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For Celtic Women Its Irish Luck Mixed With American Magic

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PostPosted: Sun May 11, 2008 2:25 am    Post subject: For Celtic Women Its Irish Luck Mixed With American Magic Reply with quote

When Órla Fallon got the call in September 2004, she knew it might be more than just a job.

On her mind and on the minds of the five other women she was meeting for the first time was the bibbidi-bobbidi-boo, the magic.

They didn't have much time to get acquainted, just two days of rehearsals, and then they were performing onstage at the Helix theater complex in Dublin, Ireland, to make a video for American Public Television.

"I was kind of hoping that if we all did our jobs well, and it went well, and if the planets aligned and the stars aligned, that maybe, just maybe, it would take off, and we were very very blessed and fortunate that it did," said Fallon in a telephone interview last week.

The title of the concert and the video was "Celtic Woman," and the magic was PBS, which in 2005 began showing the video over and over. A recent count indicated more than 3,400 times so far, on 316 PBS stations.

And just as it had with "Riverdance," Yanni, Andre Rieu, Charlotte Church and John Tesh, once again the magic worked and, bibbidi-bobbidi-boo, "Celtic Woman" was transformed from a concert into an instantly famous Celtic female supergroup that went on the road and began selling out concert halls on extended tours of the United States and Japan.

What appealed to audiences on the television program - and continues to draw them to concerts such as the ones Thursday at the Terrace Theater in Long Beach and Saturday at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles - is the singers' great voices in solo and harmony showcases, the energetic and accomplished fiddler, the dramatic staging and the modern arrangements of tuneful songs, many of them traditional Irish folk songs.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that the members have strikingly good looks, too.

Fallon, originally from Knockananna in County Wicklow in the southeast of Ireland, learned a lot of the songs from her grandmother and accompanied herself on harp as a solo act while teaching high school for six years.

When she was contacted by the organizers of the television show, she already was a veteran of what Irish musicians call "corporate sector" work. When international corporations, mostly American, hold conventions and meetings in Ireland, they want some local flavor. So performers such as Fallon are hired to provide lively local music and tell the stories behind the old songs.

Fallon also made frequent appearances at the Irish president's home to entertain visiting dignitaries. Her music work gradually took up so much time that she had to give up teaching.

But Celtic Woman was a quantum leap from her local success, and it has brought its challenges. Last year, for instance, the group toured America for almost six months, and then, when it arrived home, went straight into recording a Christmas album.

"I have a husband at home," said Fallon, who was calling from San Francisco, a stop on the current 14-week tour. "And I can't wait for the few more weeks to get home."

The familiar Irish ballads sung by Celtic Woman are sometimes barely recognizable, because the expanded arrangements are so different from the versions heard in pubs. Fallon said she sees that as a healthy thing:

"It was very important to me coming into something like this that the traditional music and songs would be treated with the respect they deserved. And David Downes, who is the musical director, did an amazing job.

"Because I also think it's important as a musician to push out the boundaries and experiment a little bit, and he's given these songs a wonderful treatment. We're being true to the songs and tunes and also being true to ourselves as musicians, and I feel very proud every night to sing the lovely arrangements.

"One of the groups that I love is the Chieftains, and they're constantly pushing the boundaries and experimenting and trying new things. And I would hope that people would say we do the same."

By Al Rudis, Staff writer
Press Telegram Long Beach, California
Article Launched: 05/10/2008 06:55:29 PM PDT
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