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PostPosted: Sun Feb 21, 2010 4:02 pm    Post subject: Not Many Musicians Can Play Both Classical And Traditional V Reply with quote

Not many musicians can play both classical violin and traditional Irish fiddle music. Even fewer can do it while twirling, leaping and dancing around stage barefoot in flowing, strapless dresses.

As anyone who has seen Celtic Woman can attest, there’s only one Máiréad Nesbitt.

The petite, blond fiddler and her Celtic Woman cohorts — singers Lisa Kelly, Chloë Agnew, Lynn Hilary and Alex Sharpe — have been enormously successful since forming in 2004. They have starred in five PBS specials, sold more than 4 million CDs and DVDs and performed live for close to a million people. The group finished both 2008 and 2009 as the second most popular world music artists according to Billboard magazine, trailing only Celtic Thunder, their unaffiliated male counterparts.

The five-piece Irish ensemble delighted the crowd at the then Wachovia Arena in March as part of the “Isle of Hope” tour, singing a marvelous mixture of contemporary hits, Irish classics and original compositions by musical director David Downes.

Fresh on the heels of its latest CD and DVD, “Songs from the Heart,” which contains studio versions of many of the songs showcased in last year’s concert, Celtic Woman will be back at the recently rechristened Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Advised against trying to learn the two largely incompatible styles, Nesbitt said she was determined to master both.

“My teachers told me it was a major mistake (to try to do both),” Nesbitt recalled in a recent telephone interview. “But I knew there was no way I would only play one or the other.

“I found I was able to very methodically split them in my head,” she continued. “They are so different, even the way you hold the bow for each is different. But I was able to compartmentalize them and eventually do both.”

Growing up in Loughmore, County Tipperary, Nesbitt began her musical studies at age 4 on the piano and switched to violin (which both of her parents played) two years later.

“I was always serious about it,” Nesbitt said, noting her mother, Kathleen, was her first teacher and her second was a woman her mother had taught.

“I absolutely love playing, and I can’t remember when I didn’t love it.”

Nesbitt joined her first professional orchestra at age 15, has performed with everyone from Van Morrison to Sinead O’Connor and has been with Celtic Woman since its inception.

“I was asked to join by my friend David Downes,” she said. “He had worked with all five of us separately, and he had an idea to get us all together for one show.”

That show in front of a sold-out audience at the Helix in Dublin was filmed for the group’s initial PBS special, which began airing in March 2005.

“It was supposed to be just that one show,” the fiddler said. “But it just exploded from there. PBS has been totally instrumental in our success. It’s a great marriage – we love working with them, and they love working with us.”

Capitalizing on the PBS exposure, Celtic Woman’s self-titled debut album soon topped Billboard’s World Music chart and stayed there for 82 weeks, eventually being replaced at No. 1 by the group’s Christmas album, which was then bumped out of the top spot by the group’s third collection, “A New Journey.” All in all, the Irish ladies spent a record-breaking 95 consecutive weeks at the top of the chart.

Thanks to last year’s highly successful “Isle of Hope” tour – the group’s ninth U.S. tour in four years, a compilation album titled “The Greatest Journey: Essential Collection” finished 2009 as the No. 2 best-selling world music CD. Other highlights for the group in 2009: performing for 23 million people on “Dancing with the Stars” and singing for President Obama and his family at the National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony.

The latest album and DVD, “Songs from the Heart” released on Jan. 26, kept Celtic Woman’s hot streak alive as the CD debuted at No. 9 on the all-genre Billboard Top 200 and No. 1 on the World Music chart (the group’s fifth release to accomplish that feat). The accompanying DVD was No. 1 on the Top DVD chart as well.

“Irish music resonates with so many people because it is so very emotional,” Nesbitt said. It goes through all the different emotions and touches people in different ways.

“And nothing can take the place of a live show. That’s what it’s all about, and we just can’t wait to bring our new show to everyone.”

BRAD PATTON For The Times Leader
Wilkes-Barre, PA
February 21,2010
Always Remember All Things Are Possible With God !!
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