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Celtic Woman: Road Warriors In Perfect Harmony

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 24, 2010 1:54 am    Post subject: Celtic Woman: Road Warriors In Perfect Harmony Reply with quote

You don't need to have an ounce of Irish blood in your body to be stirred deep in your soul by Celtic music. And you don't need to know a thing about Celtic music to appreciate a performance by Celtic Woman, or to appreciate what they have been able to achieve in the industry.

Celtic Woman Left to right: Máiréad Nesbitt, Lynn Hilary, Lisa Kelly and Chloë Agnew
Photo by Agata Stoinska

Formed in 2005, in just five short years, this unique all-female ensemble continues to have mainstream success without the aid of conventional sales drivers such as radio or video airplay. This past week Celtic Woman learned that they and their Musical Director David Downes have received the distinct honor of an Emmy® Nomination for "Outstanding Music Direction" of their most recent PBS TV special - Songs From The Heart, Live at Powerscourt House & Gardens.

Indeed, Celtic Woman has become something of a PBS pledge-drive phenomenon in recent years, and it is one of the ways that they have been able to cut though the industry clutter and connect directly with their growing legion of fans. Their track record in sales is unprecedented in this sub-genre of adult contemporary music: five million albums sold, two top 10 album debuts on the Billboard Top 200, three gold and platinum albums and four Top 5 Releases on the Billboard Top Video chart.

But it is as a generator of live show tickets that the essential strength of Celtic Woman's appeal is revealed. With well over a million concert tickets sold, they eschew the large halls that they would obviously fill (note that Monday's show at SPAC is Pavilion-only) as a trade-off to establish a greater intimate connection with their audiences. With over 250 performances a year now, Celtic Woman has evidently hit on a formula that sounds just the right harmonious note for them, and this is as true for the numbers they draw as well as the wide-range of people coming to their shows. A mainstream commercial hit with a decidedly unique marketing strategy.

Lynn Hilary is a classically-trained soprano who is completing her third-year as a member of Celtic Woman. A native of County Dublin, she is thrilled to regain her roots after a stellar career which included singing lead in Riverdance and performing on tour with the company as well as being part of their 10th Anniversary Album. In 2003, she received a singular honor of singing the lead with Riverdance at the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics Summer Games in her native Dublin before a live audience of 85,000.

We reached her, typically, on the road, this time from something called 'Rama Casino' an aboriginal-owned facility several hours north of Toronto in a town called Orillia, Ontario. Their North American tour had been extended by several dates, and Celtic Woman has also been scheduled to tour Australia in the month of October:

Q: Congratulations on your Emmy Nomination. Where did you learn about it?
LH: "Last week at an airport, which is hardly a surprise... the credit for this has to go to (Musical Director) David Downes. David lost his luggage on the flight, but the news made that somewhat bearable."

Q: You'll be completing your third year with Celtic Woman during this tour. What do you see as the highlights and pleasant
LH: "For me, it has to be the tree-lighting at the White House this past winter. Not only did we get to sing with President Obama and his family in the audience, my whole family was very jealous that we got to meet him, his wife and children! The other big highlight was performing at Radio City Music Hall. What made that special and extraordinarily fun was that we performed with a choir entirely composed of 9-to-12 year-olds from PS 22 in Staten Island. The meet-and-greet was a true pleasure."

Q: How about the recent appearance of Celtic Woman on "Dancing with the Stars?"
LH: "Yes, and on my birthday! I honestly had no idea how big this show was; so professionally done...my brother in England got to see me live and in general I think the value is in the exposure that we had to people we might not normally reach. It certainly broadened our horizons on several levels."

Q: What are the elements that make PBS such a great vehicle for marketing your music and DVD's?
LH: "PBS has been a great outlet for us because its audience is so participatory; their conscious pledges lead to more than receiving a DVD; they tend to come to our shows when we are in their town as well. The interesting thing is how we truly were in the right place at the right time. After their success with "The Three Tenors," PBS had been looking for something new, yet not completely different, and we seemed to fit the bill perfectly for them."

Q: What are some new elements that people will experience on the 2010 "Songs from the Heart" tour?
LH: "A few new songs, lots of costumes and sets that haven't been seen since our last time here... an element that we are really happy with is that there is an emphasis on interplay with the audience on this tour. And one new band member, playing an instrument that is a surprise which the audiences have really enjoyed... (Note: she asked me not to be a spoiler, but I can tell you that fans should be delighted) ...but rest assured, we still have all of the audiences' favorites from past shows."

Q: Which leads to the question of what are the songs you have received the most consistant positive feedback from audiences over the years?
LH: We barely get through the intros before the singing of "You Raise Me Up" and "Danny Boy" and the audience is already applauding. And it's a pleasant surprise to see the positive feedback we get from our rendition of "Amazing Grace," which is like an anthem to people here in North America."

Q: At a Celtic Woman show, you see all ages side-by-side. Most successful music groups have some sort of targeted demo, but Celtic Woman's appeal is so cross-generational. What factors do you attribute this to?
LH: "We provide a family show in the nicest sense of the word. It's traditional, but not old-fashioned. The credit for this has to go to (Musical Director) David Downes - he finds a way to present this music in a way that it has 'pop' without going over the top... and there's also a lot going on visually throughout the show - coordinated lighting, costumes and things like having two drummers set up high on risers behind us to make the effect continually stimulating."

Q: Why do you think Celtic /Irish music has such a broad general appeal?
LH: "You start with the fact that it all has a beautiful, rich soul that touches the heart. Done right, it conveys the ideal of an escape to this magic rich land - the imagined kingdom of Ireland that is lush and green and perfect. The appeal to people is essentially the glory of life."
"Then you combine that with the fact that Celtic music can embrace and incorporate a very wide diversity of styles; for instance, bluegrass, and it turns out that there's a lot to choose from that appeals to people."

Q: I have to ask you about your emotional reaction to singing with 'Riverdance' at the Special Olympics before a crowd of 85,000 people in your hometown...
LH: "It was simply the most overwhelmingly emotional moment I will ever know. If I never get another gig, I'll be satisfied because of this inspirational experience. I was so honored to meet many of the participants, and it was breathtaking to bask in the universally positive vibes that were evident there."

by Arthur Gonick
Saratoga TODAY
Saratoga Springs, NY
July 22, 2010 1:00 PM
Always Remember All Things Are Possible With God !!
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