect to get shown the respect I did. Like I instantly stepped into the role as one of the equal soloists. I didn't expect that. I expected to be treated as less than important, but that wasn't the case."

Maybe that's because Celtic Woman, which performs at 8 p.m. today as part of the Plaza Theatre's Broadway series, is such a hot commodity.

The group's blend of traditional Irish and contemporary pop music has consistently topped Billboard's world music chart over the past four years. Its self-titled 2005 debut held the No. 1 position for a record 81 weeks.

All four of their albums have reached the top spot, including last year's greatest hits collection, "The Greatest Journey," which currently sits at No. 4.

Celtic Woman originally was assembled for an Irish TV special by keyboardist David Downes, a former "Riverdance" musical director, and TV producer Sharon Browne.

But it became a hit in the United States on PBS, spawning both a million-selling concert DVD and a hit album.

"For all intents and purposes on this side of the Atlantic, it was public television that introduced audiences to them," said Craig Brush, president and general manager of El Paso PBS affiliate KCOS (Channel 13, cable channel 12). They join the 3 Tenors, Andre Rieu, Yanni, Sarah Brightman, Andrea Bocelli and Charlotte Church as artists who have gained greater fame in the U.S. via the network.

Celtic Woman's fourth PBS special, "Songs From the Heart," filmed last July at Ireland's elegant Powerscourt House & Gardens, will debut at 4 p.m. Nov. 28 on KCOS. It's one of four showings during the station's next membership drive, which runs Nov. 27-Dec. 16. "Heart" will repeat at 12:30 p.m. Nov. 29, 7 p.m. Dec. 2 and 6 p.m. Dec. 13.

"We are running it a lot during the drive because (they are) so popular," said Sandra Ramirez, the PBS station's promotions and community outreach director. "They are (popular) whenever we show any of their programs."

"Songs from the Heart," which will be released on CD and DVD on Jan. 26, includes some songs from the current "Isle of Hope" tour, including Sting's "Fields of Gold" and "The New Ground -- Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears."

The tour, which ends Nov. 22 in Long Beach, Calif., is Hilary's sixth with the group, which includes fellow newcomer Alex Sharpe and original members Chloë Agnew and Lisa Kelly on vocals and Mairead Nesbitt on violin.

The show is loosely based on the theme of hope that America inspired in the Irish during the potato famine of the mid-19th century, which fueled waves of Irish immigrants to these shores.

"Even though (America) is not an island, it's a place of hope and at the same time, in the song 'Isle of Hope,' it refers to Ireland as the Isle of Hope," Hilary explained, "maybe a hope that they would return there one day."

"O, America!," written specially for this tour, is getting a tremendous response on this side of the pond.

"It's a thank-you song to America, about how America has embraced Celtic Woman from the start," Hilary said. "Celtic Woman is showing its gratitude to America."

By Doug Pullen
El Paso Times, Texas
Nov. 14--EL PASO
Always Remember All Things Are Possible With God !!
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